House of Plantagenet

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House of Plantagenet
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg
Armorial of Plantagenet
CountryKingdom of England, Kingdom of France, Lordship of Ireland, Principality of Wales
Parent houseAngevins
FounderGeoffroy de Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou
Final rulerRichard III of England
Cadet branches
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"Plantagenet" redirects here. For other uses, see Plantagenet (disambiguation).
House of Plantagenet
Royal Arms of England (1198-1340).svg
Armorial of Plantagenet
CountryKingdom of England, Kingdom of France, Lordship of Ireland, Principality of Wales
Parent houseAngevins
FounderGeoffroy de Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou
Final rulerRichard III of England
Cadet branches

The House of Plantagenet (/plænˈtæənət/ plan-TAJ-ə-nət also spelt in English sources as Plantaganet, Plantagenett, Plantagenette, Plantaginet, Plantagynett, etc.) was a family—originally from the former French province of Anjou— whose members held the English throne from the accession of Henry II in 1154 to the death of Richard III in 1485. Within that period, some historians identify four distinct royal houses: Angevins, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York.[1] In the 10 years from 1144, two successive counts of Anjou won control of a vast assemblage of lands that would last for 80 years and would retrospectively be referred to as the Angevin Empire. The first of these counts—Geoffrey— became duke of Normandy in 1144 and his successor—Henry— added Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and became king of England in 1154 by successfully pursuing a claim derived from his descent from his maternal grandfather, Henry I of England.[2] From Henry’s fourth son—John— the dynasty continued successfully forming a long line of 14 English Plantagenet kings. The name of Plantagenet that historians use for the entire dynasty dates from the 15th century and comes from a 12th-century nickname of Geoffrey.

It was under the Plantagenet’s rule that England was transformed from a colony often governed from abroad and considered of lesser significance into a sophisticated, politically engaged and independent kingdom. This was not always necessarily due to the conscious intentions of the Plantagenets as Winston Churchill, the twentieth-century British prime minister, articulated in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: "[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".[3][4] They were often forced by weakness to negotiate compromises that constrained their power as kings in return for financial and military support—such Magna Carta— which transformed the role of kingship. No longer would the king solely be the most powerful man in the country holding the prerogative of judgement, feudal tribute and warfare but the monarch would also have defined duties to his realm underpinned by a sophisticated justice system. A distinct national identity was shaped by conflict with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish and the use of English re-established. The Plantagenets also provided England with significant buildings such as King's College, Cambridge, Eton College,Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle and the Welsh Castles.

The Plantagenet’s conclusive defeat in the Hundred Years' War broke confidence in the status quo and through the burden of taxes supporting the war they played a part in devastating the English economy. Several popular revolts demanded greater rights and freedoms for the general population. Crime increased as soldiers returned destitute from France, the nobility raised private armies, pursued private feuds and defied the weak leadership of Henry VI. Throughout the Plantagenet period there was continual rivalry between the members of the family but no English dynasty was as successful in passing the crown to a succeeding generation as the Plantagenets from 1189 to 1377. However, the political and economic situation combined with the splintering of the dynasty into competing cadet branches—the House of York and House of Lancaster— in the 15th-century developed these regular conflicts into the internecine strife later named the Wars of the Roses.

These events culminated in 1485 with the death of the last Plantagenet king—Richard III— at the Battle of Bosworth Field. This marks the end of Plantagenet power and the Middle Ages in England for many historians. The succeeding Tudors were able to resolve many of the problems that beset the later Plantagenets through centralising royal power by which they provided the necessary stability for an English Renaissance and the beginnings of Early modern Britain.


An illuminated diagram showing the Angevins; coloured lines connect the two to show the lineal descent
Thirteenth-century depiction of the Angevins (Henry II and his legitimate children): (left to right) William, Henry, Richard, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan and John

The line of the counts of Anjou that the Plantagenets are part of descend from Geoffrey II, Count of Gâtinais and Ermengarde of Anjou—daughter of Fulk III of Anjou—who inherited the title in 1060 via cognatic kinship to a family descended from a noble called Ingelger in 870.[5][6] The marriage of Count Geoffrey to Henry I of England's daughter, heir and only surviving legitimate child—Matilda— that brought about the convergence of the Angevins, the House of Normandy and the House of Wessex was part of a power struggle during the tenth and eleventh centuries that the counts of Anjou had with rival princes in northern and western Gaul. It was from this marriage that Geoffrey’s son, Henry, inherited the claims to England, Normandy and Anjou that mark the beginning of the Angevin and Plantagenet dynasties. These princes included the ruler of Normandy—Henry, Brittany, Poitou, Blois, Maine and the kings of France.[7]

