29 England in the reign of Henry I

After the initial struggle for succession and baronial revolt, England itself was pretty peaceful during Henry’s reign. The church & state debate needed fixing. And Normandy was a constant battle, and so big taxes were needed to pay for war. Henry was an efficient man, and many themes that lead to modern Government start in his reign.


29 England in the reign of Henry I

The Lay Investiture Crisis

It was English (and indeed European) custom for the King or Emperor to give a new church leader – Bishop or Abbot – his new job. This meant not only deciding who should get the job, but also to invest thgem with the symbols of their office – the Ring and Staff. After all, the King was divinely blessed at coronation, and therefore effectively the most important priest. The Pope and Church reformers believed that this was all wrong – only the church could appoint into religious positions.

in 1107, Henry broke the deadlock. Henceforth, the new appointee  would do homage for his temporal stuff only – his lands and so on – and the Pope would do the rest. It made little practical difference in the short term. The king still decided who got the job. But Kings had given up their claim to divine right. In 1122, this agreement formed the basis of the Concordat of Worms, which made peace between Pope and Holy Roman Emperor.

Royal Administration, Justice and Common Law

The Royal Household begins to grow, and administration starts the long haul towards modernity. In Henry's reign, we see the use of the Chief Justiciar, one for England and one for Normandy. They are basically a Country Manager for all day to day business.

And we see a more complex royal household, in 4 main departments, that would develop into the English Government departments of the future. So theres:

  • The Hall: led by the Steward. Deals with all aspects of food and drink for the King and his household
  • The Chamber: led by the Chamberlain. All the Kings secret stuff. Also, the treasury's still kept under the bed – so all financial stuff too
  • The Chapel: Led by the Chaplain or Chancellor. Also dealt with anything written – writs and so on
  • Outside: The Constable – everything military and hunting

The Exchequer makes it's first appearance. This is a chequered table, used with an abacus to help complete the accounts of the sheriffs.

And travelling royal justices make their first appearance. They apply royal law that is applied to all, no matter the local custom – i.e. commonly applied – so the start of English Common Law.

One thought on “29 England in the reign of Henry I

  1. Sorry, I’m a little behind.
    I loved the digression into the 12th century gossip. It is that stuff that fleshes history out and makes it more than a recitation of dates and places.
    Really enjoying the podcast (even from across the pond).
    Thanks to the recommendation to Binge Thinking. I have started that one and am loving it as well.

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