The Plantagenets (1154-1399)
The House of Lancaster:
Henry IV (1399-1413 AD)
Henry IV was born at Bolingbroke in 1367 to John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. He married Mary Bohun in 1380, who bore him seven children before her death in 1394. In 1402, Henry remarried, taking as his bride Joan of Navarre. Henry had an on-again, off-again relationship with his cousin, Richard II . He was one of the Lords Appellant who, in 1388, persecuted many of Richard's advisor-favorites, but his excellence as a soldier gained the king's favor - Henry was created Duke of Hereford in 1397. In 1398, however, the increasingly suspicious Richard banished him for ten years. John of Gaunt's death in 1399 prompted Richard to confiscate the vast Lancastrian estates; Henry invaded England while Richard was on campaign in Ireland, usurping the throne from the king.
The very nature of Henry's usurpation dictated the circumstances of his reign - incessant rebellion became the order of the day. Richard's supporters immediately revolted upon his deposition in 1400. Two political blunders in the latter years of his reign diminished Henry's support. His marriage to Joan of Navarre was highly unpopular - she was, in fact, convicted of witchcraft in 1419. Scrope and Thomas Mawbray were executed in 1405 after conspiring against Henry; the Archbishop's execution alarmed the English people, adding to his unpopularity. He developed a nasty skin disorder and epilepsy, persuading many that God was punishing the king for executing an archbishop. Henry, ailing from leprosy and epilepsy, watched as Prince Henry controlled the government for the last two years of his reign.
Henry V (1413-1422 AD)
Henry V, the eldest son of Henry IV and Mary Bohun, was born in 1387. As per arrangement by the Treaty of Troyes, he married Catherine, daughter of the French King Charles VI, in June 1420. His only child, the future Henry VI, was born in 1421.
Henry was an accomplished soldier: at age fourteen he fought the Welsh forces of Owen ap Glendower; at age sixteen he commanded his father's forces at the battle of Shrewsbury; and shortly after his accession he put down a major Lollard uprising and an assassination plot by nobles still loyal to Richard II . He proposed to marry Catherine in 1415, demanding the old Plantagenet lands of Normandy and Anjou as his dowry. Charles VI refused and Henry declared war, opening yet another chapter in the Hundred Years' War. The French war served two purposes - to gain lands lost in previous battles and to focus attention away from any of his cousins' royal ambitions. Henry, possessed a masterful military mind and defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt in October 1415, and by 1419 had captured Normandy, Picardy and much of the Capetian stronghold of the Ile-de-France.
By the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, Charles VI not only accepted Henry as his son-in-law, but passed over his own son to name Henry as heir to the French crown. Had Henry lived a mere two months longer, he would have been king of both England and France.
Henry had prematurely aged due to living the hard life of a soldier. He became seriously ill and died after returning from yet another French campaign; Catherine had bore his only son while he was away and Henry died having never seen the child.
Henry VI (1422-61, 1470-71 AD)
Henry VI was the only child of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, born on December 6, 1421. He married Margaret of Anjou in 1445; the union produced one son, Edward, who was killed in battle one day before Henry's execution. Henry came to the throne as an infant after the early death of his father; in name, he was king of both England and France, but a protector ruled each realm. He was educated by Richard Beauchamp beginning in 1428. The whole of Henry's reign was involved with retaining both of his crowns - in the end, he held neither.
Hostilities in France continued, but momentum swung to the French with the appearance of Joan of Arc in 1428. The seventeen year old was instrumental in rescuing the French Dauphin Charles in 1429; he was crowned at Reims as Charles VII, and she was burned at the stake as a heretic. English losses in Brittany (1449), Normandy (1450) and Gascony (1453) led to the conclusion of the Hundred Years' War in 1453. Henry lost his claim to all French soil except for Calais.
