Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

Robert "Curthose" de Normandie, Duke of Normandy[1]

Male 1053 - 1134  (~ 81 years)

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  • Name Robert "Curthose" de Normandie 
    Suffix Duke of Normandy 
    Born ca. 1053  Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Military 1077  Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Robert instigated a short-lived rebellion against his father and subsequently fled into exile, first with his uncle in Flanders and then with the king of France. 
    Title 9 Sep 1087  [3
    Duke of Normandy 
    Military 1096  [5
    First Crusade 
    First (1095–1099); Second (1147–1149); Third or the Kings' Crusade (1189–1192); Forth (1202–1204); Fifth (1213–1221); Sixth (1228); Barons' (1239); Seventh (1248-1254); Eighth (1270); and Ninth (1271-1272).
    Military 29 Jun 1097  Eskisehir, Turkey Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Battle of Dorylaeum 
    • Kilij Arslan I attacked the forward vanguard of the Crusader army. Bohémond and Robert Curthose held their lines until forces coming up from the rear took the field, forcing the Seljuqs to reitre. As a result, the Franks secured their route to the east. [6]
    Military 15 Jul 1099  Jerusalem Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Seige and Sack of Jerusalem 
    Military 1106  Tinchebray, Normandy Find all individuals with events at this location  [7
    Battle of Tinchebray or Tinchebrai 
    • In a struggle for succession, Henry I defeated his brother Curthose in a decisive battle. Curthose spent the remainder of his life imprisoned at Bristol.
    Died Feb 1134  Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location  [8, 9
    Buried Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Tomb of Robert Curthose
    Tomb of Robert Curthose
    Gloucester Cathedral
    • ROBERT, Duke of Normandy (1054??1134), eldest son of Duke William II (afterwards William I, king of England) and his wife, Matilda (d. 1083) [q. v.], was probably born in 1054, since his parents were married in 1053, and William of Malmesbury says he was 'considered a youth of proved valour' in 1066. His earliest instructors seem to have been two persons who appear as 'Raturius consiliarius infantis' and 'Tetbold grammaticus' a little later, one Hilgerius is named as 'magister pueri' (Le Prévost, note to Ord. Vit. v. 18). In 1067 Robert was left as co-regent of Normandy with his mother during William's absence in England. A charter dated 1063 states that his parents had 'chosen him to govern the duchy after their death? (Le Prévost, loc. cit.); the Norman barons twice swore fealty to him as William's destined successor, and this settlement was confirmed by the king of France as overlord. It is probable that Robert, as well as William, received the homage of Malcolm III of Scotland [q. v.] at Abernethy in 1072, which would imply that he was also recognised as heir to the English crown. He had been betrothed, in 1061, to Margaret, sister and heiress of Count Herbert II of Maine; after Herbert's death in 1064 he did homage for Maine to its titular overlord Geoffrey of Anjou, and received from him a grant of its investiture; this homage he repeated to Geoffrey's successor in 1074, but the intended marriage was frustrated by Margaret's death; and William, though he once at least allowed his son to be designated as 'Robert, Count of Le Mans' (Gallia Christiana, vol. xi. instr. col. 229), was all the while ruling Maine himself. Robert at last felt this as a grievance, and asked his father to make over to him both Maine and Normandy. William refused; a quarrel between Robert and his brothers at Laigle [see Henry I] brought matters to a crisis; Robert tried to seize the citadel of Rouen; William ordered his arrest; he fled, and found shelter in the border castles of Neufchâtel, Sorel, and Raimalast, till a march of William against Raimalast drove him out of Normandy. 'By God's resurrection! Robin Curthose will be a fine fellow!' was the mocking comment of his father. 'Curthose' and 'Gambaron' were nicknames given to Robert on account of his short fat figure. His face was fat too, but not unpleasing; and on a superficial acquaintance there seemed 'nothing to find fault with' in the well-favoured, chatty, open-handed youth, with his clear bold voice and ready tongue, his skill and daring in the use of arms, his strength and sureness of aim in drawing the bow, and his shrewd natural intelligence, which made him through life an excellent adviser of others, though he strangely failed to apply it to the management of his own affairs. He found a refuge first with his uncle, the Count of Flanders, and afterwards with another kinsman, Archbishop Udo of Treves. But whatever money they gave him he spent on the young nobles who had stirred him up to rebellion, or in low amusements; and large supplies sent to him secretly by his mother went in the same way. After a year of exile (cf. Ord. Vit. l. v. c. 10 with l. v. c. 2, Le Prévost, ii. 304?5, 381, note 5 and 390, note 2), Robert, at the end of 1078, obtained leave from King Philip of France to establish himself at Gerberoi, close to the Norman border. Here, at the opening of 1079, William besieged him. After three weeks of skirmishing, Robert, seemingly in a kind of chance-medley, wounded his father in the hand; the king's horse was killed at the same moment, and, according to one account, Robert, on hearing his father's voice and thus recognising him, gave him his own horse and enabled him to escape; an earlier account, however, ascribes this assistance to one of William's English followers. William raised the siege; Robert withdrew to Flanders, but was soon forgiven, and was again acknowledged as heir to Normandy. In the autumn of 1080 William sent him to the king of Scots, to give the latter his choice between submission and war. Robert met Malcolm at Egglesbreth, near Falkirk, and according to one account received his submission; another version says that nothing came of Robert's expedition, save that on his way back he founded a 'New-castle' on the Tyne (cf. Hist. Abingdon, Rolls ed. ii. 9?10; Sym. Dunelm. a. 1080). He was with his father at Winchester on one occasion in 1081 (Ord. Vit. l. vi. c. 5). Soon afterwards he again became troublesome, and, when rebuked, left his home. He seems to have gone to France and thence to Italy, where he hoped to mend his fortunes by marrying a daughter of the Marquis of Montferrat; but the marriage did not take place. To this second period of Robert's exile, rather than to the first, in which Orderic places them, probably belong his wanderings through southern Gaul, Suabia, and Lorraine. They ended in his return to France, whither 'his father, when dying, sent Count Alberic to him, that he might receive the duchy of Normandy' (Ord. Vit. l. v. c. 10, ed. Le Prévost, ii. 390; Duchesne's edition has rediens for moriens; see Freeman, Norm. Conq. iv. 646 n. 2).