This was the third attempt that Geoffrey’s father—Fulk V, Count of Anjou—had tried to build a political alliance with Normandy. The first was by marrying his daughter Alice to Henry’s heir—William Adelin—but the prince drowned in the wreck of the White Ship. Fulk then married his daughter Sibylla to William Clito, heir to Henry's older brother Robert Curthose, but Henry had the marriage annulled to avoid the strengthening of William’s the rival claim to his lands.On completion of his strategy Fulk resigned all his titles to Geoffrey and sailed to become King of Jerusalem.[8]



Henry II became the first Plantagenet King of England.

It was Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, who adopted Plantagenet as a family name for him and his descendants in the 15th century. Plantegenest (or Plante Genest) had been a 12th-century nickname of Geoffrey, perhaps because his emblem may have been the common broom, (planta genista in medieval Latin).[9] It is uncertain why Richard chose this specific name, but it emphasised Richard's status as Geoffrey's (and six English kings') patrilineal descendant during the Wars of the Roses. The retrospective usage of the name for all of Geoffrey's male descendants was popular in Tudor times, perhaps encouraged by the added legitimacy it gave Richard's great grandson, Henry VIII of England.[10]


Many historians consider the Angevins /ænvɪns/, meaning from Anjou, as a distinct royal house and the term is used as a collective noun for the three English monarchs—Henry II, Richard I and John—of the Angevin dynasty. These historians consider John’s son, Henry III, to be the first Plantagenet king of England while other historians who do not make a distinction between Angevin and Plantagenet consider the first to be Henry II.[11][12][13][14][15]

Angevin dynasty[edit]

See also: Angevins

Arrival in England[edit]

Henry's continental holdings in 1154, showing the lands named as the "Angevin Empire"

Matilda's father Henry I of England named her as heir to his large holdings in what are now France and England.[16] But on Henry's death her cousin Stephen had himself proclaimed king.[17] Geoffrey showed little interest in England, but he supported Matilda by entering Normandy to claim her inheritance.[18] Matilda landed in England to challenge Stephen and was declared "Lady of the English" which resulted in a civil war called the Anarchy. When Matilda was forced to release Stephen in a hostage exchange for her half-brother Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, Stephen was re-crowned. Matilda was never crowned as the English conflict continued inconclusively. However, Geoffrey secured the Duchy of Normandy. Matilda's son, Henry II, by his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine had acquired the Duchy of Aquitaine and was now immensely rich. With skilful negotiation with the war-weary Barons of England and King Stephen, he agreed to the Treaty of Wallingford and was recognised as Stephen's heir.[19]

Henry saw an opportunity to re-establish what he saw as his rights over the Church in England by appointing his friend, Thomas Becket to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. However, Becket opposed Henry's Constitutions of Clarendon and relationships worsened, resulting in three of his men murdering Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.[20] In Christian Europe Henry was considered complicit in this crime, making him a pariah, and he was forced to make a dramatic exhibition of penance, publicly walking barefoot into the cathedral and allowing monks to scourge him.[17]

In 1155 Pope Adrian IV gave Henry papal blessing to expand his power into Ireland in order to reform the Irish church.[21] Henry allowed Dermot of Leinster to recruit soldiers in England and Wales for use in Ireland, including Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow. These knights took on the role of colonisers, accruing autonomous power, which concerned Henry. When Dermot died in 1171 Strongbow, as his son-in-law, seized significant territory. In response, and also to escape the controversy caused by the murder of Becket, Henry landed and re-established all fiefs, and jurisdictions in Ireland were held subordinate to him as high king.[22]

When Henry II attempted to give his landless youngest son, John, a wedding gift of three castles it prompted his three eldest sons and wife to rebel in the Revolt of 1173–1174. Louis VII encouraged the three elder sons to destabilise his mightiest subject and not to wait for their inheritances. William the Lion and disgruntled subjects of Henry II also joined the revolt for their own ends. It was only after eighteen months of conflict that Henry II was able to force the rebels to submit to his authority.[23] In Le Mans in 1182 Henry II gathered his children to plan for partible inheritance in which his eldest son, also called Henry, would inherit England, Normandy and Anjou; Richard the Duchy of Aquitaine; Geoffrey Brittany and John would receive Ireland. This broke down into further conflict and the younger Henry rebelled again, but died of dysentery. In 1186 Geoffrey died as a result of a tournament accident but Henry was still reluctant to have a sole heir [24] so, in 1189, Richard I and Philip II of France took advantage of a sickening Henry II with more success. Henry II was forced to accept humiliating peace terms, including naming Richard as sole heir. When Henry II died shortly afterwards his last words to Richard were allegedly "God grant that I may not die until I have my revenge on you".[25]