The Wars of the Roses began in full during Henry's reign. In 1453, Henry had an attack of the hereditary mental illness that plagued the French house of Valois; Richard, Duke of York , was made protector of the realm during the illness. His wife Margaret, a rather headstrong woman, alienated Richard upon Henry's recovery and Richard responded by attacking and defeating the queen's forces at St. Albans in 1455. Richard captured the king in 1460 and forced him to acknowledge Richard as heir to the crown. Henry escaped, joined the Lancastvian forces and attacked at Towton in March 1461, only to be defeated by the Yorks. Richard's son, Edward IV , was proclaimed king; Margaret and Henry were exiled to Scotland. They were captured in 1465 and imprisoned in the Tower of London until 1470. Henry was briefly restored to power in Settember 1470. Edward, Prince of Wales, died after his final victory at Tewkesbury on May 20, 1471 and Henry returned to the Tower. The last Lancastrian king was murdered the following day.
The House of York:
Edward IV (1461-70, 1471-83 AD)
Edward IV, son of Richard, Duke of York and Cicely Neville, was born in 1442. He married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, the widow of the Lancastrian Sir John Grey, who bore him ten children. He also entertained many mistresses and had at least one illegitimate son.
Edward came to the throne through the efforts of his father; as Henry VI became increasingly less effective, Richard pressed the claim of the York family but was killed before he could ascend the throne: Edward deposed his cousin Henry after defeating the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross in 1461. Richard Neville, the Kingmaker, Earl of Warwick proclaimed Henry king once again in 1470, but less than a year elapsed when Edward reclaimed the crown and had Henry executed in 1471.
The rest of his reign was fairly uneventful. He revived the English claim to the French throne and invaded the weakened France, extorting a non-aggression treaty from Louis XI in 1475 which amounted to a lump payment of 75,000 crowns, and an annuity of 20,000. Edward had his brother, George, Duke of Clarendon, judicially murdered in 1478 on a charge of treason. His marriage to Elizabeth Woodville vexed his councilors, and he allowed many of the great nobles (such as his brother Richard) to build uncharacteristically large power bases in the provinces in return for their support.
Edward died suddenly in 1483, leaving behind two sons aged twelve and nine, five daughters, and a troubled legacy.
Edward V (1483 AD)
Edward V, eldest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was born in 1470. He ascended the throne upon his father's death in April 1483, but reigned only two months before being deposed by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The entire episode is still shrouded in mystery. The Duke had Edward and his younger brother, Richard, imprisoned in the Tower and declared illegitimate amd named himself rightful heir to the crown. The two young boys never emerged from the Tower, apparently murdered by, or at least on the orders of, their Uncle Richard. During renovations to the Tower in 1674, the skeletons of two children were found, possibly the murdered boys.
Richard III (1483-5 AD)
Richard III, the eleventh child of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, was born in 1452. He was created third Duke of Gloucester at the coronation of his brother, Edward IV. Richard had three children: one each of an illegitimate son and daughter, and one son by his first wife, Anne Neville, widow of Henry IV's son Edward.
Richard's reign gained an importance out of proportion to its length. He was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, which had ruled England since 1154; he was the last English king to die on the battlefield; his death in 1485 is generally accepted between the medieval and modern ages in England; and he is credited with the responsibility for several murders: Henry VI , Henry's son Edward, his brother Clarence, and his nephews Edward and Richard.
Richard's power was immense, and upon the death of Edward IV, he positioned himself to seize the throne from the young Edward V. He feared a continuance of internal feuding should Edward V, under the influence of his mother's Woodville relatives, remain on the throne (most of this feared conflict would have undoubtedly come from Richard). The old nobility, also fearful of a strengthened Woodville clan, assembled and declared the succession of Edward V as illegal, due to weak evidence suggesting that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamous, thereby rendering his sons illegitimate and ineligible as heirs to the crown. Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of York, were imprisoned in the Tower of London, never to again emerge alive. Richard of Gloucester was crowned Richard III on July 6, 1483.
Four months into his reign he crushed a rebellion led by his former assistant Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who sought the installation of Henry Tudor , a diluted Lancaster, to the throne. The rebellion was crushed, but Tudor gathered troops and attacked Richard's forces on August 22, 1485, at the battle of Bosworth Field. The last major battle of the Wars of the Roses, Bosworth Field became the death place of Richard III. Historians have been noticeably unkind to Richard, based on purely circumstantial evidence; Shakespeare portrays him as a complete monster in his play, Richard III. One thing is for certain, however: Richard's defeat and the cessation of the Wars of the Roses allowed the stability England required to heal, consolidate, and push into the modern era.
