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Ñòóäåíò 301 à/è ãðóïïû
Institute of foreign Languages
Faculty “ Languages and Cultures”
«The Plantagenet Dynasty in the History
of Great Britain”
Student 301 a/i group
Part I. The early Plantagenets ( Angeving kings) 6-16
1. Henry II 7-11
2. Richard I Coeur de Lion 12-13
3. John Lackland 14-16
Part II. The last Plantagenets 17-30
1. Henry III 17-18
2. Edward I 19-20
3. Edward II 21-22
4. Edward III 23-24
5. Richard II 25-30
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a
monarchy, now Parliamentary and once an absolute one. That’s why the
history of the country closely connected with the history of Royal
Speaking about royal dynasties in England we should take in mind the
fact, that the first one appeared in the country with the Norman invasion
in 1066. In the ancient time after Anglo-Saxon invasion the country
consisted of small kingdoms each ruled by its own king. Their
representatives (Chieftains of the kingdoms)– the Witan – chose king of
England (for example Edward the Confessor). It was William the Conqueror,
who began the first dynasty – House of Normandy. William I the Conqueror
–Duke of Normandy (1035-1087) invaded England, defeated and killed his
rival Harold at the Battle of Hastings and became King of England. With the
coronation of William the new period in history of England began. England
turned into a centralizes , strong feudal monarchy. The period of small
kingdoms ended and started the Era of Absolute Monarchy. William was Duke
of Normandy and at the same time the King of England. He controlled two
large areas: Normandy – inherited from his father and England – he won it.
Both areas were his personal possession. To William the only difference was
that in France he had a King above him and he had to serve him. In England
he had nobody above him. Nobody could say who he was – an Englishman or a
Frenchman. The Norman Conquest of England was completed by 1072 aided by
the establishment of feudalism under which his followers were granted land
in return for pledges of service and loyalty. As King William was noted for
his efficient harsh rule. His administration relied upon Norman and other
foreign personnel especially Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1085
started Domesday Book. In this book there was the reflection of what
happened to England.
The next kings were kings of Plantagenet’s dynasty.
I have chosen the history of this dynasty as a subject for my course
paper because, on the one hand, being a student of the English language I
can’t but be interested in the history of this country, and, on the other
hand, not so much is written about the Plantagenet’s kings, among which
there were such world-known persons as Richard-the-Lion Heart and John
Part I. The early Plantagenets (Angeving kings)
House of Plantagenet.
“The Plantagenet dynasty took its name form the “planta Genesta”
(Latine), or broom, traditionally an emblem of the counts of Anjou.
Geoffrey is the only true Plantagenet so-called, because he wore a spring
of broom-genet in his cap. It was a personal nickname, such as Henry’s
“Curt-manted”. Soon this nick-name habit was to die, to be replaced by
names taken from one’s birthplace. Members of this dynasty ruled over
England from 1154 till 1399. However, in conventional historical usage ,
Henry II (son of Count Geoffrey of Anjou) and his sons Richard I and John
are Normandy termed the Angeving kings, and their successors, up to Richard
II, the Plantagenets. The term Plantagenet was not used until about 1450,
when Richard, Duke of York, called himself by it in order to emphasize his
royal descent from Edward III’s fifth son, Edmund of Langley.”(1)
Henry II (1154-1189 AD)
“Henry II, the first Plantagenet, born in 1133, was the son of
Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count Of Anjou, and Matilda, the daughter of Henry I.
Henry II, the first and the greatest of three Angevin kings of England,
succeeded Stephen in 1154. Aged 21, he already possessed a reputation for
restless energy and decisive actions. He was to inherit vast lands. As
their heir to his mother and his father he held Anjou (hence Angevin) ,
Maine, and Touraine; as the heir to his brother Geoffrey he obtained
Brittany; as the husband of Eleanor, the divorced wife of Louis VII of
France, he held Aquitaine, the major part of southwestern France.
Altogether his holdings in France were far larger than those of the French
king. They have become known as the Angevin empire, although Henry II never
in fact claimed any imperial rights or used the title of the emperor.” (2)
From the beginning Henry showed himself determined to assert and maintain
his rights in all his lands.
