The History of England From the Norman Conquest to the Death of John (1066-1216)


Robert of Bellême had lost too much in England to rest satisfied with the position into which he had been forced. He was of too stormy a disposition himself to settle down to a quiet life on his Norman lands. Duke Robert had attacked one of his castles, while Henry was making war upon him in England, but, as was usual in his case, totally failed; but it was easy to take vengeance upon the duke, and he was the first to suffer for the misfortunes of the lord of Bellême. All that part of Normandy within reach of Robert was laid waste; churches and monasteries even, in which men had taken refuge, were burned with the fugitives. Almost all Normandy joined in planning resistance. The historian, Orderic, living in the duchy, speaks almost as if general government had disappeared, and the country were a confederation of local states. But all plans were in vain, because a “sane head” was lacking. Duke Robert was totally defeated, and obliged to make important concessions to Robert of Bellême. At last Henry, moved by the complaints which continued to come to him from churchmen and barons of Normandy, some of whom came over to England in person, as well as from his own subjects, whose Norman lands could not be protected, resolved himself to cross to Normandy. This he did in the autumn of 1104, and visited Domfront and other towns which belonged to him. There he was joined by almost all the leading barons of Normandy, who were, indeed, his vassals in England, but who meant more than this by coming to him at this time.

The expedition, however, was not an invasion. Henry did not intend to make war upon his brother or upon Robert of Bellême. It was his intention rather to serve notice on all parties that he was deeply interested in the affairs of Normandy and that anarchy must end. To his brother Robert he read a long lecture, filled with many counts of his misconduct, both to himself personally and in the government of the duchy. Robert feared worse things than this, and that he might turn away his brother’s wrath, ceded to him the county of Evreux, with the homage of its count, William, one of the most important possessions and barons of the duchy. Already in the year before Robert had been forced to surrender the pension Henry had promised him in the treaty which they had made after Robert’s invasion. This was because of a rash visit he had paid to England without permission, at the request of William of Warenne, to intercede for the restoration of his earldom of Surrey. By these arrangements Robert was left almost without the means of living, but he was satisfied to escape so easily, for he feared above all to be deprived of the name of duke and the semblance of power. Before winter came on the king returned to England.

In this same year, following out what seems to have been the deliberate purpose of Henry to crush the great Norman houses, another of the most powerful barons of England was sent over to Normandy, to furnish in the end a strong reinforcement to Robert of Bellême, a man of the same stamp as himself, namely William of Mortain, Earl of Cornwall, the king’s own cousin. At the time of Henry’s earliest troubles with his brother Robert, William had demanded the inheritance of their uncle Odo, the earldom of Kent. The king had delayed his answer until the danger was over, had then refused the request, and shortly after had begun to attack the earl by suits at law. This drove him to Normandy and into the party of the king’s open enemies. On Henry’s departure, Robert with the help of William began again his ravaging of the land of his enemies, with all the former horrors of fire and slaughter. The peasants suffered with the rest, and many of them fled the country with their wives and children.

If order was to be restored in Normandy and property again to become secure, it was clear that more thorough-going measures than those of Henry’s first expedition must be adopted. These he was now determined to take, and in the last week of Lent, 1105, he landed at Barfleur, and within a few days stormed and destroyed Bayeux, which had refused to surrender, and forced Caen to open its gates. Though this formed the extent of his military operations in this campaign, a much larger portion of Normandy virtually became subject to him through the voluntary action of the barons. And in a quite different way his visit to Normandy was of decisive influence in the history of Henry and of England. As the necessity of taking complete possession of the duchy, in order to secure peace, became clear to Henry, or perhaps we should say as the vision of Normandy entirely occupied and subject to his rule rose before his mind, the conflict with Anselm in which he was involved began to assume a new aspect. As an incident in the government of a kingdom of which he was completely master, it was one thing; as having a possible bearing on the success with which he could conquer and incorporate with his dominions another state, it was quite another.

Anselm had gone to Rome toward the end of the summer of 1103. There he had found everything as he had anticipated. The argument of Henry’s representative that England would be lost to the papacy if this concession were not granted, was of no avail. The pope stood firmly by the decrees against investiture. But Henry’s ambassador was charged with a mission to Anselm, as well as to the pope; and at Lyons, on the journey back, the archbishop was told that his return to England would be very welcome to the king when he was ready to perform all duties to the king as other archbishops of Canterbury had done them. The meaning of this message was clear. By this stroke of policy, Henry had exiled Anselm, with none of the excitement or outcry which would have been occasioned by his violent expulsion from the kingdom.

On the return of his embassy from Rome, probably in December, 1103, Henry completed the legal breach between himself and Anselm by seizing the revenues of the archbishopric into his own hands. This, from his interpretation of the facts, he had a perfect right to do, but there is very good ground to suppose that he might not have done it even now, if his object had been merely to punish a vassal who refused to perform his customary services. Henry was already looking forward to intervention in Normandy. His first expedition was not made until the next summer, but it must by this time have been foreseen, and the cost must have been counted. The revenues of Canterbury doubtless seemed quite worth having. Already, in 1104, we begin to get complaints of the heavy taxation from which England was suffering. In the year of the second expedition, 1105, these were still more frequent and piteous. Ecclesiastics and Church lands bore these burdens with the rest of the kingdom, and before the close of this year we are told that many of the evils which had existed under William Rufus had reappeared.[18]

