Henry was a Norman king like any other – Normandy was in his blood. For 30 years, he controlled the diplomatic game to keep Normandy in the Empire. The one thing he couldn't control was the succession. When William the Atheling died in the disaster of the White Ship, William was left with a daughter – and no woman had ever been the English monarch.
Dramatis Personae – see the previous post here
The Struggle for Normandy: Round 1, 1109 – 1113
A bit chaotic. Louis VI started it off demanding Gisors. Henry's friend Theobald of Blois organised a distracting raid into Brie, Henry captured and imprisoned Robert of Belleme, and bought off Fulk of Anjou by promising his son in marriage to Fulk's daughter. Left on his own Louis gave in and made peace.
Round 2, 1115 – 1119, and the Battle of Bremule
This time Theobald started the trouble, by killing a friend of the Louis's. Henry had to come to Theobald's aid, and off it all went again. Fulk and Baldwin of Flanders also joined the fight against Henry. This time, a group of Norman nobles also joined in, and William Clito was declared Duke of Normandy. But again, they could make no real headway against the Norman castles. In 1119, Henry was defeated at the battle of Alencon by Fulk, but despite that things turn out well. Because Fulk wanted to go on crusade – and gave up his struggle, in return for Henry's promise observe the peace while he was away.
Louis meanwhile was defeated at the Battle of Bremule. 400 of Louis's household knights were defeated by 500 of Henry's, and William Clito and Louis fled back to France. William captured 140 knights – and ransomed those he could, and blinded (yes, blinded) the rest.
The death of Henry's only son and heir in 1120 was a personal and nationbal tragedy. William Atheling died when his ship hit rocks off Barfleur. No one dared to tell Henry – until a young boy was brave enough to do the task, Henry fell to the ground, until being led away to his personal chambers.
Round 3, 1123-1124 and the Battle of Bourgtheroulde
Fulk stirred up trouble with Henry's Norman barons, in particular Waleran, Count of Meulan. Henry was furious – Waleran was of the Beaumont family, who had been showered with grants of land in reward for the loyalty of the father, Robert de Beaumont. Waleran was defeated by Henry's lieutenants – either Ralph of Bayeux or William of Tancarville – in another battle between household knights. Now for the next 10 years, Henry could relax a little more.
Henry's solution was radical – his daughter Matilda. He got his barons to swear alleigance to her as the next monarch in 1127. Then he went even further – marrying her to Geoffrey of Anjou in 1128. This was radical – the Normand and Angevins were fierce enemies. Despite further oath takings, more than a few would have suspected trouble.
Henry died in 1135. He came home from hunting, ate too many lampreys, and so died one of England's most successful monarchs. Not necessarily the nicest, but an effective king and a reformer of justice and royal governance.