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La guerre en Normandie (XIe-XVe siècle)

Anne Curry
Véronique Gazeau

Three Conquests of Normandy, c. 1099-c. 1204

Matthew Bennett


En un peu plus d’un siècle, le duché de Normandie fut trois fois vaincu : par l’Angleterre (1099-1106), par l’Anjou (1136-1145) et par la France (1199-1204). Le facteur commun pour le vainqueur réside dans le soutien des nobles normands par fidélité, par contrainte ou par corruption ouverte. Les historiens modernes, qui suivent les chroniqueurs contemporains partiaux, exagèrent la perfidie de cette classe. En réalité, les nobles se trouvaient souvent écartelés par des fidélités contradictoires. À cette époque, la personnalité du souverain était décisive, mais le choix était influencé, bien sûr, par un ensemble de questions juridiques, sociales, financières et technologiques. Et au total, il convient de considérer que les liens de la fidélité étaient compris en termes de rapports personnels et non pas en termes territoriaux, sauf à tomber dans un nationalisme anachronique.

Texte intégral

1This study concerns the conquest of the duchy of Normandy on three key occasions, in an attempt to understand how and why these came about. In my view there is still a significant misunderstanding of the politics of submission, not helped by the clumsy nationalist interpretations of a historiography reaching back in the 19th century. So the often pragmatic responses of the Norman nobility to both legal obligations and force majeure can be represented as “treachery” to the Kings of France and England, to the Counts of Anjou, or to their own dukes. Furthermore, the modern assumption is that centralisation under royal power was the natural state of affairs in medieval polities; but this was far from true. Baronial families, whose estates lay on the fault lines between the spheres of influence of the kings of England and France, or French regional authorities such as the dukes and counts of the kingdom, played a crucial role in defining those borders. Indeed, the concept of a Marcher lord, perhaps best expressed in the British Isles but visible elsewhere across Europe, was one with clearly expressed rights to independent action. Vassals such as these could become a two-edged sword – both the militant agents of expansion and a threat to central authority at the periphery. They could create and defend frontiers but might also turn their power bases against higher authority, march on the centre and create a revolution there. They were also extremely effective at playing off one superior lord against another, especially if they held land from both of them. I believe that it was these tensions which led to monarchs and lesser rulers trying to bring such over-mighty subjects to heel and at the same time to expand and consolidate the limits of their power. A great deal of what follows needs to be read with these contentions in mind.

The Henrician Conquest 1099-1106

  • 1 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, edited and completed by A. C. Frost, New Haven, Yale University Press (...)
  • 2 Ibid., pp. 59-60.
  • 3 Ibid., p. 87, referred to as “Achard miles”.
  • 4 Subsequently 34 castles (ibid., p. 95), drawing on Orderic Vitalis.
  • 5 Ibid., p. 96.

2Henry I’s ability to gain control of Normandy was based, in part, briefly upon his previous lordships until 1091, and then again over the Cotentin and the Bessin after his elder brother Robert went on crusade in 10961. Henry maintained close links with certain individuals, such as Robert fitz Hamon, Roger Bigod and Eudo Dapifer, whose support helped to secure his succession. Another was Ranulf de Briquessart, who as vicomte of the Bessin fought loyally for Henry in 1106, 1118-1119 and 1123-1124, for which he was rewarded with the earldom of Chester2. He also assumed the lordship of Domfront from 1092 with assistance of a local notable3. The spectacular donjon on view today may date to the 1120s rather than earlier in Henry’s reign, but the fortress was already formidable before its creation. His greatest rival was Robert of Bellême, whose possession of nine castles made him an important Marcher lord in south-west Normandy4. Similarly, the Beaumont family estates and castle in the Risle Valley and the north-eastern frontier made them powerful. When Robert of Meulan switched from supporting Duke Robert to William Rufus c. 1090, Warren Hollister comments that “the change was not so much one of burning’s one’s bridges as shifting one’s balance”5. This phrase should be taken to express the normal behaviour of baronial families holding lands in England and Normandy throughout the period under discussion. Wild claims of treachery to one ruler or another made by contemporary chroniclers or, with less excuse, modern historians, misrepresent the factors at play in warfare and politics in the era.

  • 6 Ibid., p. 148.