      Robert was at Abbeville when the Conqueror died on 9 Sept. 1087. His first act as duke was to set free William's political prisoners; this had been William's own desire, except in the case of Bishop Odo (d. 1097) [q. v.], whom Robert immediately took for his chief councillor. Odo and the barons who resembled him saw at once with what manner of ruler they now had to deal, and they dealt with him accordingly. 'Thoughtless in the conduct of his own life and the government of his people, wasteful in expenditure, lavish of promises, careless of his plighted word, tender-hearted to suppliants, weak and slack in doing justice upon offenders, light of purpose, over-gracious to all men in conversation, easily talked over, he became despicable in the eyes of the foolish and the froward. He sought to please all men; so to all men he either gave whatever they asked, or promised it, or let them take it.' 'Normandy found his mercy cruel, for under him sin against God and man went alike unpunished and unchecked. He seemed to think he owed as much regard to thieves and profligates as his followers owed to himself. If a weeping criminal was brought to him for justice, he would weep with him and set him free. His generosity was of the same stamp as his clemency; he would give any sum for a hawk or a hound, and then provide for his household by despoiling the people of his towns.' As the Conqueror's eldest son, he had fancied himself secure of the English throne, and was astounded at finding William Rufus seated there by common consent. A party among the Normans in England, however, plotted to get rid of the stern William and reunite kingdom and duchy under the 'more tractable' duke. Robert promised to help them 'if they would make a beginning;' but all the help he sent them on their rising in the spring of 1088 was a fleet, which was defeated in an attempt upon Pevensey. He himself was 'kept at home by sloth and love of ease.' In six months he had squandered the whole of his father's treasure. He now asked his brother Henry [see Henry I] for a loan, and when this was refused, sold him the Cotentin and its dependencies?a third part of the duchy?for 3,000l. When Henry, in company with Robert of Bellême [q. v.], returned from a visit to England in the summer, the duke, persuaded that they had been plotting against him with Rufus, imprisoned them both, by the advice of Bishop Odo. Urged by the same counsellor, he next led an army to Le Mans; the citizens and most of the nobles of Maine did homage to him; a few barons who held out in the castle of Ballon surrendered in September. He then, with their help, besieged Bellême's castle of St. Cénery, starved it into surrender, blinded its commandant, and mutilated some of the garrison. Shortly afterwards, however, he released Bellême himself, on the persuasion of the latter's father. Bellême now became first of the three chief counsellors of the duke; and his influence for evil, whether it were backed or not by the third, William of Arques, more than counterbalanced the influence for good of the second, Edgar Atheling [q. v.]

