House of Plantagenet
|House of Plantagenet|
Armorial of Plantagenet
|Country||Kingdom of England, Kingdom of France, Lordship of Ireland, Principality of Wales|
|Founder||Geoffroy de Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou|
|Final ruler||Richard III of England|
The House of Plantagenet (// plan-TAJ-ə-nət also spelt in English sources as Plantaganet, Plantagenett, Plantagenette, Plantaginet, Plantagynett, etc.) was a family—originally from the former French province of Anjou— whose members held the English throne from the accession of Henry II in 1154 to the death of Richard III in 1485. Within that period, some historians identify four distinct royal houses: Angevins, Plantagenet, Lancaster and York. In the 10 years from 1144, two successive counts of Anjou won control of a vast assemblage of lands that would last for 80 years and would retrospectively be referred to as the Angevin Empire. The first of these counts—Geoffrey— became duke of Normandy in 1144 and his successor—Henry— added Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and became king of England in 1154 by successfully pursuing a claim derived from his descent from his maternal grandfather, Henry I of England. From Henry’s fourth son—John— the dynasty continued successfully forming a long line of 14 English Plantagenet kings. The name of Plantagenet that historians use for the entire dynasty dates from the 15th century and comes from a 12th-century nickname of Geoffrey.
It was under the Plantagenet’s rule that England was transformed from a colony often governed from abroad and considered of lesser significance into a sophisticated, politically engaged and independent kingdom. This was not always necessarily due to the conscious intentions of the Plantagenets as Winston Churchill, the twentieth-century British prime minister, articulated in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: "[w]hen the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns". They were often forced by weakness to negotiate compromises that constrained their power as kings in return for financial and military support—such Magna Carta— which transformed the role of kingship. No longer would the king solely be the most powerful man in the country holding the prerogative of judgement, feudal tribute and warfare but the monarch would also have defined duties to his realm underpinned by a sophisticated justice system. A distinct national identity was shaped by conflict with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish and the use of English re-established. The Plantagenets also provided England with significant buildings such as King's College, Cambridge, Eton College, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle and the Welsh Castles.
The Plantagenet’s conclusive defeat in the Hundred Years' War broke confidence in the status quo and through the burden of taxes supporting the war they played a part in devastating the English economy. Several popular revolts demanded greater rights and freedoms for the general population. Crime increased as soldiers returned destitute from France, the nobility raised private armies, pursued private feuds and defied the weak leadership of Henry VI. Throughout the Plantagenet period there was continual rivalry between the members of the family but no English dynasty was as successful in passing the crown to a succeeding generation as the Plantagenets from 1189 to 1377. However, the political and economic situation combined with the splintering of the dynasty into competing cadet branches—the House of York and House of Lancaster— in the 15th-century developed these regular conflicts into the internecine strife later named the Wars of the Roses.
These events culminated in 1485 with the death of the last Plantagenet king—Richard III— at the Battle of Bosworth Field. This marks the end of Plantagenet power and the Middle Ages in England for many historians. The succeeding Tudors were able to resolve many of the problems that beset the later Plantagenets through centralising royal power by which they provided the necessary stability for an English Renaissance and the beginnings of Early modern Britain.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Terminology
- 3 Angevin kings of England
- 4 Plantagenet main line
- 5 House of Lancaster
- 6 House of York
- 7 Henry VII, the Tudors and the Plantagenet descendants
- 8 Family tree
- 9 Further information
- 10 References
The line of the counts of Anjou that the Plantagenets are part of descend from Geoffrey II, Count of Gâtinais and Ermengarde of Anjou—daughter of Fulk III of Anjou. The couple inherited the title in 1060 via cognatic kinship to an Angevin family—whose recorded history dates from 870—who were descended from a noble called Ingelger. The marriage of a later count who was also called Geoffrey to Henry I of England's daughter, heir and only surviving legitimate child—Matilda— brought about the convergence of the counts of Anjou, the House of Normandy and the House of Wessex. This was part of a power struggle during the tenth and eleventh centuries that the counts of Anjou had with rival princes in northern and western Gaul. The rivals included the ruler of Normandy—Henry, Brittany, Poitou, Blois, Maine and the kings of France. It was from this marriage that Geoffrey’s son, Henry, inherited the claims to England, Normandy and Anjou that mark the beginning of the Angevin and Plantagenet dynasties. 
