EDWARD IV = Elizabeth, dau.


(1461–1470, of Sir Richard


1471–1483) Woodville


Elizabeth = HENRY VII



HENRY III (1216-1272)

Henry III, King John's son, was only nine when he became King. By 1227,

when he assumed power from his regent, order had been restored, based on

his acceptance of Magna Carta. However, the King's failed campaigns in

France (1230 and 1242), his choice of friends and advisers, together with

the cost of his scheme to make one of his younger sons King of Sicily and

help the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor, led to further disputes with

the barons and united opposition in Church and State. Although Henry was

extravagant and his tax demands were resented, the King's accounts show a

list of many charitable donations and payments for building works

(including the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey which began in 1245). The

Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of Westminster (1259) were

attempts by the nobles to define common law in the spirit of Magna Carta,

control appointments and set up an aristocratic council. Henry tried to

defeat them by obtaining papal absolution from his oaths, and enlisting

King Louis XI's help. Henry renounced the Provisions in 1262 and war broke

out. The barons, under their leader, Simon de Montfort, were initially

successful and even captured Henry. However, Henry escaped, joined forces

with the lords of the Marches (on the Welsh border), and Henry finally

defeated and killed de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Royal

authority was restored by the Statute of Marlborough (1267), in which the

King also promised to uphold Magna Carta and some of the Provisions of


EDWARD I (1272-1307)

Born in June 1239 at Westminster, Edward was named by his father Henry

III after the last Anglo Saxon king (and his father's favourite saint),

Edward the Confessor. Edward's parents were renowned for their patronage of

the arts (his mother, Eleanor of Provence, encouraged Henry III to spend

money on the arts, which included the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey and a

still-extant magnificent shrine to house the body of Edward the Confessor),

and Edward received a disciplined education - reading and writing in Latin

and French, with training in the arts, sciences and music. In 1254, Edward

travelled to Spain for an arranged marriage at the age of 15 to 9-year-old

Eleanor of Castile. Just before Edward's marriage, Henry III gave him the

duchy of Gascony, one of the few remnants of the once vast French

possessions of the English Angevin kings. Gascony was part of a package

which included parts of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the King's lands

in Wales to provide an income for Edward. Edward then spent a year in

Gascony, studying its administration. Edward spent his young adulthood

learning harsh lessons from Henry III's failures as a king, culminating in

a civil war in which he fought to defend his father. Henry's ill-judged and

expensive intervention in Sicilian affairs (lured by the Pope's offer of

the Sicilian crown to Henry's younger son) failed, and aroused the anger of

powerful barons including Henry's brother-in-law Simon de Montfort.

Bankrupt and threatened with excommunication, Henry was forced to agree to

the Provisions of Oxford in 1258, under which his debts were paid in

exchange for substantial reforms; a Great Council of 24, partly nominated

by the barons, assumed the functions of the King's Council. Henry

repudiated the Provisions in 1261 and sought the help of the French king

Louis IX (later known as St Louis for his piety and other qualities). This

was the only time Edward was tempted to side with his charismatic and

politically ruthless godfather Simon de Montfort - he supported holding a

Parliament in his father's absence. However, by the time Louis IX decided

to side with Henry in the dispute and civil war broke out in England in

1263, Edward had returned to his father's side and became de Montfort's

greatest enemy. After winning the battle of Lewes in 1264 (after which

Edward became a hostage to ensure his father abided by the terms of the

peace), de Montfort summoned the Great Parliament in 1265 - this was the

first time cities and burghs sent representatives to the parliament.

(Historians differ as to whether de Montfort was an enlightened liberal

reformer or an unscrupulous opportunist using any means to advance

himself.) In May 1265, Edward escaped from tight supervision whilst

hunting. On 4 August, Edward and his allies outmanoeuvred de Montfort in a

savage battle at Evesham; de Montfort predicted his own defeat and death

'let us commend our souls to God, because our bodies are theirs ... they

are approaching wisely, they learned this from me.' With the ending of the

civil war, Edward worked hard at social and political reconciliation

between his father and the rebels, and by 1267 the realm had been pacified.