Henry III (1216-72 AD)
Born: 1 October 1207 at Winchester Castle
Died: 16 November 1272 at the Palace of Westminster
Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Parents: King John and Isabella (of Angouleme)
Siblings: Richard, Joan, Isabella & Eleanor
Crowned: (1st) 28 October 1216 at St. Peter's Abbey (Gloucester Cathedral), Gloucester, Gloucestershire; (2nd) 17th May 1220 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Married: 14 January 1236 at Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
Spouse: Eleanor daughter of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence
Offspring: Edward, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund, Richard, John, Katherine, William & Henry
Henry III, the first monarch to be crowned in his minority, inherited the throne at age nine. His reign began immersed in the rebellion created by his father, King John. London and most of the southeast were in the hands of the French Dauphin Louis and the northern regions were under the control of rebellious barons - only the midlands and southwest were loyal to the boy king. The barons, however, rallied under Henry's first regent, William the Marshall, and expelled the French Dauphin in 1217. William the Marshall governed until his death in 1219; Hugh de Burgh, the last of the justiciars to rule with the power of a king, governed until Henry came to the throne in earnest at age twenty-five.
Matters came to a head in 1258. Henry levied extortionate taxes to pay for debts incurred through war with Wales, failed campaigns in France, and an extensive program of ecclesiastical building. Inept diplomacy and military defeat led Henry to sell his hereditary claims to all the Angevin possessions in France except Gascony. When he assumed the considerable debts of the papacy in its fruitless war with Sicily, his barons demanded sweeping reforms and the king was in no position to offer resistance. Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, a document placing the barons in virtual control of the realm. A council of fifteen men, comprised of both the king's supporters and detractors, effected a situation whereby Henry could nothing without the council's knowledge and consent. The magnates handled every level of government with great unity initially but gradually succumbed to petty bickering; the Provisions of Oxford remained in force for only years. Henry reasserted his authority and denied the Provisions, resulting in the outbreak of civil war in 1264. Edward, Henry's eldest son, led the king's forces with the opposition commanded by Simon de Montfort, Henry's brother-in-law. At the Battle of Lewes, in Sussex, de Montfort defeated Edward and captured both king and son - and found himself in control of the government.
Later in 1265, de Montfort lost the support of one of the most powerful barons, the Earl of Gloucester, and Edward also managed to escape. The two gathered an army and defeated de Montfort at the Battle of Evasham, Worcestershire. de Montfort was slain and Henry was released; Henry resumed control of the throne but, for the remainder of his reign, Edward exercised the real power of the throne in his father's stead. The old king, after a long reign of fifty-six years, died in 1272. Although a failure as a politician and soldier, his reign was significant for defining the English monarchical position until the end of the fifteenth century: kingship limited by law.
Edward I, Longshanks (1272-1307 AD)
Born: 17 June 1239 at the Palace of Westminster
Died: 7 July 1307 at Burgh-on-Sands, Cumberland
Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Parents: Henry III and Eleanor of Provence
Siblings: Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund, Richard, John, Katherine, William & Henry
Crowned: 19 August 1274 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Married: (1st) October 1254 at Las Huelgas, Castile; (2nd) 10 September 1299 at Canterbury Cathedral
Spouse: (1st) Eleanor daughter of Ferdinand III, King of of Castile & Leon; (2nd) Margaret daughter of Philip III, King of France
Offspring: (1st) Eleanor, Joan, John, Henry, Julian (alias Katherine), Joan, Alfonso, Margaret, Berengaria, Mary, Alice, Elizabeth, Edward, Beatrice & Blanche; (2nd) Thomas, Edmund & Eleanor; (Illegitimate) supposedly one
Edward I, nicknamed "Longshanks" due to his great height and stature, was perhaps the most successful of the medieval monarchs. The first twenty years of his reign marked a high point of cooperation between crown and community. In these years, Edward made great strides in reforming government, consolidating territory, and defining foreign policy. He possessed the strength his father lacked and reasserted royal prerogative. Edward fathered many children as well: sixteen by Eleanor of Castille before her death in 1290, and three more by Margaret.
