The Early Plantagenets

The murder of Archbishop Becket
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The death of Simon de Montfort
Battle of Evesham
Henry III
Armorial of Plantagenet
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An account of constitutional and social development in Britain during the reign of England's first four Plantagenet kings.

The Plantagenet family came to the English throne at a time of rapid change.  It was a period of powerful, ambitious kings, both here and in Europe.  During the early Plantagenet years royal power at first waxed, but was then curtailed in important respects as powerful subjects succeeded in restraining royal authority, firstly by the Magna Carta and then by the development of Parliament, whose membership was augmented by members from the common people in the shires and boroughs who could speak against taxation measures of which they disapproved.
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But those events lay some distance in the future when Henry II came to England and began to restore the country after the disaster of the Great Anarchy.  Luckily he was a man endowed with tremendous energy and an innate grasp of leadership skills.  Much of his time was spent travelling his empire to stamp his authority on nobles grown used to ignoring royal command.  He ensured that unauthorised castles were demolished and brought the administration of England back to the high standard created by his grandfather.  He revived and improved the system of justice, sending judges on regular tours to administer justice at assizes and oversee collection of taxes in every region of the country.

In the early years of his reign, Henry took back the northern counties which had been surrendered to Scotland.  He contained Welsh princes by maintaining the powers of his Marcher Lords and encouraged settlement in South Wales by people from England, Normandy, Brittany and Flanders.  Marcher lordships were geographically compact and jurisdictionally separate one from another.  They had special privileges which separated them from ordinary English lordships. Marcher lords were allowed to build castles, a jealously guarded and easily revoked royal privilege in the rest of England.  They administered justice and their courts had jurisdiction over all legal matters except high treason.  They could establish their own forests and forest laws.

Early in his reign Henry was encouraged by the Pope to intervene in Ireland.  When Dermot of Leinster asked for assistance, Henry II allowed knights from Wales led by Richard de Clare Earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow, to invade Ireland and take Dublin and Waterford. They soon extended their power into much of the south and Henry felt compelled to go to Ireland in person to exert his authority over them and receive acknowledgement of his overlordship by the native Irish kings.  Thus Ireland, largely ignored by Roman, Anglo-Saxon and early Norman rulers of England, finally became entangled in the affairs of its powerful neighbour across the Irish Sea.

Despite his great achievement of bringing back sound administration and justice to England, as well as effective rule throughout his vast Angevin empire, Henry will forever be remembered most for his quarrel with Thomas Becket, who became first his loyal Chancellor and then his bitter opponent as Archbishop of Canterbury, determined to protect the Church against royal attempts to strip away some of its privileges.

Henry aroused Becket’s opposition when he tried to make priests who committed secular crimes subject to judgement by the royal courts of justice.  Archbishop Becket, his erstwhile friend and companion, opposed Henry on this and other matters and went into exile.  Pope Alexander urged both sides to exercise moderation but the dispute dragged on.  Although his quarrel with the king was unresolved, Becket was allowed to take up his post again at Canterbury, where he promptly excommunicated three bishops who supported the king’s case.  In a fury, the king, who was in Normandy, uttered the fateful phrase ‘who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’  Four of his knights sped off to Canterbury and killed the Archbishop in his cathedral.

Becket’s murder was regarded as one of the most appalling acts of the age.  Henry was forced to do penance and was scourged by three lashes from each of the 80 monks at Canterbury.  Becket became a saint and Canterbury was for many years the most venerated pilgrimage site in England.

Nevertheless, Henry retained most of the rights he had claimed at the beginning of the dispute, including, significantly, the right to nominate his own bishops.  However, the power of the medieval Church was felt everywhere.  Popes were regarded as God’s regents on earth and they demanded that monarchs acknowledge their superiority.  The right of a king to invest his chosen men with clerical appointments was forbidden by Gregory VII in the time of William the Conqueror, but succeeding kings still claimed that right and other privileges in the face of strong ecclesiastical opposition.  King Henry was following his predecessors in maintaining his prerogative to give Church positions to his chosen men.

Henry suffered much grief in his private life, much of it resulting from his intemperate rages and desire for absolute control over family affairs.  His marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine was tempestuous.  She entered the marriage a divorced woman with more than a hint of scandal hanging around her, but she was highly cultured and intelligent. Allegedly embittered by his love affair with the beautiful Rosamond Clifford and other liaisons, she later stirred up their sons to revolt against their father.  Henry then kept her imprisoned for ten years.

The brothers, true to the blood inherited from both parents, became engaged in a shifting pattern of alliance and enmity with each other.  The eldest son, Henry the Young King, identified as Henry’s successor in England and Normandy, died whilst campaigning against his father and brother Richard in France.  Geoffrey Duke of Brittany died at a tournament in Paris, the capital of Henry’s enemy, King Philip II of France.  Only John, the youngest son, usually remained loyal to his father.

Henry’s health failed as he fought against the combined force of his son Richard and the French king in 1189.  He was forced to accept humiliating peace terms and retired to Chinon in Anjou where he died, accompanied only by an illegitimate son Geoffrey Plantagenet and the faithful knight William Marshal.  A chronicler recorded that the corpse bled when Richard approached to pay final respects to his father.

Richard inherited the crown and all his father’s sprawl of Angevin lands in France.  He had already earned respect for his courage and skill as a warrior and became known as Coeur de Lion or Lionheart.  But he also possessed the cruelty of his ancestors in full measure, which he demonstrated when putting down rebels in Gascony in 1179 and again in Limousin and Perigord in 1181-2.

In 1187, whilst he was with King Philip II of France, news of the loss of Jerusalem arrived and Richard immediately pledged to ‘take the Cross’ and go on crusade to regain the Holy City.  He was making preparations to join forces on crusade with Philip in the weeks before his coronation.  The English treasury was emptied, he sold crown offices and raised taxes to pay for his crusading army before he finally set off for the Holy Land in 1190.

The Third Crusade did not go well.  Richard quarrelled with his allies Philip of France and Leopold of Austria, both of whom left the crusade, leaving Richard to take the palm for winning an important victory when he captured the stronghold of Jaffa.  However he was unable to take Jerusalem and, hearing that Philip was plotting with his own brother Prince John, he reluctantly abandoned the Crusade.  On his voyage home he was shipwrecked and taken prisoner by his enemy Leopold of Austria, who handed him over to the Holy Roman Emperor. The Pope excommunicated both of them for detaining a crusader.  Nevertheless the Emperor maintained his demand for a ransom of I50,000 marks.  The king’s mother raised the money by taxing the clergy, taking gold and silver treasure from churches, and taxes on the laity - both scutage tax and a land tax which had replaced Danegeld.

