the war against Normandy and pay money for it. The barons, no longer

trusting John refused to pay and there began a revolt. Barons gazed much to

London and were joined by London merchants.

On June 15, 1215 the rebellion barons met John at Rennemede on the

Themes. The King was presented with a document known as the Articles of the

Barons, on the basis of which Magna Carta was drawn up. Magna Carta became

the symbol of political freedom. It promised two main things:

1. All free man protection of his officials

2. The right to afair and legal trial

It was the first official document when this principle was written down.

It was very important for England. Magna Carta was always used by barons to

protect themselves from a powerful king. (11)

But we should say that Magna Carta gave no real freedom to the majority

of people in England (only 1/3 of population were free men). Nobles did not

allow John and his successors to forget this charter. Every king had to

recognize the Magna Carta. This document was the beginning of limiting the

prerogatives of crown and on the other hand by limiting kings power Magna

Carta restricted arbitrary action of barons towards the knights. Magna

Carta marked a clear stage in the collapse of the English feudalism.

After kings signing the document barons established a committee of 24

barons to make sure that John kept his promise. This committee was a

beginning of English Parliament.(12)

From the very beginning Magna Carta was a failure, for it was no more

than a stage in ineffective negotiations to prevent civil war. John was

released by the pope from his obligations under it. The document was,

however, reissued with some changes under Johns son, with papal approval.

John himself died in October 1216, with the civil war still at an

inconclusive stage.

Summing up the events of the late 12th century and the early 13th

century historians describe as Plantagenet spring after a grim Norman

winter. The symbol of this spring is the century of new Gothic Style. One

of the best example of Gothic architecture is Salisbury Cathedral. Also it

is a century of forming Parliament. The century of growing literacy which

is closely connected with 12th century cultural movement, which is called

Renaissance. In England Renaissance was a revolution in thoughts, ideas and

learning. In England there began grammar schools. But all of them taught

Latin. In the end of the 12th century in England appeared two schools of

higher learning Oxford and Cambridge. By 1220 this universities became

the intellectual leaders of the century.(13)

Part II. The last Plantagenets

HENRY III (1216-1272 AD)

Henry III was the first son of John and Isabella of Angouleme. Was born in

1207. At the age of nine when he was crowned, Henrys early reign featured

two regents: William the Marshall governed until his death in 1219, and

Hugh de Burgh until Henry came to the throne in 1232. His education was

provided by Peter des Roche, Bishop of Winchester. Henry III married

Eleanor of Province in 1236, who bore him four sons and two daughters.


Henry inherited a troubled kingdom: London and most of the southeast

was in the hands of the French Dauphin Louis and the northern regions were

under control of rebellious barons only the midland and southwest were

loyal to the boy king. The barons, however, soon sided with Henry (their

quarrel was with his father, not him), and the old Marshall expelled the

French Dauphin from English soil by 1217. (15)

Henry was a cultivated man, but a lousy politician. His court was

inundated by Frenchmen and Italians who came at the behest of Eleanor,

whose relations were handed important Church and state position. His father

and uncle left him an impoverished kingdom. Henry financed costly fruitless

wars with extortionate taxation. Inept diplomacy and failed war led Henry

to sell his hereditary claims to all the Angevin possessions in France, but

to save Gascony (which was held as a fief of the French crown) and

Calais.(16) Henrys failures incited hostilities among a group of barons

led by his brother in law , Simon de Montfort. Henry was forced to agree to

a wide ranging plan of reforms, the so called Provisions of Oxford. His

later papal absolution from adhering to the Provisions prompted a baronial

revolt in 1263, and Henry was summoned to the first Parliament, in 1265

Parliament (from the French word parleman meeting for discussion) was

summoned with Commons represented in it two knights from a shire and

two merchants of a town and it turned out to have been a real beginning of

the English parlamentarism.(17) Here we should note, the main peculiarity

of English Parliament, distinguishing it from most others: it was created

as a means of opposition. Not to help the king, but to limit his power and

control him.

Parliament insisted that a council be imposed on the king to advise on

policy decisions. He was prone to the infamous Plantagenet temper, but

could also be sensitive and quite pious ecclesiastical architecture

reached its apex in Henrys reign.

The old king, after an extremely long reign of fifty-six years, died

in 1272. He found no success in war, but opened up English culture to the

cosmopolitanism of the continent. Although viewed as a failure as a

politician, his reign defined the English monarchical position until the

end of the fifteenth century: kingship limited by law the repercussions

of which influenced the English Civil War in the reign of Charles I, and

extended into the nineteenth century queenship of Victoria.

