Henry I of England

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Henry I (c. 1068/1069 – 1 December 1135) was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106. A later tradition[1] called him Beauclerc for his scholarly interests— he could read Latin and put his learning to effective use— and Lion of Justice for refinements which he brought about in the royal administration, which he rendered the most effective in Europe, rationalizing the itinerant court, and his public espousal of the Anglo-Saxon legal tradition.

Henry's reign established deep roots for the Anglo-Norman realm, in part through his dynastic (and personal) choice of a Scottish princess who represented the lineage of Edmund Ironside for queen. His succession was hurriedly confirmed while his brother Robert was away on the First Crusade, and the beginning of his reign was occupied by wars with Robert for control of England and Normandy. He successfully reunited the two realms again after their separation on his father's death in 1087. Upon his succession he granted the baronage a Charter of Liberties, which linked his rule of law to the Anglo-Saxon tradition, forming a basis for subsequent limitations to the rights of English kings and presaged Magna Carta, which subjected the king to law.

The rest of Henry's reign, a period of peace and prosperity in England and Normandy, was filled with judicial and financial reforms. He established the biannual Exchequer to reform the treasury. He used itinerant officials to curb the abuses of power at the local and regional level that had characterized William Rufus' unpopular reign, garnering the praise of the monkish chroniclers. The differences between the English and Norman populations began to break down during his reign and he himself married a descendant of the old English royal house. He made peace with the church after the disputes of his brother's reign and the struggles with Anselm over the English investiture controversy (1103-07), but he could not smooth out his succession after the disastrous loss of his eldest son William in the wreck of the White Ship. His will stipulated that he was to be succeeded by his daughter, the Empress Matilda, but his stern rule was followed by a period of civil war known as the Anarchy.

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