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Kings and Queens

Plantagenet Kings

Henry 3rd 1216-1272 (aged 9 when crowned)

Henry, born in Winchester, England, was the eldest son of John and his French wife Isabella who had 5 children in total.

Henry, crowned when 9 years old, did not take full control of the country until 1227 when he was 20. He married a French princess Eleanor of Provence when he was 29. (She was probably about 13) They had 9 children of whom the last 5 were very sickly and died after a few months.

Henry’s reign of 56 years was a disaster in the sense that he had no interest in running the country but was passionate about culture and buildings. During his reign Oxford and Cambridge universities were firmly established, and many cathedrals were enlarged or created from scratch including:  Westminster, Salisbury, Wells, Lincoln, Peterborough, Winchester (the Great Hall). Two new back to basics Christian groups were allowed to settle, the Franciscans and the Dominicans who joined the Cistercians.

He was fortunate with his eldest son Edward who provided his military arm in time of need and eventually succeeded him as one of England’s best Kings.

His eldest daughter Margaret married Alexander 3rd King of Scotland. 
 

England ruled by Regents when Henry was in his minority

As Henry was only 9 when crowned the country was well run by regents until he was 20. They were firstly, the Earl of Pembroke, then the Barons Hubert de Burgh and William the Marshal. Pembroke was of sufficient presence to persuade the Barons to follow Henry rather than the French heir apparent Prince Louis (8th) who did not give up the throne of England without a fight. Firstly at “The Fair of Lincoln” and secondly off Dover when de Burgh sank the French fleet bringing urgently needed reinforcements for Louis. Pembroke then made a treaty with Louis at Lambeth London and the Frenchman left English soil for good. 

Pembroke, who had ruled the country well, died and things start to get worse and later head towards disaster when Henry as King appoints the Bishop of Winchester as advisor.

1219; Henry was still only 12 when de Burgh succeeds Pembroke. Henry becomes ruler in 1227 and retains de Burgh as senior advisor. In 1232 he changes from de Burgh to the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches. Des Roches is a Francophile and is unfortunately soon supported by Henry’s new wife, the French princess, Eleanor of Provence. Henry supports these two who invite their French relations and cronies into England to take the top jobs. To complete the picture, in 1238, Frenchman Simon de Montfort, natural leader and ruthless general, trained Crusader and murderer of Cathers (with his father also called Simon de Montfort) marries Henry’s sister Eleanor. Then in 1239 Henry and his wife Eleanor produce their first son Edward who fortunately turns out to be as successful a military operator and leader of men as his father is a lover of the arts, learning, culture and architecture with no abilities in civil administration or war.

At this time, with the admistrators of England being mainly Frenchmen with no knowledge of the principles of government, the country descended into anarchy.  

1242 With this background to create a diversion, Henry decides to invade France to get some Plantagenet land back. Not surprisingly he fails. 

1258 With the country still in administrative chaos the Barons revolted and the struggle started by King John and his Barons for how the country is ruled (Magna Carta) is reopened. Simon de Montfort soon takes the Baron leadership position and they examine their grievances as follows:

  • Henry should not have filled all the important administrative positions with Frenchmen who know nothing of English government or the English church.

  • Should not have given huge amounts of state money to these foreigners.

  • Should not waste money on trying to get French lands back.

  • Should not spend money on a war in Sicily in order to appoint his son Edmund as the local Sicilian King

Note the document outlining these demands was the first English state document to be written in English rather than French or Latin. 
 
De Montfort and his armed Barons assemble in Oxford “The Mad Parliament” and demand the presence of the King where he presented the King with his demands. (“The Provisions of Oxford”) 1258

  • A committee of 24 Barons should be formed to reform the government.

  • This committee should meet 3 times a year.

  • A sub committee of 15 should be available as a permanent advisory and auditing authority to the King. Without the authority of this body the King could not act.

  • Another committee should be formed to organise the financial affairs of the state.

1261 The Pope from his exalted theological perch absolved the King of his need to follow these “Provisions”.  

1264 The Barons War

King Henry was now 57 and Prince Edward his eldest son is 25 They are pitted against

Simon de Montfort 56 as leader of the Barons.

De Montfort was not prepared to give up his reforms in spite of opposition from the Pope and asked the King of France Louis 9th to arbitrate. Louis came down in favour of Henry and thus civil war broke out in England.

At a  battle near Lewes de Montfort defeated the Henry and took him prisoner along with his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall.

Simon de Montfort was now in sole charge of England but agreed with Prince Edward that his father could be released but not rule if Edward took his place in jail. (The Mise of Lewes). 

1265  The first “House of Commons” with elected members.

De Montfort found he was not that popular with his fellow Barons who did not like being ruled by a dictator and de Montfort decided to appeal to the country by inviting a cross section of elected leaders to sit in a first Parliament. He chose:

  • All the Barons and Earls

  • All the senior Clergy

  • Two elected Knights from each county.

  • Two elected men from each of the main cities and boroughs.

This was the first time since ancient Greece that such a cross section of a community had been chosen to contribute to the ruling process.  