In April 1270 Parliament agreed an unprecedented levy of one-twentieth of

every citizen's goods and possessions to finance Edward's Crusade to the

Holy Lands. Edward left England in August 1270 to join the highly respected

French king Louis IX on Crusade. At a time when popes were using the

crusading ideal to further their own political ends in Italy and elsewhere,

Edward and King Louis were the last crusaders in the medieval tradition of

aiming to recover the Holy Lands. Louis died of the plague in Tunis before

Edward's arrival, and the French forces were bought off from pursuing their

campaign. Edward decided to continue regardless: 'by the blood of God,

though all my fellow soldiers and countrymen desert me, I will enter Acre

... and I will keep my word and my oath to the death'. Edward arrived in

Acre in May 1271 with 1,000 knights; his crusade was to prove an

anticlimax. Edward's small force limited him to the relief of Acre and a

handful of raids, and divisions amongst the international force of

Christian Crusaders led to Edward's compromise truce with the Baibars. In

June 1272, Edward survived a murder attempt by an Assassin (an order of

Shi'ite Muslims) and left for Sicily later in the year. He was never to

return on crusade. Meanwhile, Henry III died on 16 November 1272. Edward

succeeded to the throne without opposition - given his track record in

military ability and his proven determination to give peace to the country,

enhanced by his magnified exploits on crusade. In Edward's absence, a

proclamation in his name delcared that he had succeeded by hereditary right

and the barons swore allegeiance to him. Edward finally arrived in London

in August 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Aged 35, he was a

veteran warrior ('the best lance in all the world', according to

contemporaries), a leader with energy and vision, and with a formidable

temper. Edward was determined to enforce English kings' claims to primacy

in the British Isles. The first part of his reign was dominated by Wales.

At that time, Wales consisted of a number of disunited small Welsh

princedoms; the South Welsh princes were in uneasy alliance with the

Marcher lords (feudal earldoms and baronies set up by the Norman kings to

protect the English border against Welsh raids) against the Northern Welsh

based in the rocky wilds of Gwynedd, under the strong leadership of

Llywelyn ap Gruffyd, Prince of Gwynedd. In 1247, under the Treaty of

Woodstock, Llywelyn had agreed that he held North Wales in fee to the

English king. By 1272, Llywelyn had taken advantage of the English civil

wars to consolidate his position, and the Peace of Montgomery (1267) had

confirmed his title as Prince of Wales and recognised his conquests.

However, Llywelyn maintained that the rights of his principality were

'entirely separate from the rights' of England; he did not attend Edward's

coronation and refused to do homage. Finally, in 1277 Edward decided to

fight Llywelyn 'as a rebel and disturber of the peace', and quickly

defeated him. War broke out again in 1282 when Llywelyn joined his brother

David in rebellion. Edward's determination, military experience and skilful

use of ships brought from England for deployment along the North Welsh

coast, drove Llywelyn back into the mountains of North Wales. The death of

Llywelyn in a chance battle in 1282 and the subsequent execution of his

brother David effectively ended attempts at Welsh independence. Under the

Statute of Wales of 1284, Wales was brought into the English legal

framework and the shire system was extended. In the same year, a son was

born in Wales to Edward and Queen Eleanor (also named Edward, this future

king was proclaimed the first English Prince of Wales in 1301). The Welsh

campaign had produced one of the largest armies ever assembled by an

English king - some 15,000 infantry (including 9,000 Welsh and a Gascon

contingent); the army was a formidable combination of heavy Anglo-Norman

cavalry and Welsh archers, whose longbow skills laid the foundations of

later military victories in France such as that at Agincourt. As symbols of

his military strength and political authority, Edward spent some Ј80,000 on

a network of castles and lesser strongholds in North Wales, employing a

work-force of up to 3,500 men drawn from all over England. (Some castles,

such as Conway and Caernarvon, remain in their ruined layouts today, as

examples of fortresses integrated with fortified towns.) Edward's campaign

in Wales was based on his determination to ensure peace and extend royal

authority, and it had broad support in England. Edward saw the need to

widen support among lesser landowners and the merchants and traders of the

towns. The campaigns in Wales, France and Scotland left Edward deeply in

debt, and the taxation required to meet those debts meant enrolling

national support for his policies. To raise money, Edward summoned

Parliament - up to 1286 he summoned Parliaments twice a year. (The word

'Parliament' came from the 'parley' or talks which the King had with larger

groups of advisers.) In 1295, when money was needed to wage war against

Philip of France (who had confiscated the duchy of Gascony), Edward

summoned the most comprehensive assembly ever summoned in England. This

became known as the Model Parliament, for it represented various estates:

barons, clergy, and knights and townspeople. By the end of Edward's reign,

Parliament usually contained representatives of all these estates. Edward

used his royal authority to establish the rights of the Crown at the

expense of traditional feudal privileges, to promote the uniform

administration of justice, to raise income to meet the costs of war and

government, and to codify the legal system. In doing so, his methods

emphasised the role of Parliament and the common law. With the able help of

his Chancellor, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Edward introduced

much new legislation. He began by commissioning a thorough survey of local

government (with the results entered into documents known as the Hundred

Rolls), which not only defined royal rights and possessions but also

revealed administrative abuses. The First Statute of Westminster (1275)

codified 51 existing laws - many originating from Magna Carta - covering

areas ranging from extortion by royal officers, lawyers and bailiffs,

methods of procedure in civil and criminal cases to freedom of elections.