      In 1089 Rufus prepared to invade Normandy. Robert called in the help of Philip of France, who joined him at the siege of La Ferté, but was bought off by Rufus (cf. Rer. Gall. Scriptt. xii. 636, note a, with Engl. Chron. a. 1090, and Will. Malm. l. iv. c. 307). In the meantime Maine had won its independence, and set up a count of its own; while Henry, whom Robert had released from prison, was fighting for his own hand in the Cotentin. The discovery of a plot to betray Rouen to William drove Robert to make alliance with Henry; and to Henry he was chiefly indebted for the failure of that plot, 3 Nov. 1090. At the approach of William's troops the duke rushed forth from the citadel to support his adherents. But his friends persuaded him that his life was too precious to be risked in a street fight, so he slipped away across the Seine, and waited in a church till the tumult was suppressed by his constable and his brother Henry. Then he returned, and was with difficulty induced to punish the conspirators. In January 1091 he went to help Bellême in besieging the castle of Courcy; but as his sympathies were?in this case very justly?on the other side, he 'took no pains to press the siege.' At the end of the month he was called away to meet Rufus. At Rouen or at Caen the two brothers made a treaty; by one of its clauses they agreed to drive Henry out of Normandy and divide his lands between them. They besieged him at mid-Lent in the Mont St. Michel, and in a fortnight he surrendered. An incident of the siege illustrates what William of Malmesbury calls 'the mildness of Duke Robert.' The garrison lacked water; Henry appealed to the duke to 'fight against them by the valour of his troops, not by the power of the elements.' Robert bade his sentinels allow Henry's men to fetch water unmolested; and when Rufus asked how he expected to overcome his enemies if he thus supplied their needs, he answered, 'Shall I leave our brother to die of thirst? Where shall we get another brother if we lose him?' In August Robert accompanied William to England, to meet Malcolm of Scotland, from whom William claimed homage. Malcolm declared that whatever submission he owed was due not to William, but to Robert, alluding probably to something which had passed at Abernethy in 1072. Robert spent three days in the Scottish camp by the Forth, and, with Eadgar's help, brought Malcolm to some sort of agreement with Rufus. On 23 Dec. Robert and Eadgar returned to Normandy together.

      The late treaty had left a large part of Normandy in William's hands; it had also pledged him to reconquer, for Robert, Maine and the Vexin. At Christmas 1093 Robert called upon William to fulfil these engagements. William went to Normandy in March 1094, and met Robert twice, but refused to do anything; so another war began. With the help of Philip of France Robert besieged and took Argentan; thence he went on alone to take La Houlme. Philip rejoined him there, and they marched upon Longueville, intending to besiege Rufus himself at Eu. But Rufus bribed Philip to withdraw, while William of Breteuil bribed Robert to turn aside and help him in a private feud against the lord of Bréherval. Next year (1095) Bellême terrorised him into leading an armed force against Robert, son of Geroy, a special object of Bellême's hatred. Better counsellors, however, persuaded the duke to try his powers of conciliation, and he arranged a compromise which put an end to an exceedingly troublesome feud.

