Monday, April 13, 2009

And Now for Your Monday Monach Moment

Henry I (1100-1135)

Oh, Henry I. What a card. I mean, besides the whole assassination/usurpation thing, he set the record for the number of illegitimate children fathered by an English king (nineteen--that we know of!).

This is yet another death story. What do you want from me? It was the Middle Ages. This one is really kind of a big deal: the sinking of the White Ship.

Now, prolific as Henry was, he only had two legitimate children: Matilda (remember her for later) and William the Aetheling ("Aetheling" being a sweet Old English word for prince). In 1120, Henry and some of his children (including William but not Matilda) returned to England from Normandy. The kids rode in the White Ship, the fastest ship in the fleet and also the scene of some raucous partying before departure. Unfortunately, the captain of the vessel got drunk and--I'm sure you can see where this is going--the ship sank in the English Channel.

Only two men grabbed hold of a spar from which the sail hung and, clinging to it for the greater part of the night, waited for help to come from any quarter. One was a butcher of Rouen named Berold, and the other a noble lad called Geoffrey . . . The night was frosty, so that the young man . . . finally lost his grip and . . . fell back to perish in the sea and was never seen again. But Berold, who was the poorest of all and was dressed in a pelisse made of rams' skins, was the only one of the great company to see the day . . .

The sad news spread swiftly from mouth to mouth through the crowds along the sea coast . . . but that day no one dared announce it to the anxious king, who earnestly asked for news . . . However, on the following day, by a wise plan of the Count Theobald's, a boy threw himself, weeping, at the king's feet, and the king learned from him that the cause of his grief was the wreck of the White Ship. Immediately Henry fell to the ground overcome with anguish, and after being helped to his feet by friends and led into a private room, gave way to bitter laments.
Orderic Vitalis, via The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes

The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes also notes that Henry I's reputation was embellished by "a respectable Victorian legend" that he never smiled again.

And this has been your (rather long) Monday Monarch Moment.


MacKenzie said...

When you say later, I am hoping you mean next week. Because I am not very curious as to why I am supposed to remember Matilda. She died right? She must have done a lot of stuff in a short amount of time. I am on the edge of my seat.

And I know that might sounds sarcastic but it isn't meant to be...I am preventing myself from swagbucking Matilda daughter of Henry I (okay, that just sounds stupid - I should stick with googling, at least in my verbal communications). But I won't, I will wait to hear the story from you.

Rachel said...

I'm going to edit the entry to make clear that Matilda was not on the boat because, yes, she'll be important next week. I admire your restraint re: swagbucking Matilda. I also feel obligated to acknowledge that that sounds dirty.

MacKenzie said...

Oh, that makes more sense.