3On the sudden and unexpected death of William Rufus whilst hunting, Henry was well placed to take up the reins of power, and was crowned within three days. In contrast, Robert Curthose was unable to return from the East for another month; both by luck and design he had been outmanoeuvred in his bid for the English Crown. Yet he was still regarded as the ruler of Normandy as he had only relinquished the duchy to William II whilst he was on crusade. He was allegedly urged to make a bid by Ranulf Flambard, William’s unscrupulous minister who had been imprisoned by Henry as soon as he became king. Flambard escaped from the Tower of London in February 1101 and by mid-summer Robert had collected a feasible invasion fleet at Le Tréport, avoiding Henry’s force gathered at Pevensey; he slipped into Portsmouth on 20 July with some 260 knights (about half the knight service of Normandy) amongst his other troops. The two armies met at Alton, Hampshire, about two days’ march south-west of London (31 July). Yet, there was no battle as, on other occasions, there was a Barons’ peace, negotiated by leading noblemen and sealed by, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, “twelve men of the highest rank on both sides and confirmed with an oath”. In return for renouncing his claim to the Crown, Robert apparently received 3,000 marks per annum and the surrender of Henry’s possessions in the duchy save for Domfront. He then remained in England for at least two months, attending a royal council at Winchester on 3 September, and allowing Henry to celebrate Christmas as the first since his peace with his brother6.

  • 7 Ibid., p. 172.
  • 8 Ibid., pp. 171-178, table 4.2, p. 175.
  • 9 Ibid., p. 185.

4This outcome makes the point that so many conflicts of this era were in the form of family disputes, which might be fierce but ought to be, and could be, reconciled. War between princes might not be inevitable, but Henry’s reaction to the supposed offences of Robert of Bêlleme led to a nationwide campaign (from Sussex to Shropshire) against him. As Warren Hollister has ably identified in his analysis of the holdings of the greater Domesday families in 1100, this was part of a process of “shuffling” the higher aristocracy in order to create a stronger and more stable axis of support7. In 1101, the three wealthiest Norman magnates Robert of Bellême, William of Mortain and William of Warenne supported Robert Curthose and the rest were either neutral or unengaged. Warren Hollister then goes on to examine what he calls William of Poitiers’ “magnificent seven” – the counts and lords of Mortain, Évreux, Beaumont, Eu, Montgomery, Breteuil, and Montfort. By mid-1103, Robert of Meulan (Beaumont), Eustace of Breteuil and Rotrou, count of Perche were firmly in the king’s camp8. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in 1104 and 1105 Henry levied heavy taxes in England with which to buy the loyalty of Norman lords9.

  • 10 Ibid., p. 181. The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, M. Chibnall (ed. and trans.), Oxford, (...)
  • 11 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, pp. 109-191.
  • 12 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 78.

5Meanwhile, Duke Robert was dealing with the impact of the death of his wife (and the search for a replacement) and a campaign against Robert of Bellême. Robert Curthose receives from the chronicler Orderic Vitalis a very bad press which has clearly influenced modern historians, Robert of Bellême a worse one. In contrast, King Henry is lauded. Yet, a more objective view of their activities irons out the apparent differences. On this occasion Warren Hollister depicts a “furious charge” against the ducal army – based purely on Robert of Bellême’s ferocious reputation – while his source, Orderic Vitalis, describes an attack on a causeway which sounds much more like an ambush10. Compare for instance Duke William’s surprise of the French army at Varaville half-a-century earlier in 1057. Indeed, Robert’s incendiary activities against ecclesiastical buildings can be compared to Henry’s burning Bayeux to the ground in April 1105, an act which terrified the inhabitants of Caen into submission. Warren Hollister explains the failure of the royal army at the siege of Falaise on Archbishop Anselm’s threat of excommunication11. Another interpretation may be drawn, however: Robert fitzHamon’s debilitating injury and the death of Robert of Gloucester, together with the withdrawal of Helias of Maine and the Angevin contingent, suggest military failure. Also, Orderic’s explanation that the latter left “at the request of the Normans” may refer to general dismay at Henry’s severity at Bayeux against the Norman population12.

  • 13 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, p. 199; The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 82
  • 14 Ibid., p. 84.
  • 15 Ibid., p. 86.
  • 16 Ibid., pp. 88-90.

