Robert Curthose

John Florens | Apr 23, 2024

Table of Content


Robert, called Cosciacorta (French: Robert II de Normandie dit Robert Courteheuse) (Normandy, between 1052 and 1054 - Cardiff Castle, Feb. 10, 1134), was the eighth lord of Normandy under the name of Robert II from 1087 to 1106, and was the sixth to formally obtain the title Duke of Normandy. He had been earl of Maine since 1063 (until 1069 he was actual earl and then only titular), was also twice pretender to the throne of England, in 1087, on the death of his father, William the Conqueror, and in 1100, on the death of his brother, William II Rufus.

His nickname, "Cosciacorta," (the English monk and chronicler, Ordericus Vitale, described him as short in stature like his mother, Matilda (Robert's father, King William I, called him brevis-ocrea i.e., short boots), while the Benedictine chronicler and monk of Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire (Wessex), William of Malmesbury, who describes him in his youth, described him as brave and skilled in military exercises, although short in stature and with a prominent belly, while the English chronicler and Benedictine monk, Matthew of Paris, called him wild and untamable (homo ferus et indomitus).

However, he was also prone to laziness (Ordericus Vitale accuses him of laxity) and his weakness of character displeased the nobles and according to the French medievalist, Louis Halphen, was exploited by Philip I, King of France, who frowned upon the English sovereign's growth in power and inserted himself into the dispute that arose between Robert and his father William. Although he was the eldest son he never succeeded in occupying the English throne, and as Duke of Normandy he is known for his discord with his brothers, who were kings of England, which led to the reunification of the Duchy of Normandy with the English crown. Finally he was one of the participants in the First Crusade.

Both according to the Norman monk and chronicler William of Jumièges, author of his Historiæ Normannorum Scriptores Antiqui, and according to William of Malmesbury, Ordericus Vitale and Matthew of Paris he was the eldest male child of the Duke of Normandy and King of England, William the Conqueror, and of Matilda of Flanders (1032 - 1083), who, according to the Genealogica Comitum Flandriæ Bertiniana, was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, and of the sister of the king of France, Henry I, who according to the Genealogiæ Scriptoris Fusniacensis was the daughter of the king of France, Robert II, known as the Pious.

William the Conqueror, again according to William of Jumièges, was the only son of the sixth lord of Normandy, the fourth to formally obtain the title of Duke of Normandy, Robert I, and of Herleva of Falaise also known as Arletta (c. 1010-c. 1050), of humble origins, who, according to William of Jumièges, was the daughter of Fulbert or Herbert, a footman of the duke (Herleva Fulberti cubicularii ducis filia) and his wife Duda or Duwa, as confirmed by the Chronica Albrici Monachi Trium Fontium.

His date of birth is usually set at 1054, but it could also be 1051.

The younger years

In 1056 his father William succeeded in bringing back to Maine Count Eribert II, who had taken refuge in Normandy because he had been driven out of his county by Goffredo II Martello, Count of Anjou; since Eribert II, because of his young age (in document no. 15 of the Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Vincent du Mans, dated Nov. 15, 1058, Count Eribert II is mentioned as a child, Herberto puerulo comite), had no heir, a betrothal contract was made between Robert, who was then about four years old, and Margaret, Erberto's sister (as Orderico Vitale confirms to us), with the clause that, upon Erberto II's death, again without heirs, his future son-in-law Robert would inherit the county.

In 1062, upon the death of Herbert II, still without an heir, William, against the will of the people, occupied Maine in the name of Margaret and Robert, and, after having Eribert's successors, Biota of Maine († c. 1064), daughter of Eribert I known as Evigilans canis (Awake Dog), and her husband imprisoned, Gualtiero I († ca. 1064), count of Vexin and Amiens (according to Orderico Vitale Biota and Gualtiero died of poisoning), continued to occupy the county even after Margaret's death, without having yet married (Orderico Vitale recalls that Margaret died that she was not yet of marriageable age). Robert thus became its earl of Maine, without having been able to marry.

According to Orderico Vitale, when his father, William, left Normandy in 1067 to return to England, which he had conquered the year before, Robert, not yet of age (teenagers) joined his mother, Matilda, in governing the duchy of Normandy.

In 1069, the nobles of Maine, supported by the Count of Anjou, Folco IV the Rissoso, drove the Normans out of the county of Maine and offered the county to Gersenda, who, after the death of her sister Biota, was the rightful heiress of the county, who, with her husband Albert Azzo became count and countess of Maine.

