The House of Plantagenet- Key facts and Brief Overview

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The House of Plantagenet is a royal house of England. The royal house held the English throne from 1154 to 1485. The house originated from the lands of Anjou in France, hence it is also called as the House of Anjou or the Angevin Dynasty. The House was a remarkable royal house which provided England 14 Kings, 6 of who were from cadet houses of Lancaster and York.

Let us look at the key facts and a brief overview of the House of Plantagenet.

1) The origins of the name ‘Plantagenet’

The Duke of York, Richard of York adopted the name Plantagenet as his family name in the 15th century. The name Plantagenet seems to have originated from the nickname of his ancestor Geoffrey who was the Count of Anjou. Geoffrey was called Planta Genet, for his habit of wearing a piece of French broom (genista) in his hat.

A picture of the ancestor of House of Plantagenet Geoffrey of Anjou
Count of Anjou Geoffrey Plantagenet

2) Angevin Dynasty

In French ‘Angevin’ means ‘from Anjou’, this was another title of the House of Plantagenet. The kings of the Angevin Dynasty were Henry II, Richard I and John. The first use of the surname Plantagenet was used by Richard of York when he ascended the throne as Richard Plantagenet.

3) In the 12th century Geoffrey of Anjou married Empress Matilda of England. She was the only surviving heir of the English King Henry I. Subsequently their child Henry II became the king of England, thus marking the beginning of the Angevin and Plantagenet empires.

A picture of the effigy of Henry II
effigy of King Henry II

4) However Matilda’s cousin seized the English throne and his ascension initiated widespread civil unrest in the kingdom called as ‘anarchy’. After King Stephen’s death, Henry II was crowned as King of England.

A picture of King Stephen
King Stephen of England

5) Henry II’s reigned was dominated by feuds between himself and his sons Richard the first and John.

6) Richard the first

Henry’s son Richard I succeeded the throne following his death. He was also called as ‘Richard the Lionheart’. During most of his rule, he was away on a crusade and was also a prisoner of the Roman Holy Empire. He was seen as merely using his kingdom as revenue to pay for his armies.

A picture of the Effigy of Richard I of England from the House of Plantagenet
Effigy of King Richard I of England

7) John Lackland

Following the death of Richard I, John ascended the throne as the King of England. He ruled the English throne from 1199 to 1216. His rule witnessed the House of Plantagenets lose much of their lands in France. Additionally, his defeat to the King of France Philip II resulted in the collapse of the Angevin Dynasty. Moreover, the various failures during his reign earned him the nickname ‘John Lackland’.

A picture of King John of England from the House of Plantagenet
King John

8) Despite his failures, King John implemented various judicial reforms during his reign which had a lasting impact on the English Common Law.

9) The First Baron’s War

However, the barons of England were unhappy with his fiscal policies and his treatment of the English nobles. To make peace with the barons the King signed the ‘Magna Carta’ in 1215. The two sides, however, did not keep their word and broke their commitments which resulted in the ‘First Baron’s War’.

A picture of the First Baron's War
The First Baron’s War

10) King John succumbed to dysentery and his 9-year-old son Henry III ascended the English throne. He ruled from 1216 to 1275. Under King Henry III’s reign, the Magna Carta was reissued but the radical terms of the document were altered.

A picture of Henry III from the house of Plantagenet
King Henry III

11) The reign of Henry III was different than the previous rulers. King Henry III personally ruled the kingdom without the aid of senior ministers. He also travelled less often and invested only in a handful of castles and palaces. He was also known for his charitable nature and was a deeply spiritual person.

12) In spite of his personal governing of the kingdom, King Henry III was largely unpopular. He was a weak military ruler and many of his campaigns failed. His weak leadership paved the way for the uprisings of the barons.

13) Edward I

Edward I of the House of Plantagenet was crowned as king following the death of his father Henry III. He ruled over England from 1272 to 1307. During his reign, Edward I spent most of his time making administrative changes and making reforms in the English Common Law. His reign saw the parliament transform into a more representative body.

A picture of King Edward I from the House of Plantagenet
King Edward I from the House of Plantagenet

14) Additionally, King Edward I led a full-scale war conquest against Wales and subsequently subjected Wales to English rule.

15) The Scottish War for Independence

Edward I was then involved with the Scottish succession, and as a result, claimed feudal suzerainty over Scotland. Following this decision, Scotland and England fought a series of wars called the Scottish War for Independence. This war continued even after the death of Edward I. Subsequently Edward I was involved in a war with France. After his death, he was succeeded by his son Edward II.

