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House of Plantagenet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The House of Plantagenet (pronounced /plænˈtædʒɨnɨt/), or First House of Anjou, was a royal house founded by Henry II of England, son of Geoffrey V of Anjou. The Plantagenet kings first ruled the Kingdom of England in the 12th century. Their male line originated in Gâtinais, while their direct ancestors had ruled the County of Anjou since the 9th century. The dynasty gained several other holdings building the Angevin Empire, which at its peak stretched from the Pyrenees to Ireland.

In total, fifteen Plantagenet monarchs, including those belonging to cadet branches, ruled England from 1154 until 1485. The initial branch ruled from Henry II of England until the deposition of Richard II of England in 1399. After that, the House of Lancaster ruled until the Duke of York deposed Henry VI in 1455. The two Plantagenet branches then clashed in the civil war known as the Wars of the Roses over control of the house. After the three ruling Lancastrian monarchs, the crown returned to senior primogeniture with three ruling Yorkist monarchs; the last being Richard III of England who was killed in battle during 1485. The legitimate male line of the House of Plantagenet went extinct with the execution of Richard's nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, in 1499, although an illegitimate scion, Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, was active at the court of Henry VIII of England, and several illegitimate lines persist, including the Dukes of Beaufort. The last legitimate Plantagenet was Margaret Pole, executed by Henry VIII in 1541.

A distinctive English culture and art emerged during the Plantagenet era, encouraged by some of the monarchs who were patrons of the "father of English poetry"; Geoffrey Chaucer. The Gothic architecture style was popular during the time, with buildings such as the Westminster Abbey and York Minster remodelled in that style. There were also lasting developments in the social sector, such as John I of England's signing of the Magna Carta. This was influential in the development of common law and constitutional law. Political institutions such as the Parliament of England and the Model Parliament originate from the Plantagenet period, as do educational institutions including the University of Cambridge and Oxford.

The eventful political climate of the day saw the Hundred Years' War, where the Plantagenets battled with the House of Valois for the control of the Kingdom of France, related to both claiming House of Capet seniority. Some of the Plantagenet kings were renowned as warriors; Henry V of England left his mark with the victory against larger numbers at the Battle of Agincourt, while earlier Richard the Lionheart had distinguished himself in the Third Crusade and was later romanticised as an iconic figure in English folklore.


The name Plantagenet itself has its origins as the nickname of Geoffrey V of Anjou. The name is derived from the plant common broom, which is known in the Latin language as planta genista and in French as "plante genêt". It is most commonly claimed that the nickname arose because he wore a sprig of it in his helmet. Its significance has been said to relate to its golden flower or contemporary belief in its vegetative soul. The surname Plantagenet has, since the 15th century, been only retroactively applied to the descendants of Geoffrey of Anjou, and was not used as a contemporary term, as the house itself used no surname until the legitimist claimant Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, father of both Edward IV and Richard III, assumed the name about 1448.

The Plantagenets are also called Angevins, because their immediate paternal progenitors were Counts of Anjou, an autonomous county in northern France. They descend in the male line from from the Counts of Gatinais, one of whom had married an heiress to the county, her Anjou ancestors deriving from an obscure 9th century nobleman named Ingelger. It is due to this lineage that the Plantagenets are sometimes referred to as the First House of Anjou. One of the more notable Counts was Fulk, a crusader who became King of Jerusalem. It was his son, Geoffrey, nicknamed Plantagenet, who gave his name to the dynasty, and Fulk's grandson, Henry, was the first of the family to rule England.
Henry's claim to the English throne came through his mother, the Empress Matilda, who had claimed the crown as the daughter of Henry I of England. Empress Matilda's brother William Adelin had died in the wreck of the White Ship, leaving Matilda her father's only surviving legitimate child.] However, on Henry's death in 1135, Matilda's cousin Stephen of Blois was supported by much of the Anglo-Norman nobility, and was able to have himself crowned instead. A tightly fought civil war known as The Anarchy ensued, with Matilda gaining support from her illegitimate half-brother, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester. The balance swayed both ways during the war, Matilda gained control at one point and carried the title "Lady of the English" before Stephen forced her out to Anjou. Unrest and instability continued throughout Stephen's reign, while on the continent, Geoffrey managed to take control of the Duchy of Normandy for the Angevins in 1141 but seemingly showed no interest in campaigning across the Channel.