On the day of Richard's English coronation there was a mass slaughter of the Jews, described by Richard of Devizes as a "holocaust".[26] Quickly putting the affairs of the Angevin Empire in order he departed on Crusade to the Middle East in early 1190. Opinions of Richard amongst his contemporaries were mixed. He had rejected and humiliated the king of France's sister; deposed the well-connected king of Cyprus and afterwards sold the island; insulted and refused spoils of the third crusade to nobles like Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and was rumoured to have arranged the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat. His cruelty was demonstrated by his massacre of 2,600 prisoners in Acre.[27] 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.[28]

Richard was captured by Leopold on his return journey. Custody was passed to Henry the Lion and 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 overrun great swathes of Normandy while John of England controlled much of the remainder of Richard's lands. But, on his return to England, Richard forgave John and re-established his control. Leaving England in 1194 never to return, Richard battled Phillip for the next five years for the return of the holdings seized during his incarceration. Close to total victory he was injured by an arrow during the siege of Château de Châlus-Chabrol and died after lingering injured for ten days.[29]

Richard's failure in his duty to provide an heir caused a succession crisis. Anjou, Brittany, Maine and Touraine chose Richard's nephew and nominated heir, Arthur, while John succeeded in England and Normandy. Yet again Philip II of France took the opportunity to destabilise the Plantagenet territories on the European mainland, supporting 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.[30]

Arthur was murdered, it was rumoured by John's own hands, and his sister Eleanor would spend the rest of her life in captivity. John's behaviour drove numerous French barons to side with Phillip. The resulting rebellions by the Norman and Angevin barons broke John's control of the continental possessions, leading to the de facto end of the Angevin Empire, even though Henry III would maintain the claim until 1259.[31]

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 in one of the most decisive and symbolic battles in French history.[32] The battle had both important and high profile consequences.[33] John's nephew Otto retreated and was soon overthrown while King John agreed to 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.[34]

Magna Carta and the First Barons War[edit]

Main articles: Magna Carta and First Barons' War
One of only four surviving exemplifications of the 1215 text of Magna Carta

John's defeats in France weakened his position in England. The rebellion of his English vassals resulted in the treaty called Magna Carta, which limited royal power and established common law. This would form the basis of every constitutional battle through the 13th and 14th centuries.[35] However, both the barons and the crown failed to abide by the terms of Magna Carta, leading to the First Barons' War in which the rebel barons invited an invasion by Prince Louis. This is considered by some historians to mark the end of the Angevin period and the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty with John's death and William Marshall's appointment as the protector of the nine-year-old Henry III.[1] Marshall won the war with victories at the battles of Lincoln and Dover in 1217, leading to the Treaty of Lambeth by which Louis renounced his claims.[36] In victory, the Marshal Protectorate reissued the Magna Carta agreement as a basis for future government.[37]

Plantagenet main line[edit]

Despite the 1217 Treaty of Lambeth, hostilities continued and Henry was forced to make significant constitutional concessions to the newly crowned Louis VIII of France and Henry's stepfather 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 his nobles[38] that he gave his first son the Anglo-Saxon name Edward and built the saint a magnificent, still-extant shrine.[39] The barons were resistant to the cost in men and money required to support a foreign war to restore Plantagenet holdings on the continent. In order to motivate his barons, and 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 king were debated and discussed in the political community.[40]

Cast of the effigy of Henry III in Westminster Abbey, c. 1272

The pope had offered Henry's brother Richard the Kingdom of Sicily but he recognised that the cost of making 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, Henry purchased the kingdom for his son Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster, which angered many powerful barons. Bankrupted by his military expenses, Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford by barons led by his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, under which his debts were paid in exchange for substantial reforms. He was also forced to agree to the Treaty of Paris 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"[41] In exchange Louis withdrew his support for English rebels, ceded three bishoprics and cities, and was to pay an annual rent for possession of Agenais.[42] Disagreements about the meaning of the treaty began as soon as it was signed.[43] The agreement resulted in English kings having to pay homage to the French monarch, thus remaining French vassals, but only on French soil. This was one of the indirect causes of the Hundred Years War.[44]

