The Plantagenet Dynasty ruled England from 1154-1399, a period of 245 years by way of eight kings. Henry II (Henry Plantagenet) came to the English throne with an Empire which stretched from the Scottish borders down to the Pyrenees. He began his reign by destroying castles built by rebellious barons during Stephen’s reign, and then set about regulating the power of the church. He introduced reforms, laying the foundation for the common law.
Yet Henry II will be most remembered, for the death of Thomas Becket in 1170, murdered on the altar of Canterbury Cathedral, by Henry’s own knights.
King Henry II
King Henry II: Henry, the son of Matilda ascends to the English throne upon the death of Stephen, he who had stolen the position of England’s ruler, from the rightful heir; Matilda his mother.
In 1155, Henry appoints Thomas Becket as his Chancellor of England, and in 1162 he becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1164 Henry introduced the “Constitution of Clarendon” placing limitations on Church jurisdiction over crimes committed by their own.
Henry and Thomas Becket started out as friends, but when Thomas Becket became Archbishop of Canterbury, all that changed. From that day forth they were always at odds with each other, leading to the death of Thomas Becket in 1170.
In 1171-72 Henry invades Ireland and receives homage from the King of Leinster and other kings. Henry is accepted by the Irish as Lord of Ireland, and the clergy are forced to submit to the authority of Rome.
In 1176, Henry creates a framework of justice, creating judges and dividing England into six counties. In 1179, Henry gave the defendant, the right to opt for trial by jury or trial by combat.
In 1189, King Henry II died at Chinon Castle in Anjou, and is buried at Fontevrault Abbey in France.
King Richard I
King Richard I: Henry II died on the 6th July in France and is succeeded to the English throne by his son Richard in 1189. Within months, Richard left England, on the Third Crusade to the Holy Land.
Richard’s appointed Chancellor of England during his absence was William Longchamp, but Richard’s brother Prince John stepped in and removed him in 1191.
In 1192, Richard I is captured by Henry VI Holy Roman Emperor of Germany, and held for ransom. Prince John had sought to be king, and with Richard’s imprisonment, this could come soon… What John hadn’t bargained on was the people of England had raised the 100,000 marks to release their king.
Richard and John came face to face on the 12th May 1194. John sought clemency for his actions in the King’s absence… Richard forgave his brother, and named him as his successor.
On the 26th March 1199, King Richard I of England died in battle at Chalus in France, and was buried at Fontevrault Abbey.
King John: Prince John had previously acted as King during his brother’s absence, during the Third Crusade and fighting in France. Richard I died in 1199, and John became King of England.
By 1204, following years of fighting, John had lost much of the French Empire, to King Philip II of France, land secured by his father and brother.
With the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1205, a dispute arose between King and monks, as to the rightful successor.
John alienated the Pope, by refusing to accept the elected replacement, Stephen Langton as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1207, Langton was consecrated as Archbishop in Rome, and a betrayed John expelled the Monks of Canterbury.
In 1208, the Pope issued a ban against England; no church services, except baptisms and funerals. In 1209 John is excommunicated for confiscation of church possessions. Then in 1212, the Pope declared John is no longer fit to be King of England.
King John believed he himself was the only ruler of England, but hadn’t counted on the power of the church and Rome. John was forced to accept the authority of the Pope in England, or face war with France backed by the Pope… to remove him as King.
After years of fighting in France, John was defeated in 1214 by Philip Augustus at the “Battle of Bouvines.” John returned to England to face his nobles and answer to them how he had lost their lands in France.
In 1215, rebellion broke out, which led to the signing of the “Magna Carta” at Runnymede. The intention was to bring peace, but John didn’t abide by its terms.
King John fled north, and died on the 19th October at Newark Castle, and was buried in Worcester Cathedral.
King Henry III
King Henry III: Henry was the son of King John, and ascended to the English throne, upon his father’s death in 1215, and crowned in 1216, aged nine.
With much guidance from William Marshall, the Earl of Pembroke and Hubert de Burgh, the King’s Regents, Henry brought stability to England.
In 1227, Henry took control of the government and his kingdom in his name, retaining Hubert de Burgh as his chief adviser until 1232, when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for squandering royal money and lands.
In 1237 “The Treaty of York,” created an Anglo-Scottish border.
Henry’s reign was dogged by civil strife from England’s barons, led by Simon de Montfort who defeated Henry at the “Battle of Lewes” in 1264 and took Henry prisoner.
In 1265 Simon de Montfort took control of the government, and called the first elected English Parliament. Simon de Montfort died in the “Battle of Evesham,” leading to Henry’s release.
On the 16th November 1272, King Henry III died at the Palace of Westminster and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
King Edward I
King Edward I: In 1274, Edward son of Henry III was crowned King Edward I of England, upon his return home from the Holy Land Crusade.
Edward would best be remembered for his conquest of Wales (1277-1283) through a number of bitter battles between England and the Welsh princes.
William Wallace wanted freedom for all Scots, and took on the mighty English forces. In 1305 Wallace was betrayed by one of his own, captured and executed by the English. In 1306 Robert the Bruce rebelled and was crowned King of Scotland.
On the 7th July 1307, the aged Edward I died at Burg-on-Sands, and buried at Westminster Abbey in a black marble tomb.
King Edward II
King Edward II: On the 25th February 1308, Edward the son of Edward I succeeded his father as King Edward II of England.
Edward was a practicing homosexual, who had many affairs during his reign, but his favourite was Piers Gaveston. The Earl of Pembroke captured Gaveston and had him executed, for he was a bad distraction for the King.
His homosexual affairs saw his own wife take a lover, one Roger Mortimer. Edward was forced to abdicate as King, in favour of his son Edward III with his mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer acting as Regents. Edward II was murdered in Berkeley Castle upon the orders of his wife on the 21st September 1327, and was buried at Gloucester Cathedral.
King Edward III: Edward ascended to the English throne on the 25th January 1327, after his father had renounced his throne, and ruled England with his mother; Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer as his guiding regents. Edward was crowned King Edward III of England on the 1st February 1327 at Westminster Abbey.
In 1330 Edward takes over power, as ruler of his kingdom, after three years of governing by his regents. No longer was he prepared to be the face to his people, whilst his mother Isabella and Roger Mortimer plundered royal finances and lands.
Edward was convinced that his father was murdered on the orders of his mother… he wanted justice.
Roger Mortimer was executed, and as for his mother, he allowed her to live at Castle Rising, but never leave the grounds… she remained a prisoner for the rest of her life.
In 1332, he divided Parliament into two houses; the Lords and Commons, and English became the common language, replacing the Norman-French language.
He started the Hundred Years War with France, when he attempted to claim the French throne in 1337, as grandson of Philip IV.
In 1348 he founded the “Order of the Garter, and in 1351 adapted St.George as the patron Saint of England.
On the 21st June 1377, King Edward III died at Sheen Palace, and buried at Westminster Abbey.
King Richard II
King Richard II: Richard the grandson of Edward III ascended to the English throne in 1377. Being only ten years old, the young King had adviser’s to decide policy, as no regent could be agreed upon.
In 1380, he introduced the controversial Poll Tax, which led to the Peasants Revolt of 1381, led by rebel leader Watt Tyler.
In 1395, Richard invaded Ireland, creating an alliance between England and Ireland.
In 1399, Richard confessed before Parliament, of being unworthy to reign, and passed the English crown to Henry Bolingbroke.
King Richard II abdicated his throne in 1399, as an unfit king to rule his kingdom and people. Richard was imprisoned at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire, where he died of starvation, and buried at Westminster Abbey.