Rise of Henry II and his sons
Matilda's son the future Henry II of England had grown into a skilled military tactician and arrived in England to follow up his mother's claim. He had married Eleanor of Aquitaine and so the Duchy of Aquitaine was also part of the Plantagenet's vast land holdings in the emerging Angevin Empire. When Henry arrived in England, he and Stephen came to an agreement in November 1153, with the signing of the Treaty of Wallingford where Stephen recognised Henry as his heir to the throne.[11] Most scholars regard Henry's reign as energetic and effective in his governance. Henry overhauled the English judicial system, restoring royal authority in place of the easily manipulated feudal law of the barons which had undermined Stephen's ineffective reign. The system and reforms put in place by Henry restored law and order, creating a self-standing system which utilised competent government clerks and sheriffs. It could in effect operate smoothly with a common law prevailing, even when the king was absent or through the reign of less skilled monarchs.

After King of Leinster, Dermot MacMurrough was chased out of his lands by the High King of Ireland, he asked Henry for help. Henry obliged, restoring MacMurrough to Leinster and inserting his son John as Lord of Ireland. Henry also recovered Northumberland and Cumbria from the control of Scotland who had earlier seized the areas from England, under Malcolm II and David I of Scotland respectively. Henry named his son Henry the Young King as his coregent in England, the coronation was carried out by the Archbishop of York. This angered Henry's formerly close friend, Thomas Beckett the Archbishop of Canterbury; in frustration Henry uttered a comment "Who would rid me of this turbulent priest?!"--which would see Beckett killed by knights. Henry regretted his former friend's death and did public penance; walking barefoot into Canterbury Cathedral, he allowed monks to scourge him, his excommunication was rescinded.

Henry envisaged in his will a situation somewhat similar to a federal monarchy for the Plantagenet Empire after his death.He planned that his four sons, would inherit various different parts: Henry the Younger (England, Normandy and Anjou), Richard (Aquitaine), Geoffrey (Brittany) and John (Ireland), so each would have home rule with its own monarch. His family under the leadership of his son Henry the Younger who wanted more power during Henry II's lifetime, rebelled against him in the Revolt of 11731174. The rebels included power hungry English barons, his second cousin the king of Scotland and the king of France. Despite being attacked on various different fronts, Henry II and his loyalists fought a defensive campaign and humiliated militarily all their enemies. Henry's men led by Ranulf de Glanvill, even captured his second cousin William I of Scotland at Alnwick, but allowed him to swear fealty to Henry at York Castle. Henry the Younger rebelled against his father again in 1183 but died of dysentery.
Richard the Lionheart as he would later be known, become monarch in 1189. Richard did not focus as much on local governance as his father, rarely spending time in England. However he built up a reputation as a great military leader and warrior for his efforts in the Third Crusade scoring considerable victories against his Muslim counterpart, Saladin. For a time Richard was Lord of Cyprus but sold the island to Guy of Lusignan. Since his death Richard has been romanticised in English folklore, as his name remains synonymous with bravery and courage. His brother John of England, nicknamed Lackland, came to power next in 1199. John clashed with Philip II of France, who favoured John's nephew Arthur to control the continental Plantagenet territories. After Arthur was killed, the Norman and Angevin lords rebelled against Plantagenet rule; John lost much of the continent to France, solidified by defeat at Bouvines. It was around this time that the English language gained wider respect. In England, John also had to deal with rebellion as he was forced by barons to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, a document that limited his power and that is popularly regarded as an early first step in the evolution of modern democracy. As John signed the document under duress, the First Barons' War broke out, with the barons inviting an invasion by Louis VIII of France. John died in 1217 and his son Henry III of England succeeded him, with the barons switching their allegiance back to Plantagenet against Capet.

