Today we travel back nearly a millennia to look at three of the sons of William the Conqueror. The first Norman (French) king of England, William of course defeated the English King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, after which he was crowned King of England, but mostly administered the territory from his duchy in Normandy. An early example of remote work, perhaps.
William I implemented a plan of succession that ended up causing history-making trouble. His eldest son, Robert, with whom he had a difficult relationship, was given Normandy, while his second-eldest surviving son, William Rufus, was heir apparent to the English crown. His youngest surviving son, Henry, was given a hefty amount of money, which in no way satiated his ambition for power. Upon William I’s death in 1087, Henry occupied himself by playing his brothers against each other. The situation would culminate in a disastrous hunting party in 1100, in which William II was killed by an arrow and the hunting party scattered to the wind. Younger brother Henry was present for what may have been William’s assassination, and raced to Winchester, home of the treasury, to claim the throne in spite of his older brother Robert still living and, under the rules of primogeniture, being the more suitable claimant.
Henry I proved to be a fairly canny politician, and his marriage to Matilda of Scotland (born Edith), daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland, both strengthened his claim and enhanced the cultural status of his court. Everything was on track for a successful dynasty until 1120, when Henry’s eldest son and heir apparent threw the kind of rager of a party that no one should ever drive after. To this day, it is illegal to operate watercraft while intoxicated.
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