It was not until four years later, in 1073, that his father, William the Conqueror (no longer the Bastard) organized an expedition, of which Robert, then in his early twenties, was not a member, invaded Maine also with English troops and reached Le Mans with ease. The Norman occupation of the county was never complete, because the Count of Anjou continued to support every uprising and rebellion, even intervening himself, until, in 1081, an agreement was reached whereby the county of Maine was taken from Hugh V of Maine and granted to Robert, who in turn paid feudal homage as his lord to Folk IV of Anjou. The agreement was short-lived, and many viscounts rebelled, and practically most of the county returned to the hands of Hugh V, who enjoyed Angevin protection.

Robert, as the eldest son, was displeased with the inheritance and power he had been granted, and, in 1076, bitter arguments began with his father and brothers.

The rebel

William of Malmesbury remembers Robert as the one who aroused the king of France, Philip I against his father William (he exited Philip king of France against his father), while Matthew of Paris claims that it was Philip I who aroused Robert against his father, who did not fulfill Robert's demands.

In 1077, it seems that his first rebellion against his father originated, at L'Aigle, from a prank played on him by his younger brothers William Rufus and Henry, who had poured fetid water on him. Robert was furious, and incited by his friends he started a brawl with his brothers that was broken up only by his father's intervention. Believing that his dignity had been offended, Robert was further angered when he saw that King William did not punish the brothers. In fact, according to Orderico Vitale, the quarrel between Robert and his father had arisen because William had not assigned the Duchy of Normandy to Robert as promised and did not subsidize him enough for his needs.

Robert and his retinue then attempted to capture the castle of Rouen. The siege failed, but when King William ordered their arrest, Robert and his companions took refuge with Hugh of Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais. Forced to flee again when King William attacked his base at Rémalard, Robert fled to Flanders, to the court of his uncle, Robert I of Flanders, then sacked the county of Norman Vexin and was received by Philip I, who, between 1077 and 1078, entrusted him with the fortress of Gerberoy, on the border between the French county of Beauvais and Normandy.

Relations did not improve when King William discovered that Robert's mother, Queen Matilda, was secretly sending money to her son. However, in 1079, the disobedient was besieged by his father, now an ally of Philip I, and in a battle in January 1079, Robert unseated King William in combat and managed to wound him, stopping his attack only when he recognized his father's voice. According to Louis Halphen, during a sortie led by Robert, his father was unseated, while his brother, William the Red was wounded and the Anglo-Norman army, put to flight. Humiliated, King William, upon Robert's promise of submission lifted the siege and returned to Rouen, with a pledge to leave Normandy to him upon his death. Eventually, Robert submitted to his father's authority, and at Easter 1080 father and son were reconciled and Robert returned to his father's court. The truce lasted only three years. In 1083 Matilda died, and Robert the Short left his father's court forever. Supported by Philip I of France, Robert stimulated Norman baronial opposition, which lasted through 1084, forcing his father to harsh retaliation against France . Robert seems to have spent several years after that date traveling through France, Germany and Flanders. He also visited Italy (William of Malmesbury wrote: went indignantly to Italy), seeking the hand of Matilda of Canossa or Tuscany, but without success.

Duke of Normandy

In 1087 William on his deathbed acknowledged that the Duchy of Normandy should be given to Robert the Short, despite his disrespectful behavior; he also left written to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Kingdom of England should go to his third-born male son, William the Red (The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester with two continuations, confirms that Oddone, Bishop of Bayeux, William's half-brother, along with many others who had been imprisoned, was freed, by order of William the Conqueror, who arranged for his eldest son, Robert, to obtain the title of Duke of Normandy, while the kingdom of England went to his second son, William II the Red. This paternal arrangement of leaving the kingdom of England to his youngest son has Matthew of Paris saying in a side note that Robert lost his primogeniture, comparing him to Esau.

Robert, having returned from exile, took possession of the duchy, as Orderico Vitale recalls; soon after, he denounced William as a usurper, but came to an agreement with his brother to name each other heirs. This peace lasted less than a year, however. In fact, the division between England and Normandy presented a dilemma for those nobles who had estates on both sides of the English Channel. Since William the Red and Robert were natural rivals, the nobles could not hope to please both their lords, and thus ran the risk of losing favor with one or the other (or both). With the intention of once again uniting England and Normandy under one ruler; in 1088 they then revolted against William the Red, in favor of Robert, who was considered to be of weaker character than his brother William the Red and therefore better for the interests of the nobility. The revolt to give the English throne to Robert was spearheaded by the Earl of Kent, the powerful Bishop Odox of Bayeux, uncle of both William and Robert, as also confirmed in The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester with two continuations (London), released after five years of imprisonment.