Three Edwards and claim to Capet

The English Justinian
Henry III became king at just nine years old, so nobles such as William Marshal and Hubert de Burgh dominated in the early years. Henry made unsuccessful attempts to regain Plantagenet land in northern France. Henry handed out various honours to foreigners related to his wife Eleanor of Provence, which annoyed the local nobility. The Provisions of Oxford was imposed on the king, led by Simon de Montfort, a council of fifteen nobles were set to help govern the country; Henry asserted himself and so the Second Barons' War began. At Lewes de Montfort captured Henry's son Prince Edward and became de facto ruler of the nation, until royalists won the war at Evesham. It is from this period that the Parliament of England originated, Henry was passionate about aesthetics and had many of England's buildings such as Westminster Abbey and York Minster re-built in the Gothic architecture style. The reign of Edward I of England, nicknamed Longshanks due to his tall height, saw much legislative activity and improvements in the administration of the judicial institutions which would last almost unchanged for centuries. Due to this he is sometimes called "The English Justinian", a reference to the Byzantine Emperor.

Edward clashed with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, who ruled directly Gwynedd while other parts of the Principality of Wales were Marcher Lordships existing since Norman times.[29] Llywelyn refused to do homage or attend Edward's coronation; thus in 1277 the two men went to war.[29] Edward was quickly victorious and a peace treaty was issued. Llywelyn and his brother Dafydd ap Gruffudd broke the treaty and went on the attack; again Edward was victorious, but this time the Principality of Wales became Plantagenet territory, with his son Edward crowned Prince of Wales.[29] After Edward I's brother-in-law Alexander III of Scotland died and Margaret, Maid of Norway became his sole heir, a marriage alliance between Margaret and Edward, Prince of Wales was proposed which would mean Scotland would be a Plantagenet holding within the next generation.[30] Margaret died on her voyage, throwing the succession to Scotland wide open between several candidates.[31] Edward was asked to arbitrate and chose the hereditarily superior John Balliol.[32] However, Balliol later betrayed Edward by setting up the Auld Alliance with France and so the Wars of Scotland began.[33] Edward's campaign was effective, he even captured the Coronation Stone relic and defeated William Wallace at Falkirk.[34] However Edward died at Burgh by Sands on the way to fight Robert I of Scotland, having never solidified a claim to Scotland.[34]

His son and successor, Edward II of England, was the polar opposite of his warrior statesman father.[35] Edward II's reign was largely unpopular due to several reasons; he was regarded as a poor general and lost out in Scotland to Robert I at Bannockburn.[36] He also angered the nobility by giving large sums of money and gifts to his favourites such as Piers Gaveston.[35] This annoyed the barons to the extent that they rallied around Edward's cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and had Gaveston murdered.[36] Another royal favourite Hugh Despenser came on the scene and again there were conflicts, but this time Edward beat his cousin Thomas at Boroughbridge and had him executed in 1322.[36] Edward's downfall came when his wife Isabella of France and her baronial lover Roger Mortimer set out to depose the king, with the help of the king's second cousin Henry, Earl of Lancaster.[36] The king agreed to abdicate in favour of his and Isabella's son Edward III of England; Edward II was held prisoner in Berkeley Castle for five months before being murdered.[36] After four years of court control by his mother and her lover, Edward at age 18 staged a revolt and had Mortimer executed. Edward overturned the Treaty of Northampton and supported Edward Balliol's claim to Scotland, against David II of the House of Bruce.[37] The campaign was effective as David was captured at Neville's Cross, spending a period in the Tower of London before being released for a large ransom. David's invasion into Northern England had been under the terms of the Auld Alliance with the House of Valois of France.[37]