In the first decade of his reign Henry II was largely concerned with
continental affairs, though he made sure that the forged castles in
England were destroyed. Many of the earldoms created in the anarchy of
Stephen’s reign were allowed to lapse. Major change in England began in the
mid 1160s. The Assize of Clarendon of 1166. , and that Northampton 10 years
later, promoted public order. Juries were used to provide evidence of what
crimes had been committed and to bring accusations. New forms of legal
actions were introduced , notably the so-called prossessory assizes, which
determined who had the right to immediate possession of land, not who had
the best fundamental right. That could be decided by the grand assize, by
means of which a jury of 12 knights would decide the case. The use of
standardized forms of edict greatly simplified judicial administration.
“Returnable” edicts, which had to be sent back by the head to the central
administration, enabled the crown to check that its instruction were
obeyed. An increasing number of cases came before royal court rather than
private feudal courts. Henry I’s practice of sending out itinerant justices
was extended and systematized. In 1170 a major inquiry into local
administration, the Inquest of Sheriffs, was held, and many sheriffs were
There were important changes to the military system. In 1166 the
tenants in chief commandment to disclose the number of knights enfeoffed on
their lands so that Henry could take proper financial advantage of changes
that had taken place since his grandfather’s days. Scutage (tax which
dismissed of military service) was an important source of funds, and Henry
preferred scutage to service because mercenaries were more efficient than
feudal contingents. In the Assize of Arms of 1181 Henry determined the arms
and equipment appropriate to every free man, based on his income from land.
This measure, which could be seen as a revival of the principles of the
Anglo-Saxon fyrd, was intended to provide for a local militia, which could
be used against invasion, rebellion, or for peacekeeping.
“Henry attempted to restore the close relationship between Church and
State that had existed under the Norman kings. His first move was the
appointment in 1162 of Thomas Becket as archbishop of Canterbury. Henry
assumed that Becket, who had served efficiently as chancellor since 1155
and been a close companion to him, would continue to do so as archbishop.
Becket, however, disappointed him. Once appointed archbishop, he became a
militant defender of Church against royal encroachment and a champion of
the papal ideology of ecclesiastical supremacy over the lay world. The
struggle between Henry and Becket reached a crisis at the Council of
Clarendon in 1164. In the constitution of Clarendon Henry tried to set down
in writing the ancient customs of the land. The most controversial issue
proved to be that of jurisdiction over “criminous clerks” (clerics who had
committed crimes); the king demanded that such men should , after trial in
church courts, be sent for punishment in royal courts.” (3)
“Becket initially accepted the Constitution but would not set
his seal to it. Shortly thereafter, however, he suspended himself from
office for the sin of yielding to the royal will in the matter. Although
he failed to obtain full papal support at this stage, Alexander III
ultimately came to his aid over the Constitutions. Later in 1164 Becket was
charged with peculation of royal funds when chancellor. After Becket had
taken flight for France, the king confiscated the revenues of his province,
exiled his friends, and confiscated their revenues. In 1170 Henry had his
eldest son crowned king by the archbishop of York, not Canterbury, as was
traditional. Becket, in exile, appealed to Rome and excommunicated the
clergy who had taken part in the ceremony. A reconciliation between Becket
and Henry at the end of the same year settled none of the points at issue.”
(4) When Becket returned to England, he took further measures against the
clergy who had taken part in the coronation. In Normandy the enraged king,
hearing the news, burst out with the fateful words that incited four of his
knights to take ship for England and murder the archbishop of Canterbury
Almost overnight the martyred Thomas became a saint in the eyes of
the people. Henry repudiated responsibility for the murder and reconciled
himself with the church. But despite various royal promises to abolish
customs injurious to the church, royal control of the church was little
affected. Henceforth criminous clerks were to be tried in church courts,
save for offenses against the forest laws. Disputes over ecclesiastical
patronage and church lands that were held on the same terms as lay estates
were, however, to come under royal jurisdiction. Finally Henry did penance
at Canterbury, allowing the monks to scourge him. But with Becket out of
the way, it proved possible to negotiate most of the points at issue
between church and state. The martyred archbishop, however, was to prove a
potent example for future prelates.
Rebellion of Henry’s sons and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Henry’s sons, urged on by their mother and by a coalition of Henry’s
enemies, raised a rebellion throughout his domains in 1173. King William I
the Lion of Scotland joined the rebel coalition and invaded the north of
England. Lack of cooperation among the rebels, however, enabled Henry to
defeat them one at a time with a mercenary army. The Scottish king was
taken prisoner at Alnwick. Queen Eleanor was retired to polite imprisonment
for the rest of Henry’s life. The king’s sons and the baronial rebels were
treated with leniency, but many baronial castles were destroyed following
the rising. “A brief period of amity between Henry and Louis of France
followed, and the years between 1175 and 1182 marked the zenith of Henry’s
prestige and power.” (5) In 1183 the younger Henry again tried to organize
opposition to his father, but he died in June of the year. Henry spent the
last years of his life locked in combat with the new French king, Philip II
Augustus, with whom his son Richard had entered into an alliance. Even his
youngest son, John, deserted him in the end. In 1189 Henry died a broken
man, disappointed and defeated by his sons and by the French king.
