Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dead King Watch: Henry I and his affairs of state

The 870th anniversary of the death of Henry I (1100-1135) takes place today. He was known as Henry 'Beauclerc', not because he was a 'good clerk' but simply because he could read and write - which was indeed remarkable for a King at that time. One looks at say, Prince Harry today, 900 odd years on, and one is amazed at how far the Royal Family have come.

I don't know if people saw a report recently which suggested that creativity is linked to an active sex life. Apparently, 'a new study by psychologists at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Open University in Britain found that professional artists and poets have about twice as many partners as other people.' Well, Henry I's 'creativity' (well, he could read and write - which must have made him a little bit more interesting than most at the time) certainly seems to have born some sort of fruit. His offspring included:

1.Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester.
2.Maud FitzRoy
3.Constance FitzRoy.
4.Mabel FitzRoy
5.Aline FitzRoy.
6.Matilda FitzRoy
7.William de Tracy
8.Gilbert FitzRoy
10. Eustacie.
11.Matilda du Perche
13.Juliane de Fontevrault
14Fulk FitzRoy
15.Richard of Lincoln
16.Sybilla of England
17William Constable
18. Gundred of England
19. Rohese of England
20. Robert FitzEdith,
21. Adeliza FitzEdith.
22.Henry FitzRoy,
23.Isabel Hedwig.

These were with six different women and only includes the ones we know about. And this list is before we get onto the kids he had legitimately. You can draw their own conclusions about this - was he a sex god or just a sex maniac who happened to be a powerful King? Who knows? And to be brutally frank, who really cares?

Oddly enough, Wikipedia notes that Henry's other nickname was not 'old dirty bastard' but in fact "Lion of Justice", due to the refinements which he brought about in the rudimentary administrative and legislative machinery of the time. In fact, this 'justice' consisted simply of taking the legal process out of the hands of rich private individuals and made it solely the affair of the State (run by, er, rich private individuals). A crime was no longer a wrong against the victim or his family, to be settled by a suitable payment - but now also an offence against the 'King's peace' for which it was the right and duty of the State to exact punishment. However this development had one distinct advantage for the King. As AL Morton notes 'the State's interest in administering justice was mainly financial: "There's big money in justice" would be a rough translation of a legal maxim current at the time.'

His death came when he ate some dodgy eel-like fish against the advice of his doctors. As Matthew Paris reported, 'He ate voraciously of a lamprey, which he was accustomed to delight in more than anything else and paid no attention to his physicians when they forbade it to him. But when his weakness had overcome his natural strength King Henry yielded to fate.'



At 12:39 am, Blogger brainhell said...

I bet he lost at Scrabble all the time.


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