Hundred Years' War begins

The succession to the rights of the House of Capet was disputed.[38] Philip IV of France had three sons all of whom died without issue, aside from Louis X whose son John I lived for only five days.[38] In following with feudal law the daughter and sole remaining child of Philip IV, Isabella of France, the mother of Edward III of England had a claim to the French throne and the seniority of the House of Capet.[38] However Philip VI of the House of Valois, a more distantly related Capetian cadet branch invoked Salic law and was crowned King of France.[38] When Philip confiscated the Duchy of Aquitaine from Edward for "disobedience", Edward decided to follow up his claim to all of the Kingdom of France; thus the Hundred Years' War between the Plantagenets and Valois began. Early on in the conflict, the Edwardian War was particularly successful for the Plantagenets, specifically the battles at Crécy and Poitiers leading to the Treaty of Brétigny.[39] Edward had to deal with the Black Death during his reign,[40] but was able to make vital developments in legislature and government. In England his reign saw the developed of a strong sense of national identity due partly to the ongoing wars; the chivalric Order of the Garter essentially saw the nationalisation of the aristocracy.[40] His latter years were less successful in comparison with both political problems at home and renewed problems with Valois; the death of Valois' John II in English captivity during 1364 saw the rise of Charles V of France who had far more capable allies.[41] A second period of the Hundred Years' War broke out known as the Caroline War, the Plantagenets were led by Edward's sons Edward, the Black Prince and John of Gaunt.[40] The Black Prince died in 1376 of illness, which may have been cancer, while Edward III himself died the following year.[40]

Due to the death of his father Edward, the Black Prince who was the long time heir apparent to England, the ten year old Richard II of England succeeded to the throne instead.[42] The commons of parliament feared that Richard's uncle John of Gaunt would ambitiously influence political decisions if a regency led by him was instated; thus parliament created an environment where a series of councils would essentially control politics. The continuing Hundred Years' War with Valois was an expensive venture, a poll tax was levied to finance it.[43] Levied three times and covering 60% of the population, the 1381 tax costing one shilling for each person over 15 was particularly unpopular and was one of the main reasons behind the Great Rising of 1381.[44] Only fourteen at the time, Richard rode out on horseback and met with the rebel leaders, showing considerable statesmanship qualities in his handling of the rebellion.[45] Due to the king's dependence on a small number of courtiers, in 1389 governance was instead taken over by a group known as the Lord Appellant.[46] Richard regained control in 1389 and after eight years of relative harmony, decided to take revenge on the appellants, executing and exiling some.[46] After John of Gaunt died, the king disinherited Gaunt's son, Henry of Bolingbroke, who had previously been exiled. Henry invaded England in June 1399 with a small force that quickly grew in numbers.[47] Meeting little resistance, he deposed Richard and had himself crowned as Henry IV of England. Richard died in captivity early the next year; he was probably murdered.[47]

Dynastic dispute

Lancastrians crowned, rebellion
Prior to Henry taking the throne and becoming the first Lancastrian king, Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March was actually the heir presumptive to Richard II according to cognatic primogeniture, through his deceased grandmother Philippa Plantagenet who was the only child of Lionel, Duke of Clarence.[48] Henry could be deemed more senior only through agnatic succession, meaning that he was a Plantagenet through the male line. Edmund and his brother Roger were just children when Henry took to the throne, as their father had died the previous year. They were kept in custody by Henry, who, despite the threat for rebellion they could eventually pose, treated them honourably.[48] Henry had to deal with numerous rebellions in the Angevin Empire, both in Wales under Owain Glyndŵr and in England, such as the Southampton Plot.[49] The latter was an attempt to put Mortimer on the throne, though he himself never rebelled against Henry. There was also the Percy Rebellion after the king and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland fell out.[49] Henry's wife Joanna of Navarre was accused of practicing necromancy and was later convicted of witchcraft in 1419 during Henry V's reign; this added to diminishing support for the Lancastrians.[49] The execution of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York after a rebellion achieved the same result; when Henry was later struck down with leprosy and epilepsy, many at the time saw it is a punishment from God for the execution of the archbishop.[50] For the last two years of his reign, Henry was so ill that his son and heir, Henry of Monmouth took up the vast majority of the king's responsibilities.[49]