Edward held to the concept of community, and although at times unscrupulously aggressive, ruled with the general welfare of his subjects in mind. He perceived the crown as judge of the proper course of action for the realm and its chief legislator; royal authority was granted by law and should be fully utilized for the public good, but that same law also granted protection to the king's subjects. A king should rule with the advice and consent of those whose rights were in question. The level of interaction between king and subject allowed Edward considerable leeway in achieving his goals.
Edward concentrated on an aggressive foreign policy. A major campaign to control Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Wales began in 1277 and lasted until Llywelyn's death in 1282. Wales was divided into shires, English civil law was introduced, and the region was administered by appointed justices. In the manner of earlier monarchs, Edward constructed many new castles to ensure his conquest. In 1301, the king's eldest son was named Prince of Wales, a title still granted to all first-born male heirs to the crown. Edward found limited success in extending English influence into Ireland: he introduced a Parliament in Dublin and increased commerce in a few coastal towns, but most of the country was controlled by independent barons or Celtic tribal chieftains. He retained English holdings in France through diplomacy, but was drawn into war by the incursions of Philip IV in Gascony. He negotiated a peace with France in 1303 and retained those areas England held before the war.
Edward's involvement in Scotland had far reaching effects. The country had developed a feudal kingdom similar to England in the Lowlands the Celtic tribal culture dispersed to the Highlands. After the death of the Scottish king, Alexander III, Edward negotiated a treaty whereby Margaret, Maid of Norway and legitimate heir to the Scottish crown, would be brought to England to marry his oldest son, the future Edward II. Margaret, however, died in 1290 en route to England, leaving a disputed succession in Scotland; Edward claimed the right to intercede as feudal lord of the Scottish kings through their Anglo-Norman roots. Edward arbitrated between thirteen different claimants and chose John Baliol. Baliol did homage to Edward as his lord, but the Scots resisted Edward's demands for military service. In 1296, Edward invaded Scotland and soundly defeated the Scots under Baliol Ð Baliol was forced to abdicate and the Scottish barons did homage to Edward as their king. William Wallace incited a rebellion in 1297, defeated the English army at Stirling, and harassed England's northern counties. The next year, Edward defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk but encountered continued resistance until Wallace's capture and execution in 1304. Robert Bruce, the grandson of a claimant to the throne in 1290, instigated another revolt in 1306 and would ultimately defeat the army of Edward II at Bannockburn. Edward's campaigns in Scotland were ruthless and aroused in the Scots a hatred of England that would endure for generations.
Edward II (1307-27 AD)
Born: 25 April 1284 at Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd
Murdered: 21 September 1327 at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Buried: St. Peter's Abbey (Gloucester Cathedral), Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Parents: Edward I and Eleanor of Castile
Siblings: Eleanor, Joan, John, Henry, Julian (alias Katherine), Joan, Alfonso, Margaret, Berengaria, Mary, Alice, Elizabeth, Beatrice & Blanche
Crowned: 25 February 1308 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Abdicated: 25 January 1327
Married: 25 January 1308 at Boulogne Cathedral
Spouse: Isabella daughter of Philip IV, King of France
Offspring: Edward, John, Eleanor & Joan
Edward II lacked the royal dignity of his father and failed miserably as king. He inherited his father's war with Scotland and displayed his ineptitude as a soldier. Disgruntled barons, already wary of Edward as Prince of Wales, sought to check his power from the beginning of his reign. He raised the ire of the nobility by lavishing money and other rewards upon his male favorites. Such extreme unpopularity would eventually cost Edward his life.
Edward I's dream of a unified British nation quickly disintegrated under his weak son. Baronial rebellion opened the way for Robert Bruce to reconquer much of Scotland. In 1314, Bruce defeated English forces at the battle of Bannockburn and ensured Scottish independence until the union of England and Scotland in 1707. Bruce also incited rebellion in Ireland and reduced English influence to the confines of the Pale.