      In 1096 Robert took the cross, and pledged his duchy to the English king for five years for the sum of ten thousand marks. Peace had been arranged between the brothers by Jarento, abbot of Dijon, whom Pope Urban II had sent to England for that purpose, directly after the council of Clermont (November 1095). Robert set out in October; Jarento accompanied him as far as Pontarlier (Doubs), where he met his brother-in-law, Count Stephen of Chartres, and his cousin, Robert of Flanders (Hugh of Flavigny, ap. Pertz, viii. 474?5). They crossed the Alps, saw Pope Urban at Lucca, and passed through Rome into Apulia, where the Norman Count Roger welcomed the duke 'as the head of his race.' Lack of shipmen forced the brothers-in-law to winter in Calabria. They sailed from Brindisi on Easter-day, 5 April 1097, landed on the 9th at Dyrrhachium, and thence made their way to Constantinople, where, like the other crusading chiefs, they swore fealty to the Emperor Alexius. Early in June they joined the other crusaders at the siege of Nicæa. When, after leaving this place, the host divided into two bodies, the first onset of the Turks (1 July) fell at Dorylæum upon that in which Robert was with the other Norman princes. The Christians were all but overcome when Robert, baring his head, waving his gilded banner, and shouting 'Normandy!' and 'God wills it!' rallied his flying comrades (cf. Ralph, c. 22, and Robert, 1. iii. cc. 8?10). Tradition adds that he levelled his spear at a Turkish captain with such force that it went through the man's shield and his body too (Hen. Hunt. 1. vii. c. 7), while he despatched to the other division of the host a message which brought it to the rescue, and thus won for the crusaders their first victory in the field (Will. Malm. 1. iv. c. 357). On the march from Artah to Antioch he led the advanced guard. During the siege of Antioch (October 1097?June 1098) his wealth and his valour alike made him an important personage. The Counts of Vermandois, Blois, Aumale, Mons, and St. Pol 'were all bound to him by gifts, and some of them by homage.' He took part in several fights outside the town, especially one on 31 Dec. 1097, when he, Bohemond, and the Count of Flanders, with only 150 knights, routed a large body of Turks. Soon afterwards he withdrew to Laodicea. At this place?the only town in Syria still subject to the Byzantine emperor?there had landed twenty thousand pilgrims 'from England and the other isles of the ocean,' chief among whom was Edgar Atheling. The Laodiceans welcomed the pilgrims, and were persuaded by Edgar to offer the command of the place to his friend the Conqueror's son. Robert then established himself with all his forces at Laodicea. The other crusaders regarded this as a desertion; for though out of the stores which reached Laodicea from the west he sent them lavish supplies for the poor, he himself fell back into his old ways of life, and gave himself up to 'idleness and sleep.' Twice he was vainly recalled to the camp. At last a threat of excommunication brought him back (cf. Ord. Vit. l. x. c. 11; Ralph, c. 58; and Gilo of Paris, in Migne, vol. clv. col. 952 D). He seems to have returned in time to take part, at the beginning of Lent, in a battle near Antioch, where Henry of Huntingdon (l. vii. c. 10) says he commanded the first line, and with one stroke of his sword cleft a Turk in twain through head, neck, and shoulders down to the chest. A similar exploit was recorded of Godfrey de Bouillon. In the great battle with Corbogha beneath the walls of Antioch, on 28 June 1098, Robert commanded the third (or second, according to some) of the six battalions into which the Christians were divided. His forces consisted of Normans, Englishmen, Bretons, and Angevins. The newly discovered (fragment) 'Chanson d'Antioche en Provençal' gives a description of them: 'They bear English axes and javelins to hurl.' 'When they are in battle array and begin to strike, no one can resist them.' Richard the Pilgrim sings how, 'mounted on a lyart charger, the duke sprang like a leopard into the thick of the fight,' and unhorsed Corbogha in the first onset (Chanson d'Antioche, ii. 245?6), and William of Malmesbury tells how at the close of the day, when a rally of the flying Turks had almost wrested victory from the crusaders, it was secured to them by the valour of Robert and two of his followers, by whom another Turkish chief was intercepted and slain (Will. Malm. l. iv. c. 389). According to William, this chief was Corbogha himself. But Corbogha was certainly not killed in this battle; and the 'Chanson d'Antioche' (ii. 261) gives the name of the captain whom Robert did slay?'the Red Lion,' i.e. Kizil-Arslan. Robert joined in a letter written from Antioch by some of the crusaders to Urban II, just after the death of Ademar of Le Puy in August 1198 (Migne, clv. 847?9). The duke is called 'Robertus Curtose' in a description of the siege of Antioch, written at Lucca from materials supplied at the end of 1098 by Bruno, a citizen of Lucca, who left the crusaders' camp immediately after Corbogha's defeat.