Henry V of England was a soldier from age 14 and a commander at the Battle of Shrewsbury at age 16. He was to be of the warrior-statesman archetype of his ancestors.[51] Henry desired the Plantagenet ancestral lands of the Duchy of Normandy and County of Anjou earlier confiscated by Valois.[51] He first attempted this diplomatically by suggesting a marriage with Charles VI of France's daughter Catherine of Valois. After the proposal was rejected, the Lancastrian War of the Hundred Years' War began. Politically this had two purposes: the first, to gain land; the second, to unite his cousins under a common cause in the hopes of dissuading rebellion at home.[51] Henry presented himself as a chaste and pious king, which was a relief to the masses after the reign of his father. At the Battle of Agincourt, vastly outnumbered, Henry led his men to a famous victory. The Plantagenets were allied with the Duchy of Burgundy in the war, despite Philip the Good himself being of a Valois cadet branch. During the war the Plantagenets took back Normandy, as well as Picardy and much of the Île-de-France.[51] A settlement was reached with the Treaty of Troyes in which it was agreed that, not only would Catherine marry Henry, but Charles VI agreed to name Henry as his heir to the French crown, passing over his own son.[51] Henry died of dysentery in 1422 at Bois de Vincennes, just two months shy of being crowned King of France.[52]

The young Henry VI of England was crowned King of England and France, controlling both de facto rather than just a titular claim to France as many Plantagenet monarchs had during the Hundred Years' War.[53] During the early years of his reign, as he was still a child his family John, Duke of Bedford, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, were regents.[54] The rise of Joan of Arc and Valois claimant to France, Charles VII saw the continuation of the Lancastrian War. Between 14491453 the territories of Brittany, Normandy and Gascony had been lost, leaving the Plantagenets with only the Pale of Calais on the continent.[53] In England the government became increasingly unpopular due to the territorial loses, breakdown in law and order and corruption; in 1453 Henry had a mental breakdown. While Henry was suffering from illness, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was named regent and Protector of the Realm. He benefited from influential allies such as Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.[53] By the time Henry had regained his senses, a movement in favour of Richard known as the Yorkists had emerged. Richard had a legitimist claim to the throne due to being the senior descendent of Lionel, Duke of Clarence.[55] What separated Richard from past potential legitimists was that he was also a Plantagenet paternally through Edmund, Duke of York; thus, if he was put on the throne, the male line would still be preserved.[55] Henry himself was trusting and not a man of war. He was more interested in his foundation projects of educational institutions such as Eton College.[56] However his wife Margaret of Anjou was more assertive, showing open enmity towards Richard, and so the English civil war for the throne known as the Wars of the Roses began.[56]

Wars of the Roses, Yorkist reign
The first phase of the conflict was between 14551460; after the Yorkist were victorious at St Albans, attempts were made to reconcile differences.[57] Margaret resisted any attempts to have her son Edward of Westminster disinherited and Richard was forced to return to Ireland as lieutenant.[58] Hostilities picked up again after the Duke of York's return; the war continued and at Northampton, Henry was found abandoned in a tent after having another mental breakdown.[59] The Act of Accord was agreed in which it was outlined that Henry would remain as monarch for life, but Richard and his descendants would eventually succeed him. Because Margaret and Lancastrian supporters found this unacceptable, conflict continued. Richard was slain at the Battle of Wakefield, his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Salisbury were captured and beheaded by the Lancastrians. The head of the Duke of York was set on display at Micklegate Bar, York.[60] Richard's young son Edward, Earl of March took up the cause. Margaret formed an alliance with Mary of Guelders, Queen of Scots against the Yorkists; the Scottish army pillaged its way down to southern England.[61] London refused to open its gates to the queen's army after hearing of the plundering, however the capital city enthusiastically welcomed Edward when the Yorkists arrived. The people demanded that he be made king, which was quickly confirmed by the Parliament of England, and he was crowned Edward IV of England unofficially at Westminster Abbey.[62] It wasn't until the month after Towton that Edward's official coronation in the capital city took place in June 1461.[63]

