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Armorial of Plantagenet
|Country||Kingdom of England, Kingdom of France, Lordship of Ireland, Principality of Wales|
|Founder||Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou|
|Final sovereign||Richard III of England|
Armorial of Plantagenet
|Country||Kingdom of England, Kingdom of France, Lordship of Ireland, Principality of Wales|
|Founder||Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou|
|Final sovereign||Richard III of England|
The House of Plantagenet (pron.: // plan-TAJ-ə-nət) rose to prominence in the High Middle Ages as a royal dynasty that endured until the end of the Late Middle Ages through the cadet branches of the House of York and House of Lancaster. Geoffrey V of Anjou is considered to have founded the dynasty with his marriage to Matilda who was the daughter of Henry I of England. The English crown passed to their son Henry II under the Treaty of Winchester bringing an end to decades of civil war. With his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry accumulated a vast and complex feudal holding that was later called the Angevin Empire stretching from the Pyrenees to Ireland and the border with Scotland. The name of the dynasty dates from the 15th century and comes from a 12th-century nickname of Geoffrey.
The Plantagenets transformed England from little more than a colonised realm, ruled from abroad, into one of the most deeply engaged and mature kingdoms in Europe, although not necessarily always intentionally. For example, Winston Churchill argued that "[w]hen the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns". From Magna Carta forward, the role of kingship transformed under the Plantagenets — driven by weakness to make compromises that constrained their power in return for financial and military support. The king changed from being the most powerful man in the country with the prerogative of judgement, feudal tribute and warfare into a polity where the king’s duties to his realm, in addition to the realm's duties to the king, were defined, underpinned by a sophisticated justice system.
Success for the Plantagenets required martial prowess, and many were renowned warrior leaders. Conflict with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish was to help shape a distinct national identity and, with the re-adoption of English as the official language of royal courts and parliaments by Edward III with the Statute of Pleading, English was transformed from the language of serfs into one fit for poetry and scholarship. Among others the Pearl Poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and William Langland created a distinctive English culture and art. The Plantagenets also provided England with significant buildings and patronage of the arts: Westminster Abbey, Windsor, York Minster, the Welsh Castles and the golden age of cathedral building in the Gothic style are the most significant examples. Richard I founded Portsmouth as a military town, King John Liverpool and Henry III Harwich. London prospered, and brick building was reintroduced for the first time since the Romans.
No royal dynasty was as successful in passing down the crown as the Plantagenets, from 1189 to 1377, but in 1399, as the dynasty splintered into two competing cadet branches, economic and social tumult led to the internecine strife later named the Wars of the Roses. With this, the Middle Ages in England are considered to end with the death of the last Plantagenet King, Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
The Angevins (pron.: //, meaning from Anjou) were a family of Frankish origin founded in the Carolingian Empire by Ingelger during the 9th century. They were Counts of Anjou from 870 and, following the extinction of the male line in 1060, continued through the line of a daughter who married the Count of Gâtinais. In order to address the threat of Normandy, Fulk V, Count of Anjou married his daughter Alice to the heir of Henry I of England, William Adelin, but the prince drowned in the wreck of the White Ship. Fulk then wed his daughter Sibylla to William Clito, heir to Henry’s older brother, Robert Curthose. Henry had this marriage annulled because of the threat of a rival claim to his throne. Finally, Fulk married his son and heir, Geoffrey, to Henry’s daughter and only surviving child, Matilda. This brought about the convergence of the Angevins, the House of Normandy and the House of Wessex to form the Plantagenet dynasty. Fulk then resigned his titles to Geoffrey and sailed to become King of Jerusalem. Chronicler Gerald of Wales borrowed elements of the Melusine legend to give a demonic origin to the Plantagenets, and several early Plantagenet kings are said to have claimed such a heritage for themselves.
The name of the Plantagenets derives from the nickname of their founder, Geoffrey Plantegenest, whose emblem was the common broom, (planta genista in medieval Latin). In the internecine conflict of the Wars of the Roses, the name was adopted by 15th century descendant Richard, Duke of York as a hereditary surname, and it later came retrospectively to be applied to the entire family founded by Geoffrey.
Matilda’s father Henry I of England named her as heir to his large holdings in what is now France and England However, there was no precedent for a female monarch in England and on Henry's death her cousin, Stephen had himself proclaimed King. Geoffrey never showed any interest in England but he supported Matilda by entering Normandy to claim her inheritance. Matilda landed in England to challenge Stephen resulting in a civil war called the Anarchy. When Stephen was captured and declared deposed Matilda was declared "Lady of the English" but was forced to release Stephen in an hostage exchange for her half-brother Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester and Stephen was recrowned. The English conflict continued inconclusively while Geoffrey secured the Duchy of Normandy. Matilda's son, Henry II, had by his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine acquired the Duchy of Aquitaine and was now immensely rich. With skillful negotiation with the war-weary Barons of England and King Stephen, he agreed the Treaty of Wallingford and was recognised as Stephen’s heir.
After the consolidation of the English lands, Henry II considered further expansion because his brother William FitzEmpress was without a fiefdom. The Catholic Church blessed a campaign in Ireland that would bring the Irish church under papal control but plans were delayed until Dermot of Leinster was allowed to recruit soldiers in England and Wales for use in Ireland. Dermot's knights were so successful in seizing lands that Henry became concerned and landed in Ireland. Henry was recognised as lord by most of native kings and gave John of England the first Lordship of Ireland but John failed to install his authority.