      Robert assisted Raymond of St. Gilles at the siege of Marra, November?December 1098. In a quarrel which ensued between Raymond and Bohemond, Robert sided with the former; and when Raymond left Marra, on 13 Jan. 1099, Robert followed him to Capharda, and thence accompanied him to Cæsarea and Arkah. During the siege (February?May) of Arkah, where the other leaders rejoined them, a question was raised as to the genuineness of the ?holy lance? which had been found at Antioch. Robert was among the sceptics. At the siege of Jerusalem (6 June?15 July 1099) his post was on the north side of the city, hard by St. Stephen's church. It is said that Robert, being the only one of the crusaders who was a king's son, received the first offer of the crown of Jerusalem, which he refused, saying that he had never intended to abandon his duchy and, now that his vow was fulfilled, desired to return home. William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon ascribed his refusal to sloth; and the former held that it 'aspersed his nobility with an indelible stain.' But every one of the other leaders in turn appears to have followed his example; all were resolved to leave the perilous honour for Godfrey of Bouillon (cf. Will. Malm l. iv. c. 389; Hen. Hunt. l. vii. c. 18; Gesta Francorum, c. 130; and Albert, l. vi. c. 33). Robert supported the new sovereign in a dispute with Raymond for the custody of the Tower of David. In the battle with the Egyptians under the emir El-Afdal, between Ascalon and Ramah (12 Aug. 1099), he commanded the central division, began the attack by making a dash at a standard which he saw facing him in the midst of the enemies, and which he knew indicated the post of El-Afdal himself, severely wounded the emir, slew the standard-bearer, and, according to some writers, carried off the standard. It seems, however, to have been really taken by another man, from whom Robert afterwards bought it, that he might offer it at the Holy Sepulchre as a memorial of the victory. Another standard which he won from the infidels in this or some other battle was placed by him, on his return home, in the abbey of Holy Trinity at Caen. A poet of the thirteenth century relates that in this battle Robert slew three Egyptian captains; that the 'Turks' fled from him 'more than a magpie from a falcon;' and that at last, having ventured too far in pursuit, he found himself alone in their midst, but held them all at bay till, covered with blood, he was rescued by Bohemond and the Count of Flanders (Conquête de Jerusalem, pp. 308?11).

      The crusade had brought out all that was best in Robert. The skill in arms and the personal bravery which never had free play in the faction fights of Normandy were displayed in their full brilliancy when he was fighting for Christendom instead of for self; and his conduct throughout the expedition was marked by a straightforwardness and disinterestedness which were somewhat rare among the leaders of the host (Guibert, l. ii. c. 16). His private resources were no doubt greater than those of most of the other leaders; it is noted as 'a marvellous thing' that, whereas all the other chiefs found themselves horseless at some period of the journey, 'neither by christian nor by heathen could he ever be brought down from the rank of a knight to that of a foot-soldier;' he was always ready to share his wealth with his comrades, and, except during his secession to Laodicea, to take his share in their hardships and labours.

