Episode Three: The Lion of Justice


Hello and welcome to Wednesday Interlude in
which I present The Lion of Justice, the third episode in The Norman and Plantagenet Series.
In my introductory episode I discussed the forbears of William the Conqueror and the
establishment of Normandy. See the first episode in the Info cards above.
In the second episode we looked at some background information. Now in this third episode we will look more
closely at the four sons of William and Matilda. Once again here is the timeline showing the
order of their births. Robert was born in approximately1053 a year
or two after William and Matilda were married. As the eldest son he was the heir to the Dukedom
of Normandy and from a young age Robert was passionately desirous of assuming the title. By 1066 Robert was acknowledged as the heir
of Normandy and at the age of sixteen he was appointed to the ruling council. But his disaffection at not being allowed
either money or power only served to create a rift between him and his father and thus
he became a tool in the hands of his father’s enemies. From 1078 onwards he became involved
in a series of intrigues. Lord Robert even raised an army to take the
Dukedom by force from his own father and William was actually wounded by Robert. In The Bastard King, Jean Plaidy writes that
as William was on his death bed in September 1087 he spoke the following words: ‘My son Robert has been a traitor to me.
Yet I promised him the Duchy of Normandy and shall not break my promise. He will not rule
well. He is selfish, arrogant and lacks the qualities of a ruler. Yet he is my first born,
greatly loved of his mother, and I gave him my promise.’ Robert II, whose nickname was Robert Curthose,
due to his short stature, was Duke of Normandy from 1087–1106 and turned out to be a weak-willed
and incompetent ruler whose poor record as an administrator of his domain was partly
redeemed by his contribution to the First Crusade from 1096 to 1099. Although as the eldest son of William I the
Conqueror, Robert was recognized in boyhood as his father’s successor to the dukedom
of Normandy, nevertheless, he twice rebelled against his father in 1077/78 and again in
1082–83 and was in exile in Italy until he returned as duke on his father’s death
in 1087. He was totally unable to control his rebellious vassals or to establish a central
authority in Normandy. He died in February 1134 in Cardiff in Wales. We will return to Robert later in the video
to discover why he only reigned as Duke of Normandy until 1106 although he lived until
1134. Let us turn now to Richard who was born in
approximately 1055 and he was a typical Norman, tall and handsome and when William conquered
England he was promised the throne of England as his father’s successor. Like his father, Richard loved hunting and
it was while out hunting one day that he fell from his horse and was gored to death by a
stag. Richard died in the year 1075 at the age of
about 19 or 20. The third son William called Rufus, was born
in approximately1060 and was next in line after his brother Richard. So, Plaidy writes
in The Bastard King that William said: ‘To you, my son William…to you, Rufus, I leave
the crown of England.’ In The Lion of Justice, Plaidy writes: ‘Rufus
was different from his father by all accounts. William the first had great dignity, he was
a tall man…and had always the appearance of the great ruler he was. Rufus was short
of stature, broad and fat; there was a red tinge in his hair and his complexion was ruddy.’ When Rufus was crowned as King of England
on 26 September 1087, due to the death of his brother, Richard, he laughed to think
of those days when the Norman barons who owned estates in England had declared that they
would not accept Rufus as the King of England and prepared to set up Robert in his place. Their uncle Odo was Robert’s General, but
when Rufus defeated his uncle, Rufus and Robert made a pact. If death should overtake either
of them, without leaving a legitimate son, he would be succeeded by the other. Thus,
the survivor would have both England and Normandy. This was designed to disinherit their brother
Henry. But in less than a year Robert actually invaded
England but was defeated and so Robert decided to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The
Pope had called for a crusade and this was an idea that appealed whole-heartedly to Robert
of Normandy. This adventurer, dreamer and idealist who had recently been defeated by
his own brother, saw in this venture an escape from the tiresome business of making terms
with Rufus, who was actually wilier than he was. But Robert, who had lived extravagantly,