True to his temporizing policy, when complaints became loud, as early as 1104, Henry professed his great desire for the return of Anselm, provided always he was willing to observe the customs of the kingdom, and he dispatched another embassy to Rome to persuade the pope to some concession. This was the fifth embassy which he had sent with this request, and he could not possibly have expected any other answer than that which he had already received. Soon a party began to form among the higher clergy of England, primarily in opposition to the king, and, more for this reason probably than from devotion to the reformation, in support of Anselm, though it soon began to show a disposition to adopt the Gregorian ideas for which Anselm stood. This disposition was less due to any change of heart on their part than to the knowledge which they had acquired of their helplessness in the hands of an absolute king, and of the great advantage to be gained from the independence which the Gregorian reformation would secure them. Even Gerard of York early showed some tendency to draw toward Anselm, as may be seen from a letter which he despatched to him in the early summer of 1105, with some precautions, suppressing names and expressions by which the writer might be identified.[19] Toward the end of the year he joined with five other bishops, including William Giffard, appointed by Henry to Winchester, in a more open appeal to Anselm, with promise of support. How early Henry became aware of this movement of opposition is not certain, but we may be sure that his department of secret service was well organized. We shall not be far wrong if we assign to a knowledge of the attitude of powerful churchmen in England some weight among the complex influences which led the king to the step which he took in July of this year.

In March, 1105, Pope Paschal II, whose conduct throughout this controversy implies that he was not more anxious to drive matters to open warfare than was Henry, advanced so far as to proclaim the excommunication of the Count of Meulan and the other counselors of the king, and also of those who had received investiture at his hand. This might look as if the pope were about to take up the case in earnest and would proceed shortly to excommunicate the king himself. But Anselm evidently interpreted it as the utmost which he could expect in the way of aid from Rome, and immediately determined to act for himself. He left Lyons to go to Reims, but learning on the way of the illness of the Countess of Blois, Henry’s sister Adela, he went to Blois instead, and then with the countess, who had recovered, to Chartres. This brought together three persons deeply interested in this conflict and of much influence in England and with the king Anselm, who was directly concerned; the Countess Adela, a favourite with her brother and on intimate terms with him and Bishop Ivo of Chartres, who had written much and wisely on the investiture controversy. And here it seems likely were suggested, probably by Bishop Ivo, and talked over among the three, the terms of the famous compromise by which the conflict was at last ended.

Anselm had made no secret of his intention of proceeding shortly to the excommunication of Henry. The prospect excited the liveliest apprehension in the mind of the religiously disposed Countess Adela, and she bestirred herself to find some means of averting so dread a fate from her brother. Henry himself had heard of the probability with some apprehension, though of a different sort from his sister’s. The respect which Anselm enjoyed throughout Normandy and northern France was so great that, as Henry looked forward to an early conquest of the duchy, he could not afford to disregard the effect upon the general feeling of an open declaration of war by the archbishop. The invitation of the king of France to Anselm, to accept an asylum within his borders, was a plain foreshadowing of what might follow.[20] Considerations of home and foreign politics alike disposed Henry to meet halfway the advances which the other side was willing to make under the lead of his sister.

With the countess, Anselm entered Normandy and met Henry at Laigle on July 21, 1105. Here the terms of the compromise, which were more than two years later adopted as binding law, were agreed upon between themselves, in their private capacity. Neither was willing at the moment to be officially bound. Anselm, while personally willing, would not formally agree to the concessions expected of him, until he had the authority of the pope to do so. Subsequent events lead us to suspect that once more Henry was temporizing. Anselm was not in good health. He was shortly after seriously ill. It is in harmony with Henry’s policy throughout, and with his action in the following months, to suppose that he believed the approaching death of the archbishop would relieve him from even the slight concessions to which he professed himself willing to agree. It is not the place here to state the terms and effect of this agreement, but in substance Henry consented to abandon investiture with the ring and staff, symbols of the spiritual office; and Anselm agreed that the officers of the Church should not be excommunicated nor denied consecration if they received investiture of their actual fiefs from the hand of the king. Henry promised that an embassy should be at once dispatched to Rome, to obtain the pope’s consent to this arrangement, in order that Anselm, to whom the temporalities of his see were now restored, might be present at his Christmas court in England.

Delay Henry certainly gained by this move. The forms of friendly intercourse were restored between himself and Anselm. The excommunication was not pronounced. The party of the king’s open enemies in Normandy, or of those who would have been glad to be his open enemies in France, if circumstances had been favourable, was deprived of support from any popular feeling of horror against an outcast of the Church. But he made no change in his conduct or plans. By the end of summer he was back in England, leaving things well under way in Normandy. Severer exactions followed in England, to raise money for new campaigns. One invention of some skilful servant of the king’s seemed to the ecclesiastical historians more intolerable and dangerous than anything before. The king’s justices began to draw the married clergy before the secular courts, and to fine them for their violation of the canons. By implication this would mean a legal toleration of the marriage, on payment of fines to the king, and thus it would cut into the rights of the Church in two directions. It was the trial of a spiritual offence in a secular court, and it was the virtual suspension of the law of the Church by the authority of the State. Still no embassy went to Rome. Christmas came and it had not gone. Robert of Bellême, alarmed at the plans of Henry, which were becoming evident, came over from Normandy to try to make some peaceable arrangement with the king, but was refused all terms. In January, 1106, Robert of Normandy himself came over, to get, if possible, the return of what he had lost at home; but he also could obtain nothing. All things were in Henry’s hands. He could afford to refuse favours, to forget his engagements, and to encourage his servants in the invention of ingenious exactions.