16) The war with Scotland continued during Edward II’s reign and he was the first English royal called as ‘Prince of Wales’. Additionally, during his rule, he was decisively defeated by the Scottish King ‘Robert the Bruce’ at Bannockburn. Following the war, a widespread famine plagued Europe and the king was heavily criticised.

A picture of Edward I with Edward II, the Prince of Wales
Edward I with Edward II, the Prince of Wales

17) The favourites of the king

Edward II had favourites in his court such as Hugh Despenser the younger and Piers Gaveston, the first Earl of Cornwall. This caused a lot of unrest in the court. Additionally, towards the end of his reign, Edward’s rule was oppressive and following the collapse of his reign he fled to Wales. He was captured there and was forced to abdicate the throne to his younger son Edward III.

A picture of the Effigy of King Edward II of the House of Plantagenet
Effigy of King Edward II

18) The young King Edward III

Edward III became the king at the age of 14 and his mother and Lord Mortimer acted as regents on his behalf. After a coup d’etat against Mortimer, he became the official ruler of England. Under his reign, England became one of the formidable military powers in Europe. His rule saw important changes, especially in legislation and government.

A picture of King Edward III
The bronze effigy of King Edward III

19) Hundred Years War

During Edward III’s reign, he led a successful campaign against Scotland. He also declared himself as the rightful heir to the French Crown. This was the start of a series of conflict known as the ‘Hundred Years War’. It was a long war between the House of Plantagenet and its cadet House of Lancaster, rulers of Kingdom of England and the House of Valois.

20) As King Edward III outlived his son ‘Edward the Black Prince‘, the English throne was passed on to his grandson Richard II.

21) King Richard II

When Richard II was crowned as King, he faced the ongoing crisis of the Hundred Years War and subsequently the Peasants Revolt in 1381. His court was managed by the regency councils of his uncles John the Gaunt and Thomas of Woodstock. Richard II ruled over England from 1377 to 1399. During his rule, he tried to end the Hundred Years War and created an atmosphere of refinement at the court.

A picture of King Richard II of England from the House of Plantagenet
King Richard II from the House of Plantagenet

22) King Richard II and Lords Appellant

Richard II relied on a few courters which caused a lot of unrest at the court. Hence in 1387, the control of the government was taken over by the Lords Appellant, a group of aristocrats. However, in 1389, Richard II regained control over the throne and in 1397 he took revenge upon the Appellants. He had them executed and many historians describe this period as the ‘tyranny’ of Richard II.

A picture of the Lords Appellant
The Lords Appellant

23) After the death of John the Gaunt, Richard II subsequently disinherited Gaunt’s son Henry Bolingbroke. Following which Henry invaded England and deposed Richard II.

24) Henry then crowned himself as Henry IV of England. During his reign, he faced various rebellions. A notable event during his reign was the defeat of Henry Percy, the first Earl of Northumberland. Towards the later years of his rule, Henry IV of the House of Plantagenet fell into poor health and he was succeeded by his son Henry V.

A picture of Henry IV
King Henry IV

25) Henry V had a relatively short reign but he was famous for his successful military campaigns. One of his most notable campaigns is the ‘Battle of Agincourt’. Additionally, he took advantage of the political divisions within France and was responsible for Normandy’s occupation by the English.

26) After Henry IV’s negotiations with Charles VI of France, the Treaty of Troyes was signed which proclaimed him as the heir apparent to the French throne. He, however, died 2 years later and was succeeded by his infant son Henry VI.

A picture of the Treaty of Troyes
The Treaty of Troyes

27) The undisputed monarch of France

Henry VI was the king of England twice and was the undisputed monarch of France from 1422 to 1453. He was largely ineffective in his reign and during his rule, England saw the gradual loss of English lands in France. He was unfit to rule and England saw a collapse of law and order during his reign. Additionally, there were many military disasters during his reign.

A picture of King Henry VI from the House of Plantagenet
King Henry VI of the House of Plantagenet

28) Henry VI was deposed by Edward IV during his rule but was reinstated as the War of Roses was in the favour of the House of Lancaster. However, Edward IV returned and took the throne from Henry VI, thus crowning himself as King of England.

A picture of King Edward IV
King Edward IV

29) The end of the House of Plantagenet

Richard III succeeded the English throne after Edward IV. He was the last Yorkist king from the House of Plantagenet. The House of Plantagenet came to an end after Richard III’s defeat in Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor. Thus The House of Plantagenet came to an end and the House of Tudor was established.

A picture of King Richard III
King Richard III- The last Yorkish King from the House of Plantagenet

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