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England—Plantagenet Kings

(1154 to 1485)

Accession of Henry II — War of the Roses


 The morning of Agincourt

The rule of the Plantagenet dynasty was long and eventful. Henry Plantagenet (II) came to the throne in 1154, and the last Plantagenet, Richard III, was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, over three hundred years later. During this time, great changes took place in England. In the early years of the Plantagenet dynasty, the barons revolted against king John and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which guaranteed certain rights to the towns and nobles. Later, they forced the king to call a Parliament, or group of nobles to advise him in ruling the kingdom. The Plantagenets were involved in two long and ruinous wars. The first was the Hundred Years War with France, which went well for England at first but in the end proved disastrous. The second was the War of the Roses, a frightful civil war between rival claimants to the throne that nearly wiped out the entire Plantagenet line.

Henry Plantagenet and Sons

Henry Plantagenet, the founder of the Plantagenet line, was the grandson of Henry I of England, and the great-grandson of William II of England. He inherited the throne through his mother, but had to fight to establish his claim. He married another very powerful monarch, Eleanor of Aquitaine, heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, so between the two they eventually controlled much of France as well as all of England. Henry spent much of his reign in various wars, consolidating his power. He had four sons, two of whom became king. The elder son, Richard I of England, is best known as a crusader. He spent almost his entire reign away from England, leaving the country in the hands of his devious brother John Lackland. John was one of the worst kings that England ever had and managed to lose most of the land in France that he had inherited from his parents. Finally, Archbishop Langton, and the barons forced him to sign the Magna Carta, limiting his power.

Edwards I, II, and III

Johnís son Henry III of England supposedly ruled for 56 years, but for much of that time his brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort , governed in his place and orchestrated the Parliament. When Henry IIIís son Edward I of England came to the throne the people rejoiced because they finally had a king who was half Saxon and spoke English instead of French, which had been the language of the ruling class since the Norman Conquest. He proved to be a competent king, and brought Wales, Ireland, and Scotland under his sway. His hold on Ireland was never strong though, and shortly after his death Scotland decisively won its independence from England at the Battle of Bannockburn. The Edward I's son was a no-account king with very unpopular favorites. He was deposed in favor of his young son Edward III of England, who ruled for fifty years and got England involved in the Hundred Years War with France. There were several important battles in the hundred years war, the first two being Crecy and Poitiers. England won both battles against great odds, but never succeeded in establishing Edward IIIís claim to the French throne.

The Edward III's eldest son was Edward the Black Prince, a great warrior who was very popular with the people, but who never became king because he died before the long-lived Edward III. The crown then passed to the Black Princeís son Richard II of England, who was unpopular and was eventually deposed in favor of his cousin Henry Bolingbroke (IV). Unfortunately Henry IV was not the next in line for the throne, but his selection was not resisted because his father John of Gaunt had been regent during most of Richard IIís reign. The issue was not pressed for two generations but later became the cause of a great civil war.

Lancasters Kings and the War of the Roses

Henry Bolingbroke's son was Henry V of England, famous for his victory over the French at Agincourt. Henry V reopened the Hundred Years War and came close to gaining the French crown, but he died only a few years after his great victory. He left a young son, Henry VI of England, who was a peace-loving and studious man, but a weak leader. During his reign the French rallied under Joan of Arc and reclaimed all of the land England had won, bringing an end to the hundred year war, and the king became extremely unpopular. Seein his opportunity, his cousin, the Duke of York, made a claim for the throne. He denied Henry Bolingbroke's claim three generations back, which led to the disastrous War of the Roses, in which the Lancaster and the York lines vied for the throne. The plots turns and reverses of this war are difficult to follow, but the main contenders were not the monarchs themselves, but rather the Earl of Warwick, cousin to the Duke of York, and Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI's wife. The war proved bitter and deadly, and many great nobles lost their lives. It also greatly enhanced the power of the king, since the king was allowed to confiscate the estates of any noble that rose in rebellion to him; as the kingship passed back and forth between the Lancasters and Yorks, almost every house was at some point in alliance with a "rebel".