Two parties had been formed, and William the Red, who had the support of the majority of the clergy, however, managed to rally the English (the natives who supplied the foot fighters) and defeat, during 1088, the rebellion, strong especially in Kent and Sussex, organized around Odo and his brother, Robert of Mortain, partly because Robert Cosciacorta or the Short, as always short of money did not show up in England to support his followers. Also according to The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester with two continuations (London), Odo, having fortified Rochester, had called for the intervention of his nephew, Robert, who, from Normandy, had sent a small body of armed men, promising to arrive as soon as possible to help Odo; but William II, with the help of Lanfranc, reacted and succeeded in getting the rioters before Robert's intervention. In that same year, Orderico Vitale informs us that Robert had to fight the rebellion of Goffredo son of Rotrone ("Goisfredus Rotronis Mauritaniæ comitis filius"), who claimed possession of two cities by hereditary right.

In 1090 William the Red invaded Normandy, crushing Robert's forces and forcing him to surrender the eastern part of the duchy. Then the two met in Caen, reconciled their differences, and William agreed to help Robert recover the Cotentin and Avranches, which Robert had sold to his younger brother, Henry Beauclerc. After they reconciled and laid siege to Mont Saint-Michel, where Henry Beauclerc had locked himself up, and after his surrender forced him into exile, which he could not return to England, until after 1095.

In 1094, William attacked central Normandy and tried to occupy Caen, but was driven out by King Philip I of France, who rushed to Robert's aid, charging him both in money and territorial concessions. Attacked on the momentum in eastern Normandy as well, William was only able to save himself by bribing Philip, who agreed to withdraw from the enterprise.

The First Crusade

According to William of Malmesbury, in 1096, Robert mortgaged the Duchy of Normandy to his brother William the Red for the sum of 10,000 marks in order to raise money to leave for the Holy Land on the First Crusade. Accompanied by his uncle Odo of Bayeux and Edgar Atheling, the last descendant of the House of Wessex and king of England for a few weeks before William the Conqueror, Robert began the transfer journey in the company of his cousin, Robert II Count of Flanders, with a retinue of English, Norman, Frankish and Flemish knights in September 1096. The Scottish professor, William B. Stevenson, calls Robert one of the main leaders of the First Crusade, for having a large retinue of Norman knights, although by temperament he was unfit for leadership.

According to Orderico Vitale, passing through Rome, the Crusaders led by Robert paid a visit to Pope Urban II, while William of Malmesbury narrates that they met the pope in Lucca and continued on to Rome. They continued on to Apulia, where Robert of Flanders embarked in December, to winter in Epirus, while, Robert II, Oddone and Edgar Atheling, with Robert II's brother-in-law Stephen II of Blois and the Count of Boulogne, Eustace, brother of Godfrey of Bouillon, wintered in Italy. While waiting to embark at Brindisi, they were guests of the Normans of the Duchy of Apulia the following spring, and it was during this stopover that Odox died suddenly in Palermo in February 1097 while visiting the Count of Sicily, Roger I.

Robert embarked at Brindisi on April 5, 1097, reached Constantinople, where he stayed for 15 days and proceeded to Nicaea, where, arriving on June 1, he participated in the siege of the city. Robert carried on the siege until the surrender of Nicaea on June 19 to the Greek contingent. The siege of Nicaea is described in detail by the canon and custodian of the church of Aachen, the chronicler of the First Crusade, Albert of Aachen.

Having fallen Nicaea, the army headed for Antioch in two groups spaced about two miles apart. On July 1, the first, smaller group, composed almost entirely of Normans, among whom in addition to Robert were Bohemond of Tarentum with his nephew Tancred and Robert II of Flanders, was attacked by the Turkish army and was surrounded, initiating the Battle of Dorylaeum. The Normans held out for nearly two hours until the other crusaders arrived and scored a clear victory over the Turkish army.

Robert participated in the siege of Antioch, where he took part in a number of battles to prevent aid from being brought to the besieged city, including the victory over Damascus troops on Dec. 31, 1097.

After the fall of Antioch (June 2, 1098), Robert, on Jan. 13, 1099, was one of the first to leave for Jerusalem, with Raymond IV of Saint Gilles and Tancred, then joined by Robert II of Flanders and Godfrey of Bouillon, slowly advanced toward Jerusalem, arriving in Jerusalem on June 7 and the city fell on July 15.