Edward's first Parliament also enacted legislation on wool, England's most

important export at the time. At the request of the merchants, Edward was

given a customs grant on wool and hides which amounted to nearly Ј10,000 a

year. Edward also obtained income from the licence fees imposed by the

Statute of Mortmain (1279), under which gifts of land to the Church (often

made to evade death duties) had to have a royal licence. The Statutes of

Gloucester (1278) and Quo Warranto (1290) attempted to define and regulate

feudal jurisdictions, which were an obstacle to royal authority and to a

uniform system of justice for all; the Statute of Winchester (1285)

codified the policing system for preserving public order. Other statutes

had a long-term effect on land law and on the feudal framework in England.

The Second Statute of Westminster (1285) restricted the alienation of land

and kept entailed estates within families: tenants were only tenants for

life and not able to sell the property to others. The Third Statute of

Westminster or Quia Emptores (1290) stopped subinfeudation (in which

tenants of land belonging to the King or to barons subcontracted their

properties and related feudal services). Edward's assertion that the King

of Scotland owed feudal allegiance to him, and the embittered Anglo-

Scottish relations leading to war which followed, were to overshadow the

rest of Edward's reign in what was to become known as the 'Great Cause'.

Under a treaty of 1174, William the Lion of Scotland had become the vassal

to Henry II, but in 1189 Richard I had absolved William from his

allegiance. Intermarriage between the English and Scottish royal houses

promoted peace between the two countries until the premature death of

Alexander III in 1286. In 1290, his granddaughter and heiress, Margaret the

'Maid of Norway' (daughter of the King of Norway, she was pledged to be

married to Edward's then only surviving son, Edward of Caernarvon), also

died. For Edward, this dynastic blow was made worse by the death in the

same year of his much-loved wife Eleanor (her body was ceremonially carried

from Lincoln to Westminster for burial, and a memorial cross erected at

every one of the twelve resting places, including what became known as

Charing Cross in London). In the absence of an obvious heir to the

Scottish throne, the disunited Scottish magnates invited Edward to

determine the dispute. In order to gain acceptance of his authority in

reaching a verdict, Edward sought and obtained recognition from the rival

claimants that he had the 'sovereign lordship of Scotland and the right to

determine our several pretensions'. In November 1292, Edward and his 104

assessors gave the whole kingdom to John Balliol or Baliol as the claimant

closest to the royal line; Balliol duly swore loyalty to Edward and was

crowned at Scone. John Balliol's position proved difficult. Edward

insisted that Scotland was not independent and he, as sovereign lord, had

the right to hear in England appeals against Balliol's judgements in

Scotland. In 1294, Balliol lost authority amongst Scottish magnates by

going to Westminster after receiving a summons from Edward; the magnates

decided to seek allies in France and concluded the 'Auld Alliance' with

France (then at war with England over the duchy of Gascony) - an alliance

which was to influence Scottish history for the next 300 years. In March

1296, having failed to negotiate a settlement, the English led by Edward

sacked the city of Berwick near the River Tweed. Balliol formally renounced

his homage to Edward in April 1296, speaking of 'grievous and intolerable

injuries ... for instance by summoning us outside our realm ... as your own

whim dictated ... and so ... we renounce the fealty and homage which we

have done to you'. Pausing to design and start the rebuilding of Berwick as

the financial capital of the country, Edward's forces overran remaining

Scottish resistance. Scots leaders were taken hostage, and Edinburgh

Castle, amongst others, was seized. Balliol surrendered his realm and spent

the rest of his life in exile in England and Normandy. Having humiliated

Balliol, Edward's insensitive policies in Scotland continued: he appointed

a trio of Englishmen to run the country. Edward had the Stone of Scone -

also known as the Stone of Destiny - on which Scottish sovereigns had been

crowned removed to London and subsequently placed in the Coronation Chair

in Westminster Abbey (where it remained until it was returned to Scotland

in 1996). Edward never built stone castles on strategic sites in Scotland,

as he had done so successfully in Wales - possibly because he did not have

the funds for another ambitious castle-building programme. By 1297, Edward

was facing the biggest crisis in his reign, and his commitments outweighed

his resources. Chronic debts were being incurred by wars against France, in

Flanders, Gascony and Wales as well as Scotland; the clergy were refusing

to pay their share of the costs, with the Archbishop of Canterbury

threatening excommunication; Parliament was reluctant to contribute to

Edward's expensive and unsuccessful military policies; the Earls of

Hereford and Norfolk refused to serve in Gascony, and the barons presented

a formal statement of their grievances. In the end, Edward was forced to

reconfirm the Charters (including Magna Carta) to obtain the money he

required; the Archbishop was eventually suspended in 1306 by the new Gascon

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