Richard returned to England where he patched together a peace with his brother John and was crowned again before leaving England, never to return.  His overriding concern was to protect his French possessions against King Philip.  England was in effect governed by Hubert Walter the Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Justiciar, who proved to be a very able administrator.

Richard was fatally wounded by a crossbow bolt as he supervised the siege of a castle in Limousin.  It is recorded that, as he lay dying, the youth who fired the bolt was brought to his presence.  The king forgave him and ordered him to be set free.  However, the poor boy was allegedly flayed and hanged soon after the king died.  Richard the Lionheart was regarded as a model of chivalrous valour.  He wrote poems and was a patron of the Langue d’Oc troubadour culture of Aquitaine, but he shared in full measure the Plantagenet sins of lust, pride and greed.  Above all, his reputation for chivalry was undermined by a record of vicious cruelty, bordering on psychosis.  He will, however, always be remembered as a valiant crusader.

He shared the effort of trying to keep the Holy Land in Christian hands with thousands of other knights and nobles across Europe.  Many lost their lives in that religious struggle and the other crusades which followed; they died either in battle or due to disease.  Others returned home, some badly scarred from wounds sustained in combat.  The cross-legged figures of crusaders dressed in full armour can still be viewed on tombs in many British churches today.

Some were so moved by the appeal to serve as Christian knights that they took the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and joined the Knights Templar, thus becoming in effect warrior monks.  The Templars were an international organisation devoted to protecting pilgrims and the Holy Places in Palestine.  They quickly developed into the foremost military organisation in the Christian East with recruitment and training establishments in every western Christian country. They also soon became a wealthy banking organisation, issuing letters of credit to pilgrims and crusaders which could be encashed in part or in full at any Temple preceptory on their journey.  The Temple Church remains as a memorial of their presence in London.  Any place in England with Temple in its name was once a possession of the Templars.  The order was annulled in 1312 and its leaders were executed in Paris accused of blasphemy, but in England the order was quietly disbanded and its property was eventually handed over to the fellow-crusading order the Knights Hospitallers in 1324.

Prince John, the youngest son of Henry II, took the crown on the death of his brother.  Right from the start there was strife about his right to rule over the Angevin lands in France and his suitability to sit on the English throne.   Many in France supported Arthur, the young son of John’s dead brother Geoffrey of Brittany.  Arthur’s mother Constance claimed Anjou and Maine on his behalf.

John had already earned scornful displeasure in important circles when, having been invested by his father with the Lordship of Ireland, he visited the country in 1185.  He insulted the Irish chiefs and had a poor relationship with the powerful Anglo-Norman baronage in the south of the country.  Later, his disloyal attempt to supplant Coeur de Lion while he was on crusade and imprisoned in Germany earned him little credit with the great barons, many of whom had accompanied the king in person or had been represented on the crusade by family members.  The English nobility accepted John as their king with considerable reluctance.

Already struggling to impose his authority on the great magnates in his French possessions, John soon made things worse by taking as his second wife the beautiful child bride Isabella of Angouleme, of which he was overlord.  She was an heiress, already betrothed to Hugh de Lusignan Count of the neighbouring county La Marche, who understandably rose in rebellion against John.  He was enthusiastically supported by King Philip of France who was also supporting the claims of the youthful Arthur of Brittany.

John captured his nephew Arthur in 1202.  Arthur was imprisoned and never seen again and it is widely accepted he was murdered by John or on his orders.  Arthur’s sister, Eleanor, was also captured and remained a prisoner for the rest of her life, dying in 1241.  However, even without rival claimants, John could not save his French possessions and King Philip evicted him from all but Aquitaine in 1204.

The expense of the struggle in France caused John to raise money in England by any means, fair and foul.  He was faced with mounting hostility from his barons and the Church.  His problems with the Church became acute when the Archbishop of Canterbury Hubert Walter died in 1205.  John nominated one candidate for the vacant post, but the canons of Canterbury elected another.  On appeal to Pope Innocent III, both choices were rejected.  An election took place in the Pope’s presence and his friend Cardinal Stephen Langton was chosen as the new archbishop.

John refused to accept Langton and, in response, the Pope placed England under an Interdict.  John would not budge and in 1213 the Pope authorised King Philip II of France to depose John.  John finally gave way; he handed over England and Ireland to the See of Rome, thus making the Pope his feudal overlord.  Successive popes remained overlords of England until Henry VIII took over as head of the English Church.  Pope Innocent also gave his support to John in his continuing struggle with France and Archbishop Langton was finally allowed to return to England to take up his office.

The next year King John had put together an alliance with Flanders and the Holy Roman Emperor, both of whom wanted to curb Philip’s ambition.  John mounted a campaign from La Rochelle whilst his allies attacked France from the north.  They were comprehensively beaten at the battle of Bouvines which confirmed Philip as a major European figure and signified the end of John’s attempts to regain the Norman-Angevin territories in northern and central France.  Shorn of his vast French possessions, the king presented an inadequate and despicable figure and he was increasingly disliked for his grasping, cruel and mendacious ways.

This was the moment when the king and the ruling caste had to become English in outlook, instead of merely using the country to provide them with financial support for their privileged lifestyle.  It is claimed that John was the first Norman-Plantagenet ruler who learned to speak English.   After 1214 the great nobles who held land in England and France had to make the difficult choice about which part of their possessions they were willing to forfeit.  Those who chose to remain under the rule of King John lost all their French possessions and from thenceforth were committed to England and its causes.  Their dissatisfaction with the evils prevalent in the land due to John’s harsh rule grew and hardened.

However, the close bond that existed between religious orders in England and on the continent helped to retain the intercourse that existed between the two countries.  Trade also continued to flourish and the wool trade with Flanders and the Hansa towns continued to grow.  The King of England was still the Duke of Aquitaine and vast quantities of wine were shipped from Bordeaux, but there was no question that England was growing apart from its neighbours on the continent.  In years to come it would begin to differ quite markedly in political and social ways from its European neighbours.

When the Pope became the temporal as well as spiritual head of England, he placed the king under his protection and John swore the liberties granted by Henry I’s Coronation Charter would be restored.  He soon reneged on his oath and Archbishop Langton inspired a group of barons who demanded remedies for their long pent up grievances.  After a protracted struggle, during which the citizens of London supported the barons’ cause, John put his seal on a document composed and refined by Langton at Runnymede on 15th June 1215.   The charter expressed the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law.  It pronounced that all free men have the right to justice and a fair trial and it adds: To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.  This was Magna Carta, The Great Charter, a foundation stone of British constitutional liberty.

