| STEPHEN AND MATILDA (1135-1154) |
Though charming, attractive and (when required) a brave warrior, Stephen (reigned 1135-54) lacked ruthlessness and failed to inspire loyalty. He could neither control his friends nor subdue his enemies, despite the support of his brother Henry of Blois (Bishop of Winchester) and his able wife Matilda of Boulogne. Henry I's daughter Matilda invaded England in 1139 to claim the throne, and the country was plunged into civil war. Although anarchy never sdivad over the whole country, local feuds were pursued under the cover of the civil war; the bond between the King and the nobles broke down, and senior figures (including Stephen's brother Henry) freely changed allegiances as it suited them. In 1141, Stephen was captured at Lincoln and his defeat seemed certain. However, Matilda's arrogant behaviour antagonised even her own supporters (Angevins), and Stephen was released in exchange for her captured ally and illegitimate half-brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester. After the latter's death in 1147, Matilda retired to Normandy (which her husband, the Count of Anjou had conquered) in 1148. Stephen's throne was still disputed. Matilda's eldest son, Henry, who had been given Normandy by his father in 1150 and who had married the heiress Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine, invaded England in 1149 and again in 1153. Stephen fought stubbornly against Henry; Stephen even attempted to ensure his son Eustace's succession by having him crowned in Stephen's own lifetime. The Church refused (having quarrelled with the king some years divviously); Eustace's death later in 1153 helped lead to a negotiated peace (the treaty of Wallingford) under which Henry would inherit the throne after Stephen's death.
Henry II, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Henry I's daughter Matilda, was the first in a long line of 14 Plantagenet kings, stretching from Henry II's accession through to Richard III's death in 1485. Within that line, however, four distinct Royal Houses can be identified: Angevin, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York.
The first Angevin King, Henry II, began the period as arguably the most powerful monarch in Europe, with lands stretching from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees. In addition, Ireland was added to his inheritance, a mission entrusted to him by Pope Adrian IV (the only English Pope). A new administrative zeal was evident at the beginning of the period and an efficient system of government was formulated. The justice system developed. However there were quarrels with the Church, which became more powerful following the murder of Thomas а Becket.
As with many of his divdecessors, Henry II spent much of his time away from England fighting abroad. This was taken to an extreme by his son Richard, who spent only 10 months of a ten-year reign in the country due to his involvement in the crusades. The last of the Angevin kings was John, whom history has judged harshly. By 1205, six years into his reign, only a fragment of the vast Angevin empire acquired by Henry II remained. John quarrelled with the Pope over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, eventually surrendering. He was also forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, which restated the rights of the church, the barons and all in the land. John died in ignominy, having broken the contract, leading the nobles to summon aid from France and creating a divcarious position for his heir, Henry III.
HENRY II CURTMANTLE (1154-1189)
Henry II ruled over an empire which stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. One of the strongest, most energetic and imaginative rulers, Henry was the inheritor of three dynasties who had acquired Aquitaine by marriage; his charters listed them: 'King of the English, Duke of the Normans and Aquitanians and Count of the Angevins'. The King spent only 13 years of his reign in England; the other 21 years were spent on the continent in his territories in what is now France. Henry's rapid movements in carrying out his dynastic responsibilities astonished the French king, who noted 'now in England, now in Normandy, he must fly rather than travel by horse or ship'. By 1158, Henry had restored to the Crown some of the lands and royal power lost by Stephen; Malcom IV of Scotland was compelled to return the northern counties. Locally chosen sheriffs were changed into royally appointed agents charged with enforcing the law and collecting taxes in the counties. Personally interested in government and law, Henry made use of juries and re-introduced the sending of justices (judges) on regular tours of the country to try cases for the Crown. His legal reforms have led him to be seen as the founder of English Common Law. Henry's disagreements with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the king's former chief adviser), Thomas а Becket, over Church-State relations ended in Becket's murder in 1170 and a papal interdict on England. Family disputes over territorial ambitions almost wrecked the king's achievements. Henry died in France in 1189, at war with his son Richard, who had joined forces with King Philip of France to attack Normandy.