6The following year, 1106, Henry was back, again allied with Helias. The campaign did not get off the ground until mid-August. An attempted ambush by the rebels from the fortified abbey of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives failed, and the place was fired by the royal troops. Furthermore, they captured two leading ducal supporters, Reginald of Warenne and Robert de Stuteville the younger13. Henry made no attempt against Falaise this time, and Orderic’s narrative may distort his strategic purpose. Thomas St John, a member of the familia regis, was dispatched against William of Mortain’s castle at Tinchebrai, and built a siege castle to oppose it14. But this need not have been the only point of attack by royalist forces. Anyway, Thomas’ forces proved inadequate to prevent William from resupplying the position, so Henry led up the royal army in support. In such circumstances battle was by no means inevitable, and indeed there were negotiations, although if the terms were as Orderic describes them then Curthose could not possibly agree to them15. King Henry had with him six of the leading Norman magnates and Robert only two, and despite Curthose’s experience on the First Crusade and an impetuous cavalry charge, the dismounted royalist line held firm. The arrival of Count Helias’s force, possibly held in ambush but certainly in the flank of the ducal army, produced a rout16.

  • 17 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, p. 201.
  • 18 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 90.
  • 19 Ibid., p. 100.

7The battle may have lasted only one hour and casualties were few amongst the nobility, although in his letter to Anselm Henry claimed to have captured 400 knights17. Chief amongst them were Duke Robert, William, count of Mortain, Robert of Stuteville senior, William of Ferrers, William II Crispin, and Edgar Aetheling18. The first three were kept as prisoners throughout Henry’s lifetime. Robert of Montfort was charged with a breach of fealty the following year and joined other exiled Normans in Apulia, just as another group of rebels had done two generations earlier19. Subsequently, Henry needed to defend the duchy against attacks by France, Flanders and Anjou in 1111-1113, 1117-1119 and 1123-1124, but he never again relinquished control of Normandy.

The Angevin Conquest 1136-114520

  • 20 J. Bradbury, Stephen and Matilda: the Civil War of 1139-53, Stroud, Tempus, 1996, is the best moder (...)
  • 21 D. Matthew, King Stephen, London, Hambledon Press, 2002, p. 75, from where this section is drawn, e (...)

8The Anglo-Norman Empire created by Henry I did not long outlive him. The White Ship disaster of 1120, in which his male heir William died, effectively led to the civil war which followed Henry’s own death in 1135. His daughter, Matilda, was declared his heir in 1127 and 18 months later married Geoffrey of Anjou. Yet it was Henry’s nephew, Stephen, count of Boulogne, who seized the throne. The Norman barons preferred him to a woman (who was ill with pregnancies and births in 1133, 1134 and 1136) but chiefly “on account of the honours which they held in both countries” (i.e. England and Normandy). These included Robert of Gloucester, the powerful, although illegitimate, son of the old king. When in 1135 Matilda entered the duchy to claim her inheritance, she was followed at a discreet distance by count Geoffrey and his army (with the support of William Talvas and Juhel of Mayenne). Domfront, Argentan and Exmes, crucial castles on the central southern border, were surrendered to the Angevins by Guigan Algason, the “low-born” vicomte of Exmes21. The following summer, Geoffrey led another invasion, supported by William, count of Ponthieu, who wished to reassert his family claims in Sées. Another three border castles, Ambrières, Goran and Mortmer, were taken and restored to Juhel of Mayenne.

  • 22 Ibid., pp. 76-77.

9In September 1136, Matilda withdrew, possibly due to the outbreak of private wars within the duchy, but also because of the arrival of a large royal army under Stephen’s cousin, Waleran of Meulan, and Alan of Britanny. The Angevins retreated after a fortnight, leaving Lisieux burning, although they did retain territory west of Sées. In spring 1137, Stephen arrived in person, but dissension between the Normans and Flemings in his army prevented his planned attack on Argentan. He returned to England before the year was out. In May, his 10-year-old son Eustace had performed homage to Louis VI, for the duchy, which was confirmed by Louis VII on his accession. Stephen then arranged a truce and agreed to pay Geoffrey a pension; he never returned to the duchy. Most historians consider this an error, although Donald Matthew disagrees. From a military point of view his campaign must be considered a failure22.