John quickly regretted issuing the charter and appealed to his overlord the Pope who declared the charter nul and void, saying it was ‘illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people’.  The Pope also turned on his old friend Langton and suspended him from office.  The First Barons War broke out and Philip of France sent his son to take over England and claim the throne.  However, John took ill and died, leaving a nine year old boy as heir to the crown under challenge from angry magnates and a foreign usurper.

John was feckless, treacherous and entirely without scruple, but he possessed some of his father’s restless energy.  He was educated and capable but prone to the same violent rages.  Unlike his father, John was unstable and cruel and a thoroughly flawed character.  He lacked real firmness of mind, probably due to the fact that he would not trust anyone to be truly faithful to him.

John’s nine year old son Henry III was hastily crowned at Gloucester in 1216 with his mother’s circlet.  This item allegedly replaced the crown which was lost with other treasure when, shortly before John’s death, his baggage train had been overwhelmed by a rising tide as it attempted to cross the treacherous Wash estuary.

In the first years of Henry’s reign William le Marshal Earl of Pembroke, a grizzled and gallant survivor of years of armed conflict and the man who remained loyally at the side of the king’s grandfather on his deathbed, was the regent who ruled in his name.  Marshal was ably assisted by the Chief Justiciar Hubert de Burgh.  The Papal Legate was also at hand to lend Rome’s authority and guidance to the young king.  They were confronted by a group of powerful magnates who were up in arms because King John had refused to implement Magna Carta.  Prince Louis of France was in control of London, seeking to make good his claim to the English crown.  However, the war came to an end when le Marshal defeated the rebels at the battle of Lincoln in 1217 and Hubert de Burgh intercepted and overcame a French fleet bringing supplies and reinforcements to Prince Louis, who then gave up his claim and returned to France.  Marshal reissued an amended Magna Carta in 1217 and a new Charter of the Forests and promised to abide by the Charter’s content.

Despite the crimes and injuries inflicted on the nobility and the Church, England as a whole was apparently becoming more prosperous and a better place for ordinary folk to live in during the reigns of Richard and John.  Wool was becoming a significant business from which the great abbeys and noble lords derived a growing stream of revenues.  Money passed from them into the hands of lesser folk, such as merchants, money-lenders and suppliers who lived in the towns, which grew rapidly in size and numbers at this time.  Both kings had been lavish in granting charters to towns in exchange for money and support from the citizens.  A charter permitted the town to be a self-governing commune, with political power wielded by a bourgeoisie or middling class with money made from commerce.  The chartered towns and their representatives in Parliament came to have increasing importance as the country’s wealth and prosperity grew in future reigns.

As we have seen, at this time the Church was a political force and it was also militant in defence and propagation of the Christian religion.  With the Pope at its head, it was also by far the richest institution in Western Europe.  Its wealth is apparent in the new architectural style created during this period.  The Norman Romanesque style, with its sturdy walls and massive round pillars supporting rounded arches, began to be replaced by taller and slimmer pillars, pointed arches and the high, ribbed vaults of the Early English Gothic style.  The earliest example of this genre in England is to be found in the choir of Canterbury cathedral which was reconstructed before 1180.

Learning was beginning to spread beyond the old monastic academic confines.  Before King John died, Schools were established first at Oxford and then Cambridge and became communes known as universities.  Although they remained closely affiliated to the Catholic Church, their studies became more universal than the religious curriculum traditionally taught in monastic institutions.  The new universities began to consider the work of early Greek philosophers and more recent Arab thinkers and mathematicians as well as legal studies.  It soon became apparent that free-ranging minds at a university might give rise to unconventional and even heretical ideas.

In 1218 Queen Isabella, the king’s mother, left the country to rule her inheritance in Angouleme.  The king and her four other children by John remained in England.  She played no further part in their upbringing or the governance of England.

Bereft of parental love at an early age, Henry III developed into a very different character from the first three Plantagenet kings.  His angry outbursts were petulant affairs, unlike the fearsome rages of his predecessors.  His interests were pious and aesthetic rather than political and martial.  He could be kind-hearted but was weak-willed and inconstant in his judgement. Throughout his long reign, the country suffered from his lack of the steely character and constancy of endeavour which were needed in those turbulent times.

New problems arose in 1220 when Isabella, the Queen Mother and Countess of Angouleme in her own right, by all accounts a still young and attractive woman, married Hugh de Lusignan Count of La Marche, her former suitor’s son, who had been betrothed to her own daughter.  The Lusignans were a disruptive element in Poitou.  She had not asked for consent to the marriage from the royal council, which nevertheless grudgingly accepted the situation.  She remained in France and had nine more children by her new husband.

Five years later the French king Louis VIII invaded and captured Poitou, the northern part of Aquitaine including Queen Isabella’s county of Angouleme.  He also threatened Gascony in the south.  King Henry’s younger sixteen year old brother, Richard Earl of Cornwall, was despatched to successfully defend that last remnant of English rule in Aquitaine.  On his return he quarrelled with Henry and won support from barons who were increasingly concerned about the king’s disagreements with the English-born Hubert de Burgh and his growing reliance on foreign advisors.  They were partially reconciled when King Henry promised to make reforms.

As he grew to manhood, affairs in France appeared to be much on his mind.  In 1226 he had proposed a marriage with the daughter of the Duke of Brittany which would provide an ally and springboard from which to launch his ambition to reconquer Normandy.  This was thwarted when the girl was married off to a French prince.  Henry then made the same proposition to Joan of Ponthieu but the French again intervened and prevented a marriage.  Finally in 1236 Henry married Eleanor of Provence, whose sister was the wife of Louis IX of France.  She and her Savoyard relatives, showered with honours by the king, became loathed by many, especially Londoners who pelted her barge with rotten fruit and eggs in 1263.

Meanwhile Llewelyn of Gwynedd had been expanding his influence in Wales since the time of King John.  Married to King Henry’s half-sister, by a mixture of armed aggression and diplomatic cunning he came to be known as Llewelyn the Great.  Llewelyn paid the traditional homage due to the King of England but he broke with precedent by claiming that barons with estates within his realm should swear fealty to him and not the king.  When the justiciar Hubert de Burgh proved incapable of restraining Llewelyn he was deposed, but the king in his turn was also unable to subdue Llewelyn.  A truce was agreed and Llewelyn remained in control of most of Wales until his death in 1240.

An even more dangerous threat to Henry’ authority came when Simon de Montfort, a charismatic Frenchman, successfully petitioned for and won an almost moribund claim to the earldom of Leicester through descent from his mother’s mother.  He then married the king’s sister Eleanor.  Henry III initially welcomed him into the royal family.  However, the English barons strongly protested and Henry was compelled to exile him.  De Montfort joined the king’s brother Richard of Cornwall on the Barons’ Crusade in 1240.  He won high regard in the Holy Land where the great nobles were so impressed by his abilities that they requested the titular ruler of Jerusalem, the Emperor Frederick II, should appoint him regent.