But Anselm was growing impatient. New appeals to action were constantly reaching him from England. The letter of the six bishops was sent toward the close of 1105. He himself began again to hint at extreme measures, and to write menacing letters to the king’s ministers. Finally, early in 1106, the embassy was actually sent to Rome. Towards the end of March the Roman curia took action on the proposal, and Anselm was informed, in a letter from the pope, that the required concessions would be allowed. The pope was disposed to give thanks that God had inclined the king’s heart to obedience; yet the proposal was approved of, not as an accepted principle, but rather as a temporary expedient, until the king should be converted by the preaching of the archbishop, to respect the rights of the Church in full. But Anselm did not yet return to England. Before the envoys came back from Rome, Henry had written to him of his expectation of early crossing into Normandy. On learning that the compromise would be accepted by the pope, Henry had sent to invite him at once to England, but Anselm was then too ill to travel, and he continued so for some time. It was nearly August before Henry’s third expedition actually landed in Normandy, and on the 15th of that month the king and the archbishop met at the Abbey of Bee, and the full reconciliation between them took place. Anselm could now agree to the compromise. Henry promised to make reformation in the particulars of his recent treatment of the Church, of which the archbishop complained. Then Anselm crossed to Dover, and was received with great rejoicing.

The campaign upon which Henry embarked in August ended by the close of September in a success greater than he could have anticipated. He first attacked the castle of Tinchebrai, belonging to William of Mortain, and left a fortified post there to hold it in check. As soon as the king had retired, William came to the relief of his castle, reprovisioned it, and shut up the king’s men in their defences. Then Henry advanced in turn with his own forces and his allies, and began a regular siege of the castle. The next move was William’s, and he summoned to his aid Duke Robert and Robert of Bellême, and all the friends they had left in Normandy. The whole of the opposing forces were thus face to face, and the fate of Normandy likely to be settled by a single conflict. Orderic, the historian of the war, notes that Henry preferred to fight rather than to withdraw, as commanded by his brother, being willing to enter upon this “more than civil war for the sake of future peace.”

In the meantime, the men of religion who were present began to exert themselves to prevent so fratricidal a collision of these armies, between whose opposing ranks so many families were divided. Henry yielded to their wishes, and offered to his brother terms of reconciliation which reveal not merely his belief in the strength of his position in the country and his confidence of success, but something also of his general motive. The ardour of religious zeal which the historian makes Henry profess we may perhaps set aside, but the actual terms offered speak for themselves. Robert was to surrender to Henry all the castles and the jurisdiction and administration of the whole duchy. This being done, Henry would turn over to him, without any exertion on his part, the revenues of half the duchy to enjoy freely in the kind of life that best pleased him. If Robert had been a different sort of man, we should commend his rejection of these terms. Possibly he recalled Henry’s earlier promise of a pension, and had little confidence in the certainty of revenues from this source. But Henry, knowing the men whose advice Robert would ask before answering, had probably not expected his terms to be accepted.

The battle was fought on September 28, and it was fiercely fought, the hardest fight and with the largest forces of any in which Normans or Englishmen had been engaged for forty years. The main body of both armies fought on foot. The Count of Mortain, in command of Robert’s first division, charged Henry’s front, but was met with a resistance which he could not overcome. In the midst of this struggle Robert’s flank was charged by Henry’s mounted allies, under Count Elias of Maine, and his position was cut in two. Robert of Bellême, who commanded the rear division, seeing the battle going against the duke, took to flight and left the rest of the army to its fate. This was apparently to surrender in a body. Henry reports the number of common soldiers whom he had taken as ten thousand, too large a figure, no doubt, but implying the capture of Robert’s whole force. His prisoners of name comprised all the leaders of his brother’s side except Robert of Bellême, including the duke himself, Edgar the English atheling, who was soon released, and William of Mortain. The victory at once made Henry master of Normandy. There could be no further question of this, and it is of interest to note that the historian, William of Malmesbury, who in his own person typifies the union of English and Norman, both in blood and in spirit, records the fact that the day was the same as that on which the Conqueror had landed forty years earlier, and regards the result as reversing that event, and as making Normandy subject to England. This was not far from its real historical meaning.

Robert clearly recognized the completeness of Henry’s success. By his orders Falaise was surrendered, and the castle of Rouen; and he formally absolved the towns of Normandy in general from their allegiance to himself. At Falaise Robert’s young son William, known afterwards as William Clito, was captured and brought before Henry. Not wishing himself to be held responsible for his safety, Henry turned him over to the guardianship of Elias of Saint-Saens, who had married a natural daughter of Robert’s. One unsought-for result of the conquest of Normandy was that Ranulf Flambard, who was in charge of the bishopric of Lisieux, succeeded in making his peace with the king and obtained his restoration to Durham, but he never again became a king’s minister. Only Robert of Bellême thought of further fighting. As a vassal of Elias, Count of Maine, he applied to him for help, and promised a long resistance with his thirty-four strong castles. Elias refused his aid, pointed out the unwisdom of such an attempt, defended Henry’s motives, and advised submission, promising his good influences with Henry. This advice Robert concluded to accept. Henry, on his side, very likely had some regard to the thirty-four castles, and decided to bide his time. Peace, for the present, was made between them.

