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liam the Conqueror, the founder of the reigning English dynasty, and as such the legitimate heir, at least after his mother, both of the crown of England and of the dukedom of Normandy, the older acquisition of his heroic
His grandmother, the wife of Henry I., was Matilda, daughter of Queen Margaret of Scotland, herself the daughter of Edward the Outlaw, in the veins of whose descendants now flowed the main stream of the blood of Egbert and Alfred and the old Saxon royal line. His father, whom his mother had married in 1127, two years after the death of her first husband, the Emperor Henry V., by whom she had no issue, was Geoffrey Earl of Anjou, surnamed Plantagenet, from his assuming as his ensign, and wearing on the crest of his helmet, a sprig of broom (in French plante genêt); whose father, Earl Fulk, had immediately before this marriage resigned to him all his French possessions and honours, upon being himself elected to the throne of Jerusalem, in which he was succeeded, on his death in 1143, by Baldwin III., his son by a second marriage. Henry was the eldest son of Geoffrey and the empress, and was born at Le Mans, the capital of his father's county of Maine, in March 1133, about two years and nine months before the death of his grandfather King Henry.
Yet it is remarkable that each of these several advantages of descent which were thus united in his person was accompanied by some defect or drawback, as if in order that there might remain as much for him to do for himself as had been done for him by the accident of his birth. His Saxon lineage gave him no claim to call himself the heir of the old race of English kings while there existed male descendants of his great-grandmother, Queen Margaret of Scotland, whose son David the First was now seated on the throne of that country, and was undoubtedly the true representative of King Edmund Ironside and the Saxon royal line. Even between him and his legal right by inheritance to the English sceptre of the Conqueror there stood his mother, to whom and not to her son it was that Henry I, had made his barons swear fealty as his successor. Nor did he on the death
of his father obtain more than a qualified right to the carldom of Anjou, Geoffrey having directed in his will that he should resign it to his next brother Geoffrey it he should ever come into the possession of the English crown, and having also made his bishops and barons take an oath that they would not suffer his body to be buried till Henry should have sworn to perform whatever the will might be found to enjoin; which, accordingly, though
with much reluctance, he did. Geoffrey died on the 21
10th of September, 1151, in his forty-first year, being
younger than his wife the empress, who had long ceased Fres
to be an object of his affections, by seven or eight years. in!
Ere this, however, his son, styled by the French, Henry Fitz-Empress (that is, son of the empress), had passed through other changes of position and fortune.
On the death of his grandfather, in December 1135, the in English throne had been usurped by Stephen of Blois,
whose mother Adela was a daughter of the Conqueror : Il. she had been married to the Earl of Blois, by whom she
had four sons, of whom Stephen was the third. In the course of the contest that ensued between Stephen and Matilda, young Henry was in the latter part of the year 1142 entrusted by his father to Robert, Earl of Glocester, his mother's illegitimate brother and faithful partisan, and was by him brought over to England. They landed, the
boy and his uncle, about the middle of November, at fix Wareham in Dorsetshire, a town and castle belonging to for the earl, but now held by the king's troops. The garrihis
son, however, agreed to surrender to Glocester, who iin had brought with him from the continent a force of three
or four hundred knights, if they should not) be relieved within three weeks; and soon after, upon being informed from Stephen that he had no intention of relieving them, they gave up the place. Matilda had never,
since she on, landed in England three years before, been in such peril
as she was in at this moment-not even when, in the summer of the preceding year, she was surprised in London by Stephen's queen, and only saved herself by springing into her saddle from the table at which she was dining—nor a few weeks after when flying from Win
lere een was
; of not
chester, early on a Sunday morning, she and her escort were overtaken by the enemy at Stourbridge, and, while the Earl of Glocester and all the rest were either taken prisoners or slain, she made her way, attended by a single follower, to Luggershall, and thence, after a rest of a few hours, by getting again upon horseback and continuing her rapid fight, to the castle of Devizes. She was now shut in the castle of Oxford, which Stephen besieged with his whole army, disregarding in the meantime every other object, and determined to effect its reduction either by force or famine. All hope seemed to be gone; but, after she had endured the greatest privations, on the night of the 20th of December, she left the castle by a postern gate, with four knights, crossed the Thames, which was frozen over, and reached Abingdon on foot, having walked all the way through a deep snow, and having been enabled to escape the notice of the enemy, some accounts say, in part by herself and her attendants having clothed