However, he returned to England in 1242 and accompanied the king on an expedition to regain Poitou, which was now held by the brother of King Louis IX.  Isabella, King Henry’s mother, had hoped to restore her second son Richard of Cornwall as Count of Poitou.  She and her husband Hugh de Lusignan opposed the extension of French power into their region and King Henry saw an opportunity to recover some of the Angevin lands lost by his father.  Their hopes were dashed when their forces were defeated at the battles of Taillebourg and Saintes.  Isabella’s husband was consequently humiliated by King Louis and the English nobility was dismayed at Henry’s incompetence and his wasteful expenditure on a futile mission. De Montfort however, earned further distinction with his rear-guard action to cover Henry’s flight from Saintes.

In 1248 Henry sent de Montfort to quell an uprising in Gascony which adjoined Toulouse in the Languedoc region.  His father of the same name had campaigned there against Cathar heretics and his memory was detested in those parts for the brutal acts of cruelty he committed there.  Simon junior was eventually recalled when the Gascons complained about his own ruthless behaviour as he set about quashing the revolt.  He, like many other barons, was now sceptical of the king’s fitness to rule, but somehow Henry weathered the constant mutter of discontent and entrusted yet more royal commissions to his wife’s relatives from Savoy and his own Poitevin kinsmen.

In 1254 the pope tried to persuade the king to send an armed expedition to Sicily with the intention of taking the crown for his young son Edmund.  Henry, in pursuit of further unrealistic dynastic ambitions and urged on by the queen’s Savoyard relations, agreed.  Sicily was a sophisticated country with a mixed Latin/Byzantine/Islamic culture, recently ruled by his brother in law the Emperor Frederick II, and it would be a most desirable recompense for the lost Angevin lands in France.

Unfortunately, Henry had also promised to go on crusade and had no money for another expensive endeavour.  In the ensuing wrangle with successive popes, his crusade money was confiscated and he was never in a financial position to make good on his military promises in Sicily.  His brother Richard of Cornwall had earlier turned down a similar proposition and, set out to win the crown of Holy Roman Emperor instead, thus underlining the difference in character between the brothers.  Richard was practical and decisive where Henry lacked the wisdom and firmness of purpose which the occasion warranted.  However, Richard eventually failed to win the Imperial title.

In 1258 Simon de Montfort and other leading barons, exasperated by Henry’s behaviour, forced him to accept the Provisions of Oxford.  They were written in Middle English as well as Latin and French, the first government document to be written in English since the Conquest.  A Privy Council of fifteen was to assist the king to govern.  Leading ministers were to swear allegiance to king and council, parliament was to meet three times a year and most sheriffs were replaced by knights holding land in the shires they were to administer.  The Poitevin relatives were expelled from England.  But, supported by a papal bull, Henry overturned the Provisions in 1261.

Many barons were now convinced the king was hostile to any concept of reform.  They invited de Montfort to return from France, where he had retired, to lead a rebellion to restore the Provisions.  His first action was to demand the cancellation of all debts to the Jews, the only people allowed to practice usury (charge interest).  Hundreds of Jews were massacred and their records were destroyed in London and regional centres across England.  De Montfort announced all debts to the Jews were cancelled and formed a government based on the Provisions of Oxford.  The king remained sovereign, but all decisions were taken by the Council subject to consultation with Parliament.  The Parliament called by de Montfort in 1265 was the first to which burgesses from the major towns were invited and the number of leading barons was restricted to twenty three.  The representatives were allowed to comment on wider political matters than just the usual issues of taxation.  The burgesses, together with the knights who represented the shires, were the forerunners of the House of Commons.  This was a revolution, with the king reduced to a figurehead much to the distaste of many leading nobles.

Once more Henry III gave way and de Montfort was allowed to take control.  However, Prince Edward the king’s eldest son began to organise an opposition party and the Council was persuaded to let Louis IX of France arbitrate the dispute.  De Montfort was dismayed when Louis annulled the Provisions. He led a rebel army which crushed the royal cause at the battle of Lewes in 1264.  King Henry, his brother Richard Earl of Cornwall and King of the Romans and Prince Edward the heir to the crown were all captured.

However, Prince Edward escaped from custody and quickly raised an army composed of discontented barons and their followers.  De Montfort was forced into battle at Evesham, where his forces were overwhelmed.  He was killed and his body mutilated.  The king was released and restored to power, however it was his son who bore all the hallmarks of a true monarch.

Henry, once restored to power, took revenge on the rebels, confiscating all their lands.  A wave of looting broke out until the papal legate stepped in and urged a less draconian policy.  The Statute of Marlborough passed in 1267 limited the power of local royal officials and major barons and reintroduced some of the Provisions of Oxford.  Four of its clauses are still part of UK law today.

By this time Henry was an infirm old man and his main concern was the completion of the building of Westminster Abbey which, besides being the shrine of Edward the Confessor, would also replace Fontevraud Abbey in France as the royal mausoleum.  He reluctantly allowed Prince Edward to go on crusade with Louis IX.  King Henry III sporadically declared his wish to join the crusade himself, but in 1272 he passed away, whilst his sons were out in the East, vainly trying to shore up the last vestiges of the crusading states in the Orient.

Three generations of Angevin rulers had ruled England during momentous times.  Alongside their personal and dynastic triumphs and disasters, the country also underwent great social and political change.  Anarchy infested the land when Henry of Anjou first arrived, but his firm and energetic rule ensured that well-established organs of government, such as the Exchequer and local assizes conducted by the king’s justices, maintained a fiscal and political structure essential to good governance.

By the time his grandson died the crown was subject to restrictions set out in the repeated publication of Magna Carta.   The king was subject to the law and his commands and actions were subject to scrutiny by a prototype parliament, where the outsider elements of burgesses and knights of the shire would have growing influence in years to come.  These institutions underlay the development of a constitution in which the rule of law was paramount and the people of England had taken the first steps to rein in the king’s power.

Whilst the royal court and the great barons continued to speak French and church affairs were conducted in Latin, the language of the English people could no longer be ignored by those privileged castes.  Negotiation and conversation with London’s wealthy merchants and the burgesses of other cities and towns required that the higher echelons of society learn at least a smattering of English and vice versa.  This aided the process by which the Old English language of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England became significantly altered in grammar and vocabulary throughout the first century of Plantagenet rule.   Any remaining use of the Norse language died out in England.  Great numbers of new words were assimilated into English from French and to a lesser extent from Latin, and the grammatical structure was substantially altered as well.  Nearly everything in the official records and literary/scholastic tomes of the period continued to be written in French or Latin and very little of the evolving language spoken in the streets and fields survives in written form.   Nevertheless, we may be sure that English men and women at the end of Henry III’s reign were speaking a language which differed radically from the speech used by their grandparents and great grandparents.  This evolving language came to be known as Middle English.