Some measures which Henry considered necessary for the security of Normandy, he did not think it wise to carry out by his own unsupported action. In the middle of October a great council of Norman barons was called to meet at Lisieux. Here it was decreed that all possessions which had been wrongfully taken from churches or other legitimate holders during the confusion of the years since the death of William the Conqueror should be restored, and all grants from the ducal domain to unworthy persons, or usurpations which Robert had not been able to prevent, were ordered to be resumed. It is of especial interest that the worst men of the prisoners taken at Tinchebrai were here condemned to perpetual imprisonment. The name of Robert is not mentioned among those included in this judgment, and later Henry justifies his conduct toward his brother on the ground of political necessity, not of legal right. The result of all these measures–we may believe it would have been the result of the conquest alone–was to put an end at once to the disorder, private warfare, and open robbery from which the duchy had so long suffered. War enough there was in Normandy, in the later years of Henry’s reign, but it was regular warfare. The license of anarchy was at an end. Robert was carried over to England, to a fate for which there could be little warrant in strict law, but which was abundantly deserved and fully supported by the public opinion of the time. He was kept in prison in one royal castle or another until his death twenty-eight years later. If Henry’s profession was true, as it probably was, that he kept him as a royal prisoner should be kept, and supplied him with the luxuries he enjoyed so much, the result was, it is possible, not altogether disagreeable to Robert himself. Some time later, when the pope remonstrated with Henry on his conduct, and demanded the release of Robert, the king’s defence of his action was so complete that the pope had no reply to make. Political expediency, the impossibility of otherwise maintaining peace, was the burden of his answer, and this, if not actual justice, must still be Henry’s defence for his treatment of his brother.

Henry returned to England in time for the Easter meeting of his court, but the legalization of the compromise with Anselm was deferred to Whitsuntide because the pope was about to hold a council in France, from which some action affecting the question might be expected. At Whitsuntide Anselm was ill, and another postponement was necessary. At last, early in August, at a great council held in the king’s palace in London, the agreement was ratified. No formal statement of the terms of this compromise has been given us by any contemporary authority, but such accounts of it as we have, and such inferences as seem almost equally direct, probably leave no important point unknown. Of all his claims, Henry surrendered only the right of investiture with ring and staff. These were spiritual symbols, typical of the bishop’s relation to his Church and of his pastoral duties. To the ecclesiastical mind the conferring of them would seem more than any other part of the procedure the actual granting of the religious office, though they had been used by the kings merely as symbols of the fief granted. Some things would seem to indicate that the forms of canonical election were more respected after this compromise than they had been before, but this is true of forms only, and if we may judge from a sentence in a letter to the pope, in which Anselm tells him of the final settlement, this was not one of the terms of the formal agreement, and William of Malmesbury says distinctly that it was not. In all else the Church gave way to the king. He made choice of the person to be elected, with such advice and counsel as he chose to take, and his choice was final. He received the homage and conferred investiture of the temporalities of the office of the new prelate as his father and brother had done. Only when this was completed to the king’s satisfaction, and his permission to proceed received, was the bishop elect consecrated to his spiritual office.

To us it seems clear that the king had yielded only what was a mere form, and that he had retained all the real substance of his former power, and probably this was also the judgment of the practical mind of Henry and of his chief adviser, the Count of Meulan. We must not forget, however, that the Church seemed to believe that it had gained something real, and that a strong party of the king’s supporters long and vigorously resisted these concessions in his court. The Church had indeed set an example, for itself at least, of successful attack on the absolute monarchy, and had shown that the strongest of kings could be forced to yield a point against his will. Before the century was closed, in a struggle even more bitterly fought and against a stronger king, the warriors of the Church looked back to this example and drew strength from this success. It is possible, also, that these cases of concession forced from reluctant kings served as suggestion and model at the beginning of a political struggle which was to have more permanent results. All this, however, lay yet in the future, and could not be suspected by either party to this earliest conflict.

The agreement ratified in 1107 was the permanent settlement of the investiture controversy for England, and under it developed the practice on ecclesiastical vacancies which we may say has continued to the present time, interrupted under some sovereigns by vacillating practice or by a more or less theoretical concession of freedom of election to the Church. Henry’s grandson, Henry II, describes this practice as it existed in his day, in one of the clauses of the Constitutions of Clarendon. The clause shows that some at least of the inventions of Ranulf Flambard had not been discarded, and there is abundant evidence to show that the king was really stating in it, as he said he was, the customs of his grandfather’s time. The clause reads: “When an archbishopric or bishopric or abbey or priory of the king’s domain has fallen vacant, it ought to be in the king’s hands, and he shall take thence all the returns and revenues as domain revenues, and when the time has come to provide for the Church, the king shall call for the chief persons of the Church [that is, summon a representation of the Church to himself], and in the king’s chapel the election shall be made with the assent of the king and with the counsel of those ecclesiastics of the kingdom whom he shall have summoned for this purpose, and there the elect shall do homage and fealty to the king, as to his liege lord, of his life and limb and earthly honour, saving his order, before he shall be consecrated.”