This was the third attempt that Geoffrey’s father—Fulk V, Count of Anjou—had tried to build a political alliance with Normandy. The first was by marrying his daughter Alice to Henry I’s heir—William Adelin—but the prince drowned in the wreck of the White Ship. Fulk then married his daughter Sibylla to William Clito, heir to Henry I's older brother Robert Curthose, but Henry I had the marriage annulled to avoid the strengthening of William’s the rival claim to his lands. On the completion of his strategy Fulk resigned all his titles to Geoffrey and sailed to become King of Jerusalem.
It was Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, who adopted Plantagenet as a family name for him and his descendants in the 15th century. Plantegenest (or Plante Genest) had been a 12th-century nickname of Geoffrey, perhaps because his emblem may have been the common broom, (planta genista in medieval Latin). It is uncertain why Richard chose this specific name, but it emphasised Richard's status as Geoffrey's (and six English kings') patrilineal descendant during the Wars of the Roses. The retrospective usage of the name for all of Geoffrey's male descendants was popular in Tudor times, perhaps encouraged by the added legitimacy it gave Richard's great grandson, Henry VIII of England.
The adjective Angevin is especially used in English history to refer to the three kings of the Angevin dynasty—Henry II, Richard I and John—who were also counts of Anjou; their characteristics, descendants and the period of history which they covered from the mid-twelfth to early-thirteenth centuries. Many historians consider the Angevins //, meaning from Anjou, as a distinct English royal house. In addition Angevin is also used pertaining to Anjou, or any sovereign, government derived from this. As a noun it is used for any native of Anjou or Angevin ruler and as such is also used for other Counts and Dukes of Anjou; including the three kings' ancestors, their cousins who held the crown of Jerusalem and unrelated later members of the French royal family who were granted the titles to form different dynasties amongst which were the Capetian House of Anjou and the Valois House of Anjou. As result there is disagreement between those who consider Henry III to be the first Plantagenet and those who do not make a distinction between Angevin and Plantagenet who consider the first to be Henry II. The term Angevin Empire was coined in 1887 by Kate Norgate. As far as it is known there was no contemporary name for the assemblage of territories which were referred to—if at all—by clumsy circumlocutions such as our kingdom and everything subject to our rule whatever it may be or the whole of the kingdom which had belonged to his father. Whereas the Angevin part of this term has proved uncontentious the empire portion has proved controversial. In 1986 a convention of historical specialists concluded that there had been no Angevin state and no empire but the term espace Plantagenet was acceptable.
Angevin kings of England
Arrival in England
When the future Henry II was born in 1133 his grandfather —Henry, king of England— was reportedly delighted, describing the boy as the heir to the kingdom. The birth reduced the risk the king’s Anglo-Norman realm would pass to his son-in-law’s family should the marriage of Matilda and Count Geoffrey prove childless. The birth of a second son—also called Geoffrey— raised the possibility that — in accordance to French inheritance custom of the period—the Anglo-Norman maternal inheritance would go to Henry and the Angevin paternal inheritance to Geoffrey. This would have again divided the Anglo-Norman lands from those of Anjou. However—in what was a precursor of the regular internecine strife that would plague the Plantagenets— the king quarrelled with Count Geoffrey and Matilda as they attempted to develop an alternative power base to ensure the succession. The result was that when King Henry died in November 1135 the couple were in their own dominions. This allowed Matilda’s cousin— Stephen— to race from his lands in Boulogne and seize the crown of England.
Henry’s father, Count Geoffrey, had little interest in England but commenced a ten year struggle for the duchy of Normandy. His mother, Matilda created a second front by invading England in 1139 and in doing so instigating the civil war known as the Anarchy. In 1141 this proved decisive when she captured Stephen at the battle of Lincoln. The resulting collapse in Stephen’s support enabled Geoffrey to push on with the conquest of Normandy over the next four years. However, in England Matilda threw away her winning position and Stephen was released in a hostage exchange for Matilda’s half-brother Robert. Henry was sent repeatedly to England from the age of nine to be the male figurehead of the campaigns as it became apparent that if England was conquered it was his father’s intention that Henry would become king. In 1150 Geoffrey also transferred the title of Duke of Normandy to Henry although Geoffrey retained the dominant role in governance of the duchy. Three fortuitous events allowed Henry to finally bring the conflict to a successful conclusion:
- Firstly, in 1151 Count Geoffrey died before having time to complete his plan to divide his inheritance between Henry and Henry’s brother—Geoffrey— who would have received Anjou. According to William of Newburgh writing in the 1190s, the dying Geoffrey decided that Henry would have the paternal and maternal inheritances while he needed the resources to overcome Stephen, and left instructions that his body would not be buried until Henry swore an oath that once England and Normandy were secured the younger Geoffrey would have Anjou. Henry’s brother Geoffrey died in 1154, too soon to receive Anjou, but not before he was installed count in Nantes after Henry aided a rebellion by its citizens against their previous lord.