Henry saw an opportunity to reassert Plantagenet authority over the Church in England when Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury died by appointing his friend, Thomas Becket. Henry had clashed with the church over whether Bishops could excommunicate royal officials without his permission and whether he could try clerics without them appealing to Rome. However, Becket opposed Henry's Constitutions of Clarendon and fled into exile. Relations between the two men did improve allowing Becket to return but when Henry's son was crowned coregent and the coronation was performed by the Archbishop of York Becket saw this as a challenge to his authority, excommunicating all those that had offended him. On hearing the news Henry uttered the infamous phrase "What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low born clerk". Reginald Fitzurse, William de Tracy, Richard le Breton and Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland took this as an instruction, rushed to Canterbury and murdered Becket, making Henry a pariah in Christian Europe. Henry made a dramatic exhibition of penance in public by walking barefoot into Canterbury Cathedral and there allowing monks to scourge him.
Henry recognised that his vast holdings were unsustainable and planned for partible inheritance common in the feudal system. Henry the Young King would inherit England, Normandy and Anjou; Richard the Duchy of Aquitaine, Geoffrey Brittany and John Ireland. Philip II of France attempted to destabilise his mightiest subject, and encouraged the sons not to wait for their inheritance. They rebelled in the Revolt of 1173–1174. The rebels drew wide support but were defeated. Henry the Young King rebelled again but died of dysentery before Richard and Phillip took advantage of a sickening Henry and were more successful. Henry was forced to accept humiliating peace terms, including naming Richard as his heir. When Henry died shortly afterwards his last words to Richard were allegedly "God grant that I may not die until I have my revenge on you".
Henry accepted that his continental domains were unsustainable. This quote, taken from Capetian France 987–1328, summarises the reasons of the subsequent Angevin collapse:
It is often said of the Plantagenet lands in the late 12th century that they were an empire in decline, divided by the treachery of Henry II's sons and held together only with difficulty by Richard I and John; and the attempt to hold them together gravely overstrained their resources and undermined their power from within, making their survival as a unit quite impossible. Thus Philip's conquest becomes unavoidable, and John's responsibility is greatly diminished.
Richard inherited all the Plantagenet holdings in 1189. His English coronation was marked by a mass slaughter of the Jews, described by Richard of Devizes as a "holocaust". Richard had no interest in governance and rarely spent time in England, beyond that necessary to raise revenue to support his military adventures. He is reported to have said "I would sell London itself if only I could find a rich enough buyer." Richard conquered Cyprus before selling the island. Contemporary opinion of Richard was critical. He rejected and humiliated the King of France's sister; He deposed the well-connected King of Cyprus, insulted and refused spoils of the crusade to nobles like Leopold V, Duke of Austria and was rumoured to have arranged the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat. His cruelness was shown by his massacre of 2600 prisoners in Acre. However, Richard was respected for his military leadership and courtly manners. He achieved victories in the Third Crusade but failed to capture Jerusalem, retreating from the Holy Land with a small band of followers. When Richard was captured on his return journey by Leopold and his custody was passed toHenry the Lion a tax of 25% of movables and income was required to pay the ransom of 100,000 marks, with a promise of 50,000 more. Philip II of France had been dividing up the Plantagenet realm with John of England. According to Roger of Hoveden, when Richard was released, Philip II warned John "Look to yourself, the devil is loose". But when Richard returned to England he forgave John and re-established his control. Leaving England to battle Phillip for the return of the holdings seized during his incarceration Richard nearly completed this task in 5 years when he was injured by an arrow during the siege of Château de Châlus-Chabrol and died after lingering injured for 10 days.
Richard’s failure in his medieval duty to provide an heir caused a succession crisis. The French lands selected Richard's nephew Arthur. John of England succeeded in the English lands. Yet again Philip II of France took the opportunity to destabilize the Plantagenet territories in the European mainland and supported his vassal Arthur's claim to the English crown. When Arthur's forces threatened his mother John won a significant victory capturing the entire rebel leadership at the battle of Mirebeau. Arthur was murdered, it was rumoured by John's own hands, and his sister Eleanor would spend the rest of her life in captivity. The contested succession and resultant rebellions by the Norman and Angevin barons broke John’s control of his continental possessions and led to the de facto end of the Angevin Empire even if de jure it lingered until 1259.
After re-establishing his authority in England, John planned to retake Normandy and Anjou. The strategy was to draw the French from Paris while another army, under Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor, attacked from the north. However, his allies were defeated at the Battle of Bouvines. According to Jean Favier, Bouvines is "one of the decisive battles of history and symbolic of France". For Philippe Contamine, "the battle of Bouvines was both important and high profile consequences". John’s nephew Otto retreated and was soon overthrown while King John agreed a five-year truce. Philip's decisive victory was crucial in ordering politics in both England and France. The battle was instrumental in forming the Absolute monarchy in France.
