History of England

England under the Plantagenets
Richard I during the Third Crusade ©N.C. Wyeth
1154 Jan 1 - 1485

England under the Plantagenets

England, UK

The House of Plantagenet held the English throne from 1154 (with the accession of Henry II at the end of the Anarchy) to 1485, when Richard III died in battle. The reign of Henry II represents a reversion in power from the barony to the monarchical state in England; it was also to see a similar redistribution of legislative power from the Church, again to the monarchical state. This period also presaged a properly constituted legislation and a radical shift away from feudalism. In his reign, new Anglo-Angevin and Anglo-Aquitanian aristocracies developed, though not to the same degree as the Anglo-Norman once did, and the Norman nobles interacted with their French peers.


Henry's successor, Richard I "the Lion Heart", was preoccupied with foreign wars, taking part in the Third Crusade, being captured while returning and pledging fealty to the Holy Roman Empire as part of his ransom, and defending his French territories against Philip II of France. His successor, his younger brother John, lost much of those territories including Normandy following the disastrous Battle of Bouvines in 1214, despite having in 1212 made the Kingdom of England a tribute-paying vassal of the Holy See, which it remained until the 14th century when the Kingdom rejected the overlordship of the Holy See and re-established its sovereignty.


John's son, Henry III, spent much of his reign fighting the barons over Magna Carta and the royal rights, and was eventually forced to call the first "parliament" in 1264. He was also unsuccessful on the continent, where he endeavoured to re-establish English control over Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine. His reign was punctuated by many rebellions and civil wars, often provoked by incompetence and mismanagement in government and Henry's perceived over-reliance on French courtiers (thus restricting the influence of the English nobility). One of these rebellions—led by a disaffected courtier, Simon de Montfort—was notable for its assembly of one of the earliest precursors to Parliament. In addition to fighting the Second Barons' War, Henry III made war against Louis IX and was defeated during the Saintonge War, yet Louis did not capitalise on his victory, respecting his opponent's rights.