- Secondly, Louis VII of France divorced Eleanor of Aquitaine—on the 18th March 1152— whom Henry quickly married — 18th May 1152—greatly increasing his resources and power with the acquisition of Duchy of Aquitaine. .
- Finally in 1153 Stephen’s son— Eustace— died. The disheartened Stephen, who had also recently been widowed, gave up the fight and so the Treaty of Wallingford repeated the peace offer that Matilda rejected in 1142, recognising Henry as Stephen's heir, guaranteeing Stephen’s second son — William— his rights to his family estates and allowed Stephen to be king for life. Stephen did not live long and so Henry inherited in late 1154.
Henry faced many challenges to secure possession of his father’s and grandfathers’ lands that required the reassertion and extension of old suzerainties. So in 1162, he saw an opportunity to re-establish what he saw as his rights over the church in England by appointing his friend Thomas Becketwhen Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury died. Instead, Becket proved to be an inept politician whose defiance alienated the king and his counsellors. Henry and Becket clashed repeatedly: over church tenures, Henry’s brother’s marriage and taxation. Henry reacted by getting Becket, and other members of the English episcopate, to recognise sixteen ancient customs— governing relations between the king, his courts, and the church— in writing for the first time in the Constitutions of Clarendon. When Becket tried to leave the country without permission, Henry attempted to ruin him by laying a number of suits relating to Becket’s time as chancellor. In response Becket fled into exile for five years. Relations later improved, allowing Becket's return, but soured again when Becket saw the coronation of Henry's son as coregent by the Archbishop of York as a challenge to his authority and excommunicated those who had offended him. When he heard the news, Henry said: "What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk". Three of Henry's men killed Becket in Canterbury Cathedral after Becket resisted a botched arrest attempt. Within Christian Europe Henry was widely considered complicit in Becket's death. The opinion of this transgression against the church made Henry a pariah, so in penance he walked barefoot into Canterbury Cathedral where he was scourged by monks.
Pope Adrian IV had given Henry a papal blessing to expand his power into Ireland to reform the Irish church. Originally this would have allowed some territory to be granted to Henry’s brother, William, but other matters had distracted Henry and William was now dead.  In 1171 Henry invaded Ireland to assert his overlordship following alarm at the success of knights he had allowed to recruit soldiers in England and Wales> These knights had assumed the role of colonisers and accrued autonomous power. Instead Henry’s designs were made plain when he gave the lordship of Ireland to his youngest son, John.  In 1172 Henry II tried to give his landless youngest son John a wedding gift of the three castles of Chinon, Loudun and Mirebeau. This angered the 18-year old Young King who had yet to receive any lands from his father and prompted a rebellion by Henry II's wife and three eldest sons. Louis VII supported the rebellion to destabilise his Henry II. William the Lion and other subjects of Henry II also joined the revolt and it took 18 months for Henry to force the rebels to submit to his authority. In Le Mans in 1182, Henry II gathered his children to plan a partible inheritance in which his eldest son (also called Henry) would inherit England, Normandy and Anjou; Richard the Duchy of Aquitaine; Geoffrey Brittany, and John Ireland. This degenerated into further conflict. The younger Henry rebelled again before he died of dysentery and, in 1186, Geoffrey died after a tournament accident. In 1189 Richard and Philip II of France took advantage of Henry’s failing health and forced him to accept humiliating peace terms, including naming Richard as his sole heir. Two days later the old king died, defeated and miserable in the knowledge that even his favoured son John had rebelled. This fate was seen as the price he paid for the murder of Beckett. 