John was weakened in his defeat resulting in his vassals rebelling before enforcing the treaty called Magna Carta limiting royal power and establishing common law. This was a significant step in the evolution of modern democracy. However both the barony and the crown failed to abide by the terms leading to the First Barons' War in which the barons invited an invasion by Prince Louis. When John died William Marshal was declared the protector of the nine-year-old Henry III. Marshall won the war with victories at the battles of Battle of Lincoln (1217) and Battle of Dover (1217) leading to the Treaty of Lambeth by which Louis renounced his claims. In victory, the Marshal Protectorate reissued the Magna Carta agreement as a basis for future government.
Plantagenet antisemitism meant England became the first European nation to require Jews to wear a Yellow badge and Henry exacted heavy Jewish taxation between 1219 and 1272 for a total of 200,000 marks, a vast sum of money. Henry made repeated unsuccessful attempts to reclaim Normandy and Anjou. Despite the 1217 Treaty of Lambeth, hostilities continued and Henry was forced to concede significant constitutional concessions to the newly crowned Louis VIII of France and Henry's step father Hugh X of Lusignan. Between them, they overran much of the remnants of Henry's continental holdings, further eroding the Angevin's grip on the continent. Henry saw such similarities between himself and England’s then patron saint Edward the Confessor in his struggle with untrusted advisers that he gave his first son the Anglo-Saxon name Edward and built the saint a magnificent still-extant shrine.
Henry III could not motivate his barons to support a foreign war to restore Plantagenet holdings on the continent. They would not supply the men and money required so, facing a repeat of the situation his father faced, Henry III reissued Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest in return for a tax that raised the incredible sum of £45,000. This was enacted in an assembly of the barons, bishops and magnates that created a compact in which the feudal prerogatives of the Plantagenets were debated and discussed in the political community. It was a concession of the royalty of the Plantagenets and paved the way for future development of the political apparatus. The pope had offered Henry's brother Richard the Kingdom of Sicily but he wisely recognised the cost to make this claim real was prohibitive. Matthew Paris wrote that Richard responded to the price by saying, "You might as well say, 'I make you a present of the moon — step up to the sky and take it down'." Instead showing poor judgement, Henry purchased the kingdom for his son Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster angering powerful barons including his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort. Bankrupt, Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford by barons led by Simon de Montfort, under which his debts were paid in exchange for substantial reforms. He was also forced to agree the Treaty of Paris or Treaty of Albeville with Louis IX of France acknowledging the loss of the Dukedom of Normandy, Maine, Anjou and Poitou but retaining the Channel Islands. The treaty held that "islands (if any) which the King of England should hold", he would retain "as peer of France and Duke of Aquitaine". In exchange Louis withdrew his support for English rebels, ceded 3 bishoprics and cities and was to pay an annual rent for possession of Agenais. Doubts about interpreting the Treaty began as soon as it was signed. The agreement resulted in the fact that the English kings had to pay homage liege to the French monarchs and therefore they remained French vassals, but only on French soil. This did not encourage friendly relations as it made two sovereigns of equal powers in their countries in fact unequal. According to Professor Malcolm Vale, the treaty of Paris was one of the indirect causes of the Hundred Years War.
Friction sharply developed between the barons and the King and Henry repudiated the Provisions of Oxford in 1261 seeking the help of the French king Louis IX of France. Henry obtained a papal bull in 1261 exempting him from his oath, and both sides began to raise armies, the Royalists under Prince Edward, Henry's eldest son. Edward was tempted to side with his godfather Simon de Montfort, and supported holding a Parliament in his father's absence before he decided to side his father. The Barons under de Montfort had captured most of south-eastern England and at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner by de Montfort's army while Edward was held hostage to ensure his father abided by the terms of the peace. De Montfort summoned the Great Parliament, regarded as the first Parliament worthy of the name because it was the first time cities and burghs sent representatives. Edward escaped and de Montfort was killed in the Battle of Evesham. Following this victory, savage retribution was exacted on the rebels and authority was restored to King Henry. Edward, having pacified the realm, left England to join Louis IX on the Ninth Crusade funded by an unprecedented levy of one-twentieth of every citizen's goods and possessions. He was, with King Louis, the last crusaders in the medieval tradition of aiming to recover the Holy Lands. When Louis died before Edward's arrival, Edward decided to continue. The crusade was an anti-climax and Edward's small force limited him to the relief of Acre and a handful of raids. Surviving a murder attempt by an Assassin Edward left for Sicily later in the year and was never to return on crusade. The stability of England’s political structure was demonstrated when Henry III died and his son succeeded as Edward I, the barons swore allegiance to Edward even though he did not return for two years.
From the very beginning of his reign Edward I sought to organise his inherited territories giving Wales his immediate attention. As a devotee of the cult of King Arthur he was determined to enforce claims to primacy within the British Isles. Wales consisted of a number of princedoms in conflict. Llywelyn held North Wales in fee to the English king under the Treaty of Woodstock but had taken advantage of the English civil wars to consolidate his position as Prince of Wales and maintained his principality was 'entirely separate from the rights' of England. Edward considered Llywelyn 'a rebel and disturber of the peace'. Edward's determination, military experience and skilful use of ships ended Welsh independence by driving Llywelyn into the mountains before he killing him in a chance battle. The Statute of Rhuddlan extended the shire system bringing Wales into the English legal framework. When Edward’s son was born he was proclaimed the first English Prince of Wales. Edward's welsh campaign produced one of the largest armies ever assembled by an English king in a formidable combination of heavy Anglo-Norman cavalry and Welsh archers that laid the foundations of later military victories in France. Edward spent some £80,000 on a network of castles to secure his control.