      The spell which the cross seemed to have cast over him lost its power when he came back to the west. He left Palestine in the autumn of 1099, but did not reach Normandy till September 1100. According to many Italian writers, the famous 'Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum' was composed for him when he passed through Southern Italy on his way home from the crusade. Giannone says this poem was dedicated to Robert, 'calling him king of England,' and that he had been wounded in the holy war. In the copies of the 'Regimen' now extant the first line runs 'Anglorum Regi scripsit schola tota Salerni;' and as the poem can be shown to have existed in the twelfth century, it seems impossible to suppose that the king alluded to is Edward I. That Robert was known in Southern Italy as 'king of England' is evident from Peter Diaconus (Pertz, vii. 791), who, speaking of about 1117 A.D., says that 'Rotbertus rex Anglorum' sent gifts to Monte Cassino, asking the prayers of the monks (of whom Peter was one in the early half of the twelfth century) 'pro se et pro statu regni sui' (see also Muratori, Antiq. Medii Ævi, iii. 935). While in Italy Robert married Sibyl, daughter of the Count of Conversana. The death of William Rufus, 2 Aug. 1100, freed him from the necessity of redeeming Normandy from pledge; he was 'blithely received by all men,' and went with his bride to the Mont St. Michel to give thanks for the success of his pilgrimage. On the eve of his departure in 1096 he had advised Count Elias of Maine to offer his homage to William Rufus; William rejected it, and drove Elias out of Maine, which, however, he won back after William's death, all but the citadel of Le Mans. The Norman garrison which William had left there now sent word to Robert, as William's successor, that they neither could nor would hold it for him unless he sent them help. Robert, 'worn out with the toils of pilgrimage, and more desirous to go to bed than to go to war again,' bade them make their own terms with Elias; 'for,' said he, 'I am tired out; Normandy is enough for me; and the nobles of England are inviting me to go and be their king.' Such an invitation had in fact been sent to him by a few barons who saw in him a tool more easily to be adapted to their purposes than the actual king, his brother Henry. Lack of means, as well as lack of energy, made him slow to act upon it; within a very short time after his return he had squandered the whole of his wife's large dowry, and was again penniless. He seems to have complained to the pope of Henry's seizure of the crown as a breach of the treaty between himself and Rufus, whereby it had been agreed that if either of them died without lawful issue the survivor should succeed him (Paschal II, Ep. lix. The passage is obscure, and evidently corrupt; but the 'sacramentum' which Robert is said to have accused Henry of breaking can only be the oath sworn by Rufus, not by Henry himself). In the spring of 1101 Rannulf Flambard [q. v.] escaped from the Tower, and went over sea. The duke 'received him, set him over Normandy, and, so far as his (Robert's) laziness allowed, made use of his counsels.' The result was the assembling at Tréport of a fleet with which Robert sailed for England. He landed on 21 July at Porchester, and marched upon Winchester; but hearing the queen was there awaiting her confinement, he declared that 'he would be a villain who should besiege a lady in such a case,' and turned towards London. Near Alton (Hampshire) Henry met him, but, instead of fighting, they made peace [for its terms see Henry I]. At Michaelmas Robert went home, loaded with presents from Henry. He was 'duke only in name;' 'nobody thought him of any importance;' 'amid all the wealth of his duchy he often lacked bread;' and it was said that the comrades of his vices more than once carried off all his clothes, and thus compelled him to stay in bed till they brought them back.

      In 1102 Henry stirred him up to besiege Bellême's castle of Vignats, near Falaise. Some traitors in the duke's host fired their own quarters and fled, whereupon the rest of his troops fled likewise. In June 1103 he made another attempt to drive Bellême out of the Hiémois; Bellême, however, 'attacked his easy-going sovereign in divers ways, and at last set upon him boldly in the highway and put him to flight.' In the same year Robert went to England 'to speak with the king.' According to one account, Henry sent for him; according to another, he went of his own accord to plead for the exiled Earl of Warren; a third makes the whole affair originate in a plot of Henry's to entrap Robert. The duke crossed to Southampton with eleven knights. Robert of Meulan met him on the road to Winchester, and frightened him into throwing himself on the mercy of the queen, who promised to influence her husband in his favour if he would 'forgive' the yearly pension which Henry had promised him by the treaty of 1101. To this Robert agreed, and he then ventured to the court of his brother, who, whether he did or did not grant Robert's requests, lectured him soundly on his misgovernment of Normandy (cf. Ord. Vit. l. xi. c. 2; Wace, pt. iii. ll. 10585?766; Will. Malm. l. iv. c. 389, 1. v. cc. 395 and 398; Engl. Chron. a. 1103). The lecture was wasted; next year 'the sleepy duke,' rather than be at the trouble of fighting any longer with Bellême, granted him everything that he desired. On this Henry came to Normandy; a conference took place; Robert ceded to Henry the county of Evreux, again promised amendment, and again broke his promise. Henry came again, at the head of an army, in Lent 1105. Caen, Bayeux, Falaise, and Rouen alone remained to Robert; he wandered about almost alone, literally begging his bread; at Caen, which he had endeavoured to fortify by digging a great trench which Wace saw some seventy years later, the citizens plotted to betray town and duke both at once to the king, and the duke escaped only just in time, while the few servants who followed him were intercepted at the gate and robbed of all their baggage. In Whitsun week the brothers met at Cinteaux, near Falaise, but they could not agree. On Michaelmas eve 1106 the struggle was ended by the battle of Tinchebray [see Henry I], where Robert was taken prisoner by the king's chaplain, Galdric [q. v.] Henry sent him to England, and kept him in prison there for the rest of his life. For the story that he was released in 1107 or 1109 on condition of leaving England and Normandy for ever within forty days, that during those days he was detected plotting treason, and was recaptured and blinded, there is no authority earlier than Matthew Paris; and though the blinding is mentioned by some other thirteenth-century writers, all earlier evidence refutes the statement (see Freeman, Norman Conquest, v. 849). Even Matthew adds that Robert was supplied with every luxury, and had six knights to wait upon him. In 1119 Henry declared that he was keeping his brother 'as a noble pilgrim, worn out with many troubles, reposing in a royal citadel (in arce regia), with abundance of delicacies and comforts.' Arx regia probably means the Tower. Nine years later (1128) Robert was in the castle of Devizes. His last years were spent in that of Cardiff, in the custody of Robert, earl of Gloucester [q. v.] There is a poem translated by Edward Williams from the Welsh (Gent. Mag. November 1794; De La Rue, Essais historiques sur les Bardes, ii. 95?7) which purports to be (traditionally) a song composed by Robert when a prisoner at Bristol, and addressed to a large oak that he could see from his prison. Some chroniclers say that the duke died at Bristol, which, like Cardiff, was a fortress of the Earl of Gloucester. According to the best authorities, however, he died at Cardiff, 10 Feb. 1134. Matthew Paris has a tale that he starved himself to death in disgust at being made the recipient of Henry's cast-off clothes, Henry having sent him a new mantle which had been made for the king himself, but had proved a misfit. The oaken effigy, which still marks Robert's tomb in the abbey church of Gloucester dates from the close of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century, and is probably a tribute from some warrior of the third crusade to the memory of the hero of the first.

