10th February 1134. Man born nearly to be King.

Effigy of Robert Curthose

Irish bog-oak, painted effigy of Robert Curthose at Gloucester.

Robert, the eldest son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders, called the ‘Curthose’ owing to his style of dress, was known by his father as brevis-ocrea or short boots.(1)

The Conqueror had divided his kingdoms so that William Rufus (William II) acquired the territory of England and the Duchy of Normandy went to Robert.

Robert, de jure heir presumptive to the throne of England, never in fact succeeded after the death of Rufus as whilst returning from the First Crusade, his younger brother Henry Beauclerc lost no time in having himself crowned as Henry I.

Henry was thus desperate to keep the throne and despite a previous agreement at the Treaty of Alton (1101), he invaded Normandy defeating Robert at Tinchbrai in 1106.(2)

Normandy now became absorbed into England under Henry I, as part of the Angevin Empire for a century until lost by King John.

Robert Curthose was thus disinherited and doomed to spend his days incarcerated after Tinchbrai at Devizes Castle and Cardiff where he died Today in 1134 at about the grand old age of 80. 

Robert did have his allies notably in Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, a Norman bishop  and half-brother to the Conqueror.(3)

However Odo was tried for defrauding the Crown and Diocese of Canterbury and forfeited properties and his earldom, but not his bishopric, whilst spending five years in prison.

The Conqueror on his deathbed however, was forced to release Odo who had his title restored who then organised an abortive rebellion in support of Robert Curthose in 1088 against William Rufus, who became king.

crossed legs

Crossed legs and spur.

On the death of Rufus, Robert made an abortive invasion to claim the Kingdom, only to withdraw, leaving the field open for Henry I (Beauclerc).

What Robert (born c 1051 or 54) did achieve in death was to be enshrined in a magnificent effigy at the Abbey Church of St Peter, later to became Gloucester Cathedral, after the Monastic Dissolution.

The tomb has the three triads of the nine Worthies: 3 Pagans; 3 Jews and 3 Christians.

(1a) Source: Chroniclers, William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis.

(1b) William I had in fact 4 legitimate sons, the second was Richard who died young.

(2) Tinchbrai 28.1.1106.

(3) Bishop from about the age of 19 in 1049, (it was the custom to make bishops of non-inheriting relatives), and later Earl of Kent.

Ref: professor-moriarty.com/13thc church-monuments/Pic Images.

Ref: elizabethashworth.com.robert-curthose.

Ref: spartacus-educational.com/curthose.

Ref: historytoday.v. 51. Issue 7. July 2001. Richard Cavendish.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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