Died: 1135 (a surfeit of eels)
Birthplace: Selby, England
Best known as:
King of England, 1100-1135
The King of England from 1100 until his death in 1135, Henry I also ruled Normandy after he usurped his brother's power and threw him in prison. Henry was the youngest son of William the Conqueror, and the only one born in England. He was educated in Latin and French and, it's said, probably spoke English as well. Henry came to the throne under a cloud of suspicion, after his brother, King William II, was killed in the woods during a hunt; Henry rushed to seize the royal treasure, cutting out the rightful heir, his other brother, Robert Curthose of Normandy (Curthose was away on a crusade). Henry solidified his power and pacified the people by marrying Matilda, the daughter of Scotland's King Malcolm Canmore, and by strictly -- and sometimes cruelly -- enforcing order. During his reign, Henry I was almost continually at war, mostly trying to control the various factions in Normandy. Matilda died in 1118, and Henry's sons and heirs died in a shipwreck in 1120; he remarried, but Adeliza of Louvain gave him no heirs, so he brought his daughter back from abroad and married her to 14 year-old Geoffrey Plantagenet. But when Henry died in 1135 (from eating too many eels, tradition has it), the Privy Council denied her the throne and gave it to Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois.
Geoffrey Plantagenet ended up becoming Henry II in 1154, establishing a ruling line that would last until 1485… King Henry I's wife, Matilda, was known for her piety and was called "the Good Queen"... Historians after his death referred to Henry I as "Beauclerc" for the bureaucratic reforms he instituted.
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