      Robert's wife had died in Lent 1103. Orderic attributes her death to poison, and implies that it was contrived by Agnes, the widow of Walter Giffard [see Gifarad, Walter], who, by promising Robert the enjoyment of her wealth and the support of her powerful kinsfolk, had induced him to promise in return that he would marry her, 'and put the whole government of Normandy into her hands' if his wife should die; a promise which his warfare with Henry left him no leisure to fulfil. William of Malmesbury says that Sibyl died from bad nursing after the birth of a child; if so, the infant did not survive her. The only known offspring of Robert's marriage was William 'the Clito,' born in 1101 (Ord. Vit. l. x. c. 16, ed. Le Prévost, iv. 98; cf. l. xii. c. 24, ib. 402). In 1128 Robert, then in prison at Devizes, dreamed that a lance-thrust deprived him of the use of his right arm. 'Alas! my son is dead,' he said on awaking; and the dream was quickly followed by the news of William's death from just such a wound, received in a skirmish in Flanders (July). Robert had a natural daughter, married in 1089 to Elias of Saint-Saëns; and also two natural sons, William and Richard, born during the years when he was in rebellion against his father. These boys were brought up by their mother in her home on the French border till they reached manhood, when she brought them to Normandy, presented them to the duke as his sons, and by successfully undergoing the ordeal of hot iron compelled him to acknowledge them as such. Richard was accidentally shot dead in the New Forest in May 1100. William went after Tinchebray to the Holy Land (Ord. Vit. l. x. c. 13). In August 1108 King Baldwin I entrusted him with the command of two hundred horse and five hundred foot, with which he captured a noble Arabian lady and her train, consisting of a number of youths and maidens, four thousand camels, and other spoil, with a loss of only two men of importance on his own side (Albert, l. x. c. 47). In 1110 he held the lordship of Tortosa, and was one of the princes who mustered at Antioch in September to defend it against the Turks (ib. l. xi. c. 40). He seems to have fallen shortly afterwards, probably in battle with the infidels (Ord. Vit. 1. x. c. 13)

