Robert II Of Normandy - Encyclopedia

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ROBERT II. (c. 1054-1134) was the eldest son of William the Conqueror. Although recognized in boyhood as his father's successor in Normandy, he was soon dissatisfied with his position, and about 1078, following a quarrel between his brothers and himself, he revolted. He was obliged to fly from his own country, but after a period of exile he returned, raised some troops, and began to harry the duchy, wounding his father during a skirmish at Gerberoi early in 1079. He was, however, quickly forgiven, and passed two or three years in England and in Normandy until 1083, when he entered upon a second term of exile. When the Conqueror died in September 1087 Robert became duke of Normandy, but not king of England; although he received offers of help, he took no serious steps to displace his younger brother, King William II. In Normandy his rule was weak and irresolute. He lost the county of Maine, which for some years had been united with Normandy, and he was soon at variance with his brothers, the younger of whom, Henry, he seized and put into prison. In 1089 his duchy was invaded by William II., who soon made peace with Robert, the two agreeing to dispossess their brother Henry of his lands in Normandy. This peace lasted until 1094, when occasions of difference again arose and another struggle began, Robert being aided by King Philip I. of France.

This warfare ended in 1096, when Robert set out on the first crusade, having raised money for this purpose by pledging his duchy to William for io,000 marks. With his followers he journeyed to Constantinople; then he took part in the siege of Nicaea, the battle of Dorylaeum, and the famous battle under the walls of Antioch in June 1098. He shared in the siege of Jerusalem and other exploits of the crusade, while one account says that he was offered and refused the crown of the new Latin kingdom. Having won a great reputation both for valour and for generosity, the duke left Palestine and arrived in Normandy in September 1100.

William Rufus died while Robert was on his homeward way, and in Italy the Norman duke was greeted as king of England; but when he reached Normandy he learned that the English throne was already in the possession of Henry I. In July 1101 he crossed over to England, intending to contest his brother's title, but Henry met him near Alton, in Hampshire, and an amicable arrangement was made between them. Having received presents and the promise of a pension, Robert went quietly home. But the fraternal strife was not allayed. Henry had interests in Normandy in addition to the county of Evreux, which Robert ceded to him about 1102. Visits were exchanged,. but no lasting peace was made, and in 1106 the English king crossed over to Normandy, where Robert was in great extremities. At the battle of Tinchebrai, fought on the 28th of September I106, Henry took his brother prisoner and carried him to England. For twenty-eight years the unfortunate duke was a captive, first in the Tower of London, and later in the castles of Devizes and Cardiff, but the evidence goes to show that he was not treated with cruelty. He died probably at. Cardiff on the Toth of February 1134. Robert had a son,. William, called the Clito, and several natural children. He was called Curthose, and also Gambaron, his figure being short and stout. Although wanting in decision of character, he was a skilled and able warrior, and the chroniclers tell many stories, some of them obviously legendary, of his exploits in the Holy Land.

The chief sources for the life of Robert II. are Ordericus Vitalis, William of Malmesbury and other chroniclers of the time. See E. A. Freeman, History of the Norman Conquest (1870-76), and The Reign of Rufus (1882).

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