Henry I sometimes known as the Lion of Justice was married to Edith of Scotland, the daughter of Malcolm III and St Margaret meaning that the royal house of Wessex once again sat upon the throne, or at least quite close to it. And if you’re wondering who Edith might have been, she is known in the history books as Matilda on account of the fact that the Normans found Edith a foreign sounding name.
Henry went on to have somewhere int he region of 24 illegitimate children, many of them born to mothers unknown to history. William of Malmsebury who was a fan of Henry’s noted that “Throughout his life he was wholly free from impure desires.” The statement implies that William must have led a very sheltered or blinkered life! Until we read on to discover that the only reason Henry had so many mistresses was for “the sake of issue.” Poor King Henry I – fancy having so many women simply to increase the numbers of children with royal blood in their veins. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. It’s interesting though that an illegitimate child was a useful commodity so far as the Crown was concerned. It reflects the fact that the status of illegitimate children changed with the passage of time.
Female children could be married off in exactly the same way as legitimate ones to cement an alliance or a treaty. Sybil, the daughter of Sybil Corbet, married King Alexander I of Scotland in 1107. Another daughter, Rohese, married Henry de la Pomerai. He was a loyal supporter of the king, so the marriage may have held an element of reward for loyal service in drawing him closer to the Crown by ties of blood. Interestingly the half siblings of the Empress Matilda can be identified as bolstering support for her in the West Country during the Anarchy reflecting the importance of family ties (somewhat at odds to my more usual Wars of the Roses theme.)
William de Breteuil had no legitimate children. One of Henry’s daughters – Juliane- was married off to Eustace de Pacy, William’s illegitimate son. The marriage brought with it promises of support for Eustace against any other of William’s relations. It was the children of this union who were blinded and their noses split on the orders of their uncompromising grandfather when one of William’s hostages, the son of Ralph Harenc was blinded. Juliane attempted to kill her father with a cross bow after her two daughters were cruelly maimed.