This long controversy having reached a settlement which Anselm was at least willing to accept, he was ready to resume the long-interrupted duties of primate of Britain. On August 11, assisted by an imposing assembly of his suffragan bishops, and by the Archbishop of York, he consecrated in Canterbury five bishops at once, three of these of long-standing appointment,–William Giffard of Winchester, Roger of Salisbury, and Reinelm of Hereford; the other two, William of Exeter and Urban of Landaff, recently chosen. The renewed activity of Anselm as head of the English Church, which thus began, was not for long. His health had been destroyed. His illness returned at frequent intervals, and in less than two years his life and work were finished. These months, however, were filled with considerable activity, not all of it of the kind we should prefer to associate with the name of Anselm. Were we shut up to the history of this time for our knowledge of his character, we should be likely to describe it in different terms from those we usually employ. The earlier Anselm, of gentle character, shrinking from the turmoil of strife and longing only for the quiet of the abbey library, had apparently disappeared. The experiences of the past few years had been, indeed, no school in gentleness, and the lessons which he had learned at Rome were not those of submission to the claims of others. In the great council which ratified the compromise, Anselm had renewed his demand for the obedience of the Archbishop of York, and this demand he continued to push with extreme vigour until his death, first against Gerard, who died early in 1108, and then against his successor, Thomas, son of Bishop Samson of Worcester, appointed by Henry. A plan for the division of the large diocese of Lincoln, by the creation of a new diocese of Ely, though by common consent likely to improve greatly the administration of the Church, he refused to approve until the consent of the pope had been obtained. He insisted, against the will of the monks and the request of the king, upon the right of the archbishop to consecrate the abbot of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury, in whatever church he pleased, and again, in spite of the king’s request, he maintained the same right in the consecration of the bishop of London. The canon law of the Church regarding marriage, lay or priestly, he enforced with unsparing rigour. Almost his last act, it would seem, before his death, was to send a violent letter to Archbishop Thomas of York, suspending him from his office and forbidding all bishops of his obedience, under penalty of “perpetual anathema,” to consecrate him or to communicate with him if consecrated by any one outside of England. On April 21, 1109, this stormy episcopate closed, a notable instance of a man of noble character, and in some respects of remarkable genius, forced by circumstances out of the natural current of his life into a career for which he was not fitted.

For Henry these months since the conquest of Normandy and, the settlement of the dispute with Anselm had been uneventful. Normandy had settled into order as if the mere change of ruler had been all it needed, and in England, which now occupied Henry’s attention only at intervals, there was no occasion of anxiety. Events were taking place across the border of Normandy which were to affect the latter years of Henry and the future destinies of England in important ways. In the summer of 1108, the long reign of Philip I of France had closed, and the reign, nearly as long, of his son, Louis VI, had begun, the first of the great Capetian kings, in whose reign begins a definite policy of aggrandizement for the dynasty directed in great part against their rivals, the English kings. Just before the death of Anselm occurred that of Fulk Rechin, Count of Anjou, and the succession of his son Fulk V. He was married to the heiress of Maine, and a year later this inheritance, the overlordship of which the Norman dukes had so long claimed, fell in to him. Of Henry’s marriage with Matilda two children had been born who survived infancy,–Matilda, the future empress, early in 1102, and William in the late summer or early autumn of 1103. The queen herself, who had for a time accompanied the movements of her husband, now resided mostly at Westminster, where she gained the fame of liberality to foreign artists and of devotion to pious works.

It was during a stay of Henry’s in England, shortly after the death of Anselm, that he issued one of the very few documents of his reign which give us glimpses into the changes in institutions which were then taking place. This is a writ, which we have in two slightly varying forms, one of them addressed to Bishop Samson of Worcester, dealing with the local judicial system. From it we infer that the old Saxon system of local justice, the hundred and county courts, had indeed never fallen into disuse since the days of the Conquest, but that they had been subjected to many irregularities of time and place, and that the sheriffs had often obliged them to meet when and where it suited their convenience; and we are led to suspect that they had been used as engines of extortion for the advantage both of the local officer and of the king. All this Henry now orders to cease. The courts are to meet at the same times and places as in the days of King Edward, and if they need to be summoned to special sessions for any royal business, due notice shall be given.

Even more important is the evidence which we get from this document of a royal system of local justice acting in conjunction with the old system of shire courts. The last half of the writ implies that there had arisen thus early the questions of disputed jurisdiction, of methods of trial, and of attendance at courts, with which we are familiar a few generations later in the history of English law. Distinctly implied is a conflict between a royal jurisdiction on one side and a private baronial jurisdiction on the other, which is settled in favour of the lord’s court, if the suit is between two of his own vassals; but if the disputants are vassals of two different lords, it is decided in favour of the king’s,–that is, of the court held by the king’s justice in the county, who may, indeed, be no more than the sheriff acting in this capacity. This would be in strict harmony with the ruling feudal law of the time. But when the suit comes on for trial in the county court, it is not to be tried by the old county court forms. It is not a case in the sheriffs county court, the people’s county court, but one before the king’s justice, and the royal, that is, Norman method of trial by duel is to be adopted. Finally, at the close of the writ, appears an effort to defend this local court system against the liberties and immunities of the feudal system, an attempt which easily succeeded in so far as it concerned the king’s county courts, but failed in the case of the purely local courts.[21]

If this interpretation is correct, this writ is typical of a process of the greatest interest, which we know from other sources was characteristic of the reign, a process which gave their peculiar form to the institutions of England and continued for more than a century. By this process the local law and institutions of Saxon England, and the royal law and central institutions of the Normans, were wrought into a single and harmonious whole. This process of union which was long and slow, guided by no intention beyond the convenience of the moment, advances in two stages. In the first, the Norman administration, royal and centralized, is carried down into the counties and there united, for the greater ease of accomplishing certain desired ends of administration, with the local Saxon system. This resulted in several very important features of our judicial organization. The second stage was somewhat the reverse of this. In it, certain features which had developed in the local machinery, the jury and election, are adopted by the central government and applied to new uses. This was the origin of the English parliamentary system. It is of the first of these stages only that we get a glimpse, in this document, and from other sources of the reign of Henry, and these bits of evidence only allow us to say that those judicial arrangements which were put into organized form in his grandson’s reign had their beginning, as occasional practices, in his own. Not long after the date of this charter, a series of law books, one of the interesting features of the reign, began to appear. Their object was to state the old laws of England, or these in connexion with the laws then current in the courts, or with the legislation of the first of the Norman kings. Private compilations, or at most the work of persons whose position in the service of the state could give no official authority to their codes, their object was mainly practical; but they reveal not merely a general interest in the legal arrangements existing at the moment, but a clear consciousness that these rested upon a solid substratum of ancient law, dating from a time before the Conquest. Towards this ancient law the nation had lately turned, and had been answered by the promise in Henry’s coronation charter. Worn with the tyranny of William Rufus, men had looked back with longing to the better conditions of an earlier age, and had demanded the laws of Edward or of Canute, as, under the latter, men had looked back to the laws of Edgar, demanding laws, not in the sense of the legislation of a certain famous king, but of the whole legal and constitutional situation of earlier times, thought of as a golden age from which the recent tyranny had departed. What they really desired was never granted them. The Saxon law still survived, and was very likely renewed in particulars by Henry I, but it survived as local law and as the law of the minor affairs of life. The law of public affairs and of all great interests, the law of the tyranny from which men suffered, was new. It made much use of the local machinery which it found but in a new way, and it was destined to be modified in some points by the old law, but it was new as the foundation on which was to be built the later constitution of the state. The demand for the laws of an earlier time did not affect the process of this building, and the effort to put the ancient law into accessible form, which may have had this demand as one of its causes, is of interest to the student of general history chiefly for the evidence it gives of the great work of union which was then going on, of Saxon and Norman, in law as in blood, into a new nation.