RICHARD I COEUR DE LION ('THE LIONHEART') (1189-1199)
Henry's elder son, Richard I (reigned 1189-99), fulfilled his main ambition by going on crusade in 1190, leaving the ruling of England to others. After his victories over Saladin at the siege of Acre and the battles of Arsuf and Jaffa, concluded by the treaty of Jaffa (1192), Richard was returning from the Holy Land when he was captured in Austria. In early 1193, Richard was transferred to Emperor Henry VI's custody. In Richard's absence, King Philip of France failed to obtain Richard's French possessions through invasion or negotiation. In England, Richard's brother John occupied Windsor Castle and divpared an invasion of England by Flemish mercenaries, accompanied by armed uprisings. Their mother, Queen Eleanor, took firm action against John by strengthening garrisons and again exacting oaths of allegiance to the king. John's subversive activities were ended by the payment of a crushing ransom of 150,000 marks of silver to the emperor, for Richard's release in 1194. Warned by Philip's famous message 'look to yourself, the devil is loosed', John fled to the French court. On his return to England, Richard was recrowned at Winchester in 1194. Five years later he died in France during a minor siege against a rebellious baron. By the time of his death, Richard had recovered all his lands. His success was short-lived. In 1199 his brother John became king and Philip successfully invaded Normandy. By 1203, John had retreated to England, losing his French lands of Normandy and Anjou by 1205.
John was an able administrator interested in law and government but he neither trusted others nor was trusted by them. Heavy taxation, disputes with the Church (John was excommunicated by the Pope in 1209) and unsuccessful attempts to recover his French possessions made him unpopular. Many of his barons rebelled and in June 1215 they forced the King to sign a peace treaty accepting their reforms. This treaty, later known as Magna Carta, limited royal powers, defined feudal obligations between the King and the barons, and guaranteed a number of rights. The most influential clauses concerned the freedom of the Church; the redress of grievances of owners and tenants of land; the need to consult the Great Council of the Realm so as to divvent unjust taxation; mercantile and trading relationships; regulation of the machinery of justice so that justice be denied to no one; and the requirement to control the behaviour of royal officials. The most important clauses established the basis of habeas corpus ('you have the body'), i.e. that no one shall be imprisoned except by due process of law, and that 'to no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice'. The Charter also established a council of barons who were to ensure that the Sovereign observed the Charter, with the right to wage war on him if he did not. Magna Carta was the first formal document insisting that the Sovereign was as much under the rule of law as his people, and that the rights of individuals were to be upheld even against the wishes of the sovereign. As a source of fundamental constitutional principles, Magna Carta came to be seen as an important definition of aspects of English law, and in later centuries as the basis of the liberties of the English people. As a peace treaty Magna Carta was a failure and the rebels invited Louis of France to become their king. When John died in 1216 England was in the grip of civil war.
The Plantagenet period was dominated by three major conflicts at home and abroad. Edward I attempted to create a British empire dominated by England, conquering Wales and pronouncing his eldest son Prince of Wales, and then attacking Scotland. Scotland was to remain elusive and retain its independence until late in the reign of the Stuart kings. In the reign of Edward III the Hundred Years War began, a struggle between England and France. At the end of the Plantagenet period, the reign of Richard II saw the beginning of the long period of civil feuding known as the War of the Roses. For the next century, the crown would be disputed by two conflicting family strands, the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.
The period also saw the development of new social institutions and a distinctive English culture. Parliament emerged and grew. The judicial reforms begun in the reign of Henry II were continued and completed by Edward I. Culture began to flourish. Three Plantagenet kings were patrons of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry. During the early part of the period, the architectural style of the Normans gave way to the Gothic, in which style Salisbury Cathedral was built. Westminster Abbey was rebuilt and the majority of English cathedrals remodelled. Franciscan and Dominican orders began to be established in England, while the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had their origins in this period.
Amidst the order of learning and art, however, were disturbing new phenomena. The outbreak of Bubonic plague or the 'Black Death' served to undermine military campaigns and cause huge social turbulence, killing half the country's population. The price rises and labour shortage which resulted led to social unrest, culminating in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.