Edward was far more directly involved in governance than his predecessor.[64] Warwick the Kingmaker who had helped Edward come to power and wished to influence him, was deeply unhappy at the marriage the new king had made with Elizabeth Woodville.[65] His family were also angered by this, leading to his mother declaring him a bastard and his brother George, Duke of Clarence revolting against him.[65] After a counter-rebellion, Edward defeated Warwick, eventually seeing the Kingmaker enter a pact with the Lancastrians.[66] In late 1470, Warwick helped the Lancastrians to depose the Yorkists and Henry VI briefly returned to the throne. Edward and his loyal brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester took refuge in Burgundy, until they returned to England the following year. George, Duke of Clarence switched sides at Barnet, leading to Warwick's death and Edward's restoration.[66] After his restoration Edward returned some stability, with heavy personal control in government.[64] He made peace with France on favourable terms, tightened management of royal revenues, paid for the country's administration with Crown Estate profits and patronised William Caxton who set up England's first printing press.[64] Edward's son was crowned Edward V of England at age 12. The protectorship of the young king and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury was entrusted to their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester.[67] Richard was suspicious of the influential Woodville faction, who he blamed for the death of his brother George.[67]
A statute of the Parliament of England issued in 1483, known as Titulus Regius, declared the children of Edward IV illegitimate and thus saw the crown passed to Richard III of England.[68] This was due to evidence presented by Ralph Shaa that Edward had contracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot before he married Elizabeth Woodville, thus making his marriage to Elizabeth and their issue invalid.[68] The two boys became the Princes in the Tower, with the Tower being a royal residence at the time. Their ultimate fate is unknown, while some have suggested that they died there.[67] Richard had a strong power base in the North of England and he founded the Council of the North to improve governance there.[69] He also founded the College of Arms office of heraldry.[70] The king's son and heir, Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales predeceased him in 1484.[71] Henry Tudor, a Welshman who was a maternal descendant of John of Gaunt and the cognatic primogenture pretender of the House of Lancaster, landed at Milford Haven in the Principality of Wales to invade with an army of foreign mercenaries.[71] The Battle of Bosworth Field took place for the throne of England; Richard was betrayed when the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Stanleys refused to send in their troops.[71] Along with his loyal commander John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Richard fought until the end and was killed in action.[71] The crown passed to the new dynasty, the House of Tudor, with the coronation of Henry VII of England signaling the start of the Tudor period.[71]


List of England monarchs


Henry II of England (Curtmantle)
19 December 1154
6 July 1189
son of Empress Matilda, heir to the English throne but usurped by her cousin, Stephen I of England.

Henry the Young King
14 June 1170
11 June 1183
coregent at age 15 onwards with his father, Henry II of England.

Richard I of England
(Richard the Lionheart)
3 September 1189
6 April 1199
son of Henry II of England.

John of England
(John Lackland)
27 May 1199
19 October 1216
son of Henry II of England. Brother of issueless Richard I of England.

Henry III of England
28 October 1216
16 November 1272
son of John of England.

Edward I of England
(Edward Longshanks)
20 November 1272
7 July 1307
son of Henry III of England.

Edward II of England
7 July 1307
25 January 1327
son of Edward I of England.

Edward III of England
25 January 1327
21 June 1377
son of Edward II of England.

Richard II of England
21 June 1377
29 September 1399
son of Edward, the Black Prince. Grandson of Edward III of England.

House of Lancaster

Henry IV of England
(Henry Bolingbroke)
30 September 1399
20 March 1413
cousin of Richard II of England, who he had murdered. Son of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.

Henry V of England
20 March 1413
31 August 1422
son of Henry IV of England.

Henry VI of England and France
31 August 1422
11 April 1471
son of Henry V of England.

House of York

Edward IV of England
4 March 1461
9 April 1483
cousin of Henry VI of England. Son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.

Edward V of England
9 April 1483
25 June 1483
son of Edward IV of England.

Richard III of England
26 June 1483
22 August 1485
uncle of Edward V of England. Son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.



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