RICHARD I, COEUR de LION (1189-99 AD)
Henry II was succeeded by his son Richard I, nicknamed the Lion Heart.
Richard was born in 1157, and spent much of his youth in his mother’s court
at Poitiers. “Richard, a renowned and skillful warrior, was manly
interested in the Crusade to recover Jerusalem and in the struggle to
maintain his French holdings against Philip Augustus.” (6) He spent only
about six mouths in England during his reign. “During his frequent absences
he left a committee in charge of the realm. The chancellor William
Longchamp, bishop of Ely, dominated the early part of the reign until
forced into exile by baronial rebellion in 1191. Walter of Coutances,
archbishop of Rouen, succeeded Longchamp, but the most important and abled
of Richard’s ministers was Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury,
justicial from 1193 to 1198, and chancellor from 1199 to 1205. With the
king's mother , Eleanor, he put down a revolt by Richard’s brother John in
1193 with strong and effective measures. But when Richard returned from
abroad, he forgave John and promised him the succession.” (7)
“This reign saw some important innovations in taxation and military
organization. Warfare was expensive, and in addition Richard was captured
on his return from the Crusade by Leopold V of Austria and held for a high
ransom of 150 000 marks. Various methods of raising money were tried: an
aid or scutage; tax on plow lands; a general tax of a fourth of revenues
and chattels (this was a development of the so-called Saladin Tithe raised
earlier for the Crusade); and a seizure of the wool crop of Cistercian and
Gilbertine houses. The ransom, although never paid in full, caused
Richard’s government to become highly unpopular.” (8) Richard also faced
some unwillingness on the part of his English subjects to serve in France.
A plan to raise a force of 300 knights who would serve for a whole year met
with opposition led by the bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury. Richard was,
however, remarkably successful in mastering the resources, financial and
human, of his kingdom in support of his wars. It can also be argued that
his demands on England weakened that realm unduly and that Richard left his
successor a very difficult legacy.
John Lackland (1199-1216 AD)
Richard, mortally wounded at a siege in France in 1199, was succeeded
by his brother John, one of the most detested of English kings. John was
born on Christmas Eve 1167, Henry II’s youngest son. John’s reign was
characterized by failure. Yet, while he must bear a heavy responsibility
for his misfortunes, it is only fair to recognize that he inherited the
resentment that had built up against his brother and father. Also while
his reign ended in disaster, some of his financial and military measures
anticipated positive development in Edward I’s reign.
Loss of French possessions.
“John had nothing like the military ability or reputation of his brother.
He could win a battle in a fit of energy, only to lose his advantage in a
spell of indolence. After repudiating his first wife, Isabella of
Gloucestor, John married the fiancée of Hugh IX the Brown of the Lusignan
family, one of his vassals in Poitou. For this offense he was summoned to
answer to Philip II , his feudal ovelord for his holdings in France. When
John refused to attend , his land in France were declared forfeit.” (9) In
the subsequent war he succeeded in capturing his nephew Arthur of Brittany,
whom many in Anjou and elsewhere regarded as Richard I’s rightful heir.
Arthur died under mysterious and suspicious circumstances. But once the
great castle of Chateau Gaillard, Richard I’s pride and joy, had fallen in
March 1204, the collapse of Normandy followed swiftly. “By 1206 all that
was left of the inheritance of the Norman kings was the Channel Islands.
John, however, was determined to recover his losses.”(10)
Revolt of the barons and Magna Carta.
For 200 years of ruling of Norman kings the country was ruled over on such
principles: King took money from barons, especially for wars. Those who
refused to pay were arrested and kept in prison and they could not defend
themselves. Their children or their relatives had to pay for them. The end
of such situation came at reign of John Lackland. He was very unpopular
with his barons. In 1215 John called on for his barons to fight for him in
the war against Normandy and pay money for it. The barons, no longer
trusting John refused to pay and there began a revolt. Barons gazed much to
London and were joined by London merchants.