Edward I, Longshanks (1272-1307)

Edward I, the oldest surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor of

Provence, was born in 1239. He was nicknamed Longshanks due to his great

height and stature. Edward married Eleanor of Castille in 1254, who bore

him sixteen children ( seven of whom survived into adulthood) before her

death in 1290. Edward reached a peace settlement with Philip IV of France

that resulted in his marriage to the French kings daughter Margaret, who

bore him three more children.

Edward I was a capable statesman, adding much to the institution

initiated by Henry II. It 1295, his Model Parliament brought together

representatives from the nobility, clergy, knights of the shires, and

burgesses of the cities the first gathering of Lords and Commons. Feudal

revenues proved inadequate in financing the burgeoning royal courts and

administrative institutions. Summoning national Parliament became the

accepted forum of gaining revenue and conducting public business. Judicial

reform included the expansion of such courts as the Kings Bench, Common

Pleas, Exchequer and the Chancery Court was established to give redress in

circumstances where other courts provided on solution. Edward was pious,

but resisted any increase of papal authority in England. Conservators of

the Peace, the forerunners of Justices of the Peace, were also established

as an institution.(18)

Foreign policy, namely the unification of the islands other nations,

occupied much of Edwards time. A major campaign to control Llywelyn ap

Gruffydd of Wales began in 1277, and lasted until Liywelyns death in 1282.

In 1301, the kings eldest son was created Prince of Wales, a title still

held by all mail heirs to the crown. Margaret, Maid of Norway and

legitimate heir to the Scottish crown, died in 1290, leaving a disputed

succession in Scotland. Edward was asked to arbitrate between thirteen

different claimants. John Baliol, Edwards first choice, was unpopular, his

next choice, William Wallace, rebelled against England until his capture

and execution in 1305. Robert Bruce seized the Scottish throne in 1306,

later to become a source of consternation to Edward II.

Edward died en rout to yet another Scottish campaign in 1307. His

character found accurate evaluation by Sir Richard Baker, in A Chronicle of

the kings of England: He had in him the two wisdoms, not often found in

any, single. Both together, seldom or never: an ability of judgement in

himself, and a readiness to hear the judgment of others. He was not easily

provoked into passion, but once in passion , not easily appeared, as was

seen by his dealing with the Scots; towards whom he showed at first

patience, and at last severity. If he was censured for his many taxations,

he may be justified by his well bestowing them; for never prince laid out

his money to more honour of himself , or good of his kingdom. (19)

Edward II (1307-1327 AD)

Edward II the son of Eleanor of Castille and Edward I, was born in

1284. He married Isabella, daughter of Philip IV of France, in 1308.

Eleanor bore him two sons and two daughters.

Edward was as much of a failure as a king as his father was a

success. He loved money and other rewards upon his mail favourites, raising

the ire of the nobility. The most notable was Piers Gaveston, his

homosexual lover. On the day of Edwards marriage to Isabella, Edward

preferred the couch of Gaveston to that of his new wife. Gaveston was

exiled and eventually murdered by Edwards father for his licentious

conduct with the king. Edwards means of maintaining power was based on the

noose and the block 28 knights and barons were executed for rebelling

against the decadent king. (20)

Edward faired no better as a solder. The rebellions of the barons

opened the way for Robert Bruce to grasp much of Scotland. Bruces victory

over English forces at the battle of Bannockburn, in 1314, ensured Scottish

independence until the union of England and Scotland in 1707.

In 1324 the war broke out with France, prompting Edward to sent

Isabella and their son Edward (later became Edward III) to negotiate with

her brother and French king, Charles IV. Isabella fell into an open

romance with Roger Mortimer, one of the Edwards disaffected barons. The

rebellious couple invaded England in 1327, capturing and imprisoning

Edward. The king was deposed, replaced by his son, Edward III.(21)

Edward II was murdered in September 1327 at Berkley castle, by a red-

hot iron inserted through his sphincter into his bowels. Comparison of

Edward I and Edward II was beautifully described by Sir Richard Baker, in

reference to Edward I in A Chronicle of the Kings of England His great

unfortunate was in his greatest blessing, for four of his sons which he

had by his Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were

worthy to have outlived him, and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy

never to have been born. ( 22 ) A strong indictment of a weak king. (23)

Edward III (1327-1377)

Edward III, the eldest son of Edward II and Isabella of France, was

born in 1312. His youth was spent in his mothers court , until he was

crowned at the age of 14, in 1327. Edward was dominated by his mother and

her lover, Roger Mortimer, until 1330, wen Mortimer was executed and

Isabella was exiled from court. Philippa of Hainault married Edward in 1328

and bore him many children.

The Hundred Years War occupied the largest part of Edwards reign.

