The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






White Ship

The White Ship, a 12th century vessel, sank in the English Channel near the Normandy coast off Barfleur , on November 25, 1120. Those drowned included William Adelin, the only unquestionably legitimate son of King Henry I of England. Only one sailor survived.

William of Malmesbury wrote: "Here also perished with William, Richard, another of the King's [Henry I] sons, whom a women of no rank had borne him, before his accession, a brave youth, and dear to his father from his obedience; Richard d'Avranches, 2nd Earl of Chester, and his brother Otheur; Geoffrey Ridel; Walter of Everci; Geoffrey, archdeacon of Hereford; [Matilda] the Countess of Perche, the king's daughter; the Countess of Chester; the king's niece [Lucia de Blois]; and many others..."

The cause of the shipwreck remains unclear. Various stories surrounding its loss feature a drinking binge by the crew and passengers and mention that priests were not allowed on board to bless the ship in the customary manner. However, the Channel has often proven a notoriously treacherous stretch of water.

Stephen of Blois, King Henry's nephew, had allegedly disembarked just before the ship sailed. If so, his action appears ironic, since, as a direct result of William's death, Stephen would later usurp the English throne, resulting in the period known as the Anarchy.


  • Victoria Chandler, "The Wreck of the 'White Ship'", in The final argument : the imprint of violence on society in medieval and early modern Europe, edited by Donald J. Kagay and L.J. Andrew Villalon (1998)
Last updated: 05-07-2005 04:58:57
Last updated: 08-17-2005 23:46:22