Edward's preference for surrounding himself with outsiders harkened back to the troubled reign of Henry III. The most notable was Piers Gaveston, a young Gascon exiled by Edward I for his undue influence on the Prince of Wales and, most likely, the king's homosexual lover. The arrogant and licentious Gaveston wielded considerable power after being recalled by Edward. The magnates, alienated by the relationship, rallied in opposition behind the king's cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster; the Parliaments of 1310 and 1311 imposed restrictions on Edward's power and exiled Gaveston. The barons revolted in 1312 and Gaveston was murdered - full rebellion was avoided only by Edward's acceptance of further restrictions. Although Lancaster shared the responsibilities of governing with Edward, the king came under the influence of yet another despicable favorite, Hugh Dispenser. In 1322, Edward showed a rare display of resolve and gathered an army to meet Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire. Edward prevailed and executed Lancaster. He and Dispenser ruled the government but again acquired many enemies - 28 knights and barons were executed for rebelling and many exiled.
Edward sent his queen, Isabella, to negotiate with her brother, French king Charles IV, regarding affairs in Gascony. She fell into an open romance with Roger Mortimer, one of Edward's disaffected barons, and persuaded Edward to send their young son to France. The rebellious couple invaded England in 1326 and imprisoned Edward. The king was deposed in 1327, replaced by his son, Edward III, and murdered in September at Berkeley castle.
Sir Richard Baker, in reference to Edward I in A Chronicle of the Kings of England, makes a strong indictment against Edward II: "His great unfortunateness was in his greatest blessing; for of four sons which he had by his Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were worthy to have outlived him; and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy never to have been born."
Edward III (1327-1377 AD)
Born: 13 November 1312 at Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Died: 21 June 1377 at Sheen Palace, Richmond, Surrey
Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Parents: Edward II and Isabella of France
Siblings: John, Eleanor & Joan
Crowned: 1 February 1327 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Married: 24 January 1328 at York Minster, Yorkshire
Spouse: Philippa daughter of William V, Count of Hainault & Holland
Offspring: Edward, the Black Prince; Isabella; Joan; William of Hatfield; Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence; John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; Edmund of Langley, Duke of York; Blanche; Mary; Margaret; William of Windsor; and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; (Illegitimate) at least three by Alice Perrers
Edward's youth was spent in his mother's court and he was crowned at age fourteen after his father was deposed. After three years of domination by his mother and her lover, Roger Mortimer, Edward instigated a palace revolt in 1330 and assumed control of the government. Mortimer was executed and Isabella was exiled from court. Edward was married to Philippa of Hainault in 1328 and the union produced many children; the 75% survival rate of their children - nine out of twelve lived through adulthood - was incredible considering conditions of the day.
War occupied the largest part of Edward's reign. He and Edward Baliol defeated David II of Scotland and drove David into exile in 1333. French cooperation with the Scots, French aggression in Gascony, and Edward's claim to the disputed throne of France (through his mother, Isabella) led to the first phase of the Hundred Years' war. The naval battle of Sluys (1340) gave England control of the Channel, and battles at Crecy (1346) and Calais (1347) established English supremacy on land. Hostilities ceased in the aftermath of the Black Death but war flared up again with an English invasion of France in 1355. Edward, the Black Prince and eldest son of Edward III, trounced the French cavalry at Poitiers (1356) and captured the French King John. In 1359, the Black Prince encircled Paris with his army and the defeated French negotiated for peace. The Treaty of Bretigny in 1360 ceded huge areas of northern and western France to English sovereignty. Hostilities arose again in 1369 as English armies under the king's third son, John of Gaunt, invaded France. English military strength, weakened considerably after the plague, gradually lost so much ground that by 1375, Edward agreed to the Treaty of Bruges, leaving only the coastal towns of Calais, Bordeaux, and Bayonne in English hands.
The nature of English society transformed greatly during Edward's reign. Edward learned from the mistakes of his father and affected more cordial relations with the nobility than any previous monarch. Feudalism dissipated as mercantilism emerged: the nobility changed from a large body with relatively small holdings to a small body that held great lands and wealth. Mercenary troops replaced feudal obligations as the means of gathering armies. Taxation of exports and commerce overtook land-based taxes as the primary form of financing government (and war). Wealth was accrued by merchants as they and other middle class subjects appeared regularly for parliamentary sessions. Parliament formally divided into two houses - the upper representing the nobility and high clergy with the lower representing the middle classes - and met regularly to finance Edward's wars and pass statutes. Treason was defined by statute for the first time (1352), the office of Justice of the Peace was created to aid sheriffs (1361), and English replaced French as the national language (1362).
