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Henry I

Henry I, 1068–1135, king of England (1100–1135), youngest son of William I. He was called Henry Beauclerc because he could write. He quarreled with his elder brothers, William II of England and Robert II, duke of Normandy, and attempted with little success to establish a territorial base for himself on the Continent. When William II was killed, Henry seized the treasury and had himself elected and crowned king while Robert was away on crusade. Henry issued a charter promising to right injustices inflicted by William and to refrain from unjust demands on the church and the barons. He also recalled Anselm from exile. His marriage (1100) to Edith (thereafter known as Matilda), daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and niece of Edgar Atheling, gained him some popularity with his English (as opposed to Norman) subjects. Robert invaded England in 1101, but the brothers reached an agreement by which Robert renounced his claim to the English throne in return for the promise of a pension and the surrender of Henry's possessions in Normandy. In the succeeding years Henry defeated and banished Robert's leading supporters in England. He then invaded (1105) Normandy, defeated (1106) Robert at Tinchebrai, and became duke of Normandy. In the meantime Henry had become involved in a quarrel with Anselm over the lay investiture of bishops and abbots. In a compromise settlement (1107) the king gave up investiture but retained the right to receive homage from the prelates. Henry's reign continued to be troubled by uprisings in Normandy centering about Robert's son and encouraged by Louis VI of France, who was almost constantly at war with Henry. Henry's only legitimate son, William Atheling, was drowned (1120), and Henry I's second marriage was childless. The latter years of his reign were marked therefore by his attempts to secure the succession for his daughter Matilda. Henry's reign in England was one of order and progress. Royal justice was strengthened and expanded; the Norman legal system gradually fused with the old Anglo-Saxon. The first of the extant pipe rolls and the first appearance of the court of Exchequer date from this reign.

See A. L. Poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (2d ed. 1955); F. Barlow, The Feudal Kingdom of England, 1042–1216 (2d rev. ed. 1962).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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