Robert Curthose (c. 1051 or 1054 – 10 February 1134), sometimes numbered Robert II or Robert III, was the Duke of Normandy from 1087 until 1106 and an unsuccessful claimant to the throne of the Kingdom of England. His nickname, Curthose, comes from the Norman French Courtheuse, meaning short stockings (or in English - curt [short] & hose [stockings] ), as it is sometimes translated, Shortstockings. William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis report that Robert's father, King William, called him brevis-ocrea (short-boot) in derision.
He was the eldest son of William the Conqueror, the first Norman king of England, and Matilda of Flanders, and a participant in the First Crusade. His reign as Duke is noted for the discord with his brothers in England, eventually leading to the absorption of Normandy as a possession of England.
His birthdate is usually given as 1054, but may have been 1051. As a child he was betrothed to Margaret, the heiress of Maine, but she died before they could be wed, and Robert didn't marry until his late forties. In his youth, he was reported to be courageous and skillful in military exercises. He was, however, also prone to a laziness and weakness of character that discontented nobles and the King of France exploited to stir discord with his father William. He was unsatisfied with the share of power allotted to him, and quarreled with his father and brothers fiercely. In 1063 his father made him into the count of Maine, considering his engagement to Margaret. The county was presumably run by his father until 1069 when the county revolted and reverted to Hugh V of Maine.
In 1077, he instigated his first insurrection against his father as the result of a prank played by his younger brothers William Rufus and Henry, who had dumped a full chamber pot over his head. Robert was enraged, and urged on by his companions, started a brawl with his brothers that was only interrupted by the intercession of their father. Feeling that his dignity was wounded, Robert was further angered when King William failed to punish his brothers. The next day Robert and his followers attempted to seize the castle of Rouen. The siege failed, but when King William ordered their arrest, Robert and his companions took refuge with Hugh of Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais. They were forced to flee again when King William attacked their base at Rémalard.
Robert fled to Flanders, to the court of his uncle Robert I, Count of Flanders before plundering the county of the Vexin and causing such mayhem that his father King William allied himself with King Philip I of France to stop his rebellious son. Relations were not helped when King William discovered that Robert's mother, Queen Matilda, was secretly sending her son money. At a battle in January 1079 Robert unhorsed King William in combat and succeeded in wounding him, stopping his attack only when he recognized his father's voice. Humiliated, King William cursed his son, then raised the siege and returned to Rouen.
Full article ▸