Despite the king's early successes and England's general prosperity, much remained amiss in the realm. Edward and his nobles touted romantic chivalry as their credo while plundering a devastated France; chivalry emphasized the glory of war while reality stressed its costs. The influence of the Church decreased but John Wycliff spearheaded an ecclesiastical reform movement that challenged church exploitation by both the king and the pope. During 1348-1350, bubonic plague (the Black Death) ravaged the populations of Europe by as much as a fifty per cent. The flowering English economy was struck hard by the ensuing rise in prices and wages. The failed military excursions of John of Gaunt into France caused excessive taxation and eroded Edward's popular support.
The last years of Edward's reign mirrored the first, in that a woman again dominated him. Philippa died in 1369 and Edward took the unscrupulous Alice Perrers as his mistress. With Edward in his dotage and the Black Prince ill, Perrers and William Latimer (the chamberlain of the household) dominated the court with the support of John of Gaunt. Edward, the Black Prince, died in 1376 and the old king spent the last year of his life grieving. Rafael Holinshed, in Chronicles of England, suggested that Edward believed the death of his son was a punishment for usurping his father's crown: "But finally the thing that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear son Prince Edward . . . But this and other mishaps that chanced to him now in his old years might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience showed to his in usurping against him. . ."
Richard II (1377-1399 AD)
Born: 6 January 1367 at Bordeaux, Gascony
Murdered: 14 February 1400 at Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire
Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Parents: Edward, Prince of Wales - "the Black Prince" - and Joan, the "Fair Maid of Kent"
Siblings: Edward of Angouleme
Crowned: 16 July 1377 at Westminster Abbey, Middlesex
Abdicated: 29 September 1399
Married: (1st) 14 January 1382 at St. Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster, Middlesex; (2nd) 4th November 1396 at Calais
Spouse: (1st) Anne daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor & King of Bohemia; (2nd) Isabella daughter of Charles VI, King of France
Named Heir: His cousin, Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March
Richard II, born in 1367, was the son of Edward, the Black Prince and Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent. Edward was but ten years old when he succeeded his grandfather, Edward III ; England was ruled by a council under the leadership of John of Gaunt , and Richard was tutored by Sir Simon Burley. He married the much-beloved Anne of Bohemia in 1382, who died childless in 1394. Edward remarried in 1396, wedding the seven year old Isabella of Valois, daughter of Charles VI of France, to end a further struggle with France.
Richard asserted royal authority during an era of royal restrictions. Economic hardship followed the Black Death, as wages and prices rapidly increased. Parliament exacerbated the problem by passing legislation limiting wages but failing to also regulate prices. In 1381, Wat Tyler led the Peasants' Revolt against the oppressive government policies of John of Gaunt. Richard's unwise generosity to his favorites - Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others - led Thomas, Duke of Gloucester and four other magnates to form the Lords Appellant. The five Lords Appellant tried and convicted five of Richard's closest advisors for treason. In 1397, Richard arrested three of the five Lords, coerced Parliament to sentence them to death and banished the other two. One of the exiles was Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV . Richard travelled to Ireland in 1399 to quell warring chieftains, allowing Bolingboke to return to England and be elected king by Parliament. Richard lacked support and was quickly captured by Henry IV.
Deposed in 1399, Richard was murdered while in prison, the first casualty of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York.
The Plantagenet dynasty has been the longest running dynasty of the English Crown.
The Plantagenets grew out of the bitter feud between Matilda, daughter of Henry I and Stephen, son of Henry I's sister Adela. Henry I lost his only legitimate son in a tragic drowning and felt he had no choice but to name Matilda, his only legitimate child left, his heir. He had all the feudal lords swear allegiance to her, but after his death, problems began. No woman had ruled in her own right and many felt the crown should pass to the next legitimate male heir, Stephen. A bitter civil war was fought for many years with ups and downs for both Matilda and Stephen. In the end, Matilda's son, Henry Plantagenet, defeated his uncle on the battlefield and a compromise was made. Stephen could remain King for his lifetime provided Henry Plantagenet was his heir. Stephen had no choice and displaced his son Eustace for Henry. Upon Stephen's death, Henry II became the first Plantagenet King. The dynasty ended with the death of Richard III on Bosworth Field in 1485 when Henry Tudor took the crown and created the House of Tudor.