was in need of money to finance his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, so he pawned the duchy of
Normandy to Rufus for 10,000 marks. The agreement stipulated that if Robert could not repay
the loan or if he failed to return, then Rufus, King of England, would be also the Duke of
Normandy. When Robert returned from the Holy Land after
a successful pilgrimage in which he was present at the taking of Jerusalem he stopped off
in Conversana where he met Sybil, the daughter of the Count of Conversana. A marriage was
agreed between them and the Count knowing that Robert was the influential Duke of Normandy
if he could regain his lands and who might possibly become King of England one day, offered
Robert 10,000 marks as a dowry if Robert was prepared to take his daughter Sybil. There
had been a growing attraction between Robert and Sybil and so the deal was sealed. Robert
was now in a position to repay the loan to Rufus and to reclaim his dukedom. But William Rufus was killed by an arrow while
out hunting in the New Forest on 2nd August in the year 1100 while Robert was on his way
back to Normandy. Was it an accident and was it coincidental that Henry was also out hunting
in the New Forest on 2nd August? We will never know, but what we do know is that Henry took
his opportunity. As a result of Robert’s absence, his brother
Henry, whom Robert and William had tried to disinherit by their mutual agreement, was
able to seize the crown of England for himself. He immediately rode to Winchester where he
took control of the Treasury and then rode on to Westminster where he was crowned King
of England on the 5th of August. On the same day to consolidate his hold on the crown he
issued his coronation Charter of Liberties which renounced the oppressive practices of
his brother and promising good government. Upon his return, Robert – urged by Ranulf
Flambard, whom Rufus had made Bishop of Durham and several Anglo-Norman barons – claimed
the English crown, on the basis of the short-lived agreement of 1087, and in 1101 led an invasion
to oust his brother Henry. He landed at Portsmouth with his army, but the lack of popular support
among the English (Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury, was decidedly against him and
the Charter of Liberties issued at Henry’s coronation was well liked) as well as Robert’s
own mishandling of the invasion tactics enabled Henry to resist the invasion. Robert was forced
by diplomacy to renounce his claim to the English throne in the Treaty of Alton. For
a pension of 3,000 marks a year Robert agreed to withdraw his claim to the English throne
and at the same time Henry would renounce his claims on Normandy. In 1105, however, Robert’s continual stirring
of discord with his brother in England as well as civil disorder in Normandy itself
prompted Henry to invade Normandy. In 1106, Henry defeated Robert’s army decisively
at the Battle of Tinchebrai and claimed Normandy as a possession of the English crown, a situation
that endured for almost a century. Captured after the battle, Robert was imprisoned in
Devizes Castle for twenty years before being moved to Cardiff. And in 1134, Robert died in Cardiff Castle
in his early eighties having been held in captivity for 28 years. Henry, as the fourth brother, was born in
England in 1068 two years after William became King. Plaidy writes in The Lion of Justice that
William said: ‘Ah, my son Henry. I have no land to leave you for your elder brothers
have it. But I will give you five thousand pounds in silver.’
‘What shall I do with the money if I have no land?’ asked Henry.
‘Come close to me, Henry,’ said William. ‘Be content and trust in the Lord. Wait.
I tell you Robert will have Normandy and William England. But in time you will have all my
possessions and you will be greater in power and wealth than either of your brothers.’ And as we have seen his father’s prophecy
came true when William Rufus was killed in the New Forest and Henry assumed the throne
of England and then ousted his brother, Robert, to claim the Dukedom of Normandy. Jean Plaidy in The Lion of Justice discusses
Henry’s reign, in which he was able to maintain peace for over thirty years and showed the
he was a master of the art of government, hence his title as the Lion of Justice. She
discusses the death of his only legitimate son and the survival of his only legitimate
child, Matilda, who was married to the Emperor Henry V of Germany. In Episode four of this series, The Passionate
Enemies, we will discuss the rivalry between Stephen, the grandson of William the Conqueror
and Matilda, the granddaughter of William the Conqueror.

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