After taking part in the Battle of Ascalon in August, Robert, bereft of fiefs but laden with glory (according to William of Malmesbury Robert had refused the throne of Jerusalem), decided to leave the Holy Land and return to Normandy via Italy. In the winter of that year he arrived in Apulia, and in the spring of 1100, now approaching the age of fifty, he married the daughter of Goffredo, first Count of Conversano, Sibilla di Conversano, as William of Jumièges confirms, who, according to William of Malmesbury was exceptionally beautiful and brought him a substantial dowry, suitable for redeeming the duchy mortgaged to his brother William II. According to Orderico Vitale, Sibilla was the daughter of Goffredo first Count of Conversano, Lord of Montepeloso, Brindisi, Monopoli, Nardò and Matera and of Sichelgaita of Molise, daughter of Rodolfo Count of Molise and a Lombard princess.

Still only Duke of Normandy

When William died on August 2, 1100, Robert was supposed to inherit the English throne, but he was still in Apulia, where he had married, and would not arrive in Normandy until September. His younger brother Henry was then able to take possession of the English crown. On his return, Robert found that the earldom of Maine, after the death of William II the Red had been occupied by Elias de la Fleche, with the support of Fold IV the Rissoso, but he did nothing to regain it.

Robert took as his trusted adviser Rainulfo Flambard, who had already been a trusted adviser to his father and his brother William the Red, but, by Henry I, had been put in prison, from which he had escaped. Pressed by Flambard, who had foreseen a favorable situation for him with a party ready to support him, Robert prepared an invasion of England to wrest the crown from his brother Henry. In the summer of 1101, in August, Robert landed at Portsmouth with his army, but the lack of popular support among the English allowed Henry to resist the invasion. Robert was forced through diplomacy to renounce his claims to the English throne by the Treaty of Alton, July 1101. In return Robert obtained from Henry the renunciation of the Cotentin peninsula and a pension of 3,000 marks a year and the return of English possessions to his ally the Count of Boulogne, Eustace.

William Cliton, the heir to the Duchy of Normandy, was born on October 25, 1102, but his wife Sibyl died a few months after giving birth, of illness, according to William of Malmesbury, of poison, according to Ordericus Vitale. Ordericus Vitale again claims that theI riots that followed Sibyl's death prevented Robert from marrying Agnes Giffard, who herself was a widow and was suspected of being the poisoner.

In 1104, however, Robert's continued discord with his brother in England prompted Henry to invade Normandy to put an end to the continued abuse of his friends by Robert II of Bellême with the tacit consent of Duke Robert II. Henry I settled for the county of Évreux as reparation.

Orderico reports on an incident that occurred at Easter 1105, when Robert was expected to listen to a sermon by the venerable Serlo, Bishop of Sées. Robert spent the previous night with prostitutes and jesters, and while in bed trying to sober up, his unworthy friends stole his clothes. Robert awoke to find himself naked, and had to stay in bed missing the sermon.

The last years in captivity

Robert II of Bellême's bullying continued and, in 1105, together with William of Mortain, attacked the Cotentin where some of Henry I's allies resided.The relationship between the two brothers deteriorated and, according to The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester with two continuations, Robert, in early 1106, traveled to England and met Henry in Northampton, where he demanded the return of all the possessions he had taken in Normandy; having obtained a sharp refusal from Henry I, Robert was seized with great anger and returned to Normandy. Henry then led another expedition across the English Channel, and, after a few victories, burned Bayeux and occupied Caen, and then proceeded to the county of Mortain, where William had barricaded himself, in the castle of Tinchebray, where the decisive clash between the two brothers, Henry and Robert II of Normandy took place. According to the Florentii Wigornensis Monachi Chronicon Henry had besieged Tinchebray Castle and the battle with Henry's victory occurred on September 29, 1106. Robert was captured (according to Orderico Vitale by the Breton contingent) along with William of Mortain, during the battle of Tinchebray, while Robert II of Bellême, managed to escape. Robert, recognizing his defeat, ordered Falaise and Rouen to surrender and released all his vassals from their oath of allegiance

Robert was stripped of the duchy of Normandy, with the approval of King Philip I of France, who declared him incapable of maintaining order and peace in his territory, and Henry I claimed Normandy as a possession of the English crown; a situation that persisted for nearly a century.