“On June 15, 1215 the rebellion barons met John at Rennemede on the
Themes. The King was presented with a document known as the Articles of the
Barons, on the basis of which Magna Carta was drawn up. Magna Carta became
the symbol of political freedom. It promised two main things:
1. All “free man” protection of his officials
2. The right to afair and legal trial
It was the first official document when this principle was written down.
It was very important for England. Magna Carta was always used by barons to
protect themselves from a powerful king.” (11)
But we should say that Magna Carta gave no real freedom to the majority
of people in England (only 1/3 of population were free men). Nobles did not
allow John and his successors to forget this charter. Every king had to
recognize the Magna Carta. This document was the beginning of limiting the
prerogatives of crown and on the other hand by limiting king’s power Magna
Carta restricted arbitrary action of barons towards the knights. Magna
Carta marked a clear stage in the collapse of the English feudalism.
“After king’s signing the document barons established a committee of 24
barons to make sure that John kept his promise. This committee was a
beginning of English Parliament.”(12)
From the very beginning Magna Carta was a failure, for it was no more
than a stage in ineffective negotiations to prevent civil war. John was
released by the pope from his obligations under it. The document was,
however, reissued with some changes under John’s son, with papal approval.
John himself died in October 1216, with the civil war still at an
“Summing up the events of the late 12th century and the early 13th
century historians describe as “Plantagenet spring after a grim Norman
winter”. The symbol of this spring is the century of new Gothic Style. One
of the best example of Gothic architecture is Salisbury Cathedral. Also it
is a century of forming Parliament. The century of growing literacy which
is closely connected with 12th century cultural movement, which is called
Renaissance. In England Renaissance was a revolution in thoughts, ideas and
learning. In England there began grammar schools. But all of them taught
Latin. In the end of the 12th century in England appeared two schools of
higher learning – Oxford and Cambridge. By 1220 this universities became
the intellectual leaders of the century.”(13)
Part II. The last Plantagenets
HENRY III (1216-1272 AD)
“Henry III was the first son of John and Isabella of Angouleme. Was born in
1207. At the age of nine when he was crowned, Henry’s early reign featured
two regents: William the Marshall governed until his death in 1219, and
Hugh de Burgh until Henry came to the throne in 1232. His education was
provided by Peter des Roche, Bishop of Winchester. Henry III married
Eleanor of Province in 1236, who bore him four sons and two daughters.”
“Henry inherited a troubled kingdom: London and most of the southeast
was in the hands of the French Dauphin Louis and the northern regions were
under control of rebellious barons – only the midland and southwest were
loyal to the boy king. The barons, however, soon sided with Henry (their
quarrel was with his father, not him), and the old Marshall expelled the
French Dauphin from English soil by 1217.” (15)
“Henry was a cultivated man, but a lousy politician. His court was
inundated by Frenchmen and Italians who came at the behest of Eleanor,
whose relations were handed important Church and state position. His father
and uncle left him an impoverished kingdom. Henry financed costly fruitless
wars with extortionate taxation. Inept diplomacy and failed war led Henry
to sell his hereditary claims to all the Angevin possessions in France, but
to save Gascony (which was held as a fief of the French crown) and
Calais.”(16) “Henry’s failures incited hostilities among a group of barons
led by his brother in law , Simon de Montfort. Henry was forced to agree to
a wide ranging plan of reforms, the so called “Provisions of Oxford”. His
later papal absolution from adhering to the Provisions prompted a baronial
revolt in 1263, and Henry was summoned to the first Parliament, in 1265 –
Parliament (from the French word “parleman” – meeting for discussion) was
summoned with “Commons” represented in it – two knights from a shire and
two merchants of a town and it turned out to have been a real beginning of
the English parlamentarism.”(17) Here we should note, the main peculiarity
of English Parliament, distinguishing it from most others: it was created
as a means of opposition. Not to help the king, but to limit his power and
Parliament insisted that a council be imposed on the king to advise on
policy decisions. He was prone to the infamous Plantagenet temper, but
could also be sensitive and quite pious – ecclesiastical architecture
reached its apex in Henry’s reign.
The old king, after an extremely long reign of fifty-six years, died
in 1272. He found no success in war, but opened up English culture to the
cosmopolitanism of the continent. Although viewed as a failure as a
politician, his reign defined the English monarchical position until the
end of the fifteenth century: kingship limited by law – the repercussions
of which influenced the English Civil War in the reign of Charles I, and
extended into the nineteenth century queenship of Victoria.
