The re-united kingdom : Henry I Beauclerc

The Succession Crisis

The marriage of Henry I’s daughter Matilda to the German EmperorHenry I’s marriage to Edith produced two children, Matilda, born in 1102 and William, designated the Atheling or heir, in 1103. Henry also had many bastard children, but they could not be considered for the succession. In 1114, aged 12, Matilda was married to the German Emperor, Henry V.

The White Ship (British Library)After a victory over the French king at Brémule in Normandy in 1119 Henry was at the height of his power, but disaster soon followed when in November 1120 William was drowned in ‘The White Ship’ off Barfleur in Normandy. A crowd of pretenders to Henry’s throne soon gathered including William Clito, son of Robert Curthose. Queen Edith had died in 1118 and Henry now married Adelaide, daughter of the Count of Louvain, but they had no sons.

In 1125 the Emperor died childless and Matilda returned to England where, in spite of her gender, Henry forced the barons to swear allegiance to her as his heir. In 1128 Matilda was married to the 15 year old Geoffrey Plantagenet, heir to Anjou, and in 1133 the future Henry II was born. Two years later Henry I made his last journey to Normandy. While preparing for a hunting expedition he ate too many lampreys (a type of fish) which proved fatal, his death occurring on December 1st.

Henry was buried in the abbey which he had founded at Reading. There was no obvious successor to Henry I, but the initiative was seized by Henry’s nephew Stephen, Count of Mortain, the son of William the Conqueror’s daughter Adela. On hearing of his uncle’s death Stephen quickly crossed the Channel and was crowned king on December 22nd, 1135.

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