Edward is sometimes called "The English Justinian" with respect to his legal changes and the Byzantine Emperor though it is questioned whether he was an autocrat responding to events or a reformer. His campaigns left him in debt requiring heavy taxation. This necessitated enrolling wider national support for his policies among lesser landowners, merchants and traders to raise this money through frequently summoned Parliaments. When Philip of France confiscated the duchy of Gascony more money was needed to wage war and Edward summoned a precedent setting assembly known as the Model Parliament including barons, clergy, and knights and townspeople.
Edward imposed his authority over the church with the Statutes of Mortmain prohibiting the donation of land to the Church. This was part of establishing the rights of the Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, promoting the uniform administration of justice, raising income and to codifying the legal system. He also emphasised the role of Parliament and the common law through significant legislation, a survey of local government and codifying laws originating from Magna Carta with the Statute of Westminster 1275. Edward also enacted economic reforms on wool exports to take customs which amounted to nearly £10,000 a year and imposed licence fees on gifts of land to the Church. Feudal jurisdiction was regulated by the Statute of Gloucester and Quo Warranto. The Statute of Winchester enforced Plantagenet policing authority. The Statute of Westminster 1285 kept estates within families: tenants were only for life and unable to sell the property. Quia Emptores stopped sub-infeudation where tenants subcontracted their properties and related feudal services). Through these methods Edward successfully modernised England’s feudal framework.
Years of Plantagenet Jewish oppression following the Jews exclusion from the guarantees of Magna Carta reached a peak when Edward issued an edict expelling all Jews from England. The Jews had played a key economic role in the country providing loans with interest that Christians were forbidden to by canon law. The Plantagenets had taken advantage of the Jews status as direct subjects levying heavy taxes on them at will without needing to summon Parliament. In this way the Jewish community provided the Plantagenets with a giant monetary filter. At his pleasure the King would take the money that the Jews collected in interest on loans. Plantagenet England was particularly anti-Jewish and Edward’s first major step towards Jewish expulsion was the Statute of Jewry. The statute outlawed all usury and gave Jews fifteen years to readjust. However popular prejudice made Jewish movement into mercantile or agricultural pursuits impossible. Edward attempted to clear his debts with the expulsion of Jews from duchy of Gascony seizing their property and transferred all outstanding debts payable to himself. His tax demands continued and he made this more palatable to his subjects by offering to expel all Jews in exchange. The heavy tax was passed and the Edict of Expulsion was issued. This proved widely popular and was quickly carried out.
Edward asserted that the King of Scotland owed him feudal allegiance which embittered Anglo-Scottish for the rest of his reign in what became known as the Great Cause. Edward intended to create a Dual Monarchy by marrying his son Edward to Margaret, Maid of Norway who was the sole heir of Alexander III of Scotland. When Margaret died there was no obvious heir to the Scottish throne so Edward was invited by the Scottish magnates to resolve the dispute. Edward obtained recognition from the competitors for the Scottish throne that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to determine our several pretensions' deciding the case in favour of John Balliol who duly swore loyalty. Edward insisted that Scotland was not independent and as sovereign lord he had the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements. After failing to negotiate a settlement Edward sacked the city of Berwick and Balliol renounced his homage. Edward only paused to start the rebuilding of Berwick before his forces overran remaining Scottish resistance, taking Scottish leaders hostage and exiling Balliol. Edward was facing the biggest crisis in his reign with his commitments outweighing 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; Humphrey de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford and Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk refused to serve in Gascony, and the barons presented a formal statement of their grievances. In response Edward was forced to reconfirm the Charters (including Magna Carta) to obtain the money he required. A truce and peace treaty the French king restored the duchy of Gascony to Edward. William Wallace had risen in Balliol's name and recovered most of Scotland, before being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk. Wallace escaped, only to be captured and executed. Edward summoned a full Parliament including elected Scottish representatives for the settlement of Scotland. The new government in Scotland featured Robert the Bruce but he unexpectedly rebelled killing a fellow counsellor and was crowned king of Scotland. Despite failing health, Edward was carried north to pursue another campaign but he died en route at Burgh by Sands. Even though Edward had requested that his bones should be carried on Scottish campaigns and that his heart be taken to the Holy Land he was was buried at Westminster Abbey in a plain black marble tomb that in later years was painted with the words Scottorum malleus (Hammer of the Scots) and Pactum serva (Keep troth).
Edward II succeeded his father Edward I in 1307. His coronation oath differed from that of previous kings in that Edward was required to maintain the laws that the community "shall have chosen" ("aura eslu"). This was later used in the struggle between the king and his Magnates. The King had good will but faced three challenges: discontent over financing wars; with taxation for his household and Piers Gaveston with whom the king had developed a close relationship. Parliament decided that Gaveston should be exiled and the king had no choice but to comply. The king plotted for his return and it was hoped that Gaveston had learned his lesson. Unfortunately Gaveston's behaviour was worse than ever and the king was forced to agree the appointment of Ordainers who were in charge of reform of the royal household. The Ordainers were elected magnates, without popular representation, and Piers Gaveston was again exiled.
