My Notes from Episode 1 of ‘The Plantagenets’ Shown on BBC 17.03.2014

All 15 Plantagenet kings were supposedly descended from the Countess of Anjou.
Family politics and dynastic ambition.
War, justice, parliament and architecture.
Anjou (West France) 12th century. 1128 Matilda, daughter of Henry I of France ordered to marry Geoffrey of Anjou. After a year they separated but she eventually gave him 3 sons.
Fight for the throne – Matilda named heir but throne seized by Stephen = civil war ‘the Anarchy’.
1142 Stephen besieged Matilda for 3 months – she crept away.

Eleanor of Aquitaine from the Hulton Archive
Eleanor of Aquitaine from the Hulton Archive

Fighting stopped when Matilda’s son, Henry, came of age – married Eleanor of Aquitane, who had initially married Louis VII of France.
Henry and Eleanor had a lot of land in France and four sons.
Wanted to win the English crown.
Many joined the Plantagenets. Henry and Stephen met at Wallingford Castle, but the armies refused to fight.
Stephen recognised Henry as heir. In 1154 Henry became Henry II of England.
Reworked the English law, still applies today, in our judicial system. Enforced common practice. Introduced trial by jury on land disputes.
Alienated the barons and created an argument between Church and State.
Thomas Becket – 1162, king wanted to make Becket Archbishop; fell out over bishop’s rights. “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?”
Four men struck Becket and killed him. It was said Becket’s blood had magical powers and the Pope declared him a Saint.
Henry II lost his reputation.
Eleanor of Aquitane had 3 daughters and 5 sons and moved back to Aquitane.
Eldest son, Henry, had no authority or income – encouraged by France he rebelled against his father, joined by his 2 elder brothers and his mother.
Eleanor held prisoner by her husband. Henry fought his sons for 18 months.
Henry prostrated himself at Becket’s shrine and a victory was won the next day. A new French king encouraged another rebellion, but this time in Aquitane.
The younger Henry was struck down with dysentery and died.
Henry II’s son, Richard, betrayed him, assisted by the French king – submitted to his son. His favourite son, John, also rebelled and soon died.

Richard I being anointed from a 13th century chronicle
Richard I being anointed from a 13th century chronicle

Henry’s son, Richard, succeeded him – Richard I or Richard the Lionheart. In his 10 year reign he spent only 6 months in England and made Eleanor of Aquitane regent.
Richard went on crusade with the French king, Philip – agreed to divide the spoils equally. In Sicily Richard reneged on a betrothal so the armies split.
Richard I took Acre within 2 months. Philip returned to France and Richard was captured on the way home.
Eleanor and youngest son, John, were left in charge.
John wanted the English throne so joined with Philip, giving away crucial French territory.
On Richard’s return, John had to submit.
1199 Richard struck by a crossbow bolt while on siege in Aquitane and died.
John was the only surviving son, but he had a contender in his nephew, his brother Geoffrey’s son, Arthur.
1202 Arthur took an army into Anjou. John went to meet him and Arthur was captured, never heard of again. France refused to make peace and took most English territories. Eleanor died.
John resented Papal power and so the Pope cut England off – no church services or burials. John took clerical property and became rich.
John wanted to win back his French territories.
John had a reputation for lechery and fathered half a dozen illegitimate children.
His reputation was ruined.

Magna Carta with the seal of King John
Magna Carta with the seal of King John

John was cruel and lost the allegiance of many barons. They wanted freedom from royal rule. The Magna Carta was signed.
Royal power needed to be stemmed – the Magna Carta applied to both ruler and subject.
It was a complete failure at the time – it was annulled and the French tried to take the English throne with the blessing of the people.
John contracted dysentery but didn’t rest and soon died.
His son, Henry, was only 9 years old.

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