Some Portraits of the Plantagenet Kings
© Dean and Chapter of Westminster/Royal Collection
King Henry V The Royal Collection © 2005, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Richard III, the last Plantagenet The Royal Collection © 2005, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Heh! One of Britains best kings sandwiched between two of the worst! Mind you, I do think Henry V was overrated; he spent too much time trying to become King of France and not enough time looking after the country he did have.
A very successful and powerful dynasty that in the end destroyed itself with internal battles for power. Essentially the 'Wars of the Roses' was a bitter, and lethal, struggle within the family, which ended up wiping most of them out. Check the genealogies and count the number of members of this extended and sprawling dynasty who were either killed in battle or executed. The lust for power overcame any familial solidarity.
Fortunately Princess Elizabeth of York (the sister of the 'Princes in the Tower') survived the bloodshed, married Henry Tudor, and in her son who became King Henry VIII, reunited in a way the two branches of York and Lancaster.
Henry's widow, Catherine of Valois, went on to make a secret marriage with Welshman Owen Tudor. From this marriage, the Tudor dynasty stems and the Tudors are the ones who ended the Plantagenet line. Isn't it Ironic, dont ya think??:D
Portrait of the Marriage of Catherine de Valois and King Henry V of England:
Well, Henry VI wasn't one of our better efforts either, for that matter!
I've always been interested in the Wars of the Roses because my mother comes from Tewkesbury, where one of the major battles was fought. Every year apparently they do a reenactment (although I don't think they did when I was a kid and used to visit my grandparents there) - it used to be held on the field where the actual battle took place, but the latest owners have forbidden it so now they set it up somewhere near the river.
Some of the buildings and places mentioned in contemporary descriptions of the battle are still standing.
This is the building where Queen Margaret is said to have stayed before the battle:
This is the church where several Lancastrians tried to claim sanctuary after they lost the battle but were dragged out and killed:
It was one of the abbeys that Henry VIII confiscated from the church during the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, and it was unusual in that the townspeople got together and bought it back from him. I believe it's the oldest Norman church still in constant use in England.
This is Bloody Meadow, where the battle took place:
It's just down the road from where one of my cousins lives.
The main street probably doesn't look all that different from back in the 15th century (apart from the tarmac road, of course).
Here is a bio of Charles VI of France, Father of Catherine de Valois & Grandfather of Henry VI, and where the madness of Henry VI came from:
The joys of inbreeding....
Here is an article and small portrait of Henry VI (I am throwing portraits everywhere to get people into it!)
I don't think his sanity was helped by having a wife such as Margaret of Anjou and having to deal with the Earl of Warwick, "The King Maker".
I think it's rather funny that a Plantaganet princess ended up marrying a commoner. The Plantaganets were very fond of considering and trumpeting their extensive blood ties to Charlemagne and to various important imperial figures of medieval Europe and yet Catherine of Valois, in the end, became one of the only prominent royal figures of the Middle Ages (as far as I know) to marry a commoner without noble titles and an impressive pedigree. There's a line in the BBC mini-series Elizabeth R, I recall, in which the character Lettice Knollys calls the Tudors the offspring "of a Welsh butler."
Well, talking about marrying commoners, Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville wasn't exactly the height of diplomacy either.
Sometimes I think the monarchs from Edward II to Henry VII did all this stuff because they knew that students hundreds of years later would be made to memorise their wretched family trees. Turbulent years, those.
A Plantagenet innovator?
See, nowadays financial planners just go around sucking the toes of topless princesses in line-of-sight of powerful cameras. They had so much more style back in the Middle Ages.:D
The Battle of Bosworth
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field. King Richard III was slain in the battle, and the House of Tudor obtained the English Crown.
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