Second Barons War and the establishment of Parliament[edit]

Main article: Second Barons' War
Death and mutilation of Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham

Friction intensified between the barons and the king. The barons, under Simon de Montfort, captured most of south-eastern England. At the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Henry and Prince Edward were defeated and taken prisoner. 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.[45] Edward escaped and raised an army, defeating and killing de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265.[46] Savage retribution was exacted on the rebels and authority was restored to Henry. Edward, having pacified the realm, left England to join Louis IX on the Ninth Crusade. He was one of the last crusaders in the tradition aiming to recover the Holy Lands. Louis died before Edward's arrival, but Edward decided to continue. The result was anticlimactic; 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, 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.[47]

Conquest of Wales[edit]

Wales after the Treaty of Montgomery 1267
  Gwynedd, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's principality
  Territories conquered by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd
  Territories of Llywelyn's vassals
  Lordships of the Marcher barons
  Lordships of the King of England

From the beginning of his reign Edward I sought to organise his inherited territories. As a devotee of the cult of King Arthur he also attempted to enforce claims to primacy within the British Isles. Wales consisted of a number of princedoms, often in conflict with each other. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 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 that 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. Llywelyn later died in 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 as 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 around £173,000 on his two Welsh campaigns, largely on a network of castles to secure his control.[48]

Constitutional change and the reform of feudalism[edit]

Main article: Edward I of England

Because of his legal reforms Edward is sometimes called The English Justinian,[49] although whether he was a reformer or an autocrat responding to events is debated. His campaigns left him in debt. This necessitated that he gain wider national support for his policies among lesser landowners, merchants and traders so that he could raise taxes through frequently summoned Parliaments. When Philip IV of France confiscated the duchy of Gascony in 1294, more money was needed to wage war in France. To gain financial support for the war effort, Edward summoned a precedent-setting assembly known as the Model Parliament, which included barons, clergy, knights and townspeople.[49] Edward imposed his authority on the Church with the Statutes of Mortmain that prohibited the donation of land to the Church, asserted the rights of the Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, promoted the uniform administration of justice, raised income and codified the legal system.[50]

Anglo-Scottish wars[edit]

Edward asserted that the king of Scotland owed him feudal allegiance and 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.[51] When Margaret died Edward was invited by the Scottish magnates to resolve the disputed inheritance. 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 to him and became king.[52] Edward insisted that Scotland was not independent and that as sovereign lord he had the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements, undermining Balliol's authority. John entered into an alliance with France in 1295[53] and in 1296 Edward invaded Scotland, deposing and exiling Balliol.[54]

Scene from the Holkham Bible, shows knights and foot soldiers from the period of Bannockburn

Edward was less successful in Gascony, which was overrun by the French. His commitments were beginning to outweigh his resources and 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. Meanwhile William Wallace had risen in Balliol's name and recovered most of Scotland, before being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk.[55] Robert the Bruce now rebelled and was crowned king of Scotland. Edward died on his way to lead another Scottish campaign.[55]

Edward II's coronation oath on his succession in 1307 was the first to reflect the king's responsibility to maintain the laws that the community "shall have chosen" ("aura eslu").[56] The king was initially popular but faced three challenges: discontent over the financing of wars; his household spending and the role of Piers Gaveston.[57] When Parliament decided that Gaveston should be exiled the king had no choice but to comply.[58] The king engineered Gaveston's return, but was forced to agree to the appointment of Ordainers, led by his cousin Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, to reform the royal household with Piers Gaveston exiled again.[59][60] When Gaveston returned again to England, he was abducted and executed after a mock trial.[61] This brutal act drove Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, and his adherents from power. Edward's humiliating defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn by Bruce, confirming Bruce's position as an independent king of Scots, returned the initiative to Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, who had not taken part in the campaign, claiming that it was in defiance of the Ordinances.[62][63] Edward finally repealed the Ordinances after defeating and executing Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.[64]

Hundred Years' War[edit]

Isabella, third from left, with her father, Philip IV, her future French king brothers, and Philip's brother, Charles of Valois

