Monday, September 27, 2010

Battle of Tinchebray

On September 27, 1106, two brothers, sons of William the conqueror, faced off in Normandy, at Tinchebray.  Robert, the Duke of Normandy, and eldest, lost out to William's fourth son, Henry I of England.  Robert was imprisoned afterward at Cardiff Castle.  Out of concern for security, and perhaps just for spite, Henry had Robert's eyes cut out.  Robert lived nearly thirty years in blind captivity, turning from military endeavors to the composition of poetry in Welsh learned from his jailers.

Sir Walter Scott writes on some of Robert's background, his ill-conceived rebellion against his father, in his "Tales of a Grandfather":  'Philip's [I of France] jealousy of his great vassal [Robert, Duke of Normandy] began to show itself in every way so soon as he arrived at years of maturity. In 1077 he intrigued with William's eldest son, Robert, and encouraged him to rebel against his father. The pretext assigned by Robert for his unnatural conduct, was, that William, during a severe illness, soon after his conquest of England, had caused Robert be recognised as his successor in the duchy, and receive the homage of his vassals; but on his recovery shortly after, he resumed the reins of authority, and had ever since refused, contrary to promise, to allow him any share in the administration of Normandy. The Duke's answer to all his son's applications was couched in the homely but expressive phrase, that he was not willing to throw off his clothes before he went to bed, or part with his dominions before his death.

Under the pretence, nevertheless, that his father had not fulfilled his engagement, Robert, who was a rash young man, and of fiery passions, though in his person brave and generous, actually rebelled against his father, and held out against him the small fortified place of Gerberoi, a station very convenient for the annoyance of Normandy. William was incensed at the rebellious conduct of his son, and hastened to lay siege to the place of his retreat. The garrison made a sally, headed by Prince Robert in person. This leader, one of the bravest men of his time, singled out for his antagonist a knight who appeared in front of the besiegers, in armour, and having his face covered by the vizor of his helmet. The onset of the young and fiery prince bore down his antagonist, horse and man ; and Robert, placing his lance to the throat of the dismounted cavalier, would have taken his life, had he not recognised, by the accents in which the answer was returned, that he was in the act of slaying his own father. Shocked at this discovery, he flung himself from his horse, and, assisting his father to rise, held the stirrup to him till he mounted it in his stead.

But notwithstanding an incident so touching at once and terrible, no reconciliation between the father and son took place, and the latter continued a sort of knight-errant in France, and other countries, until his father's death. In 1087, the disputes between the Kings of France and England, for the possession of the province of Vexin, led to an open rupture, which cost William his life. He: caught an inflammatory complaint, while directing in person the conflagration of the town of ' Mantes, and the destruction of the country around. He made immediate dispositions for securing the crown of England to his second son William Rufus, or the Red. But although in-' censed against his eldest son Robert, who was still an exile, William made no attempt to deprive him of the duchy of Normandy, regarding it probably as his hereditary right. To his third son, Henry, he left nothing but a sum of money.'

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