This was also the period when most ordinary English people acquired a surname.  The increasing amount of documentation, both national and local, required to support the fiscal demands of the state and the underlying feudal system in the countryside, had an unplanned consequence.  Stewards needed to record who had paid what to the manorial courts, jurors had to be named and the names of people assessed for payments of taxes and fines had to be recorded.  In the old days, when fewer people need be accounted for and they were using a larger number of different names, there was no problem, but when English people began to adopt a smaller number of names such as William, John, Thomas and Richard (for women the name pool was maybe a little larger), it was necessary to use further descriptions.

And so people began to be identified by a further identifying word or nickname.  Some were identified by their father’s name, thus the surnames such as Will's son (Wilson), John’s son (Johnson), Wat’s son (Watson) came into being.  Many were identified by their craft such as the Smiths, Thatchers, Butchers and Bakers.  Others took the name of the place where they lived or, if they had once resided elsewhere, the name of the place where they originated, usually preceded in the early days by a preposition such as at, de, by or in, most of which dropped out of use in later times as with Hill, Moor, Dale, Sutton, Lincoln, Newton, etc.  Nicknames or descriptive names such as Redhead, Fox, Little, Armstrong and Crookshank easily became adapted as surnames, although some were so unseemly that they soon dropped out of use.

The social world of ordinary Englishmen was also changing. The population was growing.  Some vills and tons failed whilst many others flourished and grew into villages.  Those villages whose lord was able to establish a market grew into small towns, where people from a few miles around would, on an appointed day each week, come on foot or by hitching a ride with the local carter, to sell or exchange their surplus produce and wares.  Housewives came to sell eggs and butter; butchers, bakers and makers of simple houseware such as wooden spoons and dishes would display their goods at pitches in the market place.  Specialist craftsmen such as jewellers, armourers, tailors etc. might set up shop in a thriving town.  Everywhere people would be exchanging gossip and news brought from far afield by passing pedlars or a friar from one of the new mendicant orders who were usually identified by the colour of their gowns: Greyfriars were Franciscans, Whitefriars were Carmelites and Blackfriars were Dominicans.

These men, unlike cloistered monks, travelled around, supported by the charity of the communities to which they preached.  In the early days, their mission was to shake up the indolent, ignorant and sometimes criminal ways of the ordinary priesthood and bring back an apostolic approach to the Christian message.  Perhaps because of them the commoners of England began to entertain a healthy disrespect for the grand prelates of the Church who consumed so much of the country’s wealth.

Friars and other religious figures such as the pardoner, who was given such a bad character in the Canterbury Tales, must have frequented the fairs which were important commercial and festive events.  Between them, King John and his son issued charters for more than 2,200 fairs which were often hosted or patronised by the local abbot or bishop.  Fairs usually carried on business over several days around a religious feast day.  The most successful attracted merchants and money-changers from other parts of England as well as from the Hanseatic towns and other parts of Europe.  Higher value goods, such as spices, perfumes, cloth in bulk, etc. were sold at the fair and some fairs came to specialise in a particular commodity.  Stourbridge Fair held at Cambridge around the feast of the Holy Cross (14th September) was chartered in 1211 to support a leper chapel and grew to become the largest fair in Europe.  Fairs also provided opportunity for fun and entertainment.   Hucksters would be selling religious charms, their female companions perhaps indulged in a bit of fortune-telling, musicians would be playing in the hostelries and, in discreet corners, disabled people would be begging for alms.

And so England, although it remained governed by a French-speaking king and oligarchy, was not at all times grimly repressed under an all pervading tyranny.  Pleasure was available at markets and fairs and there were plenty of religious festivals when folk could put down their tools and, after paying their obsequies in the local church, get out and socialise.  Boys courted girls, men drank beer in taverns and the womenfolk perhaps dressed one another’s hair, admired the latest baby and gossiped about the local ne’er do well or the flighty woman who was no better than she ought to be.

The Anglo-French nobility also ruled some of Ireland and the rest of that country was ruled by petty kings who grudgingly acknowledged the King of England as their overlord.  The relationship between the nobles in Ireland and the king became more distant with each generation as they married into Gaelic speaking families and took up some of their ways.  The attention of English kings was fixed on land to the south and east and they took only a sporadic interest in Irish events, unless they posed a direct threat to their rule or financial well-being.

North of the border, the Scottish kings of the 12th and 13th centuries adopted the language, manners and customs of their Plantagenet neighbours.  The bloodlines became mingled as marriages were celebrated between the two royal houses.  Throughout the period, the kings of England were acknowledged as the overlords of Scotland.  Nevertheless, the relationship was complicated by the fractious nature of Scotland’s constituent parts of Gaelic-speaking people in the west and people of Anglian or British descent speaking English in the western borders, much of the lowlands and eastern parts, plus an independent Nordic element in the Isles.   Border raids were a regular event and sometimes became close to open warfare as in 1174, when King William of Scotland was captured at Alnwick in Northumbria.  The border was virtually agreed by the end of Henry III’s reign except for sovereignty over the key fortress at Berwick on Tweed.

Wales remained a thorn in the flesh of English kings and the Marcher lords, who had not been able to crush the flame of independence among people whose ancestors were the true Britons.  With Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, known as the Great, they found a leader who became recognised as Prince of Wales.  He was powerful on the battlefield and wily at the conference table.  He married Joan, a natural daughter of King John, and ran rings around his brother in Law Henry III and the forces he sent to subdue his activities.  However his successors and the principality would meet their nemesis when Henry’s successor came back from crusade.


1154 Henry II Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, etc. (1133-1189) becomes the first Plantagenet king.   He and Queen Eleanor rule directly over more land in France than the French king does.

1155 Adrian IV (the only English pope) issues the papal bull Laudabiliter which encourages an invasion of Ireland by Henry II to bring the Irish Celtic church under papal control.

~ The king appoints Thomas Becket, clerk to Archbishop Theobald, as his Chancellor.


1157 Henry II invades Wales but is defeated at the battle of Ewloe or Coleshill by Owain of Gwynedd (c1100-1170).  However Owain pays homage to Henry.

~ Northumbria and Cumberland are handed back to England by Malcolm IV (1141-1165) King of Scotland.

~ Hanseatic League merchants of Cologne are freed from London tolls and are granted rights to trade at fairs throughout England.  The beginning of the domination of East Coast trade by the League.