On the day of Richard's English coronation there was a mass slaughter of the Jews, described by Richard of Devizes as a "holocaust". Quickly putting the affairs of the Angevin Empire in order he departed on Crusade to the Middle East in early 1190. Opinions of Richard amongst his contemporaries were mixed. He had rejected and humiliated the king of France's sister; deposed the well-connected king of Cyprus and afterwards sold the island; insulted and refused spoils of the third crusade to nobles like Leopold V, Duke of Austria, and was rumoured to have arranged the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat. His cruelty was demonstrated by his massacre of 2,600 prisoners in Acre. However, Richard was respected for his military leadership and courtly manners. He achieved victories in the Third Crusade but failed to capture Jerusalem, retreating from the Holy Land with a small band of followers.
Richard was captured by Leopold on his return journey. Custody was passed to Henry the Lion and a tax of 25% of movables and income was required to pay the ransom of 100,000 marks, with a promise of 50,000 more. Philip II of France had overrun great swathes of Normandy while John of England controlled much of the remainder of Richard's lands. But, on his return to England, Richard forgave John and re-established his control. Leaving England in 1194 never to return, Richard battled Phillip for the next five years for the return of the holdings seized during his incarceration. Close to total victory he was injured by an arrow during the siege of Château de Châlus-Chabrol and died after lingering injured for ten days.
Decline and the loss of Anjou
Richard's failure in his duty to provide an heir caused a succession crisis. Anjou, Brittany, Maine and Touraine chose Richard's nephew and nominated heir, Arthur, while John succeeded in England and Normandy. Yet again Philip II of France took the opportunity to destabilise the Plantagenet territories on the European mainland, supporting his vassal Arthur's claim to the English crown. When Arthur's forces threatened his mother, John won a significant victory, capturing the entire rebel leadership at the Battle of Mirebeau.
Arthur was murdered, it was rumoured by John's own hands, and his sister Eleanor would spend the rest of her life in captivity. John's behaviour drove numerous French barons to side with Phillip. The resulting rebellions by the Norman and Angevin barons broke John's control of the continental possessions, leading to the de facto end of the Angevin Empire, even though Henry III would maintain the claim until 1259.
After re-establishing his authority in England, John planned to retake Normandy and Anjou. The strategy was to draw the French from Paris while another army, under Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor, attacked from the north. However, his allies were defeated at the Battle of Bouvines in one of the most decisive and symbolic battles in French history. The battle had both important and high profile consequences. John's nephew Otto retreated and was soon overthrown while King John agreed to a five-year truce. Philip's decisive victory was crucial in ordering politics in both England and France. The battle was instrumental in forming the absolute monarchy in France.
Magna Carta and the First Barons War
John's defeats in France weakened his position in England. The rebellion of his English vassals resulted in the treaty called Magna Carta, which limited royal power and established common law. This would form the basis of every constitutional battle through the 13th and 14th centuries. However, both the barons and the crown failed to abide by the terms of Magna Carta, leading to the First Barons' War in which the rebel barons invited an invasion by Prince Louis. This is considered by some historians to mark the end of the Angevin period and the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty with John's death and William Marshall's appointment as the protector of the nine-year-old Henry III. Marshall won the war with victories at the battles of Lincoln and Dover in 1217, leading to the Treaty of Lambeth by which Louis renounced his claims. In victory, the Marshal Protectorate reissued the Magna Carta agreement as a basis for future government.
Plantagenet main line
Despite the 1217 Treaty of Lambeth, hostilities continued and Henry was forced to make significant constitutional concessions to the newly crowned Louis VIII of France and Henry's stepfather Hugh X of Lusignan. Between them, they overran much of the remnants of Henry's continental holdings, further eroding the Angevin's grip on the continent. Henry saw such similarities between himself and England's then patron saint Edward the Confessor in his struggle with his nobles that he gave his first son the Anglo-Saxon name Edward and built the saint a magnificent, still-extant shrine. The barons were resistant to the cost in men and money required to support a foreign war to restore Plantagenet holdings on the continent. In order to motivate his barons, and facing a repeat of the situation his father faced, Henry III reissued Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest in return for a tax that raised the incredible sum of £45,000. This was enacted in an assembly of the barons, bishops and magnates that created a compact in which the feudal prerogatives of the king were debated and discussed in the political community.
