Furthermore, although the family managed to remain in power for so long, this was not without kings being deposed, ransomed and imprisoned, or without sons plotting against their fathers for the throne and wives turning against their husbands.
The Plantagenets is an accessible book that tells the whole narrative of the dynasty, from the coronation of Henry, Count of Anjou, in 1145 to the fall of Yorkist Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. But in charting the fortunes of the family, the book explores not only military victories and defeats across Europe, on crusade and in the British Isles, but how England and its neighbours changed during that time - how the authority of Parliament increased, how laws were reformed, how royal authority could struggle with that of the Roman Catholic Church, how the Black Death affected England, and how universities were founded and cathedrals built.
Illustrated with more than 200 colour and black-and-white photographs, maps and artworks, The Plantagenets is an expertly written account of a people who have long captured the popular imagination.
- Paperback | 224 pages
- 186 x 244 x 18mm | 594g
- 14 Aug 2022
- Amber Books Ltd
- London, United Kingdom
- 200 photos and artworks; 200 Illustrations, unspecified
Other books in this series
14 Aug 2022
Table of contents
The origins of the Plantagenets in Anjou, France.
HENRY II (r. 1154-89) and ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE
Henry's mother, Empress Matilda, was the oldest daughter of Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy, his father was Geoffrey of Anjou. During the early years of Henry II's reign the young king restored the royal administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales and gained full control over his lands in Anjou. But his desire to reform the Church led to conflict with his former friend Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This controversy resulted in Becket's murder in 1170. He suffered revolt in 1173-74 by three of his sons, including his heir Henry and future king Richard, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their rebel supporters. Henry managed to defeat the rebellion in France and England and his family swore allegiance to their father.
RICHARD I 'LIONHEART' (r. 1189-99)
Richard also ruled as Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Gascony, Lord of Cyprus, Count of Poitiers and Anjou, and Overlord of Brittany at various times during the same period. He led other monarchs on the Third Crusade, going into battle against Saladin. Returning from crusade, he was imprisoned by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, who accused him of arranging the murder of his cousin Conrad of Montferrat. The detention of a crusader was contrary to public law and Pope Celestine III excommunicated Duke Leopold. Richard was later handed over to Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, who held Richard to ransom. While Eleanor of Aquitaine raised taxes as a way to gather the money to pay the ransom, John, Richard's younger brother, offered Henry money to extend Richard's stay in prison. The offer was turned down, the ransom paid and Richard released. In his absence, John had revolted and helped Philip II of France claim Normandy. Richard was killed by an arrow fired by a boy when besieging a small French castle. Box: Three Lions - it is likely that Richard introduced the heraldry of Three Lions to England.
JOHN (r. 1199-1216)
Before coming to power, John attempted a rebellion against Richard's authority while Richard was absent on crusade. He lost the Duchy of Normandy to Philip II of France, resulting in the collapse of most of the Angevin Empire and contributing to the subsequent growth in power of the Capetian dynasty during the 13th century. The baronial revolt at the end of John's reign led to the sealing of Magna Carta, which in agreeing the limitations of power of the king over his nobles, is sometimes considered to be an early step in the evolution of the constitution of the United Kingdom. John was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III in 1209 and not accepted back until 1213. Box: The Legends of Robin Hood.
HENRY III (r. 1216-72)
Henry assumed the throne when he was only nine in the middle of the First Barons' War. He extracted huge sums of money from the Jews in England, ultimately crippling their ability to do business, and as attitudes towards the Jews hardened, he introduced the Statute of Jewry, attempting to segregate the already marginalised community completely. During the Second Barons' War Henry was captured. His son, the future Edward I, escaped, freed his father and defeated the rebels, led by Simon de Montfort. On Henry's death, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, which he had rebuilt during his reign.
EDWARD I (r. 1272-1307)
Edward responded to a second rebellion in Wales in 1282-83 with a full-scale war of conquest. After a successful campaign, he subjected Wales to English rule, built a series of castles and towns in the countryside and settled them with English people. Wars with Scotland. Having exploited Jews materially, in 1290 he expelled them from England. He established Parliament as a permanent institution and thereby also a functional system for raising taxes, and reforming the law through statutes.
EDWARD II (r.1307-27)
In 1308, Edward married Isabella of France, the daughter of King Philip IV, as part of a long-running effort to resolve the tensions between the two crowns. In 1312, a group of barons executed his favourite, Piers Gaveston, beginning several years of armed confrontation between Edward and the nobility. English forces were pushed back in Scotland, where Edward was defeated by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Widespread famine followed, and criticism of the King's reign mounted. When Isabella was sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty in 1325, she turned against Edward and refused to return. Isabella allied herself with the exiled Roger Mortimer, who became her lover, and invaded England with a small army in 1326. Edward's regime collapsed and he fled into Wales, where he was captured. Edward was forced to relinquish his crown in 1327 in favour of his 14-year-old son, Edward III, and he died in Berkeley Castle on 21 September, probably murdered on the orders of the new regime.
EDWARD III (r. 1327-77)
Edward is noted for his military success and for restoring royal authority after his father's reign. He transformed England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe. His reign of 50 years was the second longest in medieval England and saw developments in legislation and government - in particular the evolution of the English Parliament - as well as the ravages of the Black Death. Crowned at the age of 14, three years later he staged a successful coup against Roger Mortimer, the de facto ruler of the country. His claim to the French throne (through his mother's line) was denied in 1337, leading to military action - Hundred Years' War - a battle between the Plantagenets and the House of Valois for the throne of France. Some early victories - led by Edward's son Edward, the Black Prince at Crecy and Poitiers - were followed by later failures and domestic strife.