Unfortunately the Barons were jealous of de Montfort’s powerful position plus

  • They saw their power being diminished by the elected members of Parliament.

  • Prince Edward was still in prison.

1266 Price Edward escaped, formed an army of eager supporters tricked and defeated and killed de Montfort at the battle of  Evesham.  

The Barons then in the Dictum of Kenilworth

  • Restored King Henry to the English throne.

  • Annulled the Provisions of Oxford.

  • Provide the King followed Magna Carta.

1270 With England now at peace Prince Edward travelled to Jerusalem with the 7th and last major Crusade which was inspired and organised by the King of France, Louis 9th. The 7th Crusade was directed not at Jerusalem but at Egypt which was ruling Jerusalem at the time. It was a failure even though some 60,000 western Christians (mainly from France) were involved.

This realy spelt the time for the end of any Christian army in the Levant (area including modern day Palestine, Israel and Lebanon) until Britain recaptured the land in 1917 at the end of the First World War.

1270-1300 saw the area overrun by Islamic Turks from Kazakhstan  and the Mongolian Golden Horde. (see below) 

When his father died in 1272 Edward was still abroad and was proclaimed king in his absence.  

The Mongol invasion. Genghis Khan and the Golden Horde

When Prince Edward travelled to the Holy Land he was confronted by Mongol fighters rather than Turks or Arabs. Under Genghis Khan and his sons, the Mongol armies, originating in Mongolia north of China, had conquered everywhere from Korea to Poland and south eventually to include Jerusalem and northern India. England was untouched but the whole of the Christian world thought they were the “Devils from Hell” and were correspondingly terrified.

Their military success was due to their horseback army whose archers could shoot accurately while riding at full speed. Each soldier had some five mounts and such an army had never been seen before. Poland suffered particularly badly as the Mongols burnt virtually everything, killed the men and raped the women. So serious was the depopulation that the surviving leaders asked other countries on their western boarders if they would like to send in any families surplus to requirements. The German territories responded with gratitude finally finding a country willing to take their hated Jews. (Yes even then) That is why some 50% of the Jews of Europe where from that date to be found in Poland. (See the Second World War, Hitler and the Auschwitz death camps)

Marco Polo: During this period c. 1270 Marco Polo from Venice travelled with his father to Mongolia and China where he stayed for more than 20 years. His written reports on the Far East were not updated for 500 years. China at this time was the most advanced nation in the world.

Note it was Prince Edward 1st when King of England who expelled all the Jews from England that William the Conqueror had introduced 250 years earlier.  

Simon de Montfort 1208-1265    

Notes: De Montfort is viewed in some quarters as the major Medieval contributor to the advancement towards democracy and civil liberties providing the controls needed to check the vagaries of a despotic ruler. (Rules not yet in place in modern day Russia.) In the USA he is remembered by a plaque in the House of Representatives in Washington DC. We can see what he did from the text on Henry 3rd reign above, but who was he?  

Simon was the youngest son of 4 of a French nobleman also called Simon de Montfort. His father took no part in English history but is remembered for his cruel extermination at the Pope’s behest of the religious sect, the Cathars in the so called Abigensian Crusade of 1208-1229. In 1220 the younger de Montfort accompanied his father under the banner of the Inquisition office of Catholic Church and developed his lust for fighting against these men of peace. (The official formation of the Catholic Christian Inquisition was 1234 under Pope Gregory 9th. It was nothing short of ethnic and religious cleansing on a grand scale)

1238 Simon secretly (with out the knowledge of the King) married Henry’s youngest sister Eleanor in spite of it being Eleanor’s second marriage and after she had taken a vow if chastity after her first husbands death. Eleanor had first been married at 9 years old and was 23 when she married Simon.

1239 The King now thought he should accept Simon even though he was French and made him Earl of Leicester and Godfather to Edward, his eldest son!

1239 Notwithstanding these honours and responsibilities bestowed on him by the King he became hugely in debt and worse, gave King Henry’s name as guarantor without asking him. He was forced to flee to France where in:

1240 he left on a Crusade to Holy Land with funds raised by himself. Then in

1248 another Crusade to Egypt but it was short lived as Henry gave him control of the Duchy of Gascony (a southern French territory still in English hands) where he suppressed any disturbance with brutal attacks reminiscent of his extermination of the Cathars. This action brought further complaints from King Henry and in

1252 de Montfort retired in disgust to live permanently in France.

1258 de Montfort was invited back in England to joint the Earl of Gloucester as leader of the rebelling Barons creating the provisions of Oxford and negotiating not with King Henry but his son Edward

1261 He returned to France furious, when the Pope absolved Henry of the Provisions of Oxford.

1263 Back in England again at the request of the Barons he raised a rebellion but Henry sued for peace by requesting arbitration from King Louis of France. Unfortunately Louis sided with the Pope and King Henry and full civil war in England was inevitable.

1264 de Montfort with a much smaller army but with his much superior military tactics captured the Royal party (inc both Henry and Edward) on the battle field at Lewis

1265 de Montfort sets up his own Parliament the first with elected representatives from towns all over England. “De Montfort’s Parliament”   Thus  the modern idea of a democratically elected parliament was created. Hence his special place in history.