  • 23 J. Bradbury, “Geoffrey V of Anjou, Count and Knight”, in The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knight (...)

10In 1138, Robert of Gloucester changed sides, becoming the Empress’s main protagonist. He took Touques, although he failed to capture Falaise. In 1139, Matilda and Robert crossed to England, initiating a campaign which was eventually victorious at Lincoln in February 1141, defeating and capturing Stephen. Some modern commentators have remarked that Geoffrey did not really exploit Stephen’s difficulties sufficiently, but this is to underestimate the normally slow nature of conquest, requiring consent from the landed aristocracy. Actually, the Norman barons, including Waleran of Meulan, came to terms; by April all the lands west of the Seine and east of Bayeux accepted Matilda (in reality, Angevin rule) as their lord. “He besieged them until they gave up their castles and they had no help from the king”23.

  • 24 J. Bradbury, Stephen and Matilda…, p. 155, quoting John of Marmoutier, Historia Gaufredi ducis, in (...)
  • 25 M. Chibnall, “Normandy”, in The Anarchy of King Stephen’s Reign, E. King (ed.), Oxford, Oxford Univ (...)

11In 1142, Geoffrey took Avranches and its surrounding district, then Stephen’s own city of Mortain, and Coutances. In 1143 he confirmed the conquest of the Cotentin by taking Cherbourg. He then crossed the Seine to besiege the tower of Rouen, which had similar significance to the Tower of London as a symbol of lordship. After a three-month siege which lasted into the next year, battered by engines, the defenders eventually surrendered. Geoffrey was then recognised by Louis VII and invested as Duke of Normandy, in return for ceding Gisors and the promise of military support. The last English royal stronghold to fall was Arques in 1145 when its commander, William the Monk, was killed by an arrow. The conquest had been achieved in only ten years, and without a pitched battle. It was said of Count Geoffrey that “those he subdued, he won over to himself more by clemency than by force”24. He provided peace and security and imposed discipline on unruly Norman lords, ruling via Joscelyn of Tours and Robert Neufbourg, his maxim being “do not rule one province by the customs of another”25.

The Capetian Conquest 1202-1204

  • 26 J. Gillingham, The Angevin Empire, London, Arnold, 2001, 2nd revised edition.

12Count Geoffrey’s son Henry went on to become King of England (1154-1189), and in marrying Eleanor heiress to Aquitaine, and by invading Wales and Ireland, he created a huge “empire”26. This was stalwartly defended by Richard I against his overlord, Philip II of France but when Richard was imprisoned on his return from Crusade (1192-1194) the French seized the Vexin. Richard proved competent to recover these territories in a series of campaigns, whose success was best represented by the construction of the great fortress complex at Les Andelys on the Seine, most evident as the rock castle of Château-Gaillard (1196-1197). He also constructed a series of alliances in order to isolate Philip, but in 1199 died prematurely at a siege in Poitou.

13He left his younger brother and successor, King John, seemingly in a strong position, although the succession was disputed in the person of Arthur of Brittany, son of the late Geoffrey, an elder son of Henry II. At the time there were good legal arguments for the nephew to succeed over the uncle, but John had already been crowned in England. Arthur received the support of both the Lusignan family, especially its senior lord, Aimeri of Thouars, and King Philip. The French King agreed to withdraw his support from John for the payment of 20,000 marks and the Évrecin, but John further inflamed the situation by marrying Isabella of Angoulême, already betrothed to Hugh of Lusignan. This was just one of the issues on which Hugh complained to French king in the autumn of 1201. In April 1202 Philip formally confiscated all John’s fiefs held of the French Crown and accepted Arthur’s homage for the southern Angevin territories. Things got worse for John, towards the end of the year, when Richard’s allies decided to go on crusade and the Count of Boulogne also changed sides. Even when he fortuitously captured his rival, who was besieging Eleanor at Mirebeau in August 1202, John spoilt his advantage by killing Arthur and acting harshly against his supporters. This produced a huge revolt amongst the Angevin vassals and led to the loss of all the southern territories by April 1203.

