If ever there was a dysfunctional family – this is it. There are sufficient tales of sibling rivalry, murder and kidnap to keep me out of mischief for weeks.
William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders had the following children –
- Robert Curthose (1052/4- 1135) who married Sybilla of Conversano. He fought with his brothers, rebelled against his father and was denied the English crown by his youngest surviving brother Henry before losing the duchy of Normandy and being imprisoned for 28 years in England. One story suggests that Henry threatened to put Robert’s eyes out to prevent him from escaping. He married and had issue. William Clito was the only one of Robert’s two sons to survive until adulthood. He became Count of Flanders by right of his grandmother but his struggle to regains father’s lands and titles resulted in much unpleasantness.
- Richard who died in a hunting accident in the New Forest by either in 1075 or 1081.
- Cecilia born about 1054 who was entered into her mother’s abbey of the Holy Trinity in Caen and went on to become its abbess. She died in 1126.
- Adeliza born 1055. She may have been promised in marriage to Harold when he was the Earl of Wessex but as events turned out she entered a nunnery. Alison Weir states that she was probably dead by 1066.
- William Rufus was born sometime between 1056 and 1060. He died as the result of an ‘accident’ with an arrow on 2nd August 1100.
- Constance married Alan IV of Brittany. She died in 1090, possibly poisoned by her own servants.
- Adela was born about 1062 and was married to Stephen, Count of Blois. After his death she entered a nunnery. She died in 1137 or 38. The lives of her children are interwoven into the story of England at this time – one became Bishop of Winchester, another – Stephen became king whilst a third drowned when the White Ship sank in 1120.
- Henry was born in 1068 in Selby, Yorkshire. He was crowned on the 5/6th August 1100 having purloined the English Crown from his older brother Robert who was traveling home from the First Crusade at the time William Rufus’s unfortunate accident. He died in 1135, his only legitimate sone having drowned in 1120. His first wife was Edith of Scotland (daughter of St Margaret) she changed her name to Matilda which was much more comfortable on Norman ears. After the death of his heir Henry remarried to Adela of Louvain who I have posted about previously. Alison Weir lists 25 children both legitimate and illegitimate. Their story reflects the fact that legitimacy was not so important at this time in history. One of Henry’s daughters married Alexander I of Scotland another married the Duke of Brittany.
- Agatha, born in 1064, was married by proxy to King Alfonso of León. She died in 1074.
- Matilda died in 1112 – and that’s more or less all that we know about her.
The family tree at the start of the post demonstrates the way in which William’s family was married into States which bordered William’s own territories. The extended familial relationships then impacted on English politics and Church making England a very European affair.
Henry I forced his barons to accept his daughter Matilda after the death of his son William in 1120 but Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois was male and on the scene so snaffled the job. This resulted in the so-called Anarchy which lasted from 1135 until 1153. It was only after the death of Stephen’s son Eustace that a peace treaty between the two sides could be formally arranged by the Treaty of Winchester. Matilda’s son Henry known as Henry FitzEmpress was recognised as Stephen’s heir. His accession to the throne ended the Norman period of rule and began the Plantagenet line.
Many of the images in this post come from the Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings which dates from the reign of Edward I, is almost five metres long, beginning with Egbert King of Wessex and concludes with Edward I. Edward II and Edward III were added at a later date.