The Ordinances were published widely to obtain maximum popular support. There was a constant struggle over their repeal or continued existence for a decade. When Gaveston returned to England he was captured, abducted and executed after a mock trial. This brutal act drove the king’s Plantagenet cousin, Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster and his adherents from power but Edward’s humiliating defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn returned the initiative. Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick had not taken part in the campaign claiming that it was in defiance of the Ordinance and now governed but were increasingly isolated until the king was restored promising to uphold the Ordinances. Friction continued over the conduct of the new favourite, Hugh Despenser the younger and his father, Hugh Despenser the elder. Edward finally repealed the Ordinances after defeating and executing Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge. The Ordinances were never reissued and therefore hold no permanent position in the legal history of England as the Magna Carta does.
One of the precursors of the Hundred Years' War, the War of Saint-Sardos' was a short conflict between Edward and the Kingdom of France leading indirectly to his overthrow. Philip IV of France and his sons had expanded the authority of France's monarchy at the expense of the nobles using the Parlement of Paris to allow people to appeal the decisions of lower courts thereby weakening the nobility’s jurisdiction over their own lands. Edward was one of those who felt this encroachment in Gascony as a French vassal. French kings eagerly settled disputes of their subjects and without confrontation while Edward could do little but watch the duchy dwindle. One such dispute was in Saint-Sardos where Parlement ruled in favour of the abbot's petition. The English prolonged the proceedings without making concessions but the affair had caused much indignation among the local nobility and Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent decided to resist. Charles IV declared the duchy forfeit in response and swept through Aquitaine in weeks. Hugh le Despenser was forced to send Queen Isabella to negotiate terms. Isabella agreed to a peace treaty requiring Edward to pay homage in France to her brother but Edward decided instead to send his son, Edward resigning Aquitaine and Ponthieu to him. Isabella now declared that she would not return to England until Despenser was removed and formed a relationship with Roger Mortimer.
The couple invaded England and Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster marched south to join them. The king fled to South Wales in order to make a defence in Despenser's lands. but was unable to rally an army and was captured. Edward, offered a choice between abdicating in favour of his son or resisting and seeing the throne go to Mortimer, agreed that if the people would accept his son he would abdicate. Edward II is generally believed to have been murdered at Berkeley Castle but the popular story he was assassinated by having a red-hot poker thrust into his anus has no contemporary evidence. The rule of Isabella and Mortimer did not last long as after four years Edward III staged a revolt and had Roger Mortimer executed but spared his mother ensuring that she retired from public life.
When Charles IV of France died without a male heir but leaving a pregnant wife, his cousin Phillip of Valois and Isabella on behalf of her son were claimants to the succession. Philip as senior male line grandson of Philip III of France became king instead of Edward, a matrilineal grandson of Philip IV of France, following the precedents of Philip V's succession over his niece Joan II of Navarre and Charles IV's succession over his nieces. This precedent became Salic law forbidding those descended in the female line from succeeding to the throne of France. Edward III paid homage to Phillip as Duke of Aquitaine who continued asserting the feudal pressure on Gascony. Philip demanded he extradite an exiled French advisor, Robert III of Artois, and confiscated Edward’s lands in Gascony and Ponthieu on this pretext. In response Edward put together a coalition of continental supporters promising payment of over £200,000. Edward borrowed heavily from the banking houses of the Bardi family and Peruzzi, merchants in the Low Countries and William de la Pole, a wealthy merchant who came to the king's rescue by advancing him £110,000. Edward also asked Parliament for a grant of £300,000 in return for further concessions.
The fundraising delay allowed the French to invade Gascony. Simultaneously widespread piracy was conducted in the English Channel naval campaign (1338–1339). Edward proclaimed himself King of France to encourage the Flemish to rise in open rebellion against the French King, among the gravest of crimes, and won a significant naval victory in the Battle of Sluys where the French fleet was almost completely destroyed and afterwards it was said that the fish spoke French. Inconclusive fighting continued at the Battle of Saint-Omer and the Siege of Tournai (1340) but with both sides running out of money the fighting ended with the Truce of Espléchin. Edward III had achieved nothing of military value, opinion was against him, most of Scotland was lost, he was bankrupted and cutting his losses he only repaid those whose support he could not afford to lose.
Fighting never completely but both countries suffered from war exhaustion. The tax burden had been heavy and in addition the wool trade had been heavily manipulated. Edward spent the following years paying off his immense debt while the Gascons, considering private war an ancient privilege, merged the war with outright banditry. Edward invaded again from the Low Countries using the chevauchée strategy that would be deployed by the English throughout the 100-years war. This was a raiding method of medieval warfare for weakening the enemy, focusing mainly on wreaking havoc, burning and pillaging in order to reduce the productivity of a region as opposed to siege warfare or wars of conquest. The chevauchée would force the French to fight, discredit Philip VI of France’s government and detach his vassels’ loyalty. Edward fought two successful actions, the Storming of Caen and the Battle of Blanchetaque before finding himself outmanoeuvred by Philip he fought the Battle of Crécy against a much larger French army. Crécy was a crushing defeat for the French leaving Edward free to capture Calais. A subsequent victory against Scotland at the Battle of Neville's Cross captured David II also reduced the threat from Scotland.