The Yorks were finally victorious, but they came to a bad end. Edward IV ruled for 22 years, but when he died, his brother Richard III plotted to usurp the throne by killing his Edward's young sons. This accomplished, he found he had made many enemies, and when Henry Tudor (VII), a distant relative on the Lancaster side brought an army against him, several of his generals deserted him. Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings was killed on the battlefield of Bosworth, bringing the noble line that had ruled England for three centuries to an inglorious end.


Year Event
1170Murder of Saint Thomas a Becket.
1172Henry II of England conquers Ireland.
1190Richard Coeur de Leon goes on Third Crusade.
1215John Lackland signs Magna Carta.
1265Meeting of first Parliament arranged by Simon de Montfort .
1284Edward I of England conquers Wales.
1291Edward I conquers Scotland.
1314Battle of Bannockburn: Scots, under Robert I of Scotlandregain their independence.
1348-1349Black Plague.
1337-1453Hundred Year War: England vs. France.
1346Edward III of EnglandBattle of Crecy.
1356Edward the Black PrinceBattle of Poitiers.
1415Henry V of EnglandBattle of Agincourt.
1428Joan of ArcSiege of Orleans.
1362English becomes official legal language, displacing French.
1381Wat Tyler's Rebellion.
1399Richard II of England deposed by Henry Bolingbroke.
1400Death of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of Canterbury Tales.
1403Battle of Shrewsbury.
1455-1485War of the Roses.
1461—Yorkists prevail at Battle of Towton; Lancastrians exiled.
1469—Lancastrians regain throne thanks to the machinations of Earl of Warwick.
1471—Yorkists again prevail at Battle of Barnet.
1483Richard III usurps throne at death of Edward IV of England.
1484Henry Tudor defeats Richard III at Battle of Bosworth Field.
1476William Caxton bring a printing press to England. Publishes first book.

Years War Outcome
1119–1214Anglo French WarsMiscellaneous Wars between France and England
1173–1408English Rebellions—Plantagenet EraMajor rebellions and uprisings of the Plantagenet Era
1296–1327Scottish Wars of IndependenceAgainst great odds Scotland wins its independence from England.
1340–1453Hundred Years WarThe Plantagenet claim to the French crown sparks a long term conflict between England and France.
1453–1485War of the RosesCivil War in England between the Yorks and Lancasters for control of the crown.
1047–1291CrusadesBattles between Christians and Turks for control of the Holy Lands.