The French monarchy asserted its rights to encroach on Edward's legal rights in Gascony. Resistance to one judgement in Saint-Sardos resulted in Charles IV declaring the duchy forfeit. Charles's sister, Queen Isabella, was sent to negotiate and agreed to a treaty that required Edward to pay homage in France to Charles. Edward resigned Aquitaine and Ponthieu to his son, Prince Edward, who travelled to France to give homage in his stead. With the English heir in her power, Isabella refused to return to England unless Edward II dismissed his favourites and also formed a relationship with Roger Mortimer.[65] The couple invaded England and, joined by Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, captured the king.[66] Edward II abdicated on the condition that his son would inherit the throne rather than Mortimer. He is generally believed to have been murdered at Berkeley Castle by having a red-hot poker thrust into his bowels.[67] A coup by Edward III ended four years of control by Isabella and Mortimer. Roger Mortimer was executed. Though removed from power, Isabella was treated well, living in luxury for the next 27 years.[68]

In 1328 Charles IV of France died without a male heir. His cousin Phillip of Valois and Queen Isabella, on behalf of her son Edward, were the major claimants to the throne. Philip, as senior grandson of Philip III of France in the male line, became king over Edward's claim as 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. Not yet in power, Edward III paid homage to Phillip as Duke of Aquitaine and the French king continued to assert feudal pressure on Gascony, leading Edward to go to war.[69] Edward proclaimed himself king of France to encourage the Flemish to rise in open rebellion against the French king. The conflict, known as the Hundred Years War saw a significant England naval victory at the Battle of Sluys.[70] eventually followed by a victory on land at Crécy, leaving Edward free to capture the important port of Calais. A subsequent victory against Scotland at the Battle of Neville's Cross resulted in the capture of David II and reduced the threat from Scotland.[71] The Black Death in England brought a halt to Edward's campaigns by killing between a third to more than half of his subjects.[72][73] 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.[74]

The victory at Crécy was an important Plantagenet success of the Edwardian War in France.

Edward, the Black Prince, resumed the war with destructive chevauchées starting from Bordeaux. His army was caught by a much larger French force at Poitiers, but the ensuing battle was a decisive English victory resulting in the capture of John II of France. The Second Treaty of London was signed, which promised a four million écus ransom. It was guaranteed by the 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 the coastline from Flanders to Spain, restoring the lands of the former Angevin Empire. The hostages quickly escaped back to France. John, horrified that his word had been broken, returned to England and died there. Edward invaded France in an attempt to take advantage of the popular rebellion of the Jacquerie, hoping to seize the throne. Although no French army stood against him, he was unable to take Paris or Rheims. In the subsequent Treaty of Brétigny he renounced his claim to the French crown, but greatly expanded his territory in Aquitaine and confirmed his conquest of Calais.[75]

Fighting in the Hundred Years' War spilled from the French and Plantagenet lands into surrounding realms, including the dynastic conflict in Castile between Peter of Castile and Henry II of Castile. The Black Prince allied himself with Peter, defeating Henry at the Battle of Nájera before falling out with Peter, who had no means to reimburse him, leaving Edward bankrupt. The Plantagenets 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, asking John I to give up the throne in favour of Constance. John declined; instead his son married John of Gaunt's daughter, Catherine of Lancaster, creating the title Prince of Asturias for the couple.[76]

Richard II meets the rebels of the Peasants' Revolt in a painting from Froissart's Chronicles

Charles V of France resumed hostilities when the Black Prince refused a summons as Duke of Aquitaine and his reign saw the Plantagenets steadily pushed back in France.[77] The prince fell ill and returned to England where he soon died.[78] His brother John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster assumed leadership in France.[79][80] The English lost towns including Poitiers and Bergerac and their dominance at sea was reversed by defeat at the Battle of La Rochelle, undermining English seaborne trade and allowing Gascony to be threatened.[81]

The Black Prince's 10-year-old son succeeded as Richard II of England on the death of his grandfather, with government in the hands of a regency council.[82] The poor state of the economy as his government levied a number of poll taxes to finance military campaigns, resulted in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381,[83] followed by brutal reprisals against the rebels.[84] 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 increasingly seen as tyrannical and capricious rule.[85] Later they were joined by Henry Bolingbroke, the son and heir of John of Gaunt, and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk. Initially, they were successful in establishing a commission to govern England for one year, but they were forced to rebel against 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 of his worldly goods confiscated. 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 was stripped of his title. Bolingbroke and Mowbray were exiled.[85]

End of Plantagenet main line[edit]