Edward I, Longshanks (1272-1307)
Edward I, the oldest surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor of
Provence, was born in 1239. He was nicknamed Longshanks due to his great
height and stature. Edward married Eleanor of Castille in 1254, who bore
him sixteen children ( seven of whom survived into adulthood) before her
death in 1290. Edward reached a peace settlement with Philip IV of France
that resulted in his marriage to the French king’s daughter Margaret, who
bore him three more children.
“Edward I was a capable statesman, adding much to the institution
initiated by Henry II. It 1295, his “Model Parliament” brought together
representatives from the nobility, clergy, knights of the shires, and
burgesses of the cities – the first gathering of Lords and Commons. Feudal
revenues proved inadequate in financing the burgeoning royal courts and
administrative institutions. Summoning national Parliament became the
accepted forum of gaining revenue and conducting public business. Judicial
reform included the expansion of such courts as the King’s Bench, Common
Pleas, Exchequer and the Chancery Court was established to give redress in
circumstances where other courts provided on solution. Edward was pious,
but resisted any increase of papal authority in England. Conservators of
the Peace, the forerunners of Justices of the Peace, were also established
as an institution.”(18)
Foreign policy, namely the unification of the island’s other nations,
occupied much of Edward’s time. A major campaign to control Llywelyn ap
Gruffydd of Wales began in 1277, and lasted until Liywelyn’s death in 1282.
In 1301, the king’s eldest son was created Prince of Wales, a title still
held by all mail heirs to the crown. Margaret, Maid of Norway and
legitimate heir to the Scottish crown, died in 1290, leaving a disputed
succession in Scotland. Edward was asked to arbitrate between thirteen
different claimants. John Baliol, Edward’s first choice, was unpopular, his
next choice, William Wallace, rebelled against England until his capture
and execution in 1305. Robert Bruce seized the Scottish throne in 1306,
later to become a source of consternation to Edward II.
Edward died en rout to yet another Scottish campaign in 1307. His
character found accurate evaluation by Sir Richard Baker, in A Chronicle of
the kings of England: “He had in him the two wisdoms, not often found in
any, single. Both together, seldom or never: an ability of judgement in
himself, and a readiness to hear the judgment of others. He was not easily
provoked into passion, but once in passion , not easily appeared, as was
seen by his dealing with the Scots; towards whom he showed at first
patience, and at last severity. If he was censured for his many taxations,
he may be justified by his well bestowing them; for never prince laid out
his money to more honour of himself , or good of his kingdom.” (19)
Edward II (1307-1327 AD)
Edward II the son of Eleanor of Castille and Edward I, was born in
1284. He married Isabella, daughter of Philip IV of France, in 1308.
Eleanor bore him two sons and two daughters.
“Edward was as much of a failure as a king as his father was a
success. He loved money and other rewards upon his mail favourites, raising
the ire of the nobility. The most notable was Piers Gaveston, his
homosexual lover. On the day of Edward’s marriageó to Isabella, Edward
preferred the couch of Gaveston to that of his new wife. Gaveston was
exiled and eventually murdered by Edward’s father for his licentious
conduct with the king. Edward’s means of maintaining power was based on the
noose and the block – 28 knights and barons were executed for rebelling
against the decadent king.” (20)
Edward faired no better as a solder. The rebellions of the barons
opened the way for Robert Bruce to grasp much of Scotland. Bruce’s victory
over English forces at the battle of Bannockburn, in 1314, ensured Scottish
independence until the union of England and Scotland in 1707.
In 1324 the war broke out with France, prompting Edward to sent
Isabella and their son Edward (later became Edward III) to negotiate with
her brother and French king, Charles IV. “Isabella fell into an open
romance with Roger Mortimer, one of the Edward’s disaffected barons. The
rebellious couple invaded England in 1327, capturing and imprisoning
Edward. The king was deposed, replaced by his son, Edward III.”(21)
Edward II was murdered in September 1327 at Berkley castle, by a red-
hot iron inserted through his sphincter into his bowels. Comparison of
Edward I and Edward II was beautifully described by Sir Richard Baker, in
reference to Edward I in A Chronicle of the Kings of England “His great
unfortunate was in his greatest blessing, for four of his sons which he
had by his Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were
worthy to have outlived him, and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy
never to have been born.” ( 22 ) A strong indictment of a weak king.” (23)
Edward III (1327-1377)
Edward III, the eldest son of Edward II and Isabella of France, was
born in 1312. His youth was spent in his mother’s court , until he was
crowned at the age of 14, in 1327. Edward was dominated by his mother and
her lover, Roger Mortimer, until 1330, wen Mortimer was executed and
Isabella was exiled from court. Philippa of Hainault married Edward in 1328
and bore him many children.