themselves in white linen. At Abingdon she took horse, and rode to Wallingford Castle. Hither a few days after the Earl of Glocester, ing started as soon as he heard the news, brought her her son. The sight of the boy, says an old chronicler, made her forget all her toils and dangers, and think all she had suffered nothing. Matilda, with all her haughtiness of temper, was not without other good qualities, besides her share in the intrepidity and tough invincible spirit of her race; if prosperity made her insolent and tyrannical, she bore adversity admirably; and to her son she was from the first to the last the best of mothers, not only in the affection she bore him, but in all other respects. Henry was soon after this carried to Bristol, and continued there four years,” says Lord Lyttelton, " under the care of his uncle, who trained him up in such exercises as were most proper to form his body for war, and in those studies which might embellish and strengthen his mind, The Earl of Glocester himself had no inconsiderable tincture of learning, and was the patron of all who excelled in it; qualities rare at all times in a nobleman of his high rank, but particularly in an age when
knowledge and valour were thought incompatible, and not to be able to read was a mark of nobility. This truly great man broke through that cloud of barbarous ignorance, and, after the example of his father King Henry, enlarged his understanding and humanized his mind by a commerce with the muses, which he assiduously cultivated, even in courts and camps, showing by his conduct how useful it was both to the statesman and general. The same love of science and literature he likewise infused into his nephew, who under his influence began to acquire what he never afterwards lost, an ardour for study and a knowledge of books not to be found in any other prince of those times. Indeed the four years he now passed in England laid the foundation of all that was afterwards most excellent in him ; for his earliest impressions were taken from his uncle, who, not only in learning but in all other perfections-in magnanimity, valour, prudence, and all moral virtues,
-was the best example that could be proposed to his imitation.:'*
Henry's father, who after a long contest had now acquired complete possession of Normandy, recalled his son from England in the latter part of the year 1146 ; and in the beginning of November of that year, very soon after he had parted with his nephew, the Earl of Glocester was carried off by a
* History of the Life of King Henry II.' i. 281.-Henry, when he first made his appearance in England, attracted observation, among other things, by being dressed, after the manner of boys in his native country, in a coat or jacket with short skirts, or perhaps without any skirts at all; whence they gave him the sobriquet of curt-mantle. This we learn from the writer of Brompton's Chronicle,' who, in giving an account of Henry's death, after telling us that those present, in their rapacity, stripped the royal corpse, and that it lay for a long time naked, till a boy threw over the lower part of it a short cloak, absurdly observes that thus was fulfilled the surname which the king had borne from his infancy, originally given to him because he had first brought the fashion of the short coat from Anjou into England. Twisden, Scriptores x. 1150.
fever. This was to his sister the empress the loss of her right hand. “ Courage and resentment,” we quote again Lord Lyttelton's account, “ still combated in her heart with despair ; nor was it without the greatest and most painful reluctance that she gave way to the necessity of leaving a country over which she had so long expected to reign. But, in less than four months after the death of her brother, seeing no possibility of sup-. porting her party, and fearing to fall into the hands of her enemy, she was constrained to abandon England and go into Normandy, to live with a husband whom she never had loved, and who did not love her, but was generous or prudent enough to receive her with kindness in this decline of her fortune, when her pride was humbled by her sorrow. Nevertheless, he retained to himself the dominion of that duchy, as he had held it in her absence; that is, without any dependence upon her. Instead of submitting to this, she would perhaps have stayed in England, and buried herself under the ruins of her own greatness, if the anguish of her mind had not been soothed by the hope that Prince Henry, her son, might, when he should attain to an age of maturity, be able to revenge her on Stephen, and recover the crown which she had lost. Her whole care was therefore employed upon his education. She laboured to inspire him with thoughts as high as her own; to give him an ardour for glory, an ambition for empire, and a spirit of conquest. His genius was very suitable for such instructions; but the fire he drew from her was happily tempered with the lessons of prudence and humanity which he had been taught in England by his uncle; and which his father, a prince of great discretion and judgment, continued to fix in his mind."*
Henry remained in Normandy till the year 1149. Meanwhile his friends in England had been gradually recovering heart and strength; and it was arranged that the young prince, whom, although as yet only sixteen. they now looked to as their head, should show himself among them.
From this time his mother may be * Twisden, Scriptores, p. 346.