It was during the same stay in England that an opportunity was offered to Henry to form an alliance on the continent which promised him great advantages in case of an open conflict with the king of France. At Henry’s Whitsuntide court, in 1109, appeared an embassy from Henry V of Germany, to ask for the hand of his daughter, then less than eight years old. This request Henry would not be slow to grant. Conflicting policies would never be likely to disturb such an alliance, and the probable interest which the sovereign of Germany would have in common with himself in limiting the expansion of France, or even in detaching lands from her allegiance, would make the alliance seem of good promise for the future. On the part of Henry of Germany, such a proposal must have come from policy alone, but the advantage which he hoped to gain from it is not so easy to discover as in the case of Henry of England. If he entertained any idea of a common policy against France, this was soon dropped, and his purpose must in all probability be sought in plans within the empire. Henry’s recent accession to the throne of Germany had been followed by–a change of policy. During the later years of his unfortunate father, whose stormy reign had closed in the triumph of the two enemies whom he had been obliged to face at once, the Church of Gregory VII, contending with the empire for equality and even for supremacy, and the princes of Germany, grasping in their local dominions the rights of sovereignty, the ambitious prince had fought against the king, his father. But when he had at last become king himself, his point of view was changed. The conflict in which his father had failed he was ready to renew with vigour and with hope of success. That he should have believed, as he evidently did, that a marriage with the young English princess was the most useful one he could make in this crisis of his affairs is interesting evidence, not merely of the world’s opinion of Henry I, but also of the rank of the English monarchy among the states of Europe.

Just as she was completing her eighth year, Matilda was sent over to Germany to learn the language and the ways of her new country. A stately embassy and a rich dower went with her, for which her father had provided by taking the regular feudal aid to marry the lord’s eldest daughter, at the rate of three shillings per hide throughout England. On April 10, 1110, she was formally betrothed to the emperor-elect at Utrecht. On July 25, she was crowned Queen of Germany at Mainz. Then she was committed to the care of the Archbishop of Trier, who was to superintend her education. On January 7,1114, just before Matilda had completed her twelfth year, the marriage was celebrated at Mainz, in the presence of a great assembly. All things had been going well with Henry. In Germany and in Italy he had overcome the princes and nobles who had ventured to oppose him. The clergy of Germany seemed united on his side in the still unsettled investiture conflict with the papacy. The brilliant assembly of princes of the empire and foreign ambassadors which gathered in the city for this marriage was in celebration as well of the triumph of the emperor. On this great occasion, and in spite of her youth, Matilda bore herself as a queen, and impressed those who saw her as worthy of the position, highest in rank in the world, to which she had been called. To the end of her stay in Germany she retained the respect and she won the hearts of her German subjects.

By August, 1111, King Henry’s stay in England was over, and he crossed again to Normandy. What circumstances called him to the continent we do not know, but probably events growing out of a renewal of war with Louis VI, which seems to have been first begun early in 1109.[22] However this may be, he soon found himself in open conflict all along his southern border with the king of France and the Count of Anjou, with Robert of Bellême and other barons of the border to aid them. Possibly Henry feared a movement in Normandy itself in favour of young William Clito, or learned of some expression of a wish not infrequent among the Norman barons in times a little later, that he might succeed to his father’s place. At any rate, at this time, Henry ordered Robert of Beauchamp to seize the boy in the castle of Elias of Saint-Saens, to whom he had committed him five years before. The attempt failed. William was hastily carried off to France by friendly hands, in the absence of his guardian. Elias joined him soon after, shared his long exile, and suffered confiscation of his fief in consequence. It would not be strange if Henry was occasionally troubled, in that age of early but full-grown chivalry, by the sympathy of the Norman barons with the wanderings and friendless poverty of their rightful lord; but Henry was too strong and too severe in his punishment of any treason for sympathy ever to pass into action on any scale likely to assist the exiled prince, unless in combination with some strong enemy of the king’s from without.