1161 Thomas Becket (1119-1170), the king’s trusted and loyal chancellor, resigns and succeeds Theobald as Archbishop of Canterbury.

1162 Last time the land tax known as Danegeld is collected.  It is partly replaced by scutage payments made in place of performance of military duties.

1163 The king’s claim of powers to sentence priests found guilty of crimes in church court is opposed by Thomas Becket.

1164 The king issues the Constitutions of Clarendon which restrict clerical privileges and curb the power of ecclesiastical courts in England.  Becket repudiates his oath whereby he agrees to accept the Constitutions and goes into exile for six years.

~ Malcolm IV of Scotland defeats an army from the Western Isles and the Kingdom of Dublin at the battle of Renfrew.

1167 The Empress Matilda, the king’s mother, dies.  She was his representative in Normandy and became recognised as a moderate advisor in affairs of state in England.

~ Dermot of Leinster (c1110-1171), Ireland, pays homage to Henry and requests help to recover his land.  He takes Wexford with help from Anglo Norman knights of Wales.

~ English students who have been banned from the University of Paris attend Oxford University.

~ Welsh rebels take territory and castles in north and south Wales.

1169 Richard ‘Strongbow’ de Clare (c1130-1176), Earl of Pembroke leads an invasion of Ireland and takes Dublin and Waterford.

1170 The newly-returned Archbishop Thomas Becket is murdered whilst at prayer in Canterbury Cathedral by knights loyal to Henry II.

~ Henry, the king’s eldest son (1155-1183), is crowned as ‘the Young King' by the Archbishop of York.

1171 Henry II asserts his authority over the Norman settlers in Ireland led by ‘Strongbow’ de Clare and is acknowledged by the Irish kings as Lord of Ireland.  The beginning of 750 years of Anglo/British rule in Ireland.

~ Descendants of one of the original Norman settlers in Ireland, Gerald of Windsor (1075-1135) castellan of Pembroke castle, eventually rule much of southern Ireland and become known as Geraldines or Anglo Normans, virtually independent of the crown.

1172 Papal Legates absolve Henry of Becket’s murder.  He recognises the Pope’s authority over the English church.

~ Synod of Cashel.  Irish bishops confirm their acceptance of English church practices in Ireland.

1173 Queen Eleanor supports Henry the Young King and two of her other sons in revolt against her husband and thereafter is held under house arrest for sixteen years.

~ Becket, the murdered Archbishop is canonised and his tomb at Canterbury becomes a pilgrimage shrine.

1174 Henry II does penance at Canterbury for the murder of Thomas Becket, but most of the provisions of the Constitutions of Clarendon enforcing royal powers in Church affairs remain in force.

~ The Treaty of Falaise William the Lion (1143-1214), King of Scots, is captured on a raid at Alnwick.  He pays homage to Henry II as his overlord, but his Scottish countrymen slaughter many of their king’s Anglo-French supporters.

1176 Rosamund Clifford (born before 1150), a great beauty and the king’s former mistress allegedly murdered by Queen Eleanor, is buried at Godstow Abbey.

~ The first Welsh Eisteddfod is held at Cardigan Castle.

1179 Dialogue of the Exchequer by the Treasurer Richard FitzNigel explains how the Exchequer works.

1180 Coinage is reformed.  New silver pennies are issued, old ones are taken out of circulation.

~ Treatise on the Laws and Customs of England The first account of English Law attributed to the Justiciar Ranulf de Glanville (c1112-1190).

1183 Death of Henry the Young King on campaign in France against his father and his brother Prince Richard.

1184 Laws protecting royal forests are listed in the Assize of the Forest.

1185 Prince John (1166-1216), who was made Lord of Ireland in 1177, visits Ireland and offends both the most powerful of the Norman settlers Hugh de Lacy and the native Irish leaders.  The king recalls John and appoints the Earl of Pembroke in his place.

1186 Geoffrey Duke of Brittany (born 1158), the king’s fourth son, dies at a tournament in Paris leaving an unborn infant son Arthur.

1187 Saladin or Salah ed Din (1137-1193) defeats the crusading army at Hattin and takes Jerusalem.

1188 A tax of 1/10 on revenue and movable properties called the Saladin Tax is levied to pay for a new crusade to retake Jerusalem.

1189 Death of Henry II in Anjou which he was defending against an alliance of his son Richard and the King of France.

~ Richard I (1157-1149), already a renowned warrior, comes to London to be crowned King of England.  He imposes heavy taxes, sells royal possessions and offices to raise funds before leaving to join the Third Crusade.

~ Prince Arthur of Brittany is nominated as his heir.

~ William the Lion pays 10,000 marks for release from his allegiance to the King of England.

~ Jews are despoiled and attacked in London during coronation celebrations.  Massacres continue at York and other places.

1191 Richard I conquers Cyprus after his treasure ship and his fiancée Berengaria of Navarre are taken prisoner by the Byzantine ruler.  He and Berengaria are married.

~ Richard I, celebrated as the Lionheart, takes Acre but fails to re-capture Jerusalem and is captured in Austria on his return journey.  He is held prisoner by the Emperor.

~ The chancellor and chief minister, William Longchamps (died 1197) Bishop of Ely, is forced into exile by rebels encouraged by Prince John.

1192 The Pope declares all Scotland except the bishopric of Galloway is independent of the two English Archbishoprics.

1193 Prince John’s rebellion is overcome with help from Queen Eleanor by Hubert Walter (c1160-1205) Archbishop of Canterbury and Justiciar.

~ Further heavy taxes are raised to pay a 150,000 marks ransom for the king’s release.

1194 Richard I returns to England to be crowned a second time and then departs for France, never to return.  Hubert Walter remains effectively the country’s governor.

~ The office of Coroner, a uniquely English institution, is created to look after the financial interests of the crown and keep written records in criminal cases.  It evolved into its present duties over several centuries.

1195 Richard I begins to build chateau Gaillard to retake the Vexin in Normandy from Philip II.  Almost completed in 2 years it is the largest and most innovative castle of its time.

~ The office of Keeper of the Peace is instituted, conisting of knights commissioned to maintain the peace in their locality.

1196 The first General Assize of Weights and Measures.

~ William FitzOsbert, known as the bearded, is hanged at Tyburn for fomenting a revolt of the poor against London’s rich and powerful.

1198 The second great seal of Richard I depicts three lions passant-guardant, which become the Royal Arms of England.

~ Richard also adopts the motto Dieu Et Mon Droit, still in use by the British monarchy.

1199 Richard I is mortally wounded in France. Prince John is crowned King of  England with the support of English and Norman nobility, but other French territories support his nephew Arthur Duke of Brittany (1187-1203?).