The pope had offered Henry's brother Richard the Kingdom of Sicily but he recognised that the cost of making this claim real was prohibitive. Matthew Paris wrote that Richard responded to the price by saying, "You might as well say, 'I make you a present of the moon—step up to the sky and take it down'". Instead, Henry purchased the kingdom for his son Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster, which angered many powerful barons. Bankrupted by his military expenses, Henry was forced to agree to the Provisions of Oxford by barons led by his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, under which his debts were paid in exchange for substantial reforms. He was also forced to agree to the Treaty of Paris with Louis IX of France, acknowledging the loss of the Dukedom of Normandy, Maine, Anjou and Poitou, but retaining the Channel Islands. The treaty held that "islands (if any) which the king of England should hold", he would retain "as peer of France and Duke of Aquitaine" In exchange Louis withdrew his support for English rebels, ceded three bishoprics and cities, and was to pay an annual rent for possession of Agenais. Disagreements about the meaning of the treaty began as soon as it was signed. The agreement resulted in English kings having to pay homage to the French monarch, thus remaining French vassals, but only on French soil. This was one of the indirect causes of the Hundred Years War.
Second Barons War and the establishment of Parliament
Friction intensified between the barons and the king. The barons, under Simon de Montfort, captured most of south-eastern England. At the Battle of Lewes in 1264, Henry and Prince Edward were defeated and taken prisoner. De Montfort summoned the Great Parliament, regarded as the first Parliament worthy of the name because it was the first time cities and burghs sent representatives. Edward escaped and raised an army, defeating and killing de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Savage retribution was exacted on the rebels and authority was restored to Henry. Edward, having pacified the realm, left England to join Louis IX on the Ninth Crusade. He was one of the last crusaders in the tradition aiming to recover the Holy Lands. Louis died before Edward's arrival, but Edward decided to continue. The result was anticlimactic; Edward's small force limited him to the relief of Acre and a handful of raids. Surviving a murder attempt by an assassin, Edward left for Sicily later in the year, never to return on crusade. The stability of England's political structure was demonstrated when Henry III died and his son succeeded as Edward I; the barons swore allegiance to Edward even though he did not return for two years.
Conquest of Wales
From the beginning of his reign Edward I sought to organise his inherited territories. As a devotee of the cult of King Arthur he also attempted to enforce claims to primacy within the British Isles. Wales consisted of a number of princedoms, often in conflict with each other. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd held north Wales in fee to the English king under the Treaty of Woodstock, but had taken advantage of the English civil wars to consolidate his position as Prince of Wales and maintained that his principality was 'entirely separate from the rights' of England. Edward considered Llywelyn 'a rebel and disturber of the peace'. Edward's determination, military experience and skilful use of ships ended Welsh independence by driving Llywelyn into the mountains. Llywelyn later died in battle. The Statute of Rhuddlan extended the shire system, bringing Wales into the English legal framework. When Edward's son was born he was proclaimed as the first English Prince of Wales. Edward's Welsh campaign produced one of the largest armies ever assembled by an English king in a formidable combination of heavy Anglo-Norman cavalry and Welsh archers that laid the foundations of later military victories in France. Edward spent around £173,000 on his two Welsh campaigns, largely on a network of castles to secure his control.
Constitutional change and the reform of feudalism
Because of his legal reforms Edward is sometimes called The English Justinian, although whether he was a reformer or an autocrat responding to events is debated. His campaigns left him in debt. This necessitated that he gain wider national support for his policies among lesser landowners, merchants and traders so that he could raise taxes through frequently summoned Parliaments. When Philip IV of France confiscated the duchy of Gascony in 1294, more money was needed to wage war in France. To gain financial support for the war effort, Edward summoned a precedent-setting assembly known as the Model Parliament, which included barons, clergy, knights and townspeople. Edward imposed his authority on the Church with the Statutes of Mortmain that prohibited the donation of land to the Church, asserted the rights of the Crown at the expense of traditional feudal privileges, promoted the uniform administration of justice, raised income and codified the legal system.
Edward asserted that the king of Scotland owed him feudal allegiance and intended to create a dual monarchy by marrying his son Edward to Margaret, Maid of Norway, who was the sole heir of Alexander III of Scotland. When Margaret died Edward was invited by the Scottish magnates to resolve the disputed inheritance. Edward obtained recognition from the competitors for the Scottish throne that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to determine our several pretensions' deciding the case in favour of John Balliol, who duly swore loyalty to him and became king. Edward insisted that Scotland was not independent and that as sovereign lord he had the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements, undermining Balliol's authority. John entered into an alliance with France in 1295 and in 1296 Edward invaded Scotland, deposing and exiling Balliol.