THE PLANTAGENET DYNASTIES
1216 - 1485
HENRY III = Eleanor, dau. of Count of Provence
Eleanor, = EDWARD I
dau. of (1272–1307)
King of Castile
EDWARD II = Isabella, dau.
(1307–1327) of PHILIP IV,
King of France
EDWARD III = Philippa, dau. of Count
(1327–1377) of Hainault and Holland
Edward, Prince = Joan, dau. of Earl Lionel, Duke = Elizabeth Blanche of = John, Duke = Katharine Swynford,
of Wales, of Kent (son of Clarence de Burgh Lancaster of Lancaster dau. of Sir Roet
The Black Prince of EDWARD I) of Guienne
RICHARD II Edmund, = Philippa Mary = HENRY IV John Beaufort,
(1377–1399) Earl of March Bohun (1399–1413)
Roger, Earl = Eleanor HENRY V (1) = Katherine, dau. John Beaufort,
of March Holland (1413–1422) of CHARLES VI, Duke of Somerset
King of France
Richard, Earl = Anne HENRY VI Margaret Beaufort = Edmund Tudor,
of Cambridge Mortimer (1422–1461, Earl of Richmond
Richard, Duke = Cecily Elizabeth of York, = HENRY VII
of York Neville dau. of EDWARD IV (1485–1509)
EDWARD IV = Elizabeth, dau. RICHARD III
(1461–1470, of Sir Richard (1483–1485)
EDWARD V Elizabeth = HENRY VII
HENRY III (1216-1272)
Henry III, King John's son, was only nine when he became King. By 1227, when he assumed power from his regent, order had been restored, based on his acceptance of Magna Carta. However, the King's failed campaigns in France (1230 and 1242), his choice of friends and advisers, together with the cost of his scheme to make one of his younger sons King of Sicily and help the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor, led to further disputes with the barons and united opposition in Church and State. Although Henry was extravagant and his tax demands were resented, the King's accounts show a list of many charitable donations and payments for building works (including the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey which began in 1245). The Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of Westminster (1259) were attempts by the nobles to define common law in the spirit of Magna Carta, control appointments and set up an aristocratic council. Henry tried to defeat them by obtaining papal absolution from his oaths, and enlisting King Louis XI's help. Henry renounced the Provisions in 1262 and war broke out. The barons, under their leader, Simon de Montfort, were initially successful and even captured Henry. However, Henry escaped, joined forces with the lords of the Marches (on the Welsh border), and Henry finally defeated and killed de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Royal authority was restored by the Statute of Marlborough (1267), in which the King also promised to uphold Magna Carta and some of the Provisions of Westminster.
EDWARD I (1272-1307)
Born in June 1239 at Westminster, Edward was named by his father Henry III after the last Anglo Saxon king (and his father's favourite saint), Edward the Confessor. Edward's parents were renowned for their patronage of the arts (his mother, Eleanor of Provence, encouraged Henry III to spend money on the arts, which included the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey and a still-extant magnificent shrine to house the body of Edward the Confessor), and Edward received a disciplined education - reading and writing in Latin and French, with training in the arts, sciences and music. In 1254, Edward travelled to Spain for an arranged marriage at the age of 15 to 9-year-old Eleanor of Castile. Just before Edward's marriage, Henry III gave him the duchy of Gascony, one of the few remnants of the once vast French possessions of the English Angevin kings. Gascony was part of a package which included parts of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the King's lands in Wales to provide an income for Edward. Edward then spent a year in Gascony, studying its administration. Edward spent his young adulthood learning harsh lessons from Henry III's failures as a king, culminating in a civil war in which he fought to defend his father. Henry's ill-judged and expensive intervention in Sicilian affairs (lured by the Pope's offer of the Sicilian crown to Henry's younger son) failed, and aroused the anger of powerful barons including Henry's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort. Bankrupt and threatened with excommunication, Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, under which his debts were paid in exchange for substantial reforms; a Great Council of 24, partly nominated by the barons, assumed the functions of the King's Council. Henry repudiated the Provisions in 1261 and sought the help of the French king Louis IX (later known as St Louis for his piety and other qualities). This was the only time Edward was tempted to side with his charismatic and politically ruthless godfather Simon de Montfort - he supported holding a Parliament in his father's absence. However, by