When John of Gaunt died in 1399, Richard disinherited Henry of Bolingbroke, who invaded England in response with a small force that quickly grew in numbers. Meeting little resistance, Henry deposed Richard to have himself crowned Henry IV of England. Richard died in captivity early the next year, probably murdered, bringing an end to the main Plantagenet line.[86]

House of Lancaster[edit]

Main article: House of Lancaster

Henry asserted 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.[87] Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was the heir presumptive to Richard II by being the grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. As a child he was not considered a serious contender and he never showed interest in the throne. However, the later marriage of his granddaughter to Richard's son consolidated his descendants' claim to the throne with that of the more junior House of York.[87] Henry planned to resume war with France, but was plagued with financial problems, declining health and frequent rebellions.[88] He defeated a Scottish invasion, a serious rebellion by Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland in the North[88] and put down Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion in Wales.[89] Many saw it as a punishment from God when Henry was later struck down with leprosy and epilepsy.[90]

Hundred Years' War (1415–53) – the Lancastrian war[edit]

Hundred Years' War evolution. French territory: yellow; English: grey; Burgundian: dark grey.

Henry IV died in 1413. His son and successor, Henry V of England, aware that Charles VI of France's mental illness had caused instability in France, invaded to assert the Plantagenet claims and won a near total victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt.[91] In subsequent years Henry recaptured much of Normandy and successfully secured marriage to Catherine of Valois. The resulting Treaty of Troyes stated that Henry's heirs would inherit the throne of France. However, conflict continued with the Dauphin. When Henry died in 1422, he was succeeded by his nine-month old son as Henry VI of England. The elderly Charles VI of France died two months later. French victory at the Battle of Patay enabled the Dauphin to be crowned at Reims.[92]

During the minority of Henry VI the war caused political division amongst the Plantagenets, Bedford, Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, and Cardinal Beaufort.[93] Humphrey's wife was accused of using witchcraft with the aim of putting him on the throne and Humphrey was later arrested and died in prison.[94] 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.[95] Victory at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, brought an end to the war leaving only Calais as a continental possession.[96]

Wars of the Roses[edit]

Main article: Wars of the Roses

Henry's heir Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was a descendent of both Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and Edmund, Duke of York.[97] When Henry had a mental breakdown, Richard was named regent, but the birth of a male heir that resolved the succession question.[98] When Henry's sanity returned, the court party reasserted its authority. Richard of York and the Nevilles, defeated them at a skirmish called the First Battle of St Albans. The ruling class was deeply shocked and reconciliation was attempted.[99][100] York, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, fled abroad. The Nevilles returned to win the Battle of Northampton, where they captured Henry.[101] When Richard joined them, he surprised Parliament by claiming the throne, then forcing through the Act of Accord, which stated that Henry would remain as monarch for his lifetime, but would be succeeded by York. Margaret found this disregarding of her son's claims unacceptable and so the conflict continued. York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and his head set on display at Micklegate Bar, along with those of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, who had both been captured and beheaded.[102]

House of York[edit]

Main article: House of York
Bronze boar mount thought to have been worn by a supporter of Richard III, often described as the last Plantagenet king

The Scottish queen Mary of Guelders provided Margaret with support and a Scottish army pillaged into southern England.[103] London resisted in the fear of being plundered, then enthusiastically welcomed York's son Edward, Earl of March, with Parliament confirming that Edward should be made king.[104] Edward was crowned after consolidating his position with victory at the Battle of Towton.[105]

Edward's preferment of the former Lancastrian-supporting Woodville family, following his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, led to Warwick and Clarence helping Margaret depose Edward and return 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 the Neville brothers. The subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury brought the demise of the last of the male line of the Beauforts. The battlefield execution of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, and later murder of Henry VI extinguished the House of Lancaster.

By the mid-1470s, the victorious House of York looked safely established, with seven living male princes, but it quickly brought about its own demise. George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, plotted against his brother and was executed. Following Edward's premature death in 1483, his brother Richard had Parliament declare Edwards's two sons illegitimate on the pretext of an alleged prior pre-contract to Lady Eleanor Talbot, leaving Edward's marriage invalid.[106] Richard seized the throne and the Princes in the Tower were never seen again. Richard's son predeceased him and he was killed in 1485, following an invasion of foreign mercenaries led by Henry Tudor, who claimed the throne through his mother Margaret Beaufort. He assumed the throne as Henry VII, founding the Tudor dynasty and bringing the Plantagenet line of kings to an end.[67]

Henry VII, the Tudors and the Plantagenet descendants[edit]