14Already, in November 1202, Philip had attacked in eastern Normandy; he now resumed the offensive and captured Vaudreuil. Crucially, and unlike his elder brother, John kept away from the front line and so gave no significant leadership. As a result, by August 1203 Philip laid siege to Château-Gaillard, the key to eastern Normandy and the shield for Rouen, the duchy’s capital. John’s attempt at relief failed and he did not try again. This allowed Philip to isolate the fortress and to capture it piecemeal and at his leisure, employing siege engines and storming in February and March 1204; the citadel fell, although the garrison fought to the last. He then turned to pressurise Rouen which surrendered on 24 June. So, dramatically quickly, Philip seized control of the most heavily defended region of Normandy in a mere 18 months, where before he had been struggling for a decade. The reasons are not simply military. According to the Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal:

  • 27 Ibid., p. 102, quoting the P. Meyer edition of Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal. This had now been (...)

Why was John unable to keep the love of his people? It was because Louvrecouire maltreated and pillaged them as though he was in an enemy’s country27.

  • 28 D. Power, The Norman Frontier in the Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Centuries, Cambridge, Cambridge U (...)
  • 29 Ibid., pp. 420-421.

15That at least is a brief overview of the topic. I cannot leave this section without making reference to Daniel Power’s masterful study of the Norman frontier28. He has been able to sketch in much more detail than I have done some of the key factors in Philip’s success. Power stresses the role of castles in the shifting balance of power, for example in the Vexin, but also the Évrecin. Looked at more closely, Richard’s reconquests up to 1198, despite his striking victory outside Gisors, were patchy. Surely this is the nature of border warfare, especially when borders are ill-defined and border lords necessarily have conflicting loyalties. Their main loyalty was always to maintain their patrimonies, or to replace them with something better if they had the chance; they were family enterprises with determined views on their continued survival. The case of Richard de Vernon (père et fils) makes this point exactly. While the elder Richard lost control of his ancient caput of Vernon when it was captured by Philip II in 1194, he was compensated with other French lands. This ensured the younger Richard’s desertion to the French side in 120329.

  • 30 Ibid., pp. 437-438.

16But Power is also correct to identify the long-term pressures (and implicit opportunities to switch sides) which meant that whatever King John’s military failings, the pass had already been sold. It may be that even a much more determined assault and the offer of relief to lords hard-pressed by Philip, would have been inadequate. In other words, military campaigns might put a patch on an underlying problem, but could not shift a deeper political movement, worked for over two decades by the French king. As Power puts it, “control of frontier fortresses in the early 13th century was no atavistic obsession but a living issue at the heart of northern French politics, intricately knitted in to regional power structures by pledges and oaths”30.

17Examples such as these can to help us to understand the situation during the preceding hundred years or so. The evidence has thickened-up considerably by the early 13th century, and allows for much more sophisticated conclusions than dependence upon chronicles alone will allow.


18As a conclusion it is possible to identify a number of important factors common to the conquests of Normandy.


  • 31 J. Gillingham, The Angevin Empire, p. 45.

19In an age of personal rule the personality of the ruler counted for a great deal and played a crucial role; especially in regard of how rulers handled their subjects: baronial, ecclesiastical and municipal. Whether Robert Curthose was quite as useless as hostile chroniclers make out, there can be no doubt that he was outmanoeuvred by his determined and cunning younger brother. King Stephen’s absence from Normandy after 1137, and the failure of his brother Theobald to act decisively in his stead, must have impacted on the trust he received from his vassals there. While Richard always held the upper hand over Philip both in reputation and military skill, with John the situation was reversed. The “craven treaty” which he made with Philip in 1194 meant that the French King despised him, an attitude which was to be of crucial importance in 1199 and subsequently31. It can hardly have been encouraging either for vassals of the English Crown to know that they could be so quickly abandoned by such a man.

Legal Relationships

20In the end, so much depended upon who was prepared to line up behind one contender or another, and here the legal situation was important in framing behaviours. Like it or not, the Kings of England were vassals of the French king in respect of their position as Duke of Normandy. Normally they attempted to evade performing homage. Instead they proposed the heir in this role (while retaining the title of duke). Remarkably this was the case in both victory and defeat. William Aetheling did homage after Henry I’s crushing victory over Louis VI at Brémule in 1118, while King Stephen proposed his son and heir Eustace should submit to Louis VII, in a vain attempt to retain the duchy in 1137. Later on, one aspect of Philip II’s increasing authority over King John was that the French king could call him to justice and indeed officially diseise John of his lands. No matter how powerful the English may have been militarily, especially in regard to Richard I, this could never happen the other way around.