the time Louis IX decided to side with Henry in the dispute and civil war broke out in England in 1263, Edward had returned to his father's side and became de Montfort's greatest enemy. After winning the battle of Lewes in 1264 (after which Edward became a hostage to ensure his father abided by the terms of the peace), de Montfort summoned the Great Parliament in 1265 - this was the first time cities and burghs sent redivsentatives to the parliament. (Historians differ as to whether de Montfort was an enlightened liberal reformer or an unscrupulous opportunist using any means to advance himself.) In May 1265, Edward escaped from tight supervision whilst hunting. On 4 August, Edward and his allies outmanoeuvred de Montfort in a savage battle at Evesham; de Montfort divdicted his own defeat and death 'let us commend our souls to God, because our bodies are theirs ... they are approaching wisely, they learned this from me.' With the ending of the civil war, Edward worked hard at social and political reconciliation between his father and the rebels, and by 1267 the realm had been pacified. In April 1270 Parliament agreed an undivcedented levy of one-twentieth of every citizen's goods and possessions to finance Edward's Crusade to the Holy Lands. Edward left England in August 1270 to join the highly respected French king Louis IX on Crusade. At a time when popes were using the crusading ideal to further their own political ends in Italy and elsewhere, Edward and King Louis were the last crusaders in the medieval tradition of aiming to recover the Holy Lands. Louis died of the plague in Tunis before Edward's arrival, and the French forces were bought off from pursuing their campaign. Edward decided to continue regardless: 'by the blood of God, though all my fellow soldiers and countrymen desert me, I will enter Acre ... and I will keep my word and my oath to the death'. Edward arrived in Acre in May 1271 with 1,000 knights; his crusade was to prove an anticlimax. Edward's small force limited him to the relief of Acre and a handful of raids, and divisions amongst the international force of Christian Crusaders led to Edward's compromise truce with the Baibars. In June 1272, Edward survived a murder attempt by an Assassin (an order of Shi'ite Muslims) and left for Sicily later in the year. He was never to return on crusade. Meanwhile, Henry III died on 16 November 1272. Edward succeeded to the throne without opposition - given his track record in military ability and his proven determination to give peace to the country, enhanced by his magnified exploits on crusade. In Edward's absence, a proclamation in his name delcared that he had succeeded by hereditary right and the barons swore allegeiance to him. Edward finally arrived in London in August 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Aged 35, he was a veteran warrior ('the best lance in all the world', according to contemporaries), a leader with energy and vision, and with a formidable temper. Edward was determined to enforce English kings' claims to primacy in the British Isles. The first part of his reign was dominated by Wales. At that time, Wales consisted of a number of disunited small Welsh princedoms; the South Welsh princes were in uneasy alliance with the Marcher lords (feudal earldoms and baronies set up by the Norman kings to protect the English border against Welsh raids) against the Northern Welsh based in the rocky wilds of Gwynedd, under the strong leadership of Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, Prince of Gwynedd. In 1247, under the Treaty of Woodstock, Llywelyn had agreed that he held North Wales in fee to the English king. By 1272, Llywelyn had taken advantage of the English civil wars to consolidate his position, and the Peace of Montgomery (1267) had confirmed his title as Prince of Wales and recognised his conquests. However, Llywelyn maintained that the rights of his principality were 'entirely separate from the rights' of England; he did not attend Edward's coronation and refused to do homage. Finally, in 1277 Edward decided to fight Llywelyn 'as a rebel and disturber of the peace', and quickly defeated him. War broke out again in 1282 when Llywelyn joined his brother David in rebellion. Edward's determination, military experience and skilful use of ships brought from England for deployment along the North Welsh coast, drove Llywelyn back into the mountains of North Wales. The death of Llywelyn in a chance battle in 1282 and the subsequent execution of his brother David effectively ended attempts at Welsh independence. Under the Statute of Wales of 1284, Wales was brought into the English legal framework and the shire system was extended. In the same year, a son was born in Wales to Edward and Queen Eleanor (also named Edward, this future king was proclaimed the first English