The English barons were however not stupid and realised  that de Montfort’s elected members were undermining their local despotic  powers and when Edward escaped many joined him. Outnumbered and tricked, de Montfort was killed in the battle at Evesham 4th August 1265 where his body was mutilated with various parts including his head and testicles hung out for humiliation. (Showing the barbarity of the times.) In fact these sites were regularly visited by pilgrims who appreciated his efforts in curbing despotic kings.  

Edward 1st  1272-1307 (33 when crowned)

Edward was both a just ruler and supporter of law and order and a superb and energetic military man making him a perfect Medieval king. He was well supported by a vivacious Spanish wife who produced him 16 children giving him little time for women on the side, almost a norm for Kings in those days. He had only one bastard son.

He set out to improve the economy which was based on wool, (from sheep) defend the remaining French territories and expand west into Wales, north into Scotland and consolidate his position in Ireland.

He was succeeded by his overtly homosexual and useless son Edward (2nd) who undid much of the good work of his father.

In Edwards time the English language was used more and more but Chaucer was not to be bourn until 1342. By comparison Dante the father of the Italian language (rather than Latin) lived at the same time as Edward. (Dante born Florence 1265) 

Banking, Jews and Italians

Edward should also be remembered for expelling all Jews from England during his reign. Edward had no wish to so do because Jews at the time were the sole money lenders to the crown, needed particularly to fund wars. Jews had this position because the Pope had forbidden all Christians to lend money for a profit and hence Jews were the only group left who could be bankers. Getting rich without physically working annoyed Christians and they invented all sorts of lies about Jews such as their custom of sacrificing Christian babies. Such stories were easily believed all over Europe and hence Kings were forced to expel all Jews.

Banking services were then supplied by some rich  Italian traders, Milan, Genoa and later Florence. They got over the Popes ban on money lending by effectively bribing the Pope. For example no bribe and they would go to hell, a suitable cash sum would guarantee on death a passage to heaven! This had a very beneficial side effect in that bankers could for example finance the painting of a church ceiling. This funded the commencement of Renaissance art.   

Edward’s territorial campaigns

Wales

1277  Territorial campaigns in the first part of  Edwards reign were centred on Wales where the king of all Wales, Llewellyn refused to align himself with Edward having been a friend of Simon de Montfort. Edward had no difficulty in beating Llewellyn’s armies and he was allowed to retain only the island of Anglesey and the barren area around mount Snowdon.

1284 Llewellyn’s brother David tried to avenge his brothers defeat but was also defeated by Edward. The statute of Wales enacted this year annexed Wales to England to be ruled by the same laws.

Edward made his young son (to become Edward 2nd) the first “Prince of Wales” a title given to the eldest son of the king even to this day. 

Scotland

1291 Scotland had been relatively stable for some 250 years under the Dunkeld dynasty (also called the Canmore Dynasty after Malcolm Canmore 1058-1093)) which had commenced in the bloody Duncan/Macbeth era  described in the play Macbeth by Shakespeare. (In England the ruler at the time was Edward the Confessor.) Unfortunately this stable line came to an end in 1286 with the death on horseback of Scottish King Alexander 3rd. His nearest heir was his 3 year old granddaughter Margaret, the “Maid of Norway” and daughter of the King of Norway. Note the Norwegians (or Vikings) still ruled the extreme north west of Scotland, including the Western and Orkney Islands. King Edward of England saw this as an opportunity to stake his claim into Scotland and proposed that his 2 year old son Edward be betrothed to the 3 year old princess. Unfortunately the poor 3 year old died in the Orkneys on her way to take the Scottish throne which scuppered Edward plans and brought 3 Scotsmen forward with roughly equal rights to the throne.

Edward as Overlord was asked by the Scottish council to choose between the 3;

John Balliol, Robert Bruce and John Hastings. Edward chose John Balliol.

Note the King of England had been “Overlord” of Scotland (but regularly disputed) since the reign of the son of King Alfred the Great, Edward the Elder around AD 900.

This arrangement did not last. Balliol thought Edward was too intrusive and when Edward attacked France Balliol saw the opportunity to attack the north of England and he covered himself with the added insurance of doing a deal with France. Edwards’s response was immediate and comprehensive. He captured Berwick then the largest and most important town in Scotland, rich from their wool trade with Flanders, captured Balliol and imprison him in England.

Scotland ceased to be an independent kingdom. The Scottish crown jewels and  the sacred stone of Scone were taken to Westminster Abbey where they remain to this day.  

Wallace, Comyn and Bruce

1297-1306 During this period these three Scots commencing with Wallace and finishing with Bruce attacked the north of England and three times Edward marched north to defeat them. Edward succeeded with the first two campaigns but died on his way north at the age of 68  for the last. Bruce lived to fight another day.   

Constitutional changes under Edward.

Demonstrating the slow but steady progress towards a Parliamentary Democracy which had commenced with Magna Carta and King John and continued under Henry 3rd and Simon de Montfort.

