Nightmares of Henry I


At the time of his coronation, King Henry I of England (r. 1100–35) promised to maintain good laws and to abolish all injustices throughout his kingdom. But Henry failed to keep his pledge, and in 1130, according to the chronicler John of Worcester (1095–1140), he suffered a series of nightmares in which he was tormented successively by peasants, knights and clerics. Each group harangued King Henry in turn, the peasants threatening him with their scythes and spades, the knights brandishing their swords, and the bishops and abbots clutching their croziers. On awakening, Henry vowed to redeem his sins; soon afterwards, when caught in a storm at sea, he made a promise not to collect the Danish tax for seven years and always to preserve justice. This passage is illustrated by four miniatures in John’s own manuscript of his Chronicle, depicting each episode of the nightmares and the ensuing storm.

Full title:
Nightmares of Henry I
Manuscript / Illustration
© By permission of the President and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Held by
Corpus Christi Oxford
Corpus Christi Oxford MS 157

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