21A broader aspect of this issue was that lords who held lands in France needed to come to an accommodation with their overlord. This can be seen in the period of Henry I, when Norman barons were nervous about supporting Duke Robert, and again after 1204. In the latter case William Marshal lost the support of King John because he travelled to France in 1205 in order to secure his Norman lands through submission to Philip II. In all other ways the Marshal was loyal to his obnoxious monarch and, after he was restored to royal favour in 1212, maintained that loyalty up to the king’s death and afterwards, but in a matter which so touched his personal interests, he was prepared to defy him.

Communes and Non-Noble Rulers

  • 32 Ibid., p. 65.

22The relationship between feudal authorities and the populations of towns and cities seems to be an understudied area which was of significance when it came to the switching of loyalties and hence to conquest. There is a strong anti-commoner tone in our sources for the 12th century. This attitude was somewhat out of keeping with the growing economic importance of urban sites, recognized by the awarding of borough charters or commune status. Gillingham identifies a great strength of the Angevin realm was in its strong economic ties. By 1204, seventeen Norman towns had been granted communes, together with another nine in Gascony. The retention of Bordeaux owed a great deal to its mercantile population valuing their relationship with England32. There was, however, a tension between the landed aristocracy and the townsmen, especially those who had become rich and powerful. Resentment against such urban dynasties meant that the military classes treated them harshly and without benefit of chivalry. An examination of the names of those threatened, mutilated or killed by kings or other lords revealed that they were overwhelmingly non-noble townsmen or soldiers of no rank. Chroniclers are quick to blame ignoble men of authority for arrogance or disloyalty, while being slow to criticise royal or aristocratic harshness to such men and the populations which they represented. The earliest and most notable case was that of Conan, son of the chief man of Rouen, whose punishment for rebellion was to be thrown down from the city’s donjon onto the rocks below. Needless to say, this kind of behaviour was unacceptable if the victim was of noble blood, as in the fate of John’s nephew Arthur in 1203, yet for non-nobles murder or mutilation was normal and indeed praised by contemporaries. This “class war” aspect of conflict in the 12th century has not been emphasised enough, and instead has disappeared behind general allegations of brutality.


  • 33 Ibid., pp. 57-66, for English royal revenues, and pp. 95-102, for comparison with Capetian income.

23Money was essential to maintain troops in the field and the loyalty of garrisons. Henry I well understood this, both buying loyalty and spending on the fortifications, fleets and men what it took to achieve his ends. John Gillingham has explained how, around 1200, the King of England was actually richer than the king of France, despite claims to the contrary, but clearly it mattered how well the money was spent. If Richard made the money work – despite the enormous expense of his crusade and subsequent ransom – John singularly failed to get much benefit from superior resources33.


24The impact of developing military technology has been characterised as the threat of siege engines – stone-throwing artillery – especially the trebuchet in 1202-1204. There can be a tendency in the modern world to seek purely technological reason for military success (especially amongst our North American cousins), but the impact of such weapons had more to do with the availability of food, money supply, logistics, and the ability to keep relieving forces at bay, than in the virtue of their battering power alone. Mining was almost always a more significant factor in taking a fortress, combined with the age-old tactic of blockade – depriving a garrison of food, and in particular, drink, in order to convince the defenders that further resistance was useless. In addition, any fortification, no matter how well built, was vulnerable with no trust in relief.

Loyalty or Treachery?

25Captains and castellans could only do so much in the face of superior opposition. While they often bear the brunt of criticism both from contemporary chroniclers and today’s historians who “buy” their narrative, if they were forced into surrender it was normally because their lord had let them down. Mercenary captains, despite their modern reputation, were often more determined than men operating within the political structures of a region or country, precisely because their careers depended upon them being seen as reliable and brave employees. Treachery has often been over-rated and misunderstood: there were genuine conflicting loyalties (almost like a modern party leadership election) and backroom-style manoeuvring had a great impact. As suggested at the beginning of this essay, the position of a Robert of Bellême, crudely represented as the fount of all evil, was common to many a lord with lands and loyalties which straddled jurisdictions. Defined borders are largely an invention of the nation state, and reading current preconceptions back into an era when power structures were represented quite differently is not, in the end, helpful.


