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Reign of Henry I page 2

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The news reached England on the following day, but no man dared to tell the king' of his bereavement, At length the courtiers tutored a little boy, who was sent in to the king, and, falling at his feet, told him of the loss of the Blanche-Nef, with all on board, Henry is said to have fainted at the news, and the historians agree in dwelling upon the grief he felt - a grief so rooted that he was never afterwards seen to smile.

The English people appear to have regarded the shipwreck as a judgment of Heaven upon the vices of the prince and the cruelties of his father. This view was strengthened by the circumstance that the disaster took place, not in a storm, but en a calm sea and under a tranquil sky. The character of Prince William is represented by the chroniclers as that of a tyrannical and licentious youth. He is said to have detested the people from whom his own mother was descended, and to have declared that when he became king he would bend the necks of the Saxons to the plough, and treat them like beasts of burden. "The proud youth!" says Henry of Huntingdon, a contemporary writer; " he was anticipating his future reign, but God said, 'Not so, thou impious one; it shall not be.' And thus it happened, that his brow, instead of being encircled with a crown of gold, was dashed against the rocks of the ocean." It is possible, however, that the historians gave too much importance to the light words of a heedless youth, and we may well be cautious in covering with infamy the name of one, the last and best authenticated act of whose life was at least noble and generous.

On the death of Prince William, the Earl of Anjou sent messengers to Henry, demanding back his daughter Matilda, together with, the dowry which had been given to the king on her marriage. Henry willingly consented to the return of the princess to her father, but refused to give up any part of the money. Fulk was thus furnished with a pretext for renewing his former connection with William of Normandy, on whose future prospects the death of his cousin might exercise considerable influence. The son of Duke Robert was placed by Fulk in possession of the earldom of Mans, and was again betrothed to Sibylla, the younger daughter of the earl. Henry, who was fully apprised of these proceedings, passed over into Normandy, and, after a year of desultory warfare, he made prisoners several of the chief Norman barons, and detached Fulk of Anjou once more from the cause of William.

In the year 1121, while Henry was still engaged in this war, he married Alice, Adelais, or Adelicia, daughter of Geoffrey, Duke of Lou vain, and nearly related to the Pope Calixtus II. The new queen was "a lady of excellent beauty" and young, but no children resulted from the marriage, and Henry found himself compelled to resign the hope of leaving an heir male to his crown. In 1126 his daughter Matilda became a widow, by the death of her husband, Henry V. of Germany, and the king then determined to appoint her his successor to the throne of England an I the dukedom of Normandy.

Since the time of the ancient Britons, no female sovereign had borne rule in England, and the native English, as well as the Normans, were altogether opposed to a scheme whose object was to place them under the government of a woman. The power of Henry was, however, so firmly established that the barons, who murmured in secret, did not dare openly to resist his will. Those among them who had the greatest influence were conciliated by grants of land; the assistance of the clergy was already secured; and on Christmas Day, a.d. 1126, a general assembly of the nobles and higher ecclesiastics of the kingdom was convened at Windsor Castle, for the purpose of declaring the Empress Matilda (as she was still called) the legitimate successor to the throne. The clergy and the Norman barons of both counties unanimously swore allegiance to her, in the event of the king's death. Several disputes as to precedence took place on the occasion, and one of these was remarkable as having an importance beyond the mere question of court etiquette. Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who was an illegitimate son of the king, demanded to take the oath before Stephen, Earl of Boulogne, who was the son of Adela, the daughter of the Conqueror, and therefore nephew to Henry. It is probable that both of these men aspired to the throne, and that, while in the act of taking vows which they had no intention of performing, each was anxious to have his rank and standing determined. The legitimate birth of Stephen prevailed over the nearer relationship of Robert, and the Earl of Boulogne first took the oaths to maintain the succession of Matilda.

In the same year (1126) Fulk, Count of Anjou, departed for the Holy Land, having first placed the government of his country in the hands of his son Geoffrey, surnamed Plante-Genest, or Plantagenet, from his custom of bearing on his helmet a sprig of yellow broom instead of a feather. The young Count of Anjou is described as possessing elegant and courtly manners, a noble person, and a reputation for gallantry in the field. These qualities recommended him to the favour of King Henry, who personally invested him with the order of knighthood. The ceremony took place at Rouen with great pomp, and the king, according to the custom of chivalry, presented his son-in-arms with a horse and a splendid suit of armour.

The English king had frequently had cause to dread tho opposition of the House of Anjou, and therefore he was induced, not less by motives of policy than by his regard for Geoffrey, to conclude an alliance with that powerful family. He determined that his daughter Matilda should wed the Count of Anjou. The marriage was concluded without the knowledge of the barons, who afterwards declared their disapproval of it, and many of them made it a pretext for breaking the oath of allegiance which they had taken to the ex-empress.

The marriage was celebrated in Rouen on August 26, a.d. 1127, and the festival, which was marked with all the splendour which the wealth of Henry could command, was prolonged during three weeks. On the first day heralds went about the streets commanding in the king's name that all men whatsoever should take part in the festivities, and that any man neglecting to make merry on the joyful, occasion should be considered guilty of an offence against the king.

Meanwhile, William of Normandy had obtained a position of power and influence which gave Henry great uneasiness. When Fulk of Anjou abandoned his connection with the son of Robert, the cause of the latter was still upheld by Louis, King of France. Charles the Good, Earl of Flanders, the successor of Baldwin, was murdered by his own people while attending a service of the church in Bruges, and king Louis gave that county to William. The Flemings, who at first received their new earl without opposition, broke out into revolt after the departure of the French king, and sent to ask the support of Henry.

William, however, was not without supporters, and his personal gallantry, joined to high military talents, gave him the victory over the insurgents in various encounters. His career, however, was destined to be short; in an engagement under the walls of Alost, in which he completely defeated his opponents, the son of Robert received a wound on the head, which proved fatal within a few days afterwards. He died on the 27th July, 1128, at the age of twenty-six.

Henry was thus relieved from any dread pretensions of his nephew, and he passed over into Normandy, where he remained for several years in the society of his daughter. In 1133, Matilda gave birth to a son, who was named Henry, and who afterwards reigned in England with the title of Henry II. Subsequently two other sons, named Geoffrey and William, were the fruit of this marriage. On the birth of his grandson, the king again endeavoured to secure to his race the succession to the throne by causing the barons once more to swear fealty to Matilda and to her children. During Henry's stay in Normandy, various quarrels took place between the ex-empress and her husband, and the king had great difficulty in keeping the peace between them. It would appear that Matilda seized every opportunity of prejudicing her father against her husband, who was exasperated at the king's refusal to place him in immediate possession of Normandy.

The The last years of Henry's life were embittered by these dissensions in his family, and his health rapidly declined. In the year 1135, he received news of an incursion of the Welsh, and while preparations were making for his return to England he was seized with a sudden illness. Having passed a day in hunting at Lions-la-Foret, in Normandy, he supped-late in the evening upon a dish of lampreys, of which he was remarkably fond. An indigestion, which resulted in a fever, was the consequence of this indulgence, and three days afterwards he expired (December 1, a.d, 1135). His body was afterwards conveyed to Reading Abbey, which he had himself founded, and was there buried.

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