Heritage > Rulers

Henry I, "Henry Beauclerk", 1100-1135

As the fourth son of William the Conqueror it was something of a surprise when Henry became King of England. The deaths of two of his three elder brothers, however suspicious, coupled with the banishment of a third were to see him succeed to this office.

Henry was known as Beauclerk due to his ability to read fluently. This ability had not been witnessed in a King of England since Alfred the Great. His other sobriquet of 'Lion of Justice' derives from his formation of basic laws to govern England. These laws were harshly enforced.

Henry is said to have been very alike to his brother, William Rufus in that he was avaricious, lustful and cruel. He was a calculating man and his marriage to Matilda, the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland virtually allayed any fears of an invasion from north of the border.

The major threat to Henry was his surviving brother, Robert, who had been handed the Dukedom of Normandy by their father. Robert and Henry had been in alliance to gain the throne of England, it is said for Robert. This threat was countered once and for all following the Battle of Tinchobrai in 1106. After this battle Robert was imprisoned in Cardiff Castle for the rest of his days.

Henry was married twice. His first wife, the previously mentioned Matilda, gave him three children; William, who died in the wreck of the White Ship in 1120; Matilda or Maud who married Geoffrey Count of Anjou and another son who died in infancy.

As Henry had no direct heir to the throne he bequeathed the crown to his favourite nephew, Stephen.

Henry died in Normandy in November 1135, after eating a surfeit of lampreys.

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