By John le Patourel
English Historical Review, Vol.86 (1971)
Introduction: It is well known that as William the Conqueror lay dying in a suburb of Rouen during the early autumn of 1087 he divided his inheritance among his three sons. He ‘allowed’ (as this is generally expressed) his eldest son, Robert Curthose, to have Normandy (Maine is rarely mentioned in this connection, but Robert was already count in title and now became count in substance); he gave England to his second surviving son William Rufus; and to his youngest son Henry Beauclerc he assigned a large sum of money with which Henry might be expected to buy himself a landed estate appropriate to his rank, as in due course he did.
This partition has not given rise to as much comment among historians as might have been expected. Some, indeed, have been content simply to describe what happened, implying that there was nothing very remarkable about it ; and even such explanations as have been offered do not seem to treat the matter as though it presented any very great difficulty. It has been suggested, for example, that Robert had a special right to Normandy because, as almost all the chroniclers say, Normandy had been promised to him, that is, he had been designated as its future duke. So far as it goes, this is a Normandy it does not, in itself, explain why Rufus should have had England.