Henry would appear at first sight greatly superior to Louis VI of France in the military power and resources of which he had immediate command, as he certainly was in diplomatic skill. The Capetian king, master only of the narrow domains of the Isle of France, and hardly of those until the constant fighting of Louis’s reign had subdued the turbulent barons of the province; hemmed in by the dominions, each as extensive as his own, of the great barons nominally his vassals but sending to his wars as scanty levies as possible, or appearing openly in the ranks of his enemies as their own interests dictated; threatened by foreign foes, the kings of England and of Germany, who would detach even these loosely held provinces from his kingdom,–the Capetian king could hardly have defended himself at this epoch from a neighbour so able as Henry I, wielding the united strength of England and Normandy, and determined upon conquest. The safety of the Capetian house was secured by the absence of both these conditions. Henry was not ambitious of conquest; and as his troubles with France increased so did dissensions in Normandy, which crippled his resources and divided his efforts. The net result at the close of Henry’s reign was that the king of England was no stronger than in 1110, unless we count the uncertain prospect of the Angevin succession; while the king of France was master of larger resources and a growing power.

It seems most likely that it was in the spring of 1109 that the rivalry of the two kings first led to an open breach. This was regarding the fortress of Gisors, on the Epte, which William Rufus had built against the French Vexin. Louis summoned Henry either to surrender or to demolish it, but Henry refused either alternative, and occupied it with his troops. The French army opposed him on the other side of the river, but there was no fighting. Louis, who greatly enjoyed the physical pleasure of battle, proposed to Henry that they should meet on the bridge which crossed the river at this point, in sight of the two armies, and decide their quarrel by a duel. Henry, the diplomatist and not the fighter, laughed at the proposition. In Louis’s army were two men, one of whom had lately been, and the other of whom was soon to be, in alliance with Henry, Robert of Jerusalem, Count of Flanders, and Theobald, Count of Blois, eldest son of Henry’s sister and brother of his successor as king, Stephen of England. Possibly a truce had soon closed this first war, but if so, it had begun again in the year of Henry’s crossing, 1111; and the Count of Blois was now in the field against his sovereign and defeated Louis in a battle in which the Count of Flanders was killed. The war with Louis ran its course for a year and a half longer without battles. Against Anjou Henry built or strengthened certain fortresses along the border and waited the course of events.

On November 4, 1112, an advantage fell to Henry which may have gone far to secure him the remarkable terms of peace with which the war was closed. He arrested Robert of Bellême, his constant enemy and the enemy of all good men, “incomparable in all forms of evil since the beginning of Christian days.” He had come to meet the king at Bonneville, to bring a message from Louis, thinking that Henry would be obliged to respect his character as an envoy. Probably the king took the ground that by his conduct Robert had forfeited all rights, and was to be treated practically as a common outlaw. At any rate, he ordered his arrest and trial. On three specific counts–that he had acted unjustly toward his lord, that summoned three times to appear in court for trial he had not come, and that as the king’s viscount he had failed to render account of the revenues he had collected–he was condemned and sentenced to imprisonment. On Henry’s return to England he was carried over and kept in Wareham castle, where he was still alive in 1130. The Norman historian Orderic records that this action of Henry’s met with universal approval and was greeted with general rejoicing.

During Lent of the next year, 1113, Henry made formal peace with both his enemies, the king of France and the Count of Anjou. The peace with the latter was first concluded. It was very possibly Fulk’s refusal to recognize Henry’s overlordship of Maine that occasioned the war. To this he now assented. He did homage for the county, and received investiture of it from the hand of the king. He also promised the hand of his daughter Matilda to Henry’s son William. Henry, on his side, restored to favour the Norman allies of Fulk. A few days later a treaty was made at Gisors, with the king of France. Louis formally conceded to Henry the overlordship of Bellême, which had not before depended upon the duchy of Normandy, and that of Maine, and Britanny. In the case of Maine and of Britanny this was the recognition of long-standing claims and of accomplished facts, for Count Alan Fergant of Britanny, as well as Fulk of Anjou, had already become the vassal of Henry, and had obtained the hand of a natural daughter of the king for his son Conan, who in this year became count. But the important lordship of Bellême was a new cession. It was not yet in Henry’s hands, nor had it been reckoned as a part of Normandy, though the lords of Bellême had been also Norman barons. Concessions such as these, forming with Normandy the area of many a kingdom, were made by a king like Louis VI, only under the compulsion of necessity. They mark the triumph of Henry’s skill, of his vigorous determination, and of his ready disregard of the legal rights of others, if they would not conform to his ideas of proper conduct or fit into his system of government. The occupation of Bellême required a campaign. William Talvas, the son of Robert, while himself going to defend his mother’s inheritance of Ponthieu, had left directions with the vassals of Bellême for its defence, but the campaign was a short one. Henry, assisted by his new vassal, the Count of Anjou, and by his nephew, Theobald of Blois, speedily reduced city and lordship to submission.

Orderic Vitalis, who was living in Normandy at this time, in the monastery of St. Evroul, declares that following this peace, made in the spring of 1113, for five years, Henry governed his kingdom and his duchy on the two sides of the sea with great tranquillity. These years, to the great insurrection of the Norman barons in 1118, were not entirely undisturbed, but as compared with the period which goes before, or with that which follows, they deserve the historian’s description. One great army was led into Wales in 1114, and the Welsh princes were forced to renew their submission. Henry was apparently interested in the slow incorporation of Wales in England which was going forward, but prudently recognized the difficulties of attempting to hasten the process by violence. He was ready to use the Church, that frequent medieval engine of conquest, and attempted with success, both before this date and later, to introduce English bishops into old Welsh sees. From the early part of this reign also dates the great Flemish settlement in Pembrokeshire, which was of momentous influence on all that part of Wales.