It began in 1338-1453. The war was carried during the reign of 5 English

kings. Edward III and Edward Baliol defeated David II of Scotland, and

drove him into exile in 1333. The French cooperation with the Scots, French

aggression in Gascony, and Edwards claim to the throne of France (through

his mother Isabella, who was the sister of the king; the Capetiance failed

to produce a mail heir) led to the outbreak of War. The sea battle of

Sluys (1340) gave England control of the Channel, and battle at Crecy

(1346), Calais (1347), and Poitiers (1356) demonstrated English supremacy

on the land. Edward, the Black Prince and eldest son of Edward III,

excelled during this first phase of the war.(24)

Throughout 1348-1350 the epidemic of a plague so called The Black

Death swept across England and northern Europe, removing as much as half

the population. This plague reached every part of England. Few than one of

ten who caught the plague could survive it. If in Europe 1/3 of population

died within a century , in England 1/3 of population died during two years.

The whole villages disappeared. This plague continued till it died out

itself. English military strength weakened considerably after the plague,

gradually lost so much ground that by 1375, Edward agreed to the Treaty of

Bruges, which only left England Calais, Bordeaux, and Bayonne.

Domestically, England saw many changes during Edwards reign.

Parliament was divided into two Houses Lords and Commons and met

regularly to finance the war. Treason was defined by statute for the first

time (1352). In 1361 the office of Justice of the Peace was created.

Philippa died in 1369 and the last years of Edwards reign mirrored the

first; he was once again dominated by a woman, his mistress, Alice Perrers.

Alice preferred one of Edwards other sons, John of Gaunt, over the Black

Prince, which caused political conflict in Edwards last years.

Edward the Black Prince died one year before his father. Rafael

Holinshed intimated that Edward spent his last year in grief and remorse,

believing the death of his son was a punishment for usurping his fathers

crown. In Chronicles of England, Holinshed wrote: But finally the thing

that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear

son Prince Edward. But this and other mishaps that chanced to him now in

his old years, might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience

showed to his in usurping against him. (25)

There is one more point about Edwards reign, concerning the English

language. Edward had forbidden speaking French in his army, and by the end

of the 14th century English once again began being used instead of French

by ruling literate class.

Richard II (1377-99)

Richard IIs reign was fraught with crisis economic , social,

political, and constitutional. He was 10 years old when his grandfather

died, and the first problem the country faced was having to deal with his

monitoring. A constitutional council was set up to govern the king and

his kingdom. Although John of Gaunt was still the dominant figure in the

royal family, neither he no his brothers were included.

The peasants revolt.

(1381) Financing the increasingly expensive and unsuccessful war with

France was a major preoccupation. At the end of Edward IIIs reign a new

device, a poll tax of four pence a head, had been introduced. A similar but

graduated tax followed in 1379, and in 1380 another set at one shilling a

head was granted. It proved inequitable and impractical, and when the

government tried to speed up collection in the spring of 1381 a popular

rebellion the Peasants Revolt ensued. Although the pool tax was the

spark that set it off, there were also deeper causes related to changes in

the economy and to political developments.(26) The government in

practical, engendered hostility to the legal system by its policies of

expanding the power of the justices of the peace at the expense of local

and monorail courts. In addition, popular poor preachers spread subversive

ideas with slogans such as : When Adam delved and Eve span/ Who was then

the gentleman? (27) The Peasants revolt began in Essex and Kent.

Widespread outbreaks occurred the southeast of England, taking the form of

assault on tax collectors, attacks on landlords and their manor houses,

destruction of documentary evidence of villein status, and attacks on

lawyers. Attacks on religious houses, such as that at St. Albans, were

particularly severe, perhaps because they had been among the most

conservative of landlords in commuting labour services.

The men of Essex and Kent moved to London to attack the kings

councilors. Admitted to the city by sympathizers, they attacked John of

Gaunts place of the Savoy as well as the Fleet prison. On June 14 the

young king made them various promises at Mile End; on the same day they

broke into the Tower and killed Sudbury, the chancellor, Hales, the

treasure and other officials. On the next day Richard met the rebels again

at Smithfield, and their main leader, Wat Tyler, presented their demands.

But during the negotiations Tyler was attacked and slain by the mayor of

London. The young king rode forward and reassured the rebels, asking them

to follow him to Clerkenwell. This proved to be a turning point, and the

rebels, their suppliers exhausted, began to make their way home. Richard

went back on his promises he had made saying, Villeins you are and

villeins you shall remain.(28) In October Parliament confirmed the kings

revocation of charters but demanded amnesty save for a few special


The events of the Peasants Revolt may have given Richard an exalted

idea of his own powers and prerogative as a result of his success at

Smithfield, but for the rebels the gains of the rising amounted to no more

: 1, 2, 3