The Black Death brought a halt to Edward’s campaigns in the Hundred Years' War, killing between a third and more than half of his subjects. The only Plantagenet known to have died from the Black Death was Edward III's daughter Joan on her way to marry Pedro of Castile. King Edward III passed the Ordinance of Labourers and the Statute of Labourers in response to the shortage of labour and resulting social unrest. The labour laws were enforced with ruthless determination but were ineffective and the government's repressive measures to enforce them caused resentment.
Edward, the Black Prince resumed the war with one of the most destructive chevauchée in Plantagenet history. Starting from Bordeaux he laid waste to the lands of Armagnac before turning eastward into Languedoc. Toulouse prepared for a siege but the Black Prince was not equipped for one so he bypassed the city continuing south, pillaging and burning and causing a great deal of mayhem. Unlike large cities such as Toulouse, the rural French villages were not organised to provide a defence, making them much more attractive targets. The peasants did not stand much of a chance against a professional army and while there was an established practice of holding nobles for ransom it was not worth taking a peasant hostage as opposed to simply killing them. It is not surprising that the peasant villages put up whatever meagre resistance that they could. In a second great chevauchée Edward burned the suburbs of Bourges without capturing the city before marching West along the Loire River to Poitiers where the Battle of Poitiers resulted in a great English victory and the capture of John II of France. The Second Treaty of London was signed in which a four million écus ransom was guaranteed by Valois family hostages being held in London while John returned to France to raise his ransom. Edward gained possession of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Maine and all the coastline from Flanders to Spain restoring the former Angevin Empire. The hostages quickly escaped back to France so John, horrified that his word had been broken, returned to England and died a honoured prisoner. Edward invaded France in an attempt to take advantage of the Jacquerie hoping to capitalize on the discontent and seize the throne but even though no French army stood against him he was unable to take Paris or Rheims. In the negotiated Treaty of Brétigny renounced his claim to the French crown but greatly expanded his territory in Aquitaine and confirmed his conquest of Calais.
Fighting in the Hundred Years' War often spilled from the French and Plantagenet lands into surrounding realms. One such example was the dynastic conflict in Castile between Peter of Castile and Henry II of Castile. Edward, Prince of Wales allied himself with Peter defeating Henry at the Battle of Nájera before falling into dispute because Peter had no means to reimburse his expenses leaving Edward bankrupt. The Planatagents continued to interfere and John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, the Black Prince’s brother married Peter’s daughter Constance claiming the Crown of Castile in the name of his wife. He arrived with an army and asked John I to give up the throne in favour of Constance. John declined but proposed that his son marry John of Gaunt's daughter. The proposal was accepted, the title Prince of Asturias created for Henry and Catherine, the dynastic conflict ended and peace created between the Plantagenets and Castile.
The reign of Charles V saw the Plantagenets steadily pushed back. The War of the Breton Succession ended in their favour but gave no advantage. However, the French received the advantage of Bertrand du Guesclin who left Brittany to became one of Charles’s most successful generals. The Plantagenet-backed claimant to the Duchy of Brittany was victorious but reconciled with the French kings. When Black Prince refused a summons as Duke of Aquitaine Charles V of France resumed hostilities setting out to reverse the territorial losses of the Treaty of Brétigny. Edward, the Black Prince demonstrated the brutal character that some think is the cause of the title at the Siege of Limoges. After the town had opened its gates to the John, Duke of Berry Edward went into a "violent passion" and when the city wall was breached, was carried round the city on a litter (he was already very ill), directing the massacre of 3,000 inhabitants, men, women and children. Following this Edward was too ill to contribute to the war or government and returned to England a broken man. Du Guesclin adopted Fabian tactics in avoiding major English field forces while capturing town after town, including Poitiers and Bergerac. No major battles were fought but the English now led rather ineffectively by John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster responded with further chevauchées destroying the countryside and the productivity of the land. In a further strategic blow English dominance at sea was reversed by the disastrous defeat at the Battle of La Rochelle undermining English seaborne trade and threatening Gascony. The deaths of both the Black Prince and Edward III of England in close succession aborted Plantagenet peace attempts. So war continued at a low intensity until Charles V died repealing the royal taxation necessary to fund the French war effort on his deathbed.
The 10-year-old Richard II of England succeeded on the deaths of his father and grandfather with government by a regency council until he came of age. The economy caused significant civil unrest as his government levied a number of poll taxes to finance military campaigns. The tax of one shilling for everyone over 15 proved particularly unpopular combined with enforcement of the Statute of Labourers curbing employment standards and wages. This triggered an uprising with refusal to pay the tax. In Kent rebels formed behind Wat Tyler and marched on London. The renegade Lollard priest, John Ball, preached a sermon including the question: "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?" Initially there were only attacks on certain properties, many of them associated with John of Gaunt. The rebels are reputed to have been met by the young king himself and presented him with a series of demands, including the dismissal of some of his ministers and the abolition of serfdom. Rebels stormed the Tower of London and executed those hiding there. At Smithfield further negotiations were arranged, but Tyler behaved belligerently and in the ensuing dispute William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London attacked and killed Tyler. Richard seized the opportunity shouting "You shall have no captain but me," a statement left deliberately ambiguous to defuse the situation. He promised clemency but quickly re-established control pursuing, capturing and executing the other leaders and all concessions were revoked. It was the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history and the best-documented popular rebellion of medieval times. It did not succeed in its stated aims but demonstrated that when the peasants were dissatisfied they were capable of wreaking havoc forming a radical tradition in British politics.