There were 8 main ones during his reign. Here we look at the most important ones. 

The development of a Common Law towards what we have now

  • Edward reorganised the Courts of Law into three divisions which had up to this time come under one man the Justiciar: The Kings Bench, The court of Common Pleas and the Court of the Exchequer.

The development of a representative Parliament.

  • Edward still needed to be controlled by the Barons or rather the Parliament. For example he had raised  the duty on wool to six times from the figure before his reign. So he was forced to agree that “no aids or tallage should be levied but by common consent of the realm.” IE Parliament. (Once again in the vein of Thomas of Becket, the Clergy under Archbishop Winchelsea refused to make any grant to the King, so Edward seized their lands.)

  • Edward called the first complete Parliament(1295) representing the 3 Estates of the Realm; The Lords (Barons), the elected Commons and the Clergy. The so called “Model Parliament”.

Also

  • Edward also confirmed and enhanced the work of Henry 2nd as follows; 1) Each class of person should provide a specified set of weapons and men to support international wars. 2) The gates of all walled towns should be closed at sunset. 3) that all strangers (travellers) should present themselves to the local magistrate. 4) Every district should be responsible for the crimes within its boundaries. 5) All main roads should have clear land for 200 feet on either side to minimise attack by highwaymen. 6) That officers should be appointed to enforce these statutes. (Afterwards called Justices of the Peace.)

Exactly as Henry 2nd Edward had to ensure that the church did not become too powerful.

  • The Statute of Mortmain was passed which forbid people from giving land to the church. This was to avoid sinners buying forgiveness and an automatic passage to heaven by giving gifts to the church. The Church had been getting rich by selling such a concept to be called “indulgencies”.

Expulsion of Jews 1290 and the change to Christian Banking

William the Conqueror had introduced Jews to England to raise funds for his activities in England and 200 years later Edward 1st got rid of all of them. Why?

Money-lending for profit had been forbidden as a Christian activity from about AD 1000  and so in a Christian world all “banking” was organised by Jews.

From about Edwards time however Christians in Italy recommenced this service partly as a service to the Vatican in the transfer of the huge amounts of money which the church was collecting from its parishioners in say England to the vaults in Rome.

Making money from this service was seen as illegal or sinful in the sight of God and the Italian Bankers were always looking for ways of paying off their sins so they would go to heaven!

Two solutions to the problem were developed.

  • Firstly making money from the conversion of money from one currency to another.

  • Secondly from providing the service at a profit whereby sellers of goods in one country could receive money from their customer in another country in their own currency. The Medici family bank in Florence became to most successful in this area.

Medici bankers we always trying to find methods of paying for this sin and the results are there even now for everybody to enjoy in the form of the Renaissance art and sculptures seen in every square and every church in modern day Florence all financed from illegal banking profits. Artists include the likes of Donatello and Michelangelo.  

England features strongly in Medici history as much of their money was made financing the sale of English wool to Flemish and Florence cloth makers. And much Medici money was lost when English Kings defaulted on their loans. 
 

Edward 1st one of the best ever English Kings died in 1307 aged 68 having reigned for 35 years. There is no record of his physical appearance at all. He was succeeded by his son Edward.

Edward should also be noted for introducing the most hideous of punishments for acts against the crown (treason), that of Hanging Drawing and Quartering. This entailed;

  1. Hanging until the man was nearly dead.

  2. Cutting open his stomach and drawing out his intestines.

  3. Cutting him with an axe into four pieces.

It is said he invented this public punishment in an effort to subdue the Welsh and the Scots. Women who committed treason were spared this ordeal and just burnt alive at the stake!   

Edward 2nd 1307-1327 aged 23 when crowned

His father Edward 1st had produced 16 children with his vivacious Spanish wife Eleanor and Edward 2nd was the 14th. Edward 1st additionally had 3 further children with his second wife Margaret daughter of the King of France. His 3 elder brothers died young as did  the majority of his sisters. Unfortunately for those times Edward 2nd was a raving homosexual and made no effort to hide it even from his French wife Princess Isabella who he married when she was 12. Bi-sexual is a more accurate description as Isabella bore him 4 children including the next king Edward 3rd.  Edward also had an illegitimate son Adam.

Edward 2nd is recorded as being the worst medieval king, being too interested in his male lovers to worry about ruling the country. He suffered the ignominy of loosing the hard won Scotland in a rout master minded by Robert Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Finally he was murdered by killers working for his wife Isabella and her lover Mortimer using the fairly common method for homosexuals in those days, a red hot poker up his arse. (But see an alternative theory under Edward 3rd.)  

A chronological summary of his 20 year reign is as follows.

1307 Edward 2nd crowned at Westminster. Edward had previously held the title of Prince of Wales at 17 years old (the first eldest son to do so) and Duke of Aquitaine (France-still in English hands)  at 22.

1308 Edward married Isabella daughter of Philip 4th  King of France (She was between 12 and 16 years old). Edward already had a male lover Piers Gaveston. The Barons headed by Thomas Earl of Lancaster insisted that the King should rid himself of his lover and Gaveston was exiled to Ireland as Lord Deputy. Lancaster was hugely powerful being not only a cousin of the King but also the Earl of 5 counties and friends with the clergy and people at large. He was the Simon de Montfort of his time.