~ Hubert Walter becomes King John’s chancellor and chief minister.  He institutes the Charter Rolls to record the sealing of charters issued by Chancery.  He also begins the practice of keeping copies of royal letters in the Close and Open Rolls.  These are important source records for historians and jurists.

1200 King John, his first marriage being declared invalid, marries the child Isabella of Angouleme (c 1187-1246) at Bordeaux after terminating her betrothal to his feudal subject Hugh de Lusignan (1168-1219).

1202 King Philip II (1165-1223) of France summons John as Count of Poitou to answer for his treatment of Hugh de Lusignan.  King John refuses to attend the French court.  Philip campaigns with John’s nephew Arthur Duke of Brittany to take over the Plantagenet lands in France.

~ Arthur is captured as he besieges the elderly Queen Eleanor at Mirabeau.  It is alleged that he was later put to death by John.

1204 King Philip II takes Chateau Gaillard and Normandy.  The rest of the Plantagenet lands in France, except for Aquitaine, follow.

~ Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine dies and is buried at Fontevrault.

1205 Llewelyn ap Iorwerth (c. 1173 – 1240), known as the Great, prince of Gwynedd and eventually the most dominant ruler in Wales, marries King John’s natural daughter Joan.

1207  Stephen Langton (c1150-1228) is elected Archbishop of Canterbury at Rome by canons of Canterbury in presence of his friend Pope Innocent III.  King John refuses to accept Langton’s appointment.

1208  The Pope places England under Interdict (all religious services are suspended except baptism and absolution for the dying).

~ King John confiscates all church property.

~ Llewelyn ap Iorwerth extends his power into southern Powys.

1209 The Pope excommunicates King John.

~ John campaigns against William the Lion of Scotland in company with Llewelyn ap Iorwerth.

~ Scholars depart the schools at Oxford and found another university at Cambridge.

1210 The king extorts money from the Jews and the clergy and farms out the scutage levy to be collected by foreigners.

~ He visits Ireland and overawes recalcitrant barons.  The wife and son of William de Braose, who has fled, are captured and starved to death in prison.

~ John creates 12 counties in the Anglo Norman parts of Ireland.

1211 King John drives Llewelyn the Great back beyond the river Conwy and English barons temporarily occupy north Cardigan.

1213 The Pope authorises the king of France to depose King John who then becomes reconciled with the Pope and hands over England (including Ireland) into papal authority.  He also gains papal support for his struggle with France.

1214 The battle of Bouvines in Flanders.  The King of France destroys an allied army led by the Emperor Otto and the Count of Flanders intent on taking back captured territories.  Bouvines finishes King John’s hope of regaining Normandy and his other lost lands in France, leaving England as the pre-eminent possession of the Plantagenets.

1215 A portion of the nobility rebels and occupy London, angered by John’s use of arbitrary and vindictive powers to extract money to pay for his French campaigns.

~ King John meets with the rebels at Runnymede and seals Magna Carta, presented by Archbishop Langton.  It is regarded as the foundation of English liberty from arbitrary rule by the crown.

~ The Pope supports his feudal subject King John, when he repudiates the Charter.  The Barons’ War begins.

~ Llewelyn the Great, in alliance with the rebels, captures Shrewsbury and begins to take over South Wales.

1216 King John with an army of mercenaries raids southern Scotland and also suppresses a barons’ revolt in East Anglia.

~ Prince Louis of France (1187-1226) claims the English crown and arrives to support the rebel barons.

~ The king dies after allegedly losing the crown jewels as his baggage train was overwhelmed by quick-sands and a rising tide in the Wash.

~ He is succeeded by his nine year old son Henry III (1207-1272), crowned at Gloucester allegedly with his mother’s circlet in place of the lost crown.

~ The king is put in the care of the Peter des Roches (died 1238) Bishop of Winchester.  The aged William le Marshal (c1146-1219), Earl of Pembroke, England’s most experienced military and political nobleman, becomes the young king’s protector and regent.

1217 French troops and rebel barons besieging Lincoln Castle are defeated by William le Marshal.

~ Hubert de Burgh (1170-1243), the Chief Justiciar, defeats a French fleet laden with supplies for Prince Louis at the battle of Sandwich.  Louis returns to France.

~ Magna Carta is reissued with a new Charter of the Forest.

1218 Queen Isabella returns to France and assumes control of her inheritance Angouleme.

~ The earliest reference to Newgate Prison appears in English records.

1219 William le Marshal dies.  Llewelyn the Great ravages Pembroke.

~ Hubert de Burgh the Justiciar becomes the king’s chief minister assisted by Peter des Roches Bishop of Winchester.

1220 Henry III is crowned again at Westminster.

~ Queen Isabella of Angouleme abrogates the planned betrothal of her daughter Joan to Hugh de Lusignan (1183-1249), the son of her first suitor, and marries him herself without consent of the king’s council.

1223 Henry III is declared of age to rule with limited powers.  Corrupt sheriffs are dismissed by Hubert de Burgh.

1225 Louis VIII of Frances takes Poitou in Aquitaine and threatens Gascony.  The king’s brother Richard Earl of Cornwall (1209-1272) is sent to defend Gascony.

~ The definitive version of Magna Carta is reissued.

1227 Henry III aged 19 declares himself of full age to rule.

~ Richard of Cornwall returns, quarrels with the king and is supported by barons unhappy with the king’s rule. They are reconciled after the king promises reforms.

1230 Llewelyn the Great hangs the powerful Marcher lord William de Braose for consorting with his wife Joan (c1191-1237), the king’s half-sister.

~ The king leads an expedition through France from Brittany to Bordeaux but achieves nothing.

1231 French-born Simon de Montfort (c1208-1265), does homage for his mother’s claim to the Honour of Leicester, which had been taken from his father by King John in 1207.

~ Hubert de Burgh, now the chief Marcher Lord, plans to attack Llewelyn the Great who beats him to the draw and ravages the de Burgh estates in the Marches.

1232 Hubert de Burgh loses his office as Justiciar and is imprisoned.  The King appoints French officials led by Peter des Roches, a native of Poitou.

~ Llewelyn the Great is confirmed in most of his Welsh possessions at the Peace of Middle which was extended year by year for the rest of his life.

1233 Peter des Roches takes control of the Exchequer and Treasury but is opposed by Richard Earl of Pembroke (1191-1234).

~ The king attacks Pembroke but is defeated by the earl in alliance with Llewelyn the Great.

1234 Supporters of Peter des Roches Bishop of Winchester are removed from office.  The King takes personal control for the first time but proves ineffective and impractical as a ruler.

~ Richard of Pembroke, the king’s brother in law, dies of wounds as he defends his Leinster estates against the king’s supporters.