      [The chief source of information on Robert's life as a whole is Ordericus Vitalis, edited by Duchesne in Historiæ Normannorum Scriptores; better by Le Prévost for the Soc. de l'Hist. de France; reprinted from the latter edition, without Le Prévost's notes, but with others which are not without use, in Migne's Patrologia, vol. clxxxviii. The other original authorities for Robert's career in Europe are: William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, the English Chronicle (Rolls Ser.); Flor. Wig. and his Continuator (Engl. Hist. Soc.); the Continuator of William of Jumièges (Duchesne, Hist. Norm. Scriptt., and Migne, vol. cxlix.); and Wace's Roman de Rou, ed. Andresen. The best modern account is in Freeman's Norman Conquest and William Rufus. For Robert's career in the east we have, besides Orderic and William of Malmesbury, the original Latin historians of the first crusade, published by the Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, viz. William of Tyre (Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Hist. Occidentaux, vol. i.), the Gesta Francorum and its adapter Tudebode, Raymond of Aguilers or Agiles, Fulcher of Chartres, Ralph of Caen, Robert of Reims (ib. vol. iii.), Baldric of Dol, Guibert of Nogent, and Albert of Aix (ib. vol. iv.); the Chanson d'Antioche of Richard the Pilgrim, edited by Paulin Paris (Romans des douze Pairs); and its thirteenth-century continuation, the Conquête de Jérusalem, in the Collection des Poètes Français du Moyen-Age, edited by M. C. Hippeau. An old French chronicle, Li Estoire de Jérusalem et d'Antioche (Recueil des Hist. des Croisades, Hist. Occidentaux, vol. v.), existing in a thirteenth-century MS., but possibly dating back to the twelfth century in its original form, is full of incidents connected with Robert's crusading life, and illustrates also his relations with Bellême. For reference to this chronicle, and for many other valuable suggestions utilised in this article, the writer is indebted to Mr. T. A. Archer.]

      K. N. [10]
    Person ID I10869  Dickinson
    Last Modified 10 Feb 2018 

    Father William the Conqueror, King of England,   b. ca. 1027, Château de Falaise, Normandy Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 Sep 1087, Priory of St. Gervais, Rouen, Caux, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 60 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Mathilde de Flandre, Queen consort of England, Duchess of Normandy,   b. Abt 1037, Flanders Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 2 Nov 1083, Caen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 46 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Married ca. 1050  Eu, Seine-Maritime Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 11, 12
    Family ID F3000  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Sibylle di Conversano,   d. 1103, Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married 1100  Apulia, Italy Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Guillaume I "Clito" de Normandie, Count of Flanders,   b. 1101, Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Jul 1128, Abbey of St Bertin, Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 27 years)  [Birth]
    Last Modified 10 Feb 2018 
    Family ID F6489  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - ca. 1053 - Normandy, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Robert instigated a short-lived rebellion against his father and subsequently fled into exile, first with his uncle in Flanders and then with the king of France. - 1077 - Rouen, Normandy, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Battle of Dorylaeum - 29 Jun 1097 - Eskisehir, Turkey Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Seige and Sack of Jerusalem - 15 Jul 1099 - Jerusalem Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 1100 - Apulia, Italy Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMilitary - Battle of Tinchebray or Tinchebrai - 1106 - Tinchebray, Normandy Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - Feb 1134 - Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wales Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S336463] Medieval Lands: A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families, Charles Cawley, (Online: The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy at, 20XX),

    2. [S2] Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I, Tracy Borman, (New York: Bantam Books, 2011), 51-2.

    3. [S336429] Britain's Royal Families: A Complete Genealogy, Alison Weir, (London: Vintage Books, 2008), 43.

    4. [S236] The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England, Marc Morris, (New York: Pegasus Books, 2013), 275.

    5. [S420] The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 72.

    6. [S420] The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land, Thomas Asbridge, (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 57-59.

    7. [S20] The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217, Richard Brooks, (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2014), 40.

    8. [S336429] Britain's Royal Families: A Complete Genealogy, Alison Weir, (London: Vintage Books, 2008), 46.
      3, 10 or 15 Feb. 1134/5 at Cardiff Castle.

    9. [S23] The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, Dan Jones, (New York: Viking, 2012), 16.

    10. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., vol. 48, 349-56 (Kate Norgate).

    11. [S447] The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni, Elisabeth van Houts, ed. & trans., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 33.

    12. [S2] Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I, Tracy Borman, (New York: Bantam Books, 2011), 42.
      The council of Rheims (1049) which condemned the betrothal of William and Matilda began drawn-out diplomatic maneuvering between the Norman court and Pope Leo IX. The date of the marriage is subject to debate as is the length of the papal ban (which was eventually lifted).