William the Conqueror (William I) died, in Normandy, on 9th September 1087. His second surviving son, William Rufus, inherited the kingdom of England, whilst his estranged eldest son, Robert Curthose, had to be content with the duchy of Normandy. William Rufus (William II) brought, the recently released, Wulfnoth and Morcar to England with him:
“... but as soon as he arrived at Winchester, he put them into custody as before ...”
In contrast, Robert Curthose returned to Normandy, and:
“... released from custody Ulf, son of Harold, once king of the English, and Duncan, son of Malcolm, king of Scots, and honoured them with knighthood, and permitted them to depart.”Florence of Worcester
The crown had barely settled on William’s head (his coronation was on 26th September 1087) before he faced a rebellion by most of the Norman magnates of England. The plot, to replace William with Robert, was hatched in the spring of 1088, and its chief instigator was, William and Robert’s uncle, Bishop Odo of Bayeux (who, since his release, had resumed his position as earl of Kent). In the event, William defeated the rebels, and Odo:
“... went over sea; and so the bishop relinquished the dignity [i.e. the earldom] that he had in this land.”
William determined to wrest Normandy from Robert, and in February 1091 he crossed the Channel. In the event, however, the brothers agreed terms peaceably.
“In the course of this reconciliation, Edgar Ætheling was deprived of the land which the earl [i.e. Duke Robert] had previously ceded to him; and went out of Normandy to the king, his brother-in-law, in Scotland [Malcolm], and to his sister [Malcolm’s wife, Margaret]. While King William was out of England ....
.... King Malcolm of Scotland came hither into England, and harried a great deal of it, until the good men who had charge of this land sent a force against him, and turned him back. When King William in Normandy heard of this, he made ready for his departure, and came to England, and his brother Earl Robert with him, and forthwith ordered a force to be called out, both a ship-force and a land-force; but the ship-force, before he could come to Scotland, almost all perished miserably, a few days before St Michael’s mass [29th September]....
.... And the king and his brother went with the land-force; but when King Malcolm heard that they would seek him with a force, he went with his force out of Scotland into Lothian in England, and there awaited. Then when King William approached with his force, Earl Robert and Edgar Ætheling intervened, and so made a reconciliation between the kings; so that King Malcolm came to our king and became his man, with all such obedience as he had before paid to his father, and with oath confirmed it. And King William promised him in land and in all things that which he had had before under his father....
.... In this reconciliation Edgar Ætheling was also reconciled with the king; and the kings then parted in great reconciliation; but that stood only a little while. And Earl Robert stayed here with the king almost to Christmas, and during that time found little of true faith in their compact; and two days before that festival took ship in the Isle of Wight and went to Normandy, and Edgar Ætheling with him.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“... the king of Scotland sent and demanded the fulfilment of the treaty that had been promised him. And King William summoned him to Gloucester, and sent him hostages to Scotland and Edgar Ætheling afterwards, and then later men to meet him, who brought him with great worship to the king....
.... But when he came to the king, he could not be considered worthy either of speech with our king, or the conditions that had previously been promised him; and therefore they parted in great hostility, and King Malcolm returned home to Scotland. But as soon as he came home, he gathered his force and marched into England, harrowing with more folly than behoved him. And Robert [de Mowbray] the earl of the Northumbrians with his men ensnared him unawares, and slew him.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“Malcolm, king of Scots, and his eldest son [by his second marriage, to Margaret] Edward, with many others, were slain in Northumbria on the feast of St Brice [13th November] ...”Florence of Worcester
“In his death the justice of an avenging God was plainly manifested; for this man perished in that province which he had often been wont to ravage ... he invaded Northumbria with as large an army as he could collect, intending to bring upon it utter desolation; but he was cut off near the river Alne, with his eldest son Edward, whom he had appointed heir to the kingdom after him....