A group of magnates consisting of the king's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester, Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel and Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick became known as the Lords Appellant when they sought to impeach five of the King's favourites and restrain what was seen as tyrannical and capricious rule. Later they were joined by Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk. The word appellant means '[one who is] appealing [in a legal sense]'. The name was applied when they invoked a procedure to start prosecution of the king's unpopular councilors. Initially, they were successful in establishing a Commission to govern England for one year but they were forced to rebel against King Richard defeating an army under Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford at the skirmish of Radcot Bridge. Richard was reduced to a figurehead with little power. As a result of the Merciless Parliament de Vere and Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk, who had fled abroad, were sentenced to death in their absence, Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York had all his worldly goods confiscated and a number of Richard's council were executed. Following John of Gaunt’s return from Spain Richard was able to rebuild his power having Gloucester murdered in captivity in Calais, Warwick stripped of his title and Bolingbroke and Mowbray exiled.
When John of Gaunt died Richard disinherited Henry of Bolingbroke. In response Henry invaded England with a small force that quickly grew in numbers and meeting little resistance he deposed Richard to have himself crowned Henry IV of England. Richard died in captivity early the next year and was probably murdered.
Henry's accession by force broke forever the principles of Plantagenet succession; from this point any magnate with sufficient power and Plantagenet blood could consider the throne. His spurious assertion that his mother had legitimate rights through descent from Edmund Crouchback whom he claimed was the elder son of Henry III of England, set aside due to deformity, was not widely believed. Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March was the heir presumptive to Richard II by being Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence’s grandson but as a child he wasn't considered a serious contender and as adult never showed any interest in the throne instead serving the House of Lancaster loyally. When Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge later plotted to use him to displace Henry’s newly crowned son, and their mutual cousin, he informed the new King and the plotters were executed. However, the later marriage of his granddaughter to Richard’s son would consolidate the House of York’s claim to the throne.
Henry planned to resume war with France but was plagued with financial problems, declining health and frequent rebellions. A Scottish invasion was defeated at the Battle of Homildon Hill but resulted in a long war with Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland for northern England resolved only with the near complete destruction of the Percy family at the Battle of Bramham Moor. In Wales Owain Glyndŵr’s widespread rebellion was only put down in 1415. In The Channel, English and French piracy heavily damaged trade. Henry's wife Joanna of Navarre was even accused of practising necromancy. Many saw it as a punishment from God when Henry was later struck down with leprosy and epilepsy.
Henry IV’s successor, Henry V of England was a successful and ruthless martial leader. Aware that Charles VI of France's mental illness caused instability in France he made territorial claims and demanded marriage to Catherine of Valois. Henry invaded to assert these demands, captured Harfleur, made a chevauchée to Calais and won a near total victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt despite being outnumbered, outmanoeuvred and low on supplies. In subsequent years Henry recaptured much of Normandy and succeeded in the marriage. The resulting Treaty of Troyes stated that Henry's heirs would inherit the throne of France. However conflict continued with the the Dauphin and Henry’s brother Thomas, Duke of Clarence was killed in the defeat at the battle of Baugé. When Henry died, possibly with dysentery he was succeeded by his nine-month old son Henry VI of England. The elderly Charles VI of France died two months later. Led by Henry’s brother John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford there were several more victories such as the Battle of Verneuil. But it was impossible to maintain campaigning at this level and Joan of Arc forced the lifting of the siege of Orleans. Winning the Battle of Patay enabled the Dauphin to be crowned at Reims and continue the successful Fabian tactics, avoiding full frontal assaults and exploiting logistical advantage before Joan was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried as a witch and burned at the stake.
During the minority of Henry VI the war caused political division amongst the legitimate and illegitimate Plantagenets. Bedford wanted to defend Normandy, Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester just Calais but Cardinal Beaufort wanted peace. This division led to Gloucester’s wife being accused of using witchcraft to put him on the throne and he was later arrested and died in prison, possibly avoiding execution for treason. The refusal to renounce the Plantagenet claim to the French crown at the congress of Arras enabled the former Plantagenet ally Philip III, duke of Burgundy to reconcile with Charles while giving Charles time to reorganise his feudal levies into a modern professional army that would put its superior numbers to good use. The French retook Rouen and Bordeaux, regained Normandy, won the Battle of Formigny and with victory at the Battle of Castillon brought an end to the war reducing Henry’s holdings to the Channel Islands and Calais.
Under Henry VI the rivalries of magnates spilled over from the courtroom to armed confrontations such as Percy–Neville feud. Feudalism had declined with the feudal levy being replaced by taxation. Government was more personal with the Magnates developing private armies of liveried retainers. The common interest given by the war was no more and Henry was a weak king vulnerable to the over-mighty subjects created by bastard feudalism. Richard Duke of York and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick used their networks to defy the crown with the gentry attaching themselves to different factions to suit private feuds. Henry became the focus of discontent as population, agricultural production, prices, wool trade and credit declined in the Great Slump (15th century). The war had devastated trade and its failure prompted significant social disorder. Most seriously Jack Cade raised a rebellion in an attempt to force the King to address this or abdicate his throne. The uprising was suppressed but remained deeply unsettling with more radical demands coming from John and William Merfold. Previous rebellions expressed faith in the social order but these did not and were again ruthlessly suppressed. In part the Wars of the Roses were inspired by the rebels demand that Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York take a place in Henry council.
