The Plantagenets

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

(born. 6 January 1367 – died. c. 14 February 1400) He was only TEN years of age when he succeeded the throne, when his grandfather king Edward III died in 1377. He MARRIED Anne of Bohemia, daughter of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, on 20 January 1382. The marriage was childless & Anne died from plague in 1394, & was greatly mourned by her husband. A new form of address developed; where the king previously had been addressed simply as "Highness", now "ROYAL MAJESTY", or "high majesty" were often used.

His patronage of literature is especially important during his reign, because this was the period in which the ENGLISH language took shape as a literary language.

Contemporary writers, even those less sympathetic to the king, agreed that Richard was a "A MOST BEAUTIFUL KING", though with a "face which was white, rounded & feminine", implying he lacked manliness. He was athletic & tall; when his tomb was opened in 1871 he was found to be six feet (1.82 m) tall. He was also intelligent & well read.

Religiously, he was orthodox, & particularly towards the end of his reign he became a strong opponent of the Lollard* heresy. He was particularly devoted to the cult of Edward the Confessor, & around 1395 he had his own coat of arms impaled with the mythical arms of the Confessor. Though not a warrior king like his grandfather, Richard nevertheless enjoyed tournaments, as well as hunting.

* A Lollard was a follower of the 14th century English religious reformer John Wyclif. The Lollards believed that the Church should help people to live a life of evangelical poverty & imitate Christ. Their ideas influenced the thought of John Huss, who in turn influenced Martin Luther.

(b. 16 September 1386 – d. 31 August 1422) Immortalised in Shakespeare's "Henriad" plays, Henry is known and celebrated as one of the GREATEST WARRIOR KINGS of medieval England. The then 16 year old Prince Henry, Prince of Wales was hit in the face with an arrow during the BATTLE OF SHREWSBURY (a rebellion against his father, King Henry IV) during the fighting, sustaining a terrible wound. He later recovered due to the skilled treatment of the Physician General John Bradmore, who used honey, alcohol & a specially designed surgical instrument to extract the arrowhead. He was left with a permanent scar. His military successes culminated in his famous victory at the BATTLE OF AGINCOURT (1415) & saw him come close to conquering France. After months of negotiation with Charles VI of France, the Treaty of Troyes (1420) recognised Henry V as regent & heir apparent to the French throne, & he was subsequently married to Charles's daughter, Catherine of Valois. Everything seemed to point to the formation of a union between the kingdoms, in the person of Henry. However, he died two years later & was succeeded by his only child, the infant King Henry VI. Henry V was described as having been "very tall (6ft 3 in), slim, with dark hair cropped in a ring above the ears, & clean-shaven". His complexion was ruddy, the face lean with a prominent & pointed nose. Depending on his mood, his eyes "flashed from the mildness of a dove's to the brilliance of a lion's". 󠁧󠁢󠁥Starting in August 1417, Henry V promoted the use of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE in government & his reign marks the appearance of Chancery Standard English as well as the adoption of English as the language of record within government. He was the first king to use English in his personal correspondence since the Norman conquest 350 years earlier.

(b. 6 December 1421 – d. 21 May 1471) Henry inherited the long-running Hundred Years' War (1337–1453), in which his uncle Charles VII contested his claim to the French throne. He is the only English monarch to also have been crowned KING OF FRANCE (as Henry II, in 1431) Unlike his father, Henry is DESCRIBED as timid, shy, passive, well-intentioned, & averse to warfare & violence; he was also at times mentally unstable. ▪️ In 1445 he married MARGARET OF ANJOU. Born in the Duchy of Lorraine into the House of Valois-Anjou, Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René, King of Naples, & Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine Starting in 1453, Henry had a series of mental breakdowns, & tensions mounted between Margaret & Richard of York over control of the incapacitated king's government, & over the question of succession to the throne. Civil war broke out in 1455, leading to a long period of dynastic conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Henry was deposed on 29 March 1461 after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Towton by Richard's son, who took the throne as Edward IV.

Henry was restored to the throne in 1470, but Edward retook power in 1471, killing Henry's only son & heir Edward in battle & imprisoning Henry once again. Having "lost his wits, his two kingdoms, & his only son", Henry died in the Tower during the night of 21 May, possibly killed on the orders of Edward. Miracles were attributed to Henry after his death, & he was informally regarded as a SAINT & MARTYR until the 16th century. He left a legacy of EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, having founded Eton College, King's College, Cambridge, & (together with Henry Chichele) All Souls College, Oxford.