Robert II was sent to England. William of Jumièges claims that Henry I took Robert II, William and a few others with him and kept them in custody for their entire lives and again Orderico Vitale claims that his imprisonment consisted of not being able to leave the place of detention, but otherwise could be considered gilded (supplied with luxuries of every kind).Initially he was detained in the Tower of London, then at Devizes Castle and finally at Cardiff Castle.

Louis VI, who succeeded Philip in 1108, for more than once over the years accused Henry I of holding his subject Robert II Duke of Normandy captive and asked him to free him, but Robert died in 1134 still imprisoned in Cardiff Castle. Both the Florentii Wigornensis Monachi Chronicon, Continuatio and The Chronicles of Florence of Worcester with two continuations, and also the chronicler, prior of Bec Abbey and sixteenth abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel, Robert of Torigny, confirm to us that Robert, brother of the king (Henry I) and holder of the duchy of Normandy, who had been in captivity for many years, died in Cardiff, in 1134, was translated to Gloucester and was buried in the floor of the church of that city. Robert was buried in St. Peter's Abbey Church in Gloucester, where an elaborate tomb was later placed. The church later became the city's cathedral.

The Duchy of Normandy remained in the hands of Henry I as all of Robert's sons, legitimate and illegitimate, had predeceased their father.

By Sybil Robert had two children:

Robert also had several illegitimate children by different women:


  1. Robert Curthose
  2. Roberto II di Normandia
  3. ^ a b c (LA) Matthæi Parisiensis, monachi Sancti Albani, Historia Anglorum, vol. I, anno 1086, pagina 30
  4. ^ a b c (LA) Historia Ecclesiastica, vol. III, liber VIII, cap. I, pag. 256
  5. Заборов М. А. Крестоносцы на Востоке. — Наука, 1980. — С. 57. Архивировано 24 декабря 2021 года.
  6. Дженкинс С. Краткая история Англии // Потомки Вильгельма Завоевателя (1087—1154 гг.). — М.: Колибри, Азбука-Аттикус, 2015. — ISBN 9785389103900. Архивировано 24 декабря 2021 года.
  7. Эмили М. Роуз. Убийство Уильяма Норвичского: Происхождение кровавого навета в средневековой Европе. — М.: Новое Литературное Обозрение, 2021. — ISBN 9785444814604. Архивировано 24 декабря 2021 года.
  8. William of Malmesbury. Gesta Regum Anglorum.
  9. Selon les mots d'Orderic Vital, Robert avait « la figure pleine, le corps gras, et la taille petite : ce qui l'avait fait surnommé Courte Botte ». Vital 1825, p. 286, tome 2, livre IV.
  10. Pour le chroniqueur Orderic Vital, alors que le duc et ses trois fils logent dans une maison, les deux plus jeunes s'amusent aux dés, font grand bruit et, de l'étage, déversent de l'eau sur Robert et ses amis. Furieux, Robert s'apprête à corriger ses frères mais le duc intervient pour freiner sa fureur. Le lendemain, Robert quitte en secret l'armée ducale, tente en vain de s'emparer du château de Rouen puis avec quelques compagnons s'exile de Normandie. Vital 1825, p. 286-288.
  11. Odon de Bayeux préfère partir pour Palerme à la cour de Roger de Sicile. Il y meurt le 6 janvier 1097.
  12. Dans les années 1120, Guillaume de Malmesbury raconte notamment que Robert reçut la couronne de Jérusalem mais qu'il déclina l'offre, qu'il vainquit et tua en un combat singulier le chef sarrasin Kerbogha, atabeg de Mossoul, peu après la prise d'Antioche par les Croisés. (la) Guillaume de Malmesbury et W. Stubbs (dir.), Gesta Regum Anglorum, Londres, Rolls Series, 1889-1889, p. II, 460 et I, 702-703.
  13. Parmi lesquels Robert II de Bellême, Guillaume II de Warenne, Gautier II Giffard, Yves de Grandmesnil. Orderic Vital explique que ces Grands redoutaient « la magnanimité du roi Henri » et préférait « la mollesse du lâche duc Robert ». Vital 1825, p. 83, livre X, tome 4.
  14. ^ "Soon after the birth of her (Sibyl's) only child, William the Clito, she died at Rouen, and was buried, amid universal sorrow, in the cathedral church, Archbishop of William Bonne-Ame performing the obsequies."[20]
  15. ^ Like his uncles Richard, who died earlier, and William Rufus, who died later in the same year.

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