Image Description

The Norman Kings of England

William the Conqueror, King William the First of England, died in 1087. He had two sons. To Robert, he had promised the rule of Normandy in France. To his other son, William, he promised the crown of England. However, the two brothers would not agree to this split.

King William the second, also called William Rufus, was Crowned King of England in September 1087. His brother Robert and his supporters tried to depose him, but William defeated them in 1088 and, in 1091, invaded Normandy. He defeated Robert and expanded his lands in France.

Like his father, William Rufus experienced a number of rebellions in England and crushed them all.

King William the Second died on 2nd August 1100 in a hunting accident. Some suggest this may have been an assassination planned by William's younger brother Henry who was present at the scene and who, the following day, rushed to Winchester to secure the royal treasury and then immediately traveled to London where he was crowned King Henry the first on 5th August 1100.

In November 1100, Henry married Matilda, daughter of the king of Scotland. He was around 31 years old. They had two children and a son and a daughter. Henry also had many mistresses and at least 9 illegitimate sons and 13 daughters.

In 1101, Henry's elder brother Robert of Normandy, who had tried to usurp William the second's throne, again tried to take the throne of England. He landed an army in the south of England, but there was no battle. Peace negotiations commenced and concluded with a treaty under which Robert recognised Henry as King of England, and Henry returned territories he held in France to Robert.

The treaty did not last long, and Henry continued to fight Robert in Normandy for some years afterwards, eventually taking control of Normandy in 1106.

As King of England, Henry the first reformed the administration of the country, strengthening the legal system and establishing a robust system of taxation. He also supported some reforms in the church.

Henry's Queen, Matilda, died in 1118, and his son was drowned in a shipwreck in 1120, leaving him with no legitimate heir. Henry married again in 1121, but the union did not produce any children. Henry nominated his legitimate daughter, also called Matilda, as his heir in 1126, and she was recognised by the English barons.

In 1127, Henry's daughter Matilda married Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. And that is where the name Plantagenet comes into the English royal line. Matilda and Geoffrey had two sons, one of whom – Henry we shall meet in the next lesson.

Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet fell out of Henry's favour in the early 1130s, and in 1135 Henry fell ill while in France. He died there on 1st December 1135 with his succession unclear.

Thank you for listening to this lesson. In the next lesson, we cover the civil war in England that followed the death of Henry the first, and the reign of the first Plantagenet king of England.

Image Description
Written by

Ross Maynard