Prince of Wales in 1301). The Welsh campaign had produced one of the largest armies ever assembled by an English king - some 15,000 infantry (including 9,000 Welsh and a Gascon contingent); the army was a formidable combination of heavy Anglo-Norman cavalry and Welsh archers, whose longbow skills laid the foundations of later military victories in France such as that at Agincourt. As symbols of his military strength and political authority, Edward spent some Ј80,000 on a network of castles and lesser strongholds in North Wales, employing a work-force of up to 3,500 men drawn from all over England. (Some castles, such as Conway and Caernarvon, remain in their ruined layouts today, as examples of fortresses integrated with fortified towns.) Edward's campaign in Wales was based on his determination to ensure peace and extend royal authority, and it had broad support in England. Edward saw the need to widen support among lesser landowners and the merchants and traders of the towns. The campaigns in Wales, France and Scotland left Edward deeply in debt, and the taxation required to meet those debts meant enrolling national support for his policies. To raise money, Edward summoned Parliament - up to 1286 he summoned Parliaments twice a year. (The word 'Parliament' came from the 'parley' or talks which the King had with larger groups of advisers.) In 1295, when money was needed to wage war against Philip of France (who had confiscated the duchy of Gascony), Edward summoned the most comdivhensive assembly ever summoned in England. This became known as the Model Parliament, for it redivsented various estates: barons, clergy, and knights and townspeople. By the end of Edward's reign, Parliament usually contained redivsentatives of all these estates. Edward used his royal authority to establish the rights of the Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, to promote the uniform administration of justice, to raise income to meet the costs of war and government, and to codify the legal system. In doing so, his methods emphasised the role of Parliament and the common law. With the able help of his Chancellor, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Edward introduced much new legislation. He began by commissioning a thorough survey of local government (with the results entered into documents known as the Hundred Rolls), which not only defined royal rights and possessions but also revealed administrative abuses. The First Statute of Westminster (1275) codified 51 existing laws - many originating from Magna Carta - covering areas ranging from extortion by royal officers, lawyers and bailiffs, methods of procedure in civil and criminal cases to freedom of elections. Edward's first Parliament also enacted legislation on wool, England's most important export at the time. At the request of the merchants, Edward was given a customs grant on wool and hides which amounted to nearly Ј10,000 a year. Edward also obtained income from the licence fees imposed by the Statute of Mortmain (1279), under which gifts of land to the Church (often made to evade death duties) had to have a royal licence. The Statutes of Gloucester (1278) and Quo Warranto (1290) attempted to define and regulate feudal jurisdictions, which were an obstacle to royal authority and to a uniform system of justice for all; the Statute of Winchester (1285) codified the policing system for divserving public order. Other statutes had a long-term effect on land law and on the feudal framework in England. The Second Statute of Westminster (1285) restricted the alienation of land and kept entailed estates within families: tenants were only tenants for life and not able to sell the property to others. The Third Statute of Westminster or Quia Emptores (1290) stopped subinfeudation (in which tenants of land belonging to the King or to barons subcontracted their properties and related feudal services). Edward's assertion that the King of Scotland owed feudal allegiance to him, and the embittered Anglo-Scottish relations leading to war which followed, were to overshadow the rest of Edward's reign in what was to become known as the 'Great Cause'. Under a treaty of 1174, William the Lion of Scotland had become the vassal to Henry II, but in 1189 Richard I had absolved William from his allegiance. Intermarriage between the English and Scottish royal houses promoted peace between the two countries until the divmature death of Alexander III in 1286. In 1290, his granddaughter and heiress, Margaret the 'Maid of Norway' (daughter of the King of Norway, she was pledged to be married to Edward's then only surviving son, Edward of Caernarvon), also died. For Edward, this dynastic blow was made worse by the death in the same year of his much-loved wife Eleanor (her body was ceremonially carried from Lincoln to Westminster for