RICHARD II (1377-99)
Richard II, son of Edward, the Black Prince (who had predeceased his father), succeeded his grandfather Edward III at the age of ten. In 1381, he helped suppress the Peasants' Revolt. He also faced a struggle for authority over his aristocrats: in 1387, a group known as the Lords Appellant took over the government. Two years later, Richard regained control and worked with his former adversaries for some years until 1397 when he had many of them exiled or executed. The following two years have been described as Richard's tyranny. In 1399, after the death of his uncle, John of Gaunt, Richard disinherited Gaunt's son and Richard's cousin, Henry Bolingbroke. Already exiled, Bolingbroke invaded England, where support for him swelled and he deposed Richard.
Henry IV (1399-1413)
1399-1400 Epiphany Rising - an assassination plot where it was hoped to seize Henry at a tournament, kill him and restore Richard II, but an informer alerted the monarch. Held in captivity, Richard died 'by means unknown' the following year.
Henry IV was the first king of England since the Norman conquests whose mother tongue was English. In 1390, he had led 100 knights supporting the Teutonic Knights in besieging Vilnius, capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the largest European state at that time. Henry spent much of his reign defending himself against plots, rebellions and assassination attempts, such as the revolt of Owain Glyndwr, who declared himself Prince of Wales in 1400. The king's success in putting down these rebellions was due partly to the military ability of his eldest son, Henry of Monmouth, who later became king (Henry V). James I of Scotland was captured by pirates and delivered to Henry, who kept James prisoner for the rest of his reign. Heretics: in 1410, he authorised death by burning for heretics.
Henry V (1413-22)
After his father's death in 1413, Henry assumed control of the country and re-engaged in war with France (Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)). His military successes culminated in his victory at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) and saw him come close to conquering France. The Treaty of Troyes (1420) recognised Henry as regent and heir apparent to the French throne, and he was subsequently married to Charles VI's daughter, Catherine of Valois (1401-37). Bringing, for the most part, unity to England, he executed at the stake his old friend John Hardcastle, when the authority of the Church was challenged by Lollards. His reign marks the adoption of English as the language of record within Government.
HENRY VI (r. 1422-1461, 1470-71)
Henry VI succeeded his father at nine months and shortly afterwards succeeded to the French throne on the death of his grandfather Charles VI. However, his claim on the French throne was contested by Charles VII, reinvigorating the Hundred Years' War. In an effort to strengthen his claim on France, he married Margaret of Anjou, but conflict continued and by 1453 the only English continental possession was Calais. Henry was plagued by mental ill-health - when Bordeaux was lost he suffered a breakdown.
The Wars of the Roses: his weak authority was challenged by Yorkists, initially led by Richard, Duke of York, who had been heir until the birth of Henry's son, Edward. Henry was taken prisoner by Richard in 1460 and not rescued until the following year, after the victory of Richard's son, Edward, who took the crown as Edward IV. Henry was again captured and imprisoned in the Tower by Edward's forces in 1465, restored to the throne in 1470, but imprisoned again when Edward retook power in 1471. He died in the Tower, possibly killed on Edward's orders. Box: Henry's lasting achievement was fostering education: he founded Eton College, King's College, Cambridge and All Souls College, Oxford.
EDWARD IV (r.1461-70, 1471-83)
The first Yorkist King of England. Having taken refuge in Calais, Edward landed in Kent and, with supporting nobles, occupied London. Henry was defeated but Edward's father, Richard of York, was killed in battle, leaving Edward, aged 19, his successor. In 1461, Edward became king. Rather than making a political marriage, he secretly and scandalously married Elizabeth Woodville, a widow of two sons and the daughter of only a mid-ranking aristocrat.
Losing the support of nobles Warwick and Neville, who changed to the Lancastrian side, Edward was forced to flee to Flanders. With support from Burgundy, Edward overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at Tewkesbury in 1471 and returned to reign. In 1478 his younger brother George was found guilty of plotting against Edward, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.
Falling ill, Edward named his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester as Protector after his death.
RICHARD III (r.1483-85)
Although Richard of Gloucester was to be Lord Protector to Edward IV's 12-year-old son Edward, the boy was never crowned. On his way to London, he was intercepted by Richard's forces and taken to the Tower. He would never leave. Later that year, his parents' marriage was declared illegitimate and his claim on the throne undone. Instead, Richard was crowned king. Edward and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, weren't seen after August that year. Responsibility for their deaths is widely attributed to Richard III, but there is a lack of any solid evidence.
Richard saw off the first rebellion against him but, in 1485, Henry Tudor landed in southern Wales with a small contingent of French troops and marched through his birthplace, Pembrokeshire, recruiting soldiers. Henry's force engaged Richard's army and defeated it at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard was struck down in the conflict, making him the last English king to die in battle on home soil. He was also the last Plantagenet king.
THE LEGACY OF THE PLANTAGENETS
Henry Tudor, who was of Lancastrian descent, became Henry VII, but in marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, he united the two warring Plantagenet families, quelling Yorkist claims on the throne. How our impression of the Plantagenets has changed over the centuries and how Shakespeare, writing in the Tudor and Jacobean period, distorted the perception of the Plantagenets in the popular imagination.
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