(b. 28 April 1442 – d. 9 April 1483) Conflict between Yorkists & Lancastrians led to civil war in 1455. This continued intermittently until 1485 & is collectively known as The Wars of the Roses. After his father Richard, Duke of York was executed in December 1460, Edward became head of the family; with the support of the Earl of Warwick, or 'The Kingmaker', he deposed Henry & was CROWNED KING in June 1461. Contemporaries like Philippe de Commines DESCRIBED him as handsome & affable, as well as being full of energy. His physique & height of approximately 6 feet 4 inches (193 centimeters) made him an impressive sight in armour, while he took care to wear splendid clothes. In October 1464, the Earl of Warwick (who had been in France trying to arrange a marriage between Edward & Louis XI's daughter Anne, or sister-in-law Bona of Savoy) was enraged to discover that on 1 May, Edward had secretly married ELIZABETH WOODVILLE, a widow with two sons, whose Lancastrian husband, John Grey of Groby, died at Towton. By 1482 Edward's health began to fail, & he became subject to an increasing number of ailments; his physicians attributed this in part to a habitual use of emetics, which allowed him to gorge himself at meals, then return after vomiting to start again. He fell fatally ill at Easter 1483, but survived long enough to add some codicils to his will, the most important naming his brother as Protector after his death. He died on 9 April 1483 aged forty & was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. His twelve-year-old son, Edward V of England, was never crowned, Gloucester becoming Richard III in July.

Edward's spending exceeded the income from taxes; on his death in 1483, the Crown had less than £1,200 in cash. His close relationship with the London branch of the Medici Bank ended in its bankruptcy; in 1517, the Medicis were still seeking repayment of Edward's debts. He invested heavily in joint ventures within the City of London, which he also used as a source of funding.

Under his rule, ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster was transferred to the Crown, where it remains today

Edward's court was described by a visitor from Europe as "the most splendid ... in all Christendom". He spent large amounts on expensive status symbols to show off his power & wealth as king of England, while his collecting habits show an eye for style & an interest in scholarship, particularly history. He acquired fine clothes, jewels, & furnishings, as well as a collection of beautifully illuminated historical & literary manuscripts, many made specially for him by craftsmen in Bruges.

More than forty of his books survive intact from the 15th century, which suggests they were carefully stored together. Today they form the foundation of the Royal Collection of manuscripts at the British Library.

Edward spent large sums on Eltham Palace, including the still-extant Great Hall, site of a feast for 2,000 people in December 1482, shortly before his death in April. He also began a major upgrade of St George's Chapel, Windsor, where he was buried in 1483.

(b. 2 October 1452 – d. 22 August 1485) Richard was named DUKE OF GLOUCESTER in 1461 & made both a Knight of the Garter & a Knight of the Bath. In 1462, on his birthday, he was made Constable of Gloucester & Corfe Castles & Admiral of England, Ireland & Aquitaine & appointed Governor of the North, becoming the richest & most powerful noble in England. King Edward IV appointed him the sole Commissioner of Array for the Western Counties in 1464 when he was 11. By the age of 17, he had an independent command. Richard spent several years during his CHILDHOOD at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, under the tutelage of his cousin the Earl of Warwick, later known as 'the Kingmaker'. Warwick supervised Richard's training as a knight; in the autumn of 1465 Edward IV granted Warwick £1000 for the expenses of his younger brother's tutelage. ▪️ On 17 October 1469, he was made Constable of England. In November, he replaced William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, as Chief Justice of North Wales. The following year, he was appointed Chief Steward & Chamberlain of Wales. On 18 May 1471, Richard was named Great Chamberlain & Lord High Admiral of England. Other positions followed: High Sheriff of Cumberland for life, Lieutenant of the North & Commander-in-Chief against the Scots & hereditary Warden of the West March. Two months later, on 14 July, he gained the Lordships of the strongholds Sheriff Hutton & Middleham in Yorkshire & Penrith in Cumberland. When his brother Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's eldest son & successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. Arrangements were made for Edward's coronation on 22 June 1483. Before the king could be crowned, the marriage of his parents was declared bigamous & therefore invalid. Now officially illegitimate, their children were barred from inheriting the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of lords & commoners endorsed a declaration to this effect & proclaimed Richard as the rightful king. He was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes, Edward & his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, were not seen in public after August.

Richard's Council of the North, described as his "one major institutional innovation", derived from his ducal council following his own viceregal appointment by Edward IV; when Richard himself became king, he maintained the same conciliar structure in his absence. It is considered to have greatly improved conditions for northern England, as it was, in theory at least, intended to keep the peace & punish lawbreakers, as well as resolving land disputes. Bringing regional governance directly under the control of central government, it has been described as the king's "most enduring monument", surviving unchanged until 1641.

He founded the College of Arms in 1484, he banned restrictions on the printing & sale of books, & he ordered the translation of the written Laws & Statutes from the traditional French into English. He ended the arbitrary benevolence (a device by which Edward IV raised funds), made it punishable to conceal from a buyer of land that a part of the property had already been disposed of to somebody else, required that land sales be published, laid down property qualifications for jurors, restricted the abusive Courts of Piepowders, regulated cloth sales, instituted certain forms of trade protectionism, prohibited the sale of wine & oil in fraudulent measure, & prohibited fraudulent collection of clergy dues, among others. Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485 resulted in the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, which had ruled England since the succession of Henry II in 1154. The last legitimate male Plantagenet, Richard's nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Richard III's brother Clarence), was executed by Henry VII in 1499.

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