.... His army either fell by the sword, or those who escaped the sword were carried away by the inundation of the rivers, which were then more than usually swollen by the winter rains. Two of the natives placed the body of the king on a cart, as none of his men were left to commit it to the ground, and buried it at Tynemouth.”Symeon of Durham Historia Regum
“When she heard of their death, Margaret, queen of Scots, was so heavily affected with sorrow, that she suddenly fell into a serious sickness. Without delay, she summoned the priests, entered the church, and having confessed her sins to them, caused herself to be anointed with oil and strengthened with the heavenly viaticum, beseeching God with the most earnest and heartfelt prayers, that He would not suffer her to live longer in this world of trouble. Nor was it very long before her prayers were heard; for in three days after the death of the king [i.e. on 16th November], she was released from the bonds of the flesh, and passed (as we believe) to the joys of eternal salvation. While she lived, she was a faithful labourer in deeds of piety, justice, peace, and charity; she was frequent in prayer; she kept her body in subjection by vigils and fastings; she endowed churches and monasteries, loved and honoured the servants and handmaidens of God, broke bread to the hungry, clothed the naked, gave lodging, clothing and food to the strangers who came to her, and loved God with all her soul.”Florence of Worcester
“And the Scots then chose Donald, Malcolm’s brother, for king [Donald Bán, Donald III], and drove out all the English who were before with King Malcolm. When Duncan, King Malcolm’s son, who was in King William’s court – his father having before given him as hostage to our king’s father, and had so remained afterwards – heard all that had thus taken place, he came to the king, and gave such pledges as the king wanted to have from him, and so with his permission went to Scotland, with the support that he could get of English and French, and deprived his kinsman Donald of the kingdom, and was received for king [Duncan II]. But some of the Scots afterwards gathered together and slew almost all his men, and he himself with a few escaped. Afterwards they were reconciled, on the condition that he never again should harbour in the land either English or French.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“... the Scots ensnared and slew their king Duncan, and afterwards took to them again, a second time, his paternal uncle Donald for king, through whose machination and incitement he [Duncan] was betrayed to death.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Meanwhile, Robert Curthose had lost patience with his brother William not fulfilling the terms of the agreement they had previously made, and had sent the king an ultimatum. In spring 1094 (“at mid-Lent” says the Chronicle) William crossed to Normandy, but he and Robert could not resolve their differences, and hostilities broke out. Apparently prompted by a Welsh uprising, William returned to England on 29th December. In spring 1095 William’s younger brother, Henry, crossed to Normandy, in William’s stead, to carry on the fight against Robert. In 1096 Robert pawned Normandy to William in order to finance his participation in the First Crusade.
“... soon after St Michael’s mass [29th September], Edgar Ætheling, with the king’s support, went with a force into Scotland, and in a hard-fought battle won that land, and drove out King Donald, and set as king, in King William’s allegiance, his kinsman Edgar, who was the son of King Malcolm and of Queen Margaret; and afterwards returned to England.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“... on the morning after Lammas day [i.e. on 2nd August] King William was shot with an arrow in hunting, by one of his men, and afterwards brought to Winchester and buried in the bishopric.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“On the Thursday he was slain, and on the morning after buried; and after he was buried, those of the council who were nigh at hand chose his brother Henry for king.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Henry was crowned (Henry I), at Westminster, on 5th August.
“In this same year also, in autumn, Earl Robert [Curthose] came home to Normandy ... from Jerusalem. And as soon as Earl Robert came into Normandy he was joyfully received by all the folk, except the castles which were occupied by King Henry’s men, against which he had many onsets and contests.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Henry did not enjoy universal support, however, and in 1101 Robert was encouraged to mount an invasion of England. On 20th July he landed at Portsmouth, and Henry marched to meet him. Battle was averted when “the wiser men of both sides” (Florence of Worcester) brokered a peace between the brothers. “After St Michael’s mass” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) Robert returned to Normandy. In 1104 Henry and Robert were, once more, at odds, and in the spring of 1105 Henry:
“... went over sea to Normandy against his brother Earl Robert. And while he there abode he won from his brother Caen and Bayeux; and almost all the castles and the chief men there in that land became subjected to him; and he afterwards, at autumn, returned to this land.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
“... before spring the king was at Northampton, and Earl Robert his brother came thither to him from Normandy; and because the king would not give up to him what he had taken from him in Normandy, they parted in enmity; and the earl went immediately back over sea... before August the king went over sea to Normandy ...”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The final showdown between Henry and Robert was the battle of Tinchebray, which was fought on 28th September, and in which Henry was victorious:
“There was the earl of Normandy taken ... and afterwards sent to England and placed in captivity... Edgar Ætheling, who a little before had gone over from the king to the earl, was also there taken, whom the king afterwards let go unmolested. Afterwards the king subdued all that was in Normandy, and established it all according to his will and power.”Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Robert remained a prisoner for the rest of his life. He died in 1134. King Henry died in 1135.