Crusaders, Condottieri, and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in Societies around the Mediterranean

By Donald J. Kagay; L. J. Andrew Villalon | Go to book overview

POLITICS MAKES UNEASY BEDFELLOWS:
HENRY I OF ENGLAND AND THEOBALD OF BLOIS
Jean A. Truax

At intervals during his thirty-five year reign, King Henry I of England engaged in a struggle for control of Normandy that sometimes became so desperate that it threatened to topple him from his hard-won throne. At first, his opponent was his elder brother, Duke Robert Curthose, and later Henry continued the contest with Robert's son William Clito. Henry's nephews Theobald and Stephen of Blois, the sons of his sister Adela, usually have been seen as his most important allies in this contest. Sir Richard Southern wrote:

In this sea of troubles it was essential to keep at least one ally, and Henry's policy until the Angevin marriage of 1128 was based on friendship with the count of Blois: The price and guarantee of this was the reception of the count's brother Stephen into the highest circle of the Anglo-Norman nobility.1

On the other hand, C. Warren Hollister sounded a note of caution, stating: “My own reading of the evidence persuades me that Theobald needed Henry more than Henry needed Theobald….”2 In any case, Henry I and his nephews clearly discovered common interests in the turbulent world of twelfth-century politics. However, a close inspection of the sources reveals that Theobald's policies underwent several major shifts during the course of his uncle's reign in England, and particularly after 1120, his goals seem to have diverged more and more from those of his royal uncle.

During the early part of Henry I's reign, as he struggled to wrest Normandy from his brother Robert Curthose, the king's nephews Theobald and Stephen were still young, and Henry's sister Adela governed Blois-Chartres. During these years, Adela seems to have replaced her family's traditional hostility toward the Capetians with

____________________
1
Sir Richard Southern, “The Place of Henry I in English History, ” Proceedings of the British Academy 48 (1962): 135.
2
C. Warren Hollister, “Henry I and the Anglo-Norman Magnates, ” Monarchy, Magnates and Institutions in the Anglo-Norman World (London, 1986), p. 186.

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