Robert of Gloucester
Robert Fitzroy, first Earl of Gloucester, was the illegitimate son of King Henry I of England. As the half-brother of Empress Matilda “Maud” Beaclerc, he swore allegiance to the Empress and supported her claim to the English throne by leading the civil war against King Stephen in 1135. Robert of Gloucester is noted by many historians as a man of admirable wisdom and outstanding military talent but his publicly recognised illegitimacy prevented any substantial claim to the throne.
Robert was given the title of Earl of Gloucester after King Henry lost his son William in the White Ship Disaster in 1120 and began to panic over his legacy. After Stephen’s seizure of the crown in 1135, Robert initially swore fealty to the new King but abandoned this in 1138 and led a civil war, on behalf of Matilda’s claim to the throne. Stephen attempted to crush Robert’s rebellion at Bristol but was unable to take the strongly defended castle and Robert’s forces successfully held on. With the tide turning many other rebellions were initiated against the King in the south of England.
Despite having no royal status as an illegitimate son of King Henry I, Robert succeeded in an arranged marriage to Mabel FitzRoy, Countess of Gloucester. Through his wife, Robert was then able to secure vast estates in England, Wales and Normandy and gain control of Bristol Castle: a military stronghold that proved crucial in his uprising against King Stephen.
Robert died in 1147 at Bristol Castle.