Biographies – Henry I

Edging ever closer to the full on discussions about The Anarchy, we come to the ‘Who’s Who’ section of the blog with mini biographies of all the main characters involved beginning with Henry I.

• Henry I, Edith of Scotland, and Adelica of Louvain

Henry I, Beauclerc
Reign: 1100-1135
Birth: c.1067-68, Selby, Yorkshire, England
Death: 1 December 1135, Saint Denis en Lyons
Burial: Reading Abbey
Father: William I the Conqueror
Mother: Matilda of Flanders
Marriage: (1) 1100, Westminster Abbey, London – Edith of Scotland
Marriage: (2) 1122, Westminster Abbey, London – Adelica of Louvain
infant, possibly named Richard
Matilda, The Empress
Other Notable Children:
Robert, Earl of Gloucester

Henry I was the youngest son of William I and had been left silver but no land. Although he is not as quite well known as his illustrious grandson, Henry II, Henry kept a firm and steady hand on the affairs of England and Normandy. After snatching the English crown in the aftermath of the death of elder brother, William II, he deposed his older brother, Robert, as Duke of Normandy in the Battle of Tinchebrai in 1106 and became both Duke of Normandy and King of England as his father had been.

His addition to the administrative system was the Court of the Exchequer, for the better collecting of taxes. The chief administrator of the new court was the Justiciar, who also became the chief minister of the realm. During Henry’s reign this was Roger, Bishop of Salisbury.

Henry lost his son and heir, William, in the White Ship disaster on 25th November 1120. With no children forthcoming from his second marriage to Adelica of Louvain, despite the fact that he had fathered numerous illegitimate children, Henry took the unprecedented step of nominating his only surviving legitimate child, daughter Matilda, as his heir. In 1127/8 he married Matilda to Geoffrey of Anjou in order to secure peace between England, Normandy, and Anjou. However, it was an unpopular move amongst the barons and clergy.

The month of December marks the death of King Henry I in 1135, supposedly to a ‘surfeit of lampreys’. His body was returned to England for burial in Reading Abbey. His death also marks the beginning of events that would lead to nearly twenty years of civil war for England. There is more information about Henry I to come in the discussion of The Anarchy.

Edith of Scotland (Matilda)
Born: c.1080 Dunfermline, Scotland
Died: 1 May 1118, Westminster Palace
Burial: Westminster Abbey
Father: Malcolm III of Scotland
Mother: Saint Margaret of Scotland

Edith of Scotland was the first wife and Queen consort of Henry I, and through her mother descended from Edmund Ironside and thus Alfred the Great. Her name was changed from Edith to Matilda after her marriage to Henry.

When Matilda was about six years old she and her sister Mary were sent to Romsey where their aunt Cristina was Abbess. Matilda and Henry seem to have known each another for some time before their marriage, but because she had spent so much of her life in a nunnery there was some controversy over whether or not she had been veiled as a nun, so Henry sought permission for the marriage from Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm called a council of bishops of the realm, at which Matilda testified that she had never taken holy vows. The council gave their permission for the marriage, which took place in November 1100 at Westminster Abbey.

As Queen, Matilda accompanied her husband in his travels and served in a vice regal capacity when Henry was away from court. Her court was based in Westminster and was filled with musicians and poets, and she was renowned for her devotion to religion and the poor. She also administered extensive dower properties and was known as a patron of the arts. England and Scotland became politically closer during this marriage. Three of her brothers served as kings of Scotland during this period and were unusually friendly to England which, given the circumstances, is not so surprising.

Matilda died on 1 May 1118 at Westminster Palace so she did not live to see her only son, William, perish in the White Ship disaster of 1120. She was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Adelica of Louvain (Adeliza of Leuven)
Born: c.1103
Died: 23 April 1151, Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Burial: Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Father: Godfrey I of Leuven
Mother: Countess Ida of Namur

Adelica of Louvain was the second wife and Queen consort of Henry I. They were married in February 1122, and she was supposedly chosen due to his desire for a male heir. However, no children were born during their marriage.

Adelica did not play a large part in the public life of the realm during her time as queen consort, but she did her leave a mark as a patron of literature and several works including a bestiary by Philip de Thaon were dedicated to her.

After Henry I died on 1 December 1135 Adelica retired to the monastery of Wilton near Salisbury for a short period of time, but before 1139 she married William d’Aubigny, who had been one of Henry’s chief advisors. She brought to the marriage a queen’s dowry including the castle of Arundel. It was King Stephen who created d’Aubigny Earl of Arundel and Earl of Lincoln. Her husband was a staunch supporter of Stephen during the civil war but when Matilda, The Empress, landed in England in 1139 Adelica received her as a guest of the former Queen.

In a very ironic twist, her second marriage produced seven children who survived to adulthood including William d’Aubigny, 2nd Earl of Arundel, the father of William d’Aubigny, 3rd Earl of Arundel who was one of the twenty five guarantors of the Magna Carta.

One of Adelica’s brothers, Joscelyn of Louvain, to whom she was very close, came to England and married Agnes de Percy, heiress of the Percy family. His children took their name from their mother’s lineage, and their descendants include the medieval Earls of Northumberland.

Adelica became an active patron of the church during her second marriage and gave property to Reading Abbey in honour of her late husband and to several other smaller foundations. She spent her final years in the abbey of Affligem which she richly rewarded with landed estates, and after her death was buried in the abbey church next to her father, Duke Godfrey I of Leuven.


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