Norman Kings in England
William the Bastard (later called 'the Conqueror') continued to produce silver pennies to the same standard and fineness as his Anglo-Saxon predecessors, circa 1.3 gm (22-24 grains). However, the internal stresses of the Norman state with land-holdings in Normandy and England, and military undertakings in the Mediterranean, were unmanageable for a military aristocracy riven by internal jealousies and competition. By the end of the Norman period, the turbulence of Stephen's reign meant that coin quality declined dramatically.
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William II 'Rufus' (1087-1100 AD)
William Rufus (the red) was the third son of William, Duke of Normandy. The Norman hold on England was still strong in his day, although the king had to resort to ruthless measures to suppress both the nobles and the church. William scorned the English, but was himself held in low regard by his subjects on both sides of the Channel: there are reports of irregular and scandalous behaviour at his court. A Norman rebellion led by Odo, William's uncle, left the king with a stronger hold on England than on Normandy and marked the beginning of the dissolution of the Anglo-Norman state, which lasted less than a century. During William's reign, the Norman crown's involvement in the Crusades began - his brother, Robert Curthose, being among the leaders of the First Crusade, paid for by a ruinous tax levied in England. William was killed while hunting in the New Forest in circumstances which have struck generations of commentators as suspicious: he was pierced by a 'stray' arrow in the lung. The spot is marked by the 'Rufus stone' to this day.
Henry I (1100 - 1135 AD)
Henry I was nicknamed beauclerc 'fine scholar' by contemporaries, presumably because he was able to read and write well. He succeded his brother, William II, while Robert Curthose was campaigning in the Holy Land. Henry's early reign was spent in securing Normandy from the designs of his other brother, Duke Robert of Normandy. He began the suppression of the Welsh and the construction of fortified strongholds across the western border of England. Never perturbed by public ill-will, Henry ruled effectively for 35 years and was the most successful sovereign of the Norman line. In 1120, his only legitimate son, William, was killed in a naval accident ("The White Ship") which left the succession open; Henry's solution was to force the Norman barons to support his daughter, Matilda. This led ultimately to the Anglo-Norman civil war.
Stephen (1135-1154 AD)
Stephen of Blois was raised at the court of his uncle, Henry I, and was among a number of contenders for the crown. Henry having arranged for his daughter, Matilda, to succeed, Stephen's claim was not universally supported and a period of civil war ensued in which Stephen and the 'Empress Maude' contended for the throne, in the period known as 'The Anarchy'. The fortunes of each side varied from time to time, but the balance was tipped against Stephen when Matilda's son, Henry, raised an army of mercenaries; Stephen's support began to melt away but he still managed to hold the crown against all comers until his death in 1154.
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