1310, Lancaster through Parliament had to run the country on behalf of the useless Edward and he set up a committee of 21 Bishops and Peers (The Lords Ordainers) to regulate the King and his household and run the country.

They imposed  the following rules

  • The King could not make war with out the consent of Parliament.

  • Parliament would select all key officers of state.

  • The King would have to get the permission of the Ordainers to offer any gifts.

  • Taxes on wool and cloth should be abolished.

  • Parliament should meet at least once per year.

1312 Edward recalled Gaveston from Ireland so Lancaster had him executed.

1313 Edward finds two more male lovers the Despensers, father and son! Who are both powerful Marcher (Welsh) lords.

Queen Isabella probably at about this time took a lover another Marcher Lord, Mortimer.

1314 The war with Scotland resumes and Robert Bruce captures many castles in the north of England. Edward raises 100,000 men and marches north but this huge army is defeated at Bannockburn by Bruce. Bannockburn is a few miles up river east of Edinburgh.

Scotland now regains independence (which lasts 300 years)

1321 Lancaster and Mortimer force Edward to exile his two lovers the Despensers. Edward is furious and civil war breaks out over the Kings male lovers. The King is still in a strong position to raise an army and both Lancaster and Mortimer are captured. Lancaster is beheaded and Mortimer sent to the Tower (of London). The Despensers are recalled to satisfy the Kings sexual appetite. Edward dissolves the Ordainers and travels north where he is again routed by Bruce.

1323 Robert Bruce and Edward sign a peace treaty.

1324 Mortimer escapes from the Tower and heads for France.

1325 Isabella sent to France on a diplomatic mission to sort out disputes with the French King Charles 4th  over English Gascony. She is joined by her eldest son and heir to the throne Edward Prince of Wales and of course meets up with her lover Mortimer.

1326 Charles is disgusted by the sexual goings on between the English Queen and her lover Mortimer and expels them. On the way home the two lovers and the Prince of Wales, assume royal power, recruit a mercenary army in Suffolk and capture and execute the Despensers.

1327 Parliament meets and declares the Prince of Wales King as Edward 3rd rather than his father Edward 2nd.

The grounds for this action were that Edward 2nd was

  • Incompetent and to indolent to be able to judge between right and wrong.

  • Ignored the council of the wise and chooses to listen instead to “evil persons”.

  • Lost Ireland, Scotland and Gascony in France. (Bordeaux area)

  • Injured the church and oppressed the barons.

  • Had broken his coronation oath and was ruining the land.

Edward 2nd was cruelly murdered in Berkeley in 1327. (Current thinking is that he lived on for more than 10 more years imprisoned in secret by Mortimer and Queen Isabella) 

Edward 3rd 1327-1377 (14 when crowned)

One of England’s great kings (perhaps the greatest) regaining much of the land lost by his father. (Ireland, Scotland and large tracts of western France. Military acumen was the most admired characteristic for any medieval king. The other was the production of a good quantity of loyal male heirs. Edward had 13 children with his wife, the Dutch princess Philippa including three famous boys, the Black Prince, John of Gaunt (Earl of Lancaster) and Edmund (Duke of York).

Edward’s mother was Princess Isabella, daughter of the French King and through this line Edward saw himself as the rightful heir to the French throne. His efforts to achieve this by military means commenced what historians call the 100 years war (England against France).

Edward was the first to spot the potential of the Long Bow as a “weapon of mass destruction”, used against the Scots first and then the French. A strong trained bowman could shoot arrows from this bow with much greater velocity than hitherto the bow being crafted from a laminate from two parts of a yew tree. The pulling strain needed was about 180 lbs. Arrows from this bow could kill a French knight in full armour at a distance of almost half a mile. The numbers of arrows taken into a major battle would be measured in millions (3 or 4)

To produce archers with both skill and strength Edward banned all other sports, like football and had compulsory Sunday training and archery tournaments. (Together with jousting). Edward was the first King in Europe to field an army of trained professionals, mainly farm workers, to fight against the socially elite mainly Frennch nobles and Knights. 

Law order and justice

Edward’s father had totally lost the faith of parliament (Barons and Clergy) but Edward 3rd was totally different, making a point of governing by the rules of parliament where he had sufficient presence and charisma to generally get his way particularly in raising taxes to finance his battles.   

The House of Lords was created under Edward 3rd thus separating elected members or “commoners” from Lords and Bishops. 

Edward also created the “Order of Knights of the Garter” as a sort of inner circle of trusted warriors. He modelled this on the mythical Knights of the Round Table of the pre-Saxon King Arthur. These Garter Knights, very often sons or other relations and became famous and feared in battle due to their skills, swordsmanship and loyalty to the King. 

The Black Death, population, economy and finance

Half way through Edward’s long reign of 50 years the worst plague to hit Europe struck in England. Prior to this the population of England had increased from 3.5 million in Norman times to some 7 million. Just before  the plague struck there was a series of bad harvests which reduced the population by about 1 million. Note much of the arable land had been turned over to sheep. Then the Plague struck a weakened population and reduced the number of people living in England down to about 3.5 million in some 3 years.

