One way of looking at William the Conqueror’s foreign policy is to say that it was about conquest and colonisation but back in Normandy things weren’t so straight forward. Essentially there were many small countries jockeying for territory and power – survival. Before Normandy rose to a dominant position Anjou was deemed to be the most powerful territory. The Normans in their turn succumbed to the Angevins. Land was acquired either through conflict or inheritance.
William the Conqueror never managed to successfully secure Maine despite betrothing his eldest son Robert to Margaret the sister of Herbert II who had fled to Normandy in 1056 following the death of his father and the invasion of Maine by the Duke of Anjou. Herbert died in 1062 and in 1063 William invaded Maine based the premise that although Robert’s child would-be bride had died that as the almost-spouse the Normans should keep the land. By the following year William had control of Maine. In its own way this was important as it meant that William had created a buffer zone between Normandy and Anjou. This gave him security whilst he was invading England in 1066.
Despite this William was uable to maintain control of Maine in the long term. His son Robert took on the title Count of Maine and may have even ruled there for a while but he had not been married to Margaret and there were other claimants including Hugh IV’s nephew, another Hugh who became Count of Maine in 1070 after the people of Maine revolted against the Normans and ejected them. This didn’t stop the Normans from attacking Maine several more times during the eleventh century.
Inevitably treaties and agreements were sealed by marriages. Hugh V sold Main to his cousin Elias. Elias sought to strengthen his hand by creating an alliance with Anjou. He did this by marrying his only child to the Count of Anjou. This effectively meant that Anjou would one day take control of Maine without having to invade.
Elias and Robert Curthose were not on the best of terms. Robert had after all thought that Maine would be his. Their enmity only came to an end when Curthose, by then Duke of Normandy, went on Crusade. It was considered bad form as a Christian to invade another man’s territory if he had gone on a crusade. This was 1096. Robert had also arrived at an understanding with his own brother William Rufus who acted as regent for Robert during his absence.
On Elias’s death in 1110 the Count of Anjou became the Count of Maine. Henry I (pictured at the start of this post) who had succeeded his brother William as King of England in 1100 and taken Normandy from his brother Robert in 1106 agreed to recognise Fulk of Anjou’s claim to Maine so long as Fulk recognised the Duke of Normandy as his overlord. Henry set about binding Fulk and the house of Anjou to the Norman alliance by arranging the marriage of his son William Adlin to Fulk’s daughter Matilda of Anjou. It was a double marriage as he also arranged for his own daughter Matilda to marry Fulk’s son Geoffrey Plantagenet.
A series of marriages resulted in Henry I’s grandson, Henry II, ruling England, Normandy, Anjou and Maine – the series of small territories had built into a sizeable kingdom.