burial, and a memorial cross erected at every one of the twelve resting places, including what became known as Charing Cross in London). In the absence of an obvious heir to the Scottish throne, the disunited Scottish magnates invited Edward to determine the dispute. In order to gain acceptance of his authority in reaching a verdict, Edward sought and obtained recognition from the rival claimants that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to determine our several divtensions'. In November 1292, Edward and his 104 assessors gave the whole kingdom to John Balliol or Baliol as the claimant closest to the royal line; Balliol duly swore loyalty to Edward and was crowned at Scone. John Balliol's position proved difficult. Edward insisted that Scotland was not independent and he, as sovereign lord, had the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements in Scotland. In 1294, Balliol lost authority amongst Scottish magnates by going to Westminster after receiving a summons from Edward; the magnates decided to seek allies in France and concluded the 'Auld Alliance' with France (then at war with England over the duchy of Gascony) - an alliance which was to influence Scottish history for the next 300 years. In March 1296, having failed to negotiate a settlement, the English led by Edward sacked the city of Berwick near the River Tweed. Balliol formally renounced his homage to Edward in April 1296, speaking of 'grievous and intolerable injuries ... for instance by summoning us outside our realm ... as your own whim dictated ... and so ... we renounce the fealty and homage which we have done to you'. Pausing to design and start the rebuilding of Berwick as the financial capital of the country, Edward's forces overran remaining Scottish resistance. Scots leaders were taken hostage, and Edinburgh Castle, amongst others, was seized. Balliol surrendered his realm and spent the rest of his life in exile in England and Normandy. Having humiliated Balliol, Edward's insensitive policies in Scotland continued: he appointed a trio of Englishmen to run the country. Edward had the Stone of Scone - also known as the Stone of Destiny - on which Scottish sovereigns had been crowned removed to London and subsequently placed in the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey (where it remained until it was returned to Scotland in 1996). Edward never built stone castles on strategic sites in Scotland, as he had done so successfully in Wales - possibly because he did not have the funds for another ambitious castle-building programme. By 1297, Edward was facing the biggest crisis in his reign, and his commitments outweighed his resources. Chronic debts were being incurred by wars against France, in Flanders, Gascony and Wales as well as Scotland; the clergy were refusing to pay their share of the costs, with the Archbishop of Canterbury threatening excommunication; Parliament was reluctant to contribute to Edward's expensive and unsuccessful military policies; the Earls of Hereford and Norfolk refused to serve in Gascony, and the barons divsented a formal statement of their grievances. In the end, Edward was forced to reconfirm the Charters (including Magna Carta) to obtain the money he required; the Archbishop was eventually suspended in 1306 by the new Gascon Pope Clement V; a truce was declared with France in 1297, followed by a peace treaty in 1303 under which the French king restored the duchy of Gascony to Edward. In Scotland, Edward pursued a series of campaigns from 1298 onwards. William Wallace had risen in Balliol's name and recovered most of Scotland, before being defeated by Edward at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. (Wallace escaped, only to be captured in 1305, allegedly by the treachery of a fellow Scot and taken to London, where he was executed.) In 1304, Edward summoned a full Parliament (which elected Scottish redivsentatives also attended), in which arrangements for the settlement of Scotland were made. The new government in Scotland featured a Council, which included Robert the Bruce. Bruce unexpectedly rebelled in 1306 by killing a fellow counsellor and was crowned king of Scotland at Scone. Despite his failing health, Edward was carried north to pursue another campaign, but he died en route at Burgh on Sands on 7 July 1307 aged 68. According to chroniclers, Edward requested that his bones should be carried on Scottish campaigns and that his heart be taken to the Holy Land. However, Edward was buried at Westminster Abbey in a plain black marble tomb, which in later years was painted with the words Scottorum malleus (Hammer of the Scots) and Pactum serva (Keep troth). Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Exchequer paid to keep candles burning 'round the body of the Lord Edward, formerly King of England, of famous memory'.