The Plague was carried by black rats who lived cheek by jowl with humans allowing the plague carrying flees to jump easily to whole families.  A few hundred years later the black rat was ousted by the present day grey rat which has not got the same affinity with humans.

The economy of the country was not totally devastated as the main export earner was wool from sheep being exported  to Flanders and Florence financed and shipped by Italian Banks.

Edward borrowed heavily from these banks to finance the 100 years war. When Edward refused to pay his debts the Italian banks involved went bust.

One of the mysteries of his reign was the alleged murder of his father, Edward 2nd by his mother the French Isabella and her lover Mortimer who ruled while Edward 3rd was in his minority (too young). Recent research has shown that Edward 2nd was not murdered but simply spirited away into obscurity by Mortimer. Edward 3rd met his “murdered” father some 10 years after the alleged event at a location in Germany.    

Chronological summary 

1312 Edward 3rd born at Windsor Castle.

1325 Edward at only 13 leads his first campaign against the Scots.

1327 Edward 2nd is murdered by his wife, the French princess Isabella and her lover Mortimer. Isabella and Mortimer rule England as Edward 3rd is only 16. Charles 4th King of France dies and French Princess Isabella immediately claims her son Edward is the rightful heir. Request refused on the basis that in France females have no rights to royal succession.

Note modern historians claim that Edward 2nd was not murdered rather just spirited away to secret captivity to enable Isabella and Mortimer to rule the country.

1328 Edward only 16 is married to Dutch Princes Philippa also aged 16.

1328 Isabella and Mortimer still in charge, weakly confirm Scottish independence. “Treaty of Edinburgh”.

1329 Robert Bruce charismatic leader of the Scots dies from leprosy. He is succeeded by his son David Bruce known as King David 2nd.

1330 Edward now 17 assumes Royal Powers, arrests and executes Mortimer and puts his mother under life time house arrest.

Edward’s wife Philippa produces their first son also called Edward but later nicknamed the Black Prince.

1333 Edward renews English dominance in Scotland by military action, ousting David and installing his own favourite Balliol. The significant battle takes place on Dupplin Moor (7 miles south east of Perth) when Edward’s supporters beat a Scottish army of twice his size with the first ever use of the English Long Bow in international warfare. (It had been used domestically 10 years previously in Yorkshire at the battle of Boroughbridge.)

1334 David flees to France and Balliol transfers the whole of southern Scotland to England. It doesn’t last.

1335-8 Regular military excursions into Scotland in support of Balliol.

1338 Edward 3rd meets his father Edward 2nd in Koblenz Germany, for the first time since his alleged murder by Mortimer.  

1336 Philip 4th dubious inheritor of the French throne in English eyes invades Bordeaux in Gascony/Aquitaine south west coastal France (then English land) and assembles a fleet to invade England. Thus it is actually France who starts the Hundred Years War. 

Hundred Years War

Background to Hundred Years War

In 1150 English King, Henry 2nd‘s territory in France was bigger than England. Indeed he was ruling more of France than the French King due to firstly his Normandy ancestors, his birth place in Anjou, conquests in Brittany and his wife’s inheritance of the huge area of land known as Aquitaine. That is the whole of France east of Paris extending to Spain and the Marseilles in the south.

Who lost it? Most say the cruel and useless John but perhaps the blame should be pointed at the historically popular Richard 1st “The Lion Heart” who instead of consolidating his huge territories was swanning off to Jerusalem on a Crusade with his homosexual lover the French King.

Henry 3rd in the 1200s, not a noted general, was regularly in France trying to regain Plantagenet land. His only reward was the retention of Gascony in the treaty of Paris in 1259.

The loss of these beautiful territories in France would rankle in the minds of English Kings for years to come. 

1337-1453 The Hundred Years War with France normally said to be started by Edward to protect English territory and support his claim through his mother (who was the daughter of the French King Philip 4th) to the throne of France. But actually the French invaded English territory first. (See above)

1338 French fleets invade England around Southampton, Dover and the Thames Estuary for London but are effectively beaten off. 

1st Phase of war

1339 Edward takes an army to France and is joined by men from Flanders and Normandy loyal to the English but makes no headway. Edward now declares himself King of France and follows this with an assault on the French navy at Sluys were after a huge battle the French navy is destroyed. Sluys is close to the mouth of the Rhine on the boarders of present day Holland and Belgium then the northern boarder of French Flanders.

1341 David Bruce returns to Scotland and with French support campaigns against England in the north.

1343 A truce is signed with France. 

2nd Phase of war

1346 The war recommences in earnest as Edward, having skirmished in France for two years, invades Normandy with 30,000 men and advances to the gates of Paris. From here he is beaten back by a French army of 100,000 to the French coast at Crecy, near the mouth of the river Somme south of Calais. Here the English regrouped and using their longbowed archers positioned on both his flanks to maximum effect, routed the French killing 30,000 of them. The French were still fighting in Feudal fashion with knights on horseback in heavy armour surrounded by their surfs with swords and mace and some with slow firing cross bows. English archers could have perhaps 3 arrows in the air at any one time.

