To what extent were families important participants in the statecraft of Henry I? Their political influence, or clout, can best be measured by an examination of the rewards that the king bestowed upon their members for good service. Royal patronage could range from appointments to lucrative offices and marriages to heiresses to monetary gifts, pardoned debts, and exemptions from danegeld, auxilium burgi, and the murdum fine. Analysis of the Pipe Roll of 1130, the only surviving record of Henry's income and expenses, indicates that nearly seven hundred individuals received favors from the king in that account. The focus of this study shifts to royal patronage of the family groups to which these favored individuals belonged. Considered within the context of their domus, they form fifty-three fiscally-favored families and constitute the statistical sample upon which this analysis is based.
This study fits into the prosopographical framework envisioned by Timothy Reuter for the Anglo-Norman aristocracy and described by George Beech. The Pipe Roll of 1130, a document of impressive detail and accuracy, illustrates which families were powerful and in the king's good graces and is a rich source of familial activity. It provides a glimpse not only of the financial and political activities of great magnates such as Ranulf earl of Chester and Waleran count of Meulan, but of the endeavors of families of modest origins and moderate status as well. Furthermore, the Pipe Roll suggests that political service and its consequent rewards were not confined to a “closed group,” but that the power structure could include families of varied means.
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