The Hundred Years’ War occupied the largest part of Edward’s reign.
It began in 1338-1453. The war was carried during the reign of 5 English
kings. Edward III and Edward Baliol defeated David II of Scotland, and
drove him into exile in 1333. The French cooperation with the Scots, French
aggression in Gascony, and Edward’s claim to the throne of France (through
his mother Isabella, who was the sister of the king; the Capetiance failed
to produce a mail heir) led to the outbreak of War. “The sea battle of
Sluys (1340) gave England control of the Channel, and battle at Crecy
(1346), Calais (1347), and Poitiers (1356) demonstrated English supremacy
on the land. Edward, the Black Prince and eldest son of Edward III,
excelled during this first phase of the war.”(24)
Throughout 1348-1350 the epidemic of a plague so called “The Black
Death” swept across England and northern Europe, removing as much as half
the population. This plague reached every part of England. Few than one of
ten who caught the plague could survive it. If in Europe 1/3 of population
died within a century , in England 1/3 of population died during two years.
The whole villages disappeared. This plague continued till it died out
itself. English military strength weakened considerably after the plague,
gradually lost so much ground that by 1375, Edward agreed to the Treaty of
Bruges, which only left England Calais, Bordeaux, and Bayonne.
Domestically, England saw many changes during Edward’s reign.
Parliament was divided into two Houses – Lords and Commons – and met
regularly to finance the war. Treason was defined by statute for the first
time (1352). In 1361 the office of Justice of the Peace was created.
Philippa died in 1369 and the last years of Edward’s reign mirrored the
first; he was once again dominated by a woman, his mistress, Alice Perrers.
Alice preferred one of Edward’s other sons, John of Gaunt, over the Black
Prince, which caused political conflict in Edward’s last years.
Edward the Black Prince died one year before his father. Rafael
Holinshed intimated that Edward spent his last year in grief and remorse,
believing the death of his son was a punishment for usurping his father’s
crown. In Chronicles of England, Holinshed wrote: “But finally the thing
that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear
son Prince Edward…. But this and other mishaps that chanced to him now in
his old years, might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience
showed to his in usurping against him….” (25)
There is one more point about Edward’s reign, concerning the English
language. Edward had forbidden speaking French in his army, and by the end
of the 14th century English once again began being used instead of French
by ruling literate class.
Richard II (1377-99)
Richard II’s reign was fraught with crisis – economic , social,
political, and constitutional. He was 10 years old when his grandfather
died, and the first problem the country faced was having to deal with his
monitoring. A “constitutional council” was set up to “govern the king and
his kingdom”. Although John of Gaunt was still the dominant figure in the
royal family, neither he no his brothers were included.
The peasant’s revolt.
“(1381) Financing the increasingly expensive and unsuccessful war with
France was a major preoccupation. At the end of Edward III’s reign a new
device, a poll tax of four pence a head, had been introduced. A similar but
graduated tax followed in 1379, and in 1380 another set at one shilling a
head was granted. It proved inequitable and impractical, and when the
government tried to speed up collection in the spring of 1381 a popular
rebellion – the Peasants’ Revolt – ensued. Although the pool tax was the
spark that set it off, there were also deeper causes related to changes in
the economy and to political developments.”(26) The government in
practical, engendered hostility to the legal system by its policies of
expanding the power of the justices of the peace at the expense of local
and monorail courts. In addition, popular poor preachers spread subversive
ideas with slogans such as : “When Adam delved and Eve span/ Who was then
the gentleman?” (27) The Peasants’ revolt began in Essex and Kent.
Widespread outbreaks occurred the southeast of England, taking the form of
assault on tax collectors, attacks on landlords and their manor houses,
destruction of documentary evidence of villein status, and attacks on
lawyers. Attacks on religious houses, such as that at St. Albans, were
particularly severe, perhaps because they had been among the most
conservative of landlords in commuting labour services.
The men of Essex and Kent moved to London to attack the king’s
councilors. Admitted to the city by sympathizers, they attacked John of
Gaunt’s place of the Savoy as well as the Fleet prison. On June 14 the
young king made them various promises at Mile End; on the same day they
broke into the Tower and killed Sudbury, the chancellor, Hales, the
treasure and other officials. On the next day Richard met the rebels again
at Smithfield, and their main leader, Wat Tyler, presented their demands.