Edward was less successful in Gascony, which was overrun by the French. His commitments were beginning to outweigh his resources and Edward was forced to reconfirm the Charters (including Magna Carta) to obtain the money he required. A truce and peace treaty the French king restored the duchy of Gascony to Edward. Meanwhile William Wallace had risen in Balliol's name and recovered most of Scotland, before being defeated at the Battle of Falkirk. Robert the Bruce now rebelled and was crowned king of Scotland. Edward died on his way to lead another Scottish campaign.
Edward II's coronation oath on his succession in 1307 was the first to reflect the king's responsibility to maintain the laws that the community "shall have chosen" ("aura eslu"). The king was initially popular but faced three challenges: discontent over the financing of wars; his household spending and the role of Piers Gaveston. When Parliament decided that Gaveston should be exiled the king had no choice but to comply. The king engineered Gaveston's return, but was forced to agree to the appointment of Ordainers, led by his cousin Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, to reform the royal household with Piers Gaveston exiled again. When Gaveston returned again to England, he was abducted and executed after a mock trial. This brutal act drove Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, and his adherents from power. Edward's humiliating defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn by Bruce, confirming Bruce's position as an independent king of Scots, returned the initiative to Lancaster and Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, who had not taken part in the campaign, claiming that it was in defiance of the Ordinances. Edward finally repealed the Ordinances after defeating and executing Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.
Hundred Years' War
The French monarchy asserted its rights to encroach on Edward's legal rights in Gascony. Resistance to one judgement in Saint-Sardos resulted in Charles IV declaring the duchy forfeit. Charles's sister, Queen Isabella, was sent to negotiate and agreed to a treaty that required Edward to pay homage in France to Charles. Edward resigned Aquitaine and Ponthieu to his son, Prince Edward, who travelled to France to give homage in his stead. With the English heir in her power, Isabella refused to return to England unless Edward II dismissed his favourites and also formed a relationship with Roger Mortimer. The couple invaded England and, joined by Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, captured the king. Edward II abdicated on the condition that his son would inherit the throne rather than Mortimer. He is generally believed to have been murdered at Berkeley Castle by having a red-hot poker thrust into his bowels. A coup by Edward III ended four years of control by Isabella and Mortimer. Roger Mortimer was executed. Though removed from power, Isabella was treated well, living in luxury for the next 27 years.
In 1328 Charles IV of France died without a male heir. His cousin Phillip of Valois and Queen Isabella, on behalf of her son Edward, were the major claimants to the throne. Philip, as senior grandson of Philip III of France in the male line, became king over Edward's claim as a matrilineal grandson of Philip IV of France, following the precedents of Philip V's succession over his niece Joan II of Navarre and Charles IV's succession over his nieces. Not yet in power, Edward III paid homage to Phillip as Duke of Aquitaine and the French king continued to assert feudal pressure on Gascony, leading Edward to go to war. Edward proclaimed himself king of France to encourage the Flemish to rise in open rebellion against the French king. The conflict, known as the Hundred Years War saw a significant England naval victory at the Battle of Sluys. eventually followed by a victory on land at Crécy, leaving Edward free to capture the important port of Calais. A subsequent victory against Scotland at the Battle of Neville's Cross resulted in the capture of David II and reduced the threat from Scotland. The Black Death in England brought a halt to Edward's campaigns by killing between a third to more than half of his subjects. The only Plantagenet known to have died from the Black Death was Edward III's daughter Joan on her way to marry Pedro of Castile.
Edward, the Black Prince, resumed the war with destructive chevauchées starting from Bordeaux. His army was caught by a much larger French force at Poitiers, but the ensuing battle was a decisive English victory resulting in the capture of John II of France. The Second Treaty of London was signed, which promised a four million écus ransom. It was guaranteed by the Valois family hostages being held in London, while John returned to France to raise his ransom. Edward gained possession of Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Maine and the coastline from Flanders to Spain, restoring the lands of the former Angevin Empire. The hostages quickly escaped back to France. John, horrified that his word had been broken, returned to England and died there. Edward invaded France in an attempt to take advantage of the popular rebellion of the Jacquerie, hoping to seize the throne. Although no French army stood against him, he was unable to take Paris or Rheims. In the subsequent Treaty of Brétigny he renounced his claim to the French crown, but greatly expanded his territory in Aquitaine and confirmed his conquest of Calais.