These years were also fully occupied with controversies in the Church, whose importance for the state Henry clearly recognized. Out of the conflict over investitures, regarded from the practical side, the Norman monarchy had emerged, as we have seen, in triumph, making but one slight concession, and that largely a matter of form. From the struggle with the empire on the same issue, which was at this date still unsettled, the Church was destined to gain but little more, perhaps an added point of form, depending for its real value on the spirit with which the final agreement was administered. In the matter of investitures, the Church could claim but little more than a drawn battle on any field; and yet, in that great conflict with the monarchies of Europe into which the papacy had been led by the genius of Hildebrand, it had gained a real and great victory in all that was of the most vital importance. The pope was no longer the creature and servant of the emperor; he was not even a bishop of the empire. In the estimation of all Christendom, he occupied an equal throne, exercised a co-ordinate power, and appeared even more directly as the representative of the divine government of the world. Under his rule was an empire far more extensive than that which the emperor controlled, coming now to be closely centralized with all the machinery of government, legal, judicial, and administrative, highly organized and pervaded from the highest to the lowest ranks with a uniform theory of the absolute right of the ruler and of the duty of unquestioning obedience which the most perfect secular absolutism would strive in vain to secure. To have transformed the Church, which the emperor Henry III had begun to reform in 1046, into that which survived the last year of his dynasty, was a work of political genius as great as history records.

It was not before the demand of the pope in the matter of investiture that the Norman absolute government of the Church went down. It fell because the Norman theory of the national Church, closely under the control of the state in every field of its activity, a part of the state machinery, and a valuable assistant in the government of the nation, was undermined and destroyed by a higher, and for that age a more useful, conception. When the idea of the Church as a world-wide unity, more closely bound to its theocratic head than to any temporal sovereign, and with a mission and responsibility distinct from those of the state, took possession of the body of the clergy, as it began to do in the reign of Henry, it was impossible to maintain any longer the separateness of the Norman Church. But the incorporation of the Norman and English churches in the papal monarchy meant the slipping from the king’s hands of power in many individual cases, which the first two Norman kings had exercised without question, and which even the third had continued to exercise.

The struggle of York to free itself from the promise of obedience to Canterbury was only one of the many channels through which these new ideas entered the kingdom. A new tide of monasticism had arisen on the continent, which did not spend itself even with the northern borders of England. The new orders and the new spirit found many abiding places in the kingdom, and drew laity as well as clergy under their strong influence. This was especially, though not alone, true of the Augustinian canons, who possessed some fifty houses in England at the close of Henry’s reign, and in the later years of his life, of the Cistercians, with whose founding an English saint, Stephen Harding, had had much to do, and some of whose monasteries founded in this period, Tintern, Rievaulx, Furness, and Fountains, are still familiar names, famous for the beauty of their ruins. This new monasticism had been founded wholly in the ideas of the new ecclesiastical monarchy, and was an expression of them. The monasteries it created were organized, not as parts of the state in which they were situated, but as parts of a great order, international in its character, free from local control, and, though its houses were situated in many lands, forming almost an independent state under the direct sovereignty of the pope. The new monarchical papacy, which emerged from the conflicts of this period, occupied Christendom with its garrisons in these monastic houses, and every house was a source from which its ruling ideas spread widely abroad.

A new education was also beginning in this same period, and was growing in definiteness of content and of organization, in response to a demand which was becoming eager. At many centres in Europe groups of scholars were giving formal lectures on the knowledge of the day, and were attracting larger and larger numbers of students by the fame of their eloquence, or by the stimulus of their new method. The beginnings of Oxford as a place of teachers, as well as of Paris, reach back into this time. The ambitious young man, who looked forward to a career in the Church, began to feel the necessity of getting the training which these new schools could impart. The number of students whom we can name, who went from England to Paris or elsewhere to study, is large for the time; but if we possessed a list of all the English students, at home or abroad, of this reign, we should doubtless estimate the force of this influence more highly, even in the period of its beginning. For the ideas which now reigned in the Church pervaded the new education as they did the new monasticism. There was hardly a source, indeed, from which the student could learn any other doctrine, as there has remained none in the learning of the Roman Church to the present day. The entire literature of the Church, its rapidly forming new philosophy and theology, its already greatly developed canon law, breathed only the spirit of a divinely inspired centralization. And the student who returned, very likely to rapid promotion in the English Church, did not bring back these ideas for himself alone. He set the fashion of thinking for his less fortunate fellows.

It was by influences like these that the gradual and silent transformation was wrought which made of the English Church a very different thing at the end of these thirty-five years from what it had been at the beginning of the reign. The first two Norman kings had reigned over a Church which knew no other system than strict royal control. Henry I continued to exercise to the end of his reign, with only slight modification and the faint beginnings of change, the same prerogatives, but it was over a Church whose officers had been trained in an opposing system, and now profoundly disbelieved in his rights. How long would it avail the Norman monarchy anything to have triumphed in the struggle of investitures, when it could no longer find the bishop to appoint who was not thoroughly devoted to the highest papal claims? The answer suggested, in its extreme form, is too strong a statement for the exact truth; for in whatever age, or under whatever circumstances, a strong king can maintain himself, there he can always find subservient tools. But the interested service of individuals is a very different foundation of power from the traditional and unquestioning obedience of a class. The history of the next age shows that the way had been prepared for rapid changes, when political conditions would permit; and the grandson of the first Henry found himself obliged to yield, in part at least, to demands of the Church entirely logical in themselves, but unheard of in his grandfather’s time.

[18] Eadmer, p. 172.
[19] Liebermann, Quadripartitus, p. 155.
[20] Anselm, Epist. iv. 50, 51; Luchaire, Louis VI, Annales, No. 31.
[21] See American Historical Review, viii, 478.
[22] Luchaire, Louis VI, Annales, p. cxv.