Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sibling Rivalry

When William the Conqueror died in 1087, he decided to leave the throne of England to his second eldest, William Rufus. To his eldest, Robert Curthose, who had once rebelled against him, he left the Duchy of Normandy. (Robert hadn't even come to his father's deathbed, staying on the continent because of the bad blood between him and his family.) The youngest son, Henry, got £5000 silver (and two smaller provinces in France: Maine and the Cotentin Peninsula). William and Robert, as the two major landholders, agreed to make each other their heir.

Robert Curthose tomb in Gloucester Cathedral
That didn't last.

Months later, several barons decided to revolt against William Rufus in the Rebellion of 1088. Robert joined them. Verbally. He never actually traveled to England to take part in the rebellion with any troops; had he done so, the rebellion might have succeeded. As it happened, William invaded Normandy a few years later, capturing large parts of the Duchy from Robert.

They managed to reconcile, however, when they decided to team up and expand both their property holdings by taking Maine and Cotentin away from their younger brother, Henry. Henry lost the Cotentin (an important coastline on the English Channel) after a two-week siege, retaining only the smaller and now land-locked Maine.

William died in a hunting accident on 2 August 1100. At the time, Robert was returning from the 1st Crusade. He hurried back to England to claim the throne because of the agreement he had with William since 1087. Unfortunately for him, Henry was in a position to claim the throne before Robert returned.

Robert's troops landed at Portsmouth in 1101 to fight for the throne. Henry was awaiting him at Pevensey (coincidentally[?], near where their father had made his landing for the Norman Invasion of 1066), but caught up with Robert before he reached London, and defeated him. Henry convinced Robert to give up his claim to the throne for 3000 marks per year. That might have resolved their conflict—and it did, for a little while.

But then Ralph Flambard escaped from the Tower of London.

[to be continued]

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