Edward then attacks the well fortified coastal town of Calais which he takes but only after an 11 month siege. Calais remains in English hands for 150 years and prospers hugely as a trading port and landing stage.

In the mean time the Scots with their partners the French invade the north of England but are defeated by Englishmen Percy and Neville who take the Scottish King David Bruce prisoner.

1948 The Black Death hits both France and England both countries loose almost half their populations and fighting stops.  

The 3rd phase of war

1350-5 David Bruce attempts to buy his release by offering the throne of Scotland to Edwards heirs. Offer rejected perhaps not believed and the Scots invade Berwick on Tweed.

1356 Now there are two battle savvy Edwards, the king now 43 who leads another campaign against the Scots and his eldest son, just 26 and living in Bordeaux as governor of Gascony, Edward the Black Prince.

At the battle near Poitiers The Black Prince takes the King of France prisoner.

The English are now totally in control of both France and Scotland with both kings in prison hence a big treaty is signed the “Great Peace” or “Peace of Bretigny”:

  • Edward can keep Gascony, Poitou, Guienne, Calais and a few smaller ones but must give up his claim to the French Crown.

  • The French King John 2nd should be released for a ransom of 3 million Crowns. (£700,000)

The Ransom is never paid and French King John dies in an English prison. 

1361 Renewed outbreak of the Plague.  

The 4th phase of war

1369 The new French King Charles 5th tears up the agreement of Bretigny and restarts the war. Some of the inhabitants of Limoges desert the Black Prince who responds by massacring the lot (3000)

The French under Charles start making steady military and naval progress against an aging Edward and then a sickening Black Prince (died 1376) and on Edwards death in 1377 aged 65 the English are left only with Calais in the north of France and the coastal part of Gascony including Bordeaux in the south.  

Edward is succeeded by the eldest son of his eldest son the Black Prince, Richard 2nd aged 10 

Other changes in Edward reign

The loss of life during the Black Death caused a shortage of labour. Indeed some land was not tilled at all. This allowed some survivors the opportunity to work farms for themselves for the first time and for others to join groups demanding better wages. See Richard 2nd.  

Also Edward oversaw three huge improvement in parliamentary government.

  1. It was illegal to raise money without the permission of parliament.

  2. Both the Commons and the Lords must agree before any chance in the law could be made.

  3. The Commons could investigate public abuses and impeach councillors.

Also

Treason was defined, which for those found guilty could result in death by hanging, drawing and quartering as;

  • To plan for the death of the King or his eldest son.

  • To commence a war against the King.

  • To support the King’s enemies.

  • To mint a counterfeit coin.

  • To kill any Judge or the chancellor or the treasurer. 

At the same time futher effort was made to reduce Papal influence in the country. For example any person receiving money from the Pope would be punished and the money made over to the King. 

Richard 2nd 1377-99 (10 when crowned)

England needed a strong, charismatic, just military leader at this time because it would have been a good time to regain French territory as the French leadership was weak. Also Edward 3rd had sired four strong sons and when the eldest, the Black Prince died before his aged father it was inevitable that the next in line would be a minor. Richard was he and his pathetic reign was largely the cause of internal strife in England for the next 100 years culminating with the final loss of French territories and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty with the Wars of the Roses.

In the first part of his reign, because he was so young the country was ruled by his uncle, John of Gaunt whose son Bolingbroke eventually murdered Richard and became king as Henry 4th.  

Richard 2nd at 15 married 16 year old Anne of Prague, Bohemia (now Czech republic) daughter of Charles 4thth the King of France who was only 7! What was going on? Some historians say he was homosexual or perhaps even a paedophile. What ever he was he clearly was not going to produce any children this way. But also see below- truce with France. Holy Roman Emperor. They had no children. She died of the Plague in 1394. In 1396 the King at 29 married again in an effort to produce an heir and he choose the daughter of Charles 6

In 1399 Richard was finally forced to abdicate on the grounds of tyranny and misgovernment and his cousin the eldest son of John of Gaunt was declared King as Henry 4th. Henry who had been born in the same year as Richard had been previously known as Bolingbroke (from the castle where he was born in 1367) also Hereford and Lancaster from his dukedoms. Henry is accredited with finally murdering Richard and being an equally useless King.

Perhaps Richard was not all bad. When he was 14 he rode, possibly alone to quell a riot led by Wat Tyler supported by some 10,000 men. He had sufficient confidence and presence to succeed.

Further in 1396 he negotiated a 30 year truce with the King of France and married his 7 year old daughter to seal it.

Richard also was successful in bringing calm to that troublesome part of his realm Ireland.  

