28 The Lion of Justice

The youngest of William the Conqueror’s sons, Henry, wasted no time shedding tears for his brother Rufus. He got himself crowned, anointed and blessed. The next 6 years were to be dominated by the struggle with his other brother for control.

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How to get a throne in Norman England

  1. Be a member of the royal family 
  2. Don't worry about your brother's body – someone else will deal with it
  3. Take control of the treasury in Winchester
  4. Get some big families on your side, find yourself a Bishop and get crowned, annointed and blessed.

Which is what Henry did. One of the families that helped him were the Beaumonts, who were to become heavily rewarded over his reign.

The Struggle for supremacy

Robert Curthose Vs Henry follows a remarkably similar path to that of Rufus Vs Curthose. But the outcome is rather more decisive and final.

  • First Robert has a hack at Henry. He does OK – seduces Henry's fleet,  outflanks him, at it means that at the Treaty of Alton Henry comes to terms, including paying an annual stipend of £2,000. Round 1 to Robert.
  • Henry attacks Robert's supporters in England – either talking their lands (Robert of Belleme, William of Mortain) or scaring them so they come over to his side (William de Warrenne, Earl of Surrey). Henry gets the support of the counties around Normandy – Maine, Flanders, Brittany. Round 2 to Henry.
  • Henry gets more agressive, Robert panics and gives up his stipend. Henry brings an army to Normandy in 1104, 1105 and 1106. And in 1106, the brothers meet at Tinchebrai, outside William of Mortain's castle,  for the final showdown.
  • The Battle of Tinchebrai is an unusual example for the period of a decisive battle. Henry dismounts most of his knights, but places Helias of Maine with a sneaky cavalry contingent out of sight. He has the usual 3 'battles', led by Ranulf of Bayeux, Robert Beaumont and William of Warrene. Robert's 2 captain's are William of Mortain and Robert of Belleme. It doesn't take long – about an hour. Robert orders William of Mortain to attack 'Crusader style' – big cavalry charge, couched lances. But Henry's line does not break. Meanwhile, Helias hears the noise and attacks, hitting Robert of Belleme's flank. Belleme's heart isn't in it – he runs and it is effectively all over. Game, set and match to Henry.

Robert Curthose spent the rest of his life in prison, until his death in 1134. William of Mortain eventually manages to escape, and dies as a monk in Bermondsey. Belleme survives to fight another day. Robert CUrthose leaves a son – William Clito, just 4, who has a part to play . . .

Good bye to Edgar Atheling

Our old friend Edgar fought at Tinchebrai on Robert's side. He is immediately pardoned by Henry, and that's the last time he plays a significant role. He appears in Scotland in 1120, and probably dies shortly after 1125. He doesn't seem to leave any family, which is probably a good thing – the succession to the English throne is complicated enough as it is.


7 thoughts on “28 The Lion of Justice

  1. Ah, Brother. So good to see you are finally spending your time on something useful, instead of all that tecky stuff.
    Sadly, I have no treasury stuffed with gold to break into. And unfortunately the crown currently has an owner with about a billion members of the royal family in line to take over (most of them on the civil list).
    So you’d be best to put me on the cart and give me a good send off instead.

  2. Such brotherly love brings a tear to my eye. First David talks about wanting to drown his brother, then Jonathan wants to abandon David’s mortal remains for filthy lucre. You two really must be English :-).

  3. By the way, loved your Ladybird book comment. I learned about the history of England while reading those books when my father was stationed in Scotland with the US Navy (in the 70’s.) Loved the books and I think I used them once or twice for various reports over the years, and actually I think my folks still have them all, sitting in a box somewhere.

  4. Good episode. My favorite part: the side commentary at the end on surnames. Very interesting stuff. I look forward to more history that departs from the chronological big events (not that those aren’t important, but they just aren’t everything).
    Thanks & keep up the good work!

  5. Sean I have often thought that the “big Events” of history, well, aren’t really. They are important, but often only as a marker point, a mile marker t a crossroads to keep your bearings, results rather than causes. Our birthdays, or Christmas, really aren’t huge trans-formative events themselves in most of our lives, but they mark out a place from which to look forward and backward. It is only pop history cinema, romance novels, and poor history teachers inflicted on unsuspecting children who think that learning history is mainly about dates, battles, and leaders. For example, In Britain, the Brexit referendum, in the US the 2016 elections, or the 911 World Trade Center attacks, and all the Big Events of this century so far, will likely be marked “Big Events”, but the significant events bringing them about happened long before, and the effects will continue long after. Just a thought.

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