Henry was born around 1068. He was the fourth and youngest son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders.
Henry was given a little early education in France, but most of his education took place in England. He was educated by the church, possibly because his father intended him to join the clergy. Being a fourth born son, he would have been unlikely to take the throne, however the throne became his in 1100.
Reign 1100 – 1135
He became King of England on 3 August 1100 following the death of his brother William Rufus. His elder brother Robert, Duke of Normandy was on crusade at the time of Rufus’ death.
Henry wanted to secure his position, and he was quick to gain the support of the Saxons by issuing a Charter of Liberties which abandoned many of Rufus’ policies towards the church and taxes.
On 11 November 1100 to further strengthen his position he married Edith, daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland. Edith became known as Matilda of Scotland following her marriage. The marriage was politically motivated and gave legitimacy to Henry’s reign.
Even though Henry had taken the throne, many nobles still supported his elder brother, Robert, Duke of Normandy. Since returning from the crusades, he was in Normandy raising an army to invade England, and he did this in 1101.
Henry, having an army of his own travelled south to meet Robert’s army. Before a battle could ensue, negotiations took place and an amicable settlement was reached with the Treaty of Alton.
In agreement of this treaty, Robert agreed to relinquish his right to the English throne and Henry agreed to hand over his lands in Normandy and to pay Robert an annual annuity of £2,000.
Even after the Treaty of Alton, Henry inflicted penalties on the barons that had supported Robert during his invasion. He also believed Robert had broken the terms of the treaty and this led to Henry invading Normandy in 1105. This invasion stalled and Henry returned home, however he then invaded again in 1106.
On this invasion, Henry was named Duke of Normandy and Robert was captured and imprisoned for life. Robert’s young son William Clito was released into the care of a Norman baron.
Henry now had control of Normandy but over the years he was still to be challenged for control. Louis VI of France, Baldwin VII of Flanders and Fulk V of Anjou all attempted to help William Clito gain control of Normandy.
Henry’s marriage produced two children, a son William Adelin and a daughter Matilda, however Henry’s son William died in the English Channel in the wreck of the White Ship on 25 November 1120, while returning from campaign in Normandy.
Henry now needed another heir and so he decided to marry again. He married Adelicia of Louvain in 1121, but this marriage did not produce any children.
Matilda, Henry’s daughter was recalled to England following the death of her husband. Henry made her his heir to the throne of England, and made his barons swear to recognise Matilda and any legitimate children she might have.
To build an alliance with Fulk of Anjou, Henry married his daughter to Geoffrey of Anjou in 1128 with this marriage producing two children, Henry born in 1133 and Geoffrey born in 1134.
Henry was delighted to finally have an heir in his grandson Henry, but his relations with his daughter and her husband became strained.
Henry fell ill, with his condition worsening over a week. He died on 1 December 1135 in Normandy. His body was later returned to England and interred at Reading Abbey.
His throne was disputed which led to a civil war known as the Anarchy.