A quick look at England and the rest of Europe in 1400

as the Middle Ages draw to a violent closure including the Black Death, its consequences and parallel forces, including;

  • The Plague or Black Death 1348-51, 1360-62, 1375-1429. English population has fallen from 7million to 2.5 million.
  • Wycliffe-John 1329-1384 and the Lollards
  • The Peasants revolt and Wat Tyler 1381
  • Wool production from a sheep population of 18 million.
  • Merchant Guilds
  • Muslim Ottomans conquer south eastern Europe.1360-1400.
  • Renaissance art-portraiture.
  • Henry the Navigator 1394-1460 

All the above events were material in pulling England out of the Middle Ages, raising hope and human rights and putting England on a path of World supremacy. 

Parliamentary Democracy

In England more than in any other country the King was controlled by a Parliament which was slowly increasing the power relationship between Parliament, King and Church. Nearly every King over the previous 100 years had put through parliament a new bill curtailing the obsessive power of the Church.

Religious hocus pocus

By 1400 Oxford University had 8 collages starting with the fist in 1249 University Collage. Universities encourage freedom of thought and a good example is Oxford’s John Wycliffe who read and lectured in philosophy which caused him to criticise some of the churches dogma. For example the concept that during mass the wine and bread actually physically changes into the blood and body of Jesus. (Transubstantiation) Wycliffe also oversaw the first translation of the Bible from Latin into English. Thus giving all people an incentive to learn how to read. It is generally the case that during the time of any great catastrophe (Black Death/ Holocaust) that men and women question the fundamentals of their faith. Wycliffe was a forerunner of Luther/Calvin  and the independent Church of England. His followers at the time were the Lollards.

The Peasants Revolt

The shortage of labour caused by the Black Death gave the land workers (peasants) the muscle they needed to start a revolution. Suddenly land owners had to increase wages to attract workers onto their farms. Although this swing to the side of the worker was reduced by the land owners preference to change from arable farming to sheep rearing as England’s wool was the best in Europe and was in high demand from garment manufacturers in places like Gent and Florence. The actual catalyst for the revolution was the introduction of and rapid increases of a Poll Tax (Tax per head) raised by Edward 3rd to finance his wars  against France. The whole of south and east of England (from Winchester to the Wash) was involved led by the two charismatic leaders Wat Tyler in Kent and John Ball in East Anglia. At least 10,000 men marched on London from the East where they were joined by carpenters, wheelwrights, stone masons and some of the clergy. So huge was the crowed that they managed to occupy the Tower of London causing the 14 year old King to ride out and speak to them. Wat Tyler was stabbed to death and the Kings words subdued the rioters who dispersed. Afterwards the Richard organised a merciless mass execution of huge numbers of these innocents who actually achieved nothing. But it was the first mass demonstration of ordinary oppressed people which came near to success in the whole of Europe. 

Merchant and Craft Guilds

Circa 1400 saw the rise of importance of Guilds in England. A guild is an organisation which looks after a particular trade and  the people who work in it. For example a guild might set the quality and price for work done by craftsmen or traders. The huge rise in the volume export of wool and woollens from England at this time saw a corresponding increase in wealth of its associated guild. Supporting trades and their guilds increased in wealth in parallel. The elaborate London Guild Halls started in this period as did early unemployment benefit financed by these guilds for their worker members. Guild apprentice (training) schemes were already the norm. Academic training was to follow with Guild financed (private) schools such as Merchant Tailors and Haberdashers and the less obvious but equally famous Oundle supported by the Grocers Company. 

Stone masons had long had a recognized club with “lodges” to house the naturally itinerant masons. For some time after William the Conqueror they were the elite of artisan society not only because of their skills in stone work but also as architects, that is those who could design things like stone arches which did not fall down. Further these men would have close association with the rich and the powerful which in those days were barons and bishops. To this day Free Masons retain a closed club known for having contacts in high places and medieval rituals which the modern world thinks bizarre.   

Muslims advance into Europe

By 1400 the  Ottoman Muslim Turks under a new leader the Sultan Bayezit had advanced west, not only to rule the whole of Anatolia (Turkey east of the Bosporus) but also were now entrenched in the Balkans in south eastern Europe. Christian Europe which had long lost Christian (and Jewish) Jerusalem was under threat as far west as Hungary. In 1395 this spurred the King of Hungary to persuade  the Pope to call for a Crusade to remove the fearsome Islamic menace and France joined Hungary for this purpose. The Christians in France and Hungary were organisationally disorganised and no match for the well organised Islamic Ottomans.

Christian Europe had also lost the battle for the Mediterranean which had become an Ottoman lake and Christian Portugal took up the task of tentatively exploring sea routes round Africa as another trade route to the Spice Islands for pepper and China for silk. The Christian attitudes to the advancing Muslims 600 years ago were much the same as the daily reported Islamic menace of today. Then it spawned the commencement of world exploration by Christian Europeans. 

Henry the Navigator of Portugal 

This man was the organiser of the nautical school in the Algarve (southern Portugal) which commenced sailing south into uncharted, rough Atlantic African waters. Henry the Navigator was the grandson of John of Gaunt and his wife Blanche via their eldest child Philippa who was married to John 1st King of Portugal. Henry’s well documented missions were described as a Crusade for seeking places on the earth where Christians could fine other Christians (as opposed to Muslims) with which to do business. Eventually they did, Copts in Ethiopia.