Fighting in the Hundred Years' War spilled from the French and Plantagenet lands into surrounding realms, including the dynastic conflict in Castile between Peter of Castile and Henry II of Castile. The Black Prince allied himself with Peter, defeating Henry at the Battle of Nájera before falling out with Peter, who had no means to reimburse him, leaving Edward bankrupt. The Plantagenets continued to interfere and John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, the Black Prince's brother, married Peter's daughter Constance, claiming the Crown of Castile in the name of his wife. He arrived with an army, asking John I to give up the throne in favour of Constance. John declined; instead his son married John of Gaunt's daughter, Catherine of Lancaster, creating the title Prince of Asturias for the couple.
Charles V of France resumed hostilities when the Black Prince refused a summons as Duke of Aquitaine and his reign saw the Plantagenets steadily pushed back in France. The prince fell ill and returned to England where he soon died. His brother John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster assumed leadership in France. The English lost towns including Poitiers and Bergerac and their dominance at sea was reversed by defeat at the Battle of La Rochelle, undermining English seaborne trade and allowing Gascony to be threatened.
The Black Prince's 10-year-old son succeeded as Richard II of England on the death of his grandfather, with government in the hands of a regency council. The poor state of the economy as his government levied a number of poll taxes to finance military campaigns, resulted in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, followed by brutal reprisals against the rebels. The king's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester, Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel, and Thomas de Beauchamp, 12th Earl of Warwick, became known as the Lords Appellant when they sought to impeach five of the king's favourites and restrain what was increasingly seen as tyrannical and capricious rule. Later they were joined by Henry Bolingbroke, the son and heir of John of Gaunt, and Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk. Initially, they were successful in establishing a commission to govern England for one year, but they were forced to rebel against Richard, defeating an army under Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, at the skirmish of Radcot Bridge. Richard was reduced to a figurehead with little power. As a result of the Merciless Parliament, de Vere and Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk, who had fled abroad, were sentenced to death in their absence. Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, had all of his worldly goods confiscated. A number of Richard's council were executed. Following John of Gaunt's return from Spain, Richard was able to rebuild his power, having Gloucester murdered in captivity in Calais. Warwick was stripped of his title. Bolingbroke and Mowbray were exiled.
End of Plantagenet main line
When John of Gaunt died in 1399, Richard disinherited Henry of Bolingbroke, who invaded England in response with a small force that quickly grew in numbers. Meeting little resistance, Henry deposed Richard to have himself crowned Henry IV of England. Richard died in captivity early the next year, probably murdered, bringing an end to the main Plantagenet line.
House of Lancaster
Henry asserted that his mother had legitimate rights through descent from Edmund Crouchback, whom he claimed was the elder son of Henry III of England, set aside due to deformity. Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, was the heir presumptive to Richard II by being the grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. As a child he was not considered a serious contender and he never showed interest in the throne. However, the later marriage of his granddaughter to Richard's son consolidated his descendants' claim to the throne with that of the more junior House of York. Henry planned to resume war with France, but was plagued with financial problems, declining health and frequent rebellions. He defeated a Scottish invasion, a serious rebellion by Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland in the North and put down Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion in Wales. Many saw it as a punishment from God when Henry was later struck down with leprosy and epilepsy.
Hundred Years' War (1415–53) – the Lancastrian war
Henry IV died in 1413. His son and successor, Henry V of England, aware that Charles VI of France's mental illness had caused instability in France, invaded to assert the Plantagenet claims and won a near total victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt. In subsequent years Henry recaptured much of Normandy and successfully secured marriage to Catherine of Valois. The resulting Treaty of Troyes stated that Henry's heirs would inherit the throne of France. However, conflict continued with the Dauphin. When Henry died in 1422, he was succeeded by his nine-month old son as Henry VI of England. The elderly Charles VI of France died two months later. French victory at the Battle of Patay enabled the Dauphin to be crowned at Reims.