Henry VII of England was crowned and married Edward's heiress Elizabeth of York to legitimise his reign. Henry battled for more than a decade to prevail over Plantagenet plots by Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy.[107] She sent Lambert Simnel, who purported to be her nephew Warwick, to Ireland. His army of Irish and Flemish supporters was defeated at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.[108]

The Duchess of Burgundy also claimed that Perkin Warbeck was Richard of Shrewsbury and twice supported invasions of England before Warbeck was captured and imprisoned in 1497. Warbeck's later escape attempt led to his execution and the execution of the last legitimate male line of the Plantagenets, Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499. When Henry Tudor seized the throne, there were numerous Plantagenet descendants who by later modern standards had a stronger right, including both his mother and future wife. By 1510 the number of claimants had increased by the birth of more than a dozen more Yorkists. Yorkists continued to be imprisoned or executed up to the reign of Elizabeth I of England, with the Tudors ruthlessly extinguishing rival claims to the throne.[67]

Many legitimate and illegitimate lines of descent outside of politics remained unmolested, surviving to the present.[67] The most prominent of these lines is the House of Beaufort who are descendants in the male line from John of Gaunt and Edward III. The Beaufort surname given to Gaunt and Katherine Swynford's four legitimised children was taken from the name of one of his French possessions.[109]

Family tree[edit]

This family tree includes selected members of the House of Plantagenet who were born legitimate.
House of Lancaster
House of York
Geoffrey V,
Count of Anjou

Henry II,
King of England

Count of Nantes

William FitzEmpress
Junior King of England

Richard I,
King of England

Geoffrey II,
Duke of Brittany

King of England

Arthur I,
Duke of Brittany

Henry III,
King of England

King of Germany

Edward I,
King of England

1st Earl of Lancaster

Henry of Almain
2nd Earl of Cornwall

Earl of Chester

Edward II,
King of England

1st Earl of Norfolk

1st Earl of Kent

2nd Earl of Lancaster

3rd Earl of Lancaster

Edward III,
King of England

Earl of Cornwall

2nd Earl of Kent

3rd Earl of Kent

1st Duke of Lancaster

Prince of Wales

1st Duke of Clarence

1st Duke of Lancaster

Edmund, 1st Duke of York
1st Duke of Gloucester

Richard II,
King of England

Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster
and the House of Mortimer
Henry IV,
King of England

John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
and the House of Beaufort
2nd Duke of York

3rd Earl of Cambridge

m. Anne de Mortimer
2nd Earl of Buckingham

Henry V,
King of England

1st Duke of Clarence

1st Duke of Bedford

1st Duke of Gloucester

3rd Duke of York

Clarence's heir general
& York's heir male
Henry VI,
King of England

Edward IV,
King of England

Earl of Rutland

Elizabeth of York
and the House of York-de la Pole
1st Duke of Clarence

Richard III,
King of England

Prince of Wales

Edward V,
King of England

1st Duke of York

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
and the House of Pole
17th Earl of Warwick

Prince of Wales


Further information[edit]



