History of England, Part I For the use of Middle Forms of Schools

Tout, T. F. --Powell, F. York


CHAPTER III: Henry the Scholar 1100-1135

1. [1] As soon as he knew of his brother's death rode off to and seized the royal treasury. Those of the Wise Men that were at hand chose him to be king, and the next Sunday

"before the altar at Westminster he promised God and all the people to put down all unrighteousness that had been in his brother's time, and to hold the best laws that ever stood in any king's days before him."

He then imprisoned , and abolished the unjust devices by which he had wrested the law to get money, while he wrote to praying him

"to come back, like a father, to his son


and the English people."

He also


wrote all the promises he made at Westminster, together with a list of the evil customs he meant to put down, in a charter, which he sent into every shire. The court was set in order, and the king's Counting-House or Exchequer better officered and worked than before. But the English were chiefly pleased with the king's marriage to Eadgyth or Maud, the daughter of Malcolm and Margaret of Scotland, and therefore a princess of the old West Saxon line. The Norman lords, who had despised in his youth, but had been outwitted by his readiness in seizing the throne, now hated him and and when Robert came back they determined to make him king by force. Their leaders were Robert of Belesme, a powerful and crafty man, who used his great talents merely to further his monstrous cruelty and wickedness; Ivo of Grantmesnil (who boasted that he was the first man in England that ever dared to proclaim war on a neighbour), a cunning soldier, but a coward as he showed when he fled from the Crusade, letting himself down from the walls of Antioch in a basket, for which he got the name of Rope-dancer; and Torch, who escaped from the Tower by making his jailers drunk and climbing the walls by a cord smuggled in to him in a wine-jar. The duke's claims were bought off for 3000 marks a year and a renewal of 's old agreement; Ivo was outlawed; but Robert of Belesme defied the king, till the English levies took his castles one by one, when he surrendered and was allowed to leave the realm. The English rejoiced at the fall of the most loathed of the barons and sung:-

"Make merry, King Henry, and thank the Almighty!

For your reign in good earnest begins from the day

When you beat down and overcame Robert of Belesme,

And banished him out of the bounds of your kingdom."

But the duke received the exiles, and the quarrel went on till the battle of Tenchebray, , in which took prisoners his brother, his fellow-crusader, and many of the refugees. , being the queen's uncle, was set free, but Robert and the others were imprisoned for life. So the duchy and the kingdom were again under one man's rule, and the Englishmen in 's army said that they had revenged Senlac by conquering Normandy.

2. [2] There was a quarrel raging at this time between the Pope and the Emperor about the appointment of bishops. The Pope wished to secure the election of good men as church-officers, and the Emperor was not willing to give up the right of filling these posts, since


the bishops held broad lands and were most of them great barons. and also disagreed on this matter, but in they made an arrangement by which the ring and staff, symbols of their power in the Church, were to be given to the bishops by the church who elected them, but they were to do homage for their land before their consecration and swear fealty afterwards. It had formerly been the custom for the whole congregation of Christians to elect their bishop, but of late the choice was considered to rest with the cathedral canons, or in the case of the Christ Church monks, whose candidates were to be confirmed by the king. The old rules of and were kept up in this reign, and worked hard to put down evil-living among laymen, and to reform the clergy, who were now forbidden to marry by a church council held at London ().

3. [3] , King of France, had taken up the cause of Duke Robert's son William, and made war with on his behalf. But securing powerful help by marrying two of his daughters to the Emperor and the Earl of Brittany, and getting the Earl of Anjou's daughter as wife for his own son William, forced the French to make peace at Gisors, . This peace, however, was soon broken, and in was fought the battle of Bremule between the two kings. William Fitz-Robert and the Norman exiles who helped him broke the van of 's army and pressed on against his English troops, who withstood their onslaught. One knight, however, William Crispin, once a favourite of 's, fought his way to the king, who was fighting on foot, and struck him thrice on the helmet so hard that the iron rim was driven in, cutting his brow. repaid him with a stroke that unhorsed him. At this moment the English charged and the French suddenly gave way and fled, hotly pursued by 's men. ' standard was taken, and he himself hardly escaped. Alone and on foot he wandered through the wild country near the battle-field till he found a peasant, who for a great reward promised to guide him to a French town. On the way they were met by a troop of French knights, and the countryman was paid off, grumbling that had he known whom he was guide to he would have asked still more. This overthrow and a letter from the Pope brought both kings to come to terms, and William Fitz-Robert was obliged to leave the French court

"to escape his uncle's long arm."