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York’s attitude to the marriage contract of Henry and Margaret of Anjou that surrendered Maine and extended the truce with France contributed to his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, conveniently removing him from English and French politics. Richard had a claim to the throne as a descendant of both Lionel, Duke of Clarence and Edmund, Duke of York. Conscious of the fate of Duke Humphrey at the hands of the Beauforts and suspicious that Henry intended to nominate Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset in his stead, on his return to England he recruited militarily. Richard claimed to be a reformer but was possibly plotting against his enemy Somerset. Armed conflict was avoided because Richard lacked aristocratic support and he was forced to swear allegiance to Henry. However, when Henry had a mental breakdown he was named regent. Henry himself was trusting and not a man of war but his wife Margaret of Anjou was more assertive, showing open enmity toward Richard, particularly after the birth of a male heir that resolved the succession question.
When Henry’s sanity returned the court party to reassert their authority but Richard and the Nevilles, who related by marriage had also been alienated by Henry’s support of the Percys, defeated them at a skirmish called the First Battle of St Albans. Possibly as few as 50 men were killed, but among them were Somerset and the two Percy lords, Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland and Thomas Clifford, 8th Baron de Clifford creating feuds that would prove impossible to reconcile; reputedly Clifford’s son would later murder Richard’s son Edmund. The ruling class was deeply shocked it had come to this and reconciliation was attempted.  However, threatened with treason charges and lacking support Richard, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick fled abroad. The Nevilles returned, winning the Battle of Northampton and capturing Henry. When Richard joined them he surprised Parliament by claiming the throne forcing through the Act of Accord that agreed Henry would remain as monarch for his lifetime but Richard would succeed. Margaret found this unacceptable so the conflict continued with Richard slain at the Battle of Wakefield and his head set on display at Micklegate Bar, York along with those of Edmund, Earl of Rutland and Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury who had both been captured and beheaded.
Mary of Guelders, Queen of Scots provided Margaret with support and a Scottish army pillaged into southern England. London's gates remained closed to the after fearing being plundered and the city enthusiastically welcomed Edward, Earl of March. The Parliament of England confirmed that Edward be made king. Edward was officially crowned after consolidating his position with victory at the battle at Towton. Edward's preferment of the Lancastrian supporting Woodville family following his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville led to Warwick and Clarence helping Margaret depose Edward and returning Henry to the throne. Edward and Richard, Duke of Gloucester fled but on their return Clarence switched sides at the Battle of Barnet leading to the death of Warwick, the execution of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales and the later murder of Henry extinguishing the House of Lancaster and the power of the Nevilles. Edward returned some stability with heavy personal control in government. He signed a peace treaty with France, tightened management of royal revenues and paid for the country's administration with Crown Estate. Edward was succeeded by his 12-year old son Edward V of England and along with his brother Richard of Shrewsbury was entrusted to their uncle Gloucester,. Richard had Parliament declare the princes illegitimate on the basis of an alleged prior pre-contract Edward made to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot making his marriage invalid. Richard III of England seized the throne and the two boys were never seen again with suspicion falling on Richard.
Henry Tudor invaded with an army of foreign mercenaries culminating with the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard was killed. Henry VII of England was hardly Plantagenet at all so his coronation marks beginning the Early modern period and Tudor era. Henry VII married Elizabeth of York Edward IV’s heir to legitimize his reign but had to battle for more than a decade to establish in the face of plotting supported by Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. She sent Lambert Simnel to Ireland purporting to be her nephew Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick with an army of Irish and Flemish supporters that was defeated at the Battle of Stoke Field. Burgundy also claimed Perkin Warbeck was Richard of Shrewsbury twice invaded England before Warbeck was captured and imprisoned.
The internecine conflict and a shortage of male births resulted in the extinction of the House of Plantagenet in the legitimate male line. Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury was an only son, as was his father King Henry VI whose murder shortly after brought the House of Lancaster to an end. Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland died as a result of the Battle of Wakefield. King Edward IV died prematurely but not before executing his brother George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and his sons the Princes in the Tower disappeared shortly after. King Richard III was predeceased by his only son, Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, by the time he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Still, when Henry Tudor seized the throne there were numerous Plantagenet descendants who by modern standards had a better right to it, including both his mother and future wife. By 1510 this figure had increased by the birth of more than a dozen further Yorkists. Yorkists continued to be imprisoned or executed up to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Tudors using the slightest pretext to extinguish rival claims to the throne. An escape attempt by Perkin Warbeck led to his execution and that of the last legitimate male line Plantagent, Edward, the Earl of Warwick. Those Yorkists who retired from public life and did not challenge the Tudors' right to rule were not molested and several male-line members of illegitimate descent survived. Current descendants of the House of Plantagenet include the dukes of Beaufort who traces his descent via John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset to John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.
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— Royal house —
House of Plantagenet
Cadet branch of the Angevins
House of Normandy
|Ruling House of England|
House of Tudor
House of Penthièvre
|Ruling House of Brittany|
House of Thouars