But during the negotiations Tyler was attacked and slain by the mayor of
London. The young king rode forward and reassured the rebels, asking them
to follow him to Clerkenwell. This proved to be a turning point, and the
rebels, their suppliers exhausted, began to make their way home. “Richard
went back on his promises he had made saying, “Villeins you are and
villeins you shall remain.”(28) In October Parliament confirmed the king’s
revocation of charters but demanded amnesty save for a few special
“The events of the Peasants’ Revolt may have given Richard an exalted
idea of his own powers and prerogative as a result of his success at
Smithfield, but for the rebels the gains of the rising amounted to no more
than the abolition of the poll taxes.”(29) Improvement in the social
position of the peasantry did occur, but not so mach as a consequence of
the revolt as of changes in the economy that would have occurred anyhow.
“Religious unrest was another subversive factor under Richard II. England
had been virtually free from heresy until John Wycliffe, a priest and an
Oxford scholar, began his career as a religious reformer with two treaties
in 1375 – 76. He argued that the exercise of lordship depended on grace
and that therefore, a sinful man had no right to authority. Priest had even
the pope himself , Wycliffe went on to argue, might not necessarily be in
state of grace and thus would lack authority. Such doctrines appealed to
anticlerical sentiments and brought Wycliffe into direct conflict with the
church hierarchy, although he received protection from John of Gaunt. The
beginning of the Great Schism in 1378 gave Wycliffe fresh opportunities to
attack the papacy, and in a treaties of 1379 on the Eucharist he openly
denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. He was ordered before the
church court at Lambeth in 1378. In 1380 his views were condemned by a
commission of theologians at Oxford, and he was forced to leave the
university. At Lutterworth he continued to write voluminously until his
Political struggles and Richard’s desposition.
Soon after putting down the Peasants’ Revolt, Richard began to build up a
court party, partly in opposition to Gaunt. A crisis was precipitated in
1386 when the king asked Parliament for a grant to meet the French treat.
Parliament responded by demanding the dismissal of the king’s favorites,
but Richard insisted that he would not dismiss so much as a scullion in the
kitchen at the request of Parliament. In the end he was forced by the
impeachment of the chancellor, Michel de la Pole, to agree to the
appointment of a reforming commission. Richard withdrew from London and
went on a “gyration” of the country. He called his judges before him at
Shrewsbury and asked them to pronounce the actions of Parliament illegal.
An engagement at Radcot Bridge, at which Richard’s favorite, Robert de
Vere, 9th Earl of Oxford was defeated settled the matter of ascendancy. In
the Merciless Parliament of 1388 five lords accused the king’s friends of
treason under an expansive definition of the crime.
“Richard was chastened, but he began to recover his authority as
early as the autumn of 1388 at the Cambridge Parliament. Declaring himself
to be of age in 1389, Richard anounced that he was taking over the
government. He pardoned the Lords Appellant and ruled with some moderation
until 1394, when his queen Ann of Bohemia, died.”(31) After putting down a
rebellion in Ireland, he was , for a time, almost popular. He began to
implement his personal policy once more and rebuilt a royal party with the
help of a group of young nobles. He made a 28- years truce with France and
married the French king’s seven-year-old daughter. He built up a household
of faithful servants, including the notorious Sir John Bushy, Sir William
Bagot, and Sir Henry Green. “He enlisted household troops and built a wide
network of “king’s knight” in the counties, distributing to them his
personal budge, the White Hart.”(32)
The first sign of renewed crisis emerged in January 1397, when
complaints were put forward in Parliament and their author, Thomas Haxey,
was adjudged a traitor. “Richard’s rule, based on fear rather then consent,
became increasingly tyrannical.”(33) Three of the Lords Appellant of 1388
were arrested in July and tried in Parliament. The Earl of Arundel was
executed and Warwick exiled. Gloucester, whose death was reported to
Parliament, had probably been murdered. The act of the 1388 Parliament was
repealed. Richard was granted the customs of revenues for life, and the
power of parliament was delegated to a committee after the assembly was
dissolved. Richard also built up a power base in Cheshire.
Events leading to Richard’s downfall followed quickly. The Duke of
Norfolk and Henry Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, accused each other of
treason and were banished, the former for life, the latter for 10 years.