1 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, edited and completed by A. C. Frost, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001, p. 54.

2 Ibid., pp. 59-60.

3 Ibid., p. 87, referred to as “Achard miles”.

4 Subsequently 34 castles (ibid., p. 95), drawing on Orderic Vitalis.

5 Ibid., p. 96.

6 Ibid., p. 148.

7 Ibid., p. 172.

8 Ibid., pp. 171-178, table 4.2, p. 175.

9 Ibid., p. 185.

10 Ibid., p. 181. The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, M. Chibnall (ed. and trans.), Oxford, Oxford Medieval Texts, 1968-1980, 6 vols, here vol. VI, p. 35: “et super calcetam audacter aggressus tandem fugavit”.

11 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, pp. 109-191.

12 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 78.

13 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, p. 199; The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 82.

14 Ibid., p. 84.

15 Ibid., p. 86.

16 Ibid., pp. 88-90.

17 C. Warren Hollister, Henry I, p. 201.

18 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, vol. VI, p. 90.

19 Ibid., p. 100.

20 J. Bradbury, Stephen and Matilda: the Civil War of 1139-53, Stroud, Tempus, 1996, is the best modern account of the conquest.

21 D. Matthew, King Stephen, London, Hambledon Press, 2002, p. 75, from where this section is drawn, expands: “Guigan Algason, described by Orderic as ‘low-born’ to explain not only his treacherous behaviour but his inability to influence men of greater consequence to do likewise”.

22 Ibid., pp. 76-77.

23 J. Bradbury, “Geoffrey V of Anjou, Count and Knight”, in The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood, C. Harper-Bill and R. Harvey (eds.), Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 1990, vol. III, p. 27, citing The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, D. Whitelock (ed. and trans.), New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1961, version “E”, p. 202, covering events of the 1140s.

24 J. Bradbury, Stephen and Matilda…, p. 155, quoting John of Marmoutier, Historia Gaufredi ducis, in Chroniques des comtes d’Anjou et des seigneurs d’Amboise, L. Halphen and R. Poupardin (eds.), Paris, Picard, 1913, p. 177.

25 M. Chibnall, “Normandy”, in The Anarchy of King Stephen’s Reign, E. King (ed.), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 107-108, quoting John of Marmoutier, Historia Gaufredi ducis, p. 224.

26 J. Gillingham, The Angevin Empire, London, Arnold, 2001, 2nd revised edition.

27 Ibid., p. 102, quoting the P. Meyer edition of Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal. This had now been superseded by History of William the Marshal, A. J. Holden (ed. and trans.), London, Anglo-Norman Text Society (Occasional Publications Series; 4, 5, 6), 2002-2006, 3 vols, here vol. II, pp. 130-131, ll. 12,595-602.

28 D. Power, The Norman Frontier in the Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Centuries, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.

29 Ibid., pp. 420-421.

30 Ibid., pp. 437-438.

31 J. Gillingham, The Angevin Empire, p. 45.

32 Ibid., p. 65.

33 Ibid., pp. 57-66, for English royal revenues, and pp. 95-102, for comparison with Capetian income.


Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Matthew Bennett, FSA (Londres), FRHists, professeur à The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (1984-2014), est maintenant chargé de conférences invité à l’université de Winchester. L’objet central de sa recherche est l’ethos et la pratique de l’art de la guerre durant le haut Moyen Âge, en particulier la chevalerie, reposant principalement sur des sources en ancien français. Parmi ses publications : Campaigns of the Norman Conquest (Oxford, Osprey, 2001) ; Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare : the Middle Ages 768-1497, avec N. H. Hooper (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996) ; « La bataille de Tinchebrai », in Tinchebray 1106-2006, V. Gazeau et J. Green (dir.), Le Pays bas-normand, t. CCLXXI-CCLXXII, 2008-2009 ; « The Norman Conquests : a Strategy for World Domination ? », Journal of Medieval Military History, t. XV, 2017.

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