  1. ^ a b "The Angevins". The Official Website of The British Monarchy. 
  2. ^ Gillingham 2001, p. 1
  3. ^ Churchill 1958, p. 190
  4. ^ Jones 2012, p. 594
  5. ^ Davies 1997, p. 190
  6. ^ Vauchez 2000, p. 65
  7. ^ Gillingham 2001, p. 7
  8. ^ Davies 1999, p. 309.
  9. ^ Plant 2007
  10. ^ Wagner 2001, p. 206
  11. ^ BlockmansHoppenbrouwers 2014, p. 173
  12. ^ Aurell 2003
  13. ^ Gillingham 2007a, pp. 15–23
  14. ^ Power 2007, pp. 85–86
  15. ^ Warren 1991, pp. 228–229
  16. ^ Hooper 1996, p. 50
  17. ^ a b Schama 2000, p. 117
  18. ^ Grant 2005, p. 7
  19. ^ Ashley 2003, p. 73
  20. ^ Schama 2000, p. 142
  21. ^ Jones 2012, p. 53
  22. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 79–80
  23. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 82–92
  24. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 86
  25. ^ Jones 2012, p. 109
  26. ^ Ackroyd 2000, p. 54
  27. ^ Jones 2012, p. 128
  28. ^ Carlton 2003, p. 42
  29. ^ Jones 2012, p. 146
  30. ^ Turner 1994, pp. 100
  31. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 161–169
  32. ^ Favier 1993, p. 176
  33. ^ Contramine 1992, p. 83
  34. ^ Smedley 1836, p. 72
  35. ^ Jones 2012, p. 217
  36. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 221–222
  37. ^ DanzigerGillingham 2003, p. 271
  38. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 234–235
  39. ^ Schama 2000, p. 172
  40. ^ Jones 2012, p. 227
  41. ^ United Nations 1992
  42. ^ Rothwell 1975, pp. 527–539
  43. ^ Lauterpacht 1957
  44. ^ Keen, Maurice. "The Hundred Years War". BBC History. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  45. ^ Schama 2000, p. 181
  46. ^ Prestwich 2007, p. 101
  47. ^ Jones 2012, p. 293
  48. ^ Jones 2012, p. 314
  49. ^ a b Carter 1986, p. 71
  50. ^ Pollack and Maitland 1975, pp. 332–335; 337; 354–356; 608–610
  51. ^ Grant 1995, p. 89
  52. ^ Grant 1995, p. 90
  53. ^ MacDougall 2001, p. 9
  54. ^ Jones 2012, p. 329
  55. ^ a b Gardiner 2000, p. 275
  56. ^ McKisack 1959, pp. 4–6
  57. ^ Maddicott 1970, pp. 67, 71
  58. ^ McKisack 1959, pp. 6–7
  59. ^ Maddicott 1970, p. 103
  60. ^ McKisack 1959, p. 10
  61. ^ McKisack 1959, pp. 25, 27
  62. ^ Maddicott 1970, p. 190
  63. ^ McKisack 1959, p. 54
  64. ^ Maddicott 1970, p. 311
  65. ^ Jones 2012, pp. 411–413
  66. ^ Mortimer 2003, pp. 154, 160–162
  67. ^ a b c d Weir 2008, p. 92
  68. ^ Jones 2012, p. 438
  69. ^ Prestwich 2005, p. 304
  70. ^ Jones 2012, p. 471
  71. ^ Jones 2012, p. 476
  72. ^ Prestwich 2005, pp. 531–532, 550
  73. ^ Campbell 1991, pp. 48–49
  74. ^ Horrox 1989, p. 246
  75. ^ Lauterpacht 1957, p. 130
  76. ^ Weir 2008, p. 102
  77. ^ Wagner 2006, p. 122
  78. ^ Weir 2008, p. 93
  79. ^ Sumption 2009, pp. 325–327
  80. ^ Sumption 2009, pp. 187–202
  81. ^ SherborneTuck 1994, p. 44
  82. ^ Waugh 1991, p. 19
  83. ^ Hilton 1984, p. 132
  84. ^ Jones 2012, p. 540
  85. ^ a b Saul 1997, p. 203
  86. ^ Jones 2012, p. 601
  87. ^ a b Weir 1995, p. 235
  88. ^ a b Mortimer 2003, p. 353
  89. ^ Weir 1995, p. 50
  90. ^ Swanson 1995, p. 298
  91. ^ Schama 2000, p. 265
  92. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 82–83
  93. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 72–76
  94. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 122–32
  95. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 86, 101
  96. ^ Weir 1995, pp. 172
  97. ^ Crofton 2007, p. 112
  98. ^ Crofton 2007, p. 111
  99. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 25
  100. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 31.
  101. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 38.
  102. ^ Weir 1995, p. 257
  103. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 57
  104. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 1
  105. ^ Goodman 1981, p. 147
  106. ^ Neville Figgis 1896, p. 373
  107. ^ Hebditch 2003, p. 6
  108. ^ Lawless 1893, pp. 136, 138
  109. ^ Weir 2008, p. 103
  110. ^ Weir 2008, pp. 96–97


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  • Hastings, Margaret. "High History or Hack History: England in the Later Middle Ages," in Elizabeth Chapin Furber, ed. Changing Views on British History: Essays on Historical Writing Since 1939 (Harvard University Press, 1966), pp 58–100; historiography
Royal house
House of Plantagenet
Cadet branch of the Angevins
Deposition: 1485
Preceded by
House of Blois
Ruling House of England
Angevins (until 1214)
House of Lancaster (1399–1461)
House of York (1461–1485)

Succeeded by
House of Tudor
Preceded by
House of Penthièvre
Ruling House of Brittany
Succeeded by
House of Thouars
Preceded by
House of Ingelger
Ruling House of Anjou
until 1214
Succeeded by
House of Anjou