~ The third year of a prolonged famine.

1235 English forces conquer Connaught in Ireland.

~ Henry de Bracton allegedly completes On the Laws and Customs of England an early treatise on the Common Law of England which was and is based on custom and precedent.

1236 Henry III marries Eleanor of Provence (c1223-1291), sister to the Queen of France.

1237 Treaty of York.  Alexander II of Scotland (1198-1249) recognises the Cumbrian, Westmorland and Northumbrian borders.

~ Parliament assembles- the first reference to parliament in England.

1238 Simon de Montfort marries the king’s sister Eleanor (1215-1275) widow of the 2nd Earl of Pembroke.  He is banished but restored to royal favour after returning from crusade.

~ Barons led by Richard of Cornwall oppose the de Montfort marriage and the foreign influences (the queen’s relatives from Savoy) around the king.

~ Saracen envoys ask for Christians’ aid to repulse the Mongols led by Genghis Khan.

1240 Death of Llewelyn the Great, who dominated much of Wales for many years.

~ The queen’s uncle Boniface of Savoy (died 1270) is appointed Archbishop of Canterbury.

~ Richard of Cornwall leads the Barons’ Crusade with considerable success in the Holy Land.

1242 Battles of Taillebourg/Saintes in Poitou illustrate Henry’s incompetence as a commander and arouse anger among the barons at the costly waste of the expedition.

1245 The king begins to rebuild Westminster Abbey in the Gothic style.

1247 Richard of Cornwall is commissioned to reform the coinage.  Old silver coins are recalled and new ones issued.

~ The king awards his Lusignan half-brothers positions at court and honours and arouses increasing distrust from the English barons.  William de Valence (died 1296) is made Earl of Pembroke.

1250 Sumer is Icumen In, an early lyric in Middle English with music and instructions for singers, is copied into a book at Reading Abbey.

1252 The King recalls Simon de Montfort from Gascony where, acting as regent, he has earned fear and hatred as he ruthlessly attempted to crush a revolt by the Gascon nobles.

1254 The pope persuades Henry III to send a force to Sicily to gain the crown for his young son Prince Edmund, called Crouchback, later created Earl of Lancaster (1245-1296) in order to keep it out of the hands of Frederick II’s successor.  Henry agrees but cannot fund the venture.

~ Two knights elected from each shire are invited to meet the king’s council to discuss taxation matters.  The first instance of elected representatives playing a part in the Council.

~ The king’s eldest son Edward (1239-1307) marries Eleanor of Castile and is made Lord of Ireland and Gascony.

1255 The child murder of Hugh of Lincoln is blamed on the Jews, nineteen of whom are executed by order of the king.  Richard of Cornwall and Franciscan monks save others.

1257 Richard of Cornwall, having spent lavish sums of money in Germany, is crowned King of the Romans (heir to the Holy Roman Empire).

~ Llewelyn ap Gruffudd (c1223-1282) takes back eastern Gwynedd at the battle of Cadfan.

1258 The Provisions of Oxford, the first government document written in English since the Conquest.  Upset by the failed Sicilian agreement with the Pope, the barons led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, force King Henry III to appoint Privy Council overseers, monitored by regular meetings of Parliament, to supervise his administration.

~ Rebel Scots barons take King Alexander III (1241-86) prisoner and ally themselves with Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, self-styled Prince of Wales.

1259 Matthew Paris (born c 1200), scribe and illustrator at St Albans Abbey dies leaving his seminal work in progress Chronica Maiora, a history of the world up to that date.

1260 Richard of Cornwall fails to arrive at Rome in time to be elected emperor but remains titular King of the Romans.

1262 The nobles become split between moderate and extremist reformers.

~ With papal approval Henry III annuls the Provisions of Oxford.

1263 Londoners demonstrate their hostility to the Queen, Eleanor of Provence, and her foreign relatives by pelting her barge with rotten fruit, an insult which her son the future Edward I never forgot.

~ Discontented by the continuing mismanagement of Henry III’s government, barons led by Simon de Montfort take up arms and occupy London.

~ De Montfort demands a cancellation of debts which leads to a massacre of Jews in London and other cities.

~ Battle of Largs.  Scottish King Alexander III defeats Haakon of Norway and takes the Hebrides Isles.

1264 Simon de Montfort leads baronial opposition in the 2nd Barons’ war.  The king’s forces are defeated at Lewes.  Henry III, his son Edward and Richard of Cornwall are captured.

~ The first recorded meeting of an Irish parliament at Kilkea castle in County Kildare attended by Anglo Norman nobles and ecclesiastical prelates.

1265 Simon de Montfort forms a council of nine to rule in the name of the king.  He is opposed by Gilbert de Clare Earl of Gloucester (1243-1295) and other nobles and seeks wider support by calling the first representative Parliament to which elected members are returned from the shires and selected boroughs in addition to the barons and church hierarchy.

~ Treaty of Pipton.  De Montfort recognises Llewelyn ap Gruffudd Prince of Gwynedd and grandson of Llewelyn the Great, as Prince of Wales, and married off his daughter Eleanor (1252-1282) to his new ally.

~ Lord Edward, later Edward I, escapes and defeats the rebel barons at the Battle of Evesham.  De Montfort is killed.

1266 The Treaty of Perth.  Norway cedes the Isle of Man and the Western Isles to Scotland.

1267 The Statute of Marlborough an Act of Parliament, re-introduces many of the Provisions of Oxford vide 1258.  Four chapters are still in force and are the oldest piece of Statute Law in the UK.

~ Treaty of Montgomery confirms Llewelyn ap Gruffudd as Prince of Wales for which he pays homage to Henry III.

~ Roger Bacon (c1219-c1292), Franciscan monk and Oxford scholar, completes Magnus Opus, a wide-ranging consideration of the state of knowledge at that time, in which he promotes experimentation and evidence-based conclusions.

1269 The rebuilt Westminster Abbey is re-consecrated.

1270 Prince Edward and his brother Edmund embark on the 8th Crusade.  They arrive in Tunis just as the other contingents are pulling out following the death of Louis IX of France.

1271 Edward arrives at Acre with a small force at start of the 9th Crusade.  Although he attempts to make an alliance with the Mongol ruler of Persia, the Moslem forces led by Baibars are too powerful for the forces at his disposal.

~ Henry Dalmain (born 1235) son of Richard of Cornwall is murdered by sons of Simon de Montfort as he takes mass at Viterbo Italy in revenge for the death of their father.

1272 Edward I (1239-1307) is on Crusade when his father dies and he inherits the throne.  His return is delayed when he is wounded by an assassin.

~ Richard of Cornwall also dies.


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