4. and his son now set off in great triumph for


England. As they were embarking at Honfleur, Thomas, son of Stephen, who had been captain of the Conqueror's ship Mora, prayed the king to take his White Ship. He would not, but the Etheling William, willing to please Thomas, promised to sail with him, and went on board with his sister the Countess of Perche and a great company of gentlemen and ladies and the king's treasure. Before they started the sailors asked the prince for wine, and were given three barrels, which they drank at once, becoming so unruly that several passengers went on shore rather than sail with them, and so riotous that they drove off the priests who came down to bless the vessel with abuse and blasphemy. At last, late on the evening of November 25, they put off with a fair wind and calm sea, but no watch was kept, and the helmsman paid little heed to his course in the midst of the revelry. Suddenly the ship struck on the Reef of Catteville, about five miles from land, staving in her starboard bow. Amid great confusion they tried to get her off with poles and oars, but when they found how badly she was damaged, a boat was got out and the Etheling put in her with as many as she would hold. He had rowed clear of the wreck when, finding that his sister was left behind, he put back to save her. By this time the White Ship was filling fast, and when the boat lay alongside, she was swamped by the rush of panic-stricken people from the wreck. In a few minutes the wreck also sunk, and of the whole company of three hundred souls only three were left alive, clinging to the top-castle of the vessel, which was just above water. One was the captain, Thomas, who, when he found that the Etheling was drowned, threw himself into the sea in despair. The second, a young noble, could not endure the cold of the long November night; and when some fishermen passed next morning at dawn, they found only the third, Berold, a poor butcher of Rouen, who was saved by the warmth of his rough sheepskin jacket. No one dared take the sad news, so a little child was sent into the hall where he was sitting. The boy went up to the king crying bitterly, and cast himself down at his feet, and when raised him up and asked him why he wept he told him that the White Ship had sunk with all on board. The king fell fainting from his seat, and henceforward the joy was gone out of his life; it is said that he never smiled again, and though he would sometimes speak of Ralph the Red, and other of his good knights and friends that had perished in the wreck, he could never bear to hear his son's name. The king's treasure


was recovered by divers, but hardly any of the bodies were found.

The English writers call William cruel and wanton, and say that he swore to yoke the English like oxen to the plough when he was king, still he left many friends to mourn his loss, and he died doing his duty.

5. [5] Next year married again, for the Good Queen Maud had died in . His second wife was Alice the Fair, daughter of the Earl of Lowen. But as they had no children the next male heir was William Fitz-Robert, whose Norman partisans now rallied to him, till by good-luck captured nearly all of them in , and William, despairing of present success, accepted the earldom of Flanders from the French king, and went off to take possession of it. His enemies there resisted him, and at the siege of Alost, in , he received a wound of which he died, just as it seemed that the tide of his misfortunes was ebbing. A handsome, fair-haired, blue-eyed young man, brave, pious, and courteous, he was the most blameless of all the Conqueror's race. Just before his death he wrote to to pray his forgiveness and to ask him to take into his favour those who had followed him faithfully. Accordingly kindly received those who were willing to serve him, but most of them, overwhelmed by grief at their master's death, took the cross and went over sea. In the Emperor Henry died, and soon after came home to her father, who determined to make her his heir; and brought the barons and great men to consent to swear to take her as queen after his death. He then married her to the Earl of Anjou, a political match which was not very happy, for was hard-tempered and proud, and the earl not at all popular. But the old king was very fond of their children, and stayed in Normandy when he could to be near them.

6. All South Wales was now conquered, and early in his reign was able to settle a colony of Flemings (who came to England when their own land was overwhelmed by the great storms of ) at Haverfordwest, where their descendants still live. But the north Welsh princes (the last Welsh king, died in ) were such formidable foes that himself was obliged to march against them more than once. Another expedition was preparing, when, in , fell ill at the Castle of Lions in Normandy, and eating freely of lampreys against his doctor's orders, his illness turned to fever, under which he sank and died. His


body was brought home to England and buried at Reading Abbey, which he had founded.

[6]  had a comely face, dark curly hair, a high brow, and large eyes; he was not tall but strongly built. His voice, like his father's, wonderfully deep and strong. A good man of business, wise in planning, and cautious and patient in carrying out his designs, fond of learning (whence his nickname Beauclerc) and with a taste for art, but selfish, hard-hearted, and grasping; 's greatest title to our praise lies in the stern strength of his rule. An Englishman of his day was able to say of him:

"Good man he was, and great awe there was of him. No man durst misdo against another in his time. He made peace for man and beast. Who so bare burden of gold or silver, no man durst say ought to him but good ;"

while another historian prays that

"God may give him the peace he loved."


[1] Henry and Normandy.

[] [1100-1120.]

[2] Anselm and Henry.

[3] Wars with France.

[] [1120-1135.]

[4] The White Ship.

[5] The succession

[] [1135-1139.]

[6] Henry's death and character.

  • In-text illustrations for this text are cataloged in MS004/002.001#DO01.
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