CharacterDates Short Biography
1118–1170 Appointed Archbishop by Henry II, but strove for an independent church. Martyred.
1133–1189 Reclaimed kingdoms in England and Normandy after chaotic reign of Stephen. Founded Plantagenet dynasty.
1157–1199 Son of Henry II. Spent almost his entire reign crusading and fighting in France.
fl. 1200 Leader of a legendary band of benevolent bandits who stole from rich and gave to the poor.
1122–1204 Wife of Henry II, queen of Aquitaine. Led dramatic, adventurous life.
1167–1216 Wicked king, murdered his nephew and usurped throne. Forced to sign the Magna Carta.
1150–1228 Archbishop who rallied opposition to king John and forced him to sign Magna Carta.
1197–1253 Appointed by the Pope against the wishes of Henry III. Faithful servant of the poor.
1208–1265 French nobleman who led resistance to Henry III and laid foundations of English Parliament.
1207–1272 Blundering king whose government lay largely in the hands of Simon de Montfort throughout his reign.
1272–1305 Commoner who led resistance to Edward I's conquest of Scotland.
1239–1307 Competent and decisive king of England. Reformed government, pacified Wales and Scotland. Ruled 35 years.
1284–1327 Weak and profligate son of Edward I. Lost all his father's holdings in Scotland.
1274–1329 Scottish nobleman who claimed the crown and led resistance to England at Bannockburn.
1286–1330 Associate of Robert the Bruce. Fought in wars of Scottish Independence.
1313–1369 Wife of Edward III and mother of 13. Intervened at siege of Calias in favor of citizens.
1330–1376 Excellent general and leader who ruled alongside his father, Edward III. Victor at the Battle of Poitiers.
1312–1377 Reigned for nearly 50 years. Invaded France, and won the Battles of Crecy and Calias.
died 1381 Leader of a peasant rebellion during reign of Richard II. He was killed during talks.
1335–1384 Early proponent of reform in the Catholic Church. Favored power of state over church.
1340–1400 Wrote the first widely read epic poem in the English language, Canterbury Tales.
1367–1400 Son of the Black Prince. Reigned after Edward III. Deposed by Henry Bolingbroke.
1367–1413 Son of John of Gaunt. Assumed the throne after Richard II was deposed.
1359–1416 Last Welshman to be crowned Prince of Wales. He led an unsuccessful Welsh revolt.
1387–1422 Led a victorious army of longbowmen against France at Agincourt.
died 1450 Led a rebellion against Henry VI's government. Rebels looted London and many were killed.
1411–1460 Aspirant to the throne in the early years of War of the Roses. Killed in action with eldest son.
1428–1471 Primary figure in war of the Roses. Changed sides from York to Lancaster. Killed at Barnet.
1429–1482 Ruled in stead of her weak husband, Henry VI. Led armies against Yorks. Deposed after the York victory at Hexham.
1442–1483 Son of the Duke of York. Became king of England when other aspirants were dead or deposed.
1432–1485 On death of his brother Edward IV, he killed his nephews and usurped the throne.
1441–1509 Mother of Henry Tudor. Benefactor of Cambridge University.


Book TitlechapsSelected Chapters
Our Island Story  by  Marshall   30   Henry Plantagenet—Gilbert and Rohesia   to   Richard III—Two Little Princes in the Tower
The Story of England  by  Harding   10   Henry II., the First Plantagenet King   to   Wars of the Roses (1455-1485)
English History Stories - I  by  Church   12   Thomas Becket, The Chancellor   to   Great Battle of Poitiers
English History Stories - II  by  Church   11   Wat Tyler   to   Bosworth Field
Historical Tales - English  by  Morris   7   Captivity of Richard Coeur de Lion   to  
English Literature   by  Marshall   17   About some Song Stories   to   Story of Everyman
Great Englishmen  by  Synge   6   Thomas ŗ Becket   to   William Caxton
Great Englishwomen  by  Synge   3   Eleanor of Aquitaine   to   Margaret of Anjou
European Hero Stories  by  Tappan   4   Magna Carta signed by King John   to   Black Prince, Hero of Crecy
Boy's Book of Battles  by  Wood   3   Damme   to   Agincourt
Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  Haaren   5   Henry the Second and His Sons   to   Warwick the Kingmaker
Margaret of Anjou by Abbott       all
Richard I by Abbott       all
Richard II by Abbott       all
Richard III by Abbott       all
Stories of Robin Hood by Marshall       all
Stories of Guy of Warwick by Marshall       all
The Chantry Priest of Barnet by Church       all
Men of Iron by Pyle       all
The Chaucer Story Book by Tappan       all
Canterbury Cathedral by Lord       all


Map Description
The Angevin Empire of Henry II
Angevin Dominions of Henry Plantagenet
Empire of Henry II: England, Normandy, Aquitaine
Ecclesiastical Map of the Britain in the Middle Ages
Mediaeval England and Wales
Empire of Henry III: England, Gascony
Wales & the Marches in the 13th century
The Scottish Borders
England during the reign of Edward III
Battle of Crecy
Battle of Crecy
Battle of Poictiers
Battle of Poictiers
France at the Peace of Bretigny: 1360
Battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
Siege of Orleans
France in 1429, at the time of Joan of Arc
England and France, 1455-1494