During the minority of Henry VI the war caused political division amongst the Plantagenets, Bedford, Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, and Cardinal Beaufort. Humphrey's wife was accused of using witchcraft with the aim of putting him on the throne and Humphrey was later arrested and died in prison. The refusal to renounce the Plantagenet claim to the French crown at the congress of Arras enabled the former Plantagenet ally Philip III, Duke of Burgundy, to reconcile with Charles, while giving Charles time to reorganise his feudal levies into a modern professional army. Victory at the Battle of Castillon in 1453, brought an end to the war leaving only Calais as a continental possession.
Wars of the Roses
Henry's heir Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was a descendent of both Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and Edmund, Duke of York. When Henry had a mental breakdown, Richard was named regent, but the birth of a male heir that resolved the succession question. When Henry's sanity returned, the court party reasserted its authority. Richard of York and the Nevilles, defeated them at a skirmish called the First Battle of St Albans. The ruling class was deeply shocked and reconciliation was attempted. York, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, fled abroad. The Nevilles returned to win the Battle of Northampton, where they captured Henry. When Richard joined them, he surprised Parliament by claiming the throne, then forcing through the Act of Accord, which stated that Henry would remain as monarch for his lifetime, but would be succeeded by York. Margaret found this disregarding of her son's claims unacceptable and so the conflict continued. York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and his head set on display at Micklegate Bar, along with those of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, who had both been captured and beheaded.
House of York
The Scottish queen Mary of Guelders provided Margaret with support and a Scottish army pillaged into southern England. London resisted in the fear of being plundered, then enthusiastically welcomed York's son Edward, Earl of March, with Parliament confirming that Edward should be made king. Edward was crowned after consolidating his position with victory at the Battle of Towton.
Edward's preferment of the former Lancastrian-supporting Woodville family, following his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, led to Warwick and Clarence helping Margaret depose Edward and return Henry to the throne. Edward and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, fled, but on their return Clarence switched sides at the Battle of Barnet, leading to the death of the Neville brothers. The subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury brought the demise of the last of the male line of the Beauforts. The battlefield execution of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, and later murder of Henry VI extinguished the House of Lancaster.
By the mid-1470s, the victorious House of York looked safely established, with seven living male princes, but it quickly brought about its own demise. George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, plotted against his brother and was executed. Following Edward's premature death in 1483, his brother Richard had Parliament declare Edwards's two sons illegitimate on the pretext of an alleged prior pre-contract to Lady Eleanor Talbot, leaving Edward's marriage invalid. Richard seized the throne and the Princes in the Tower were never seen again. Richard's son predeceased him and he was killed in 1485, following an invasion of foreign mercenaries led by Henry Tudor, who claimed the throne through his mother Margaret Beaufort. He assumed the throne as Henry VII, founding the Tudor dynasty and bringing the Plantagenet line of kings to an end.
Henry VII, the Tudors and the Plantagenet descendants
Henry VII of England was crowned and married Edward's heiress Elizabeth of York to legitimise his reign. Henry battled for more than a decade to prevail over Plantagenet plots by Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy. She sent Lambert Simnel, who purported to be her nephew Warwick, to Ireland. His army of Irish and Flemish supporters was defeated at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487.
The Duchess of Burgundy also claimed that Perkin Warbeck was Richard of Shrewsbury and twice supported invasions of England before Warbeck was captured and imprisoned in 1497. Warbeck's later escape attempt led to his execution and the execution of the last legitimate male line of the Plantagenets, Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499. When Henry Tudor seized the throne, there were numerous Plantagenet descendants who by later modern standards had a stronger right, including both his mother and future wife. By 1510 the number of claimants had increased by the birth of more than a dozen more Yorkists. Yorkists continued to be imprisoned or executed up to the reign of Elizabeth I of England, with the Tudors ruthlessly extinguishing rival claims to the throne.
Many legitimate and illegitimate lines of descent outside of politics remained unmolested, surviving to the present. The most prominent of these lines is the House of Beaufort who are descendants in the male line from John of Gaunt and Edward III. The Beaufort surname given to Gaunt and Katherine Swynford's four legitimised children was taken from the name of one of his French possessions.
- This family tree includes selected members of the House of Plantagenet who were born legitimate.
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— Royal house —
House of Plantagenet
Cadet branch of the Angevins
House of Blois
|Ruling House of England
Angevins (until 1214)
House of Lancaster (1399–1461)
House of York (1461–1485)
House of Tudor
House of Penthièvre
|Ruling House of Brittany
House of Thouars
House of Ingelger
|Ruling House of Anjou
House of Anjou
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