Hen Gaunt himself died early in 1399, Richard confiscated his estates
instead of allowing his son to claim them. Richard seemingly secure, went
off to Ireland. Henry, however landed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire to claim,
as he said, his father’s estate and the hereditary stewardship. The
Percys, the chief lord of the north, welcomed him. Popular support was
widespread, and when Richard returned from Ireland his cause was lost.
“The precise course of events is hard to reconstruct., in view of
subsequent alteration to the records. A Parliament was called in Richard’s
name, but before it was fully assembled at the end of September, its
members were presented with Richard’s alleged abdication and Henry’s claim
to the throne as legitimate descendant of Henry III as well as by right of
conquest.”(34) Thirty-tree articles of deposition were set forth against
Richard, and his abdication and deposition were duly accepted. Richard died
at Pontefract Castle, either of self-starvation or by smothering. Thus
ended the last attempt of a medieval king to exercise arbitrary power.
“Whether or not Richard had been motivated by new theories about the nature
of monarchy, as some have claimed, he had failed in the practical measures
necessary to sustain his power. He had tried to rule through fear and
mistrust in his final years, but he had neither gained sufficient support
among the magnates by means of patronage nor created a popular basis of
support in the shires and in 1399 Richard was disposed and he abdicated to
theó favour of Henry Lancaster and so the dynasty of Plantagenets
Summing up the events of Plantagenets rule and their role in the history of
England, we should mark the following.
11th - 12th centuries (the first Plantagenets) were the years of
constitutional progress and territorial expansion.
“The 13th century is described as a “Plantagenet spring after a grim
Norman winter”. The symbol of this spring is the century of new Gothic
Style. One of the best example of Gothic architecture is Salisbury
Cathedral. Also it is a century of growing literacy which is closely
connected with 12th century cultural movement, which is called Renaissance.
In England Renaissance was a revolution in thoughts, ideas and learning,
foundation of universities, the development of the Common Law and the
Parliament, and emergence of English as the language of the nation.”(36)
The 14th century brought the disasters of the Hundred Years' War
(1337 -–1453), the Peasants’ revolt (1381), the extermination of the
population by the Black Death (1348 – 1349). Although the outbreak of the
Black Death in 1348 dominated the economy of the 14th century, a member of
adversities had already occurred in the preceding decades. Severe rains in
1315 and 1316 caused famine, which lead to the spread of disease. Animal
epidemic in succeeding of currency in the 1330s. Economic expansion, which
had been characteristic of the 13th century, had slowed to a halt. The
Black Death, possibly a combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues,
carried off from one-third to one half of the population. In some respects
it took time for its effects to become detrimental to the economy, but with
subsequent outbreaks, as in 1361 and 1369, the population declined further,
causing a severe labor shortage. By the 1370 wages had risen dramatically
and prices of foodstuffs fallen. Hired laborers, being fewer, asked for
higher wages and better food, and peasant tenants, also fewer, asked for
better conditions of tenure when they took up land. Some landlords
responded by trying to reassert labor services where they had been
commuted. “ The Ordinance(1349) and Statute (1351) of Laborers tried to set
maximum wages at the levels of the pre-Black Death years, but strict
enforcement proved impossible. The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was one result
of the social tension caused by the adjustment needed after the epidemic.
Great landlords saw their revenues fall as a result of the Black Death,
although probably by only about 10 percent, whereas for the lower orders of
society real wages rose sharply by the last quarter of the 14th century
because of low grain prices and high wages.”(37)
Edward III ruined the major Italian banking companies in England by
failing to repay loans early in the Hundred Years’ War. This provided
opening for English Merchants, who were given monopolies of wool exports
by the crown in return for their support. The most notable was William de
la Pole of Hull, whose family rose to noble status. Heavy taxation of wool
exports was one reason for the growth of the cloth industry and cloth
exports in the 14th century. The wine trade from Gascony was also
important. In contrast to the 13th century, no new towns were founded, but
London is particular continued to prosper despite the ravage of plague.
“In cultural terms, a striking change in the 14th century was the
increasing use of English. Although an attempt to make the use of English
mandatory in the law courts failed because lawyers claimed that they could
not plead accurately in the language, the vernacular began to creep into
public documents and records. Henry of Lancaster even used English when he
claimed the throne in 1399. Chaucer wrote in both French and English, but
his important poetry is in the latter. The early 14th century was an
impressive age for manuscript illumination in England, with the so-called
East Anglian school, of which the celebrated Luttrell Psalter represents a
late example. In ecclesiastical architecture the development of the
Perpendicular style, largely in the second half of the 14th century, was
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