Henry II

I will elaborate more on Henry II at a later time, here just a sketchy portrait on the jindra_eleonora862nd anniversary of his coronation, and a way to get back to blogging again. It´s been a long time off now!

Today it´s 862 years since Henry Plantagnet – the first king to use that name which had been adopted by his father Geoffrey of Anjou – in 1154 was crowned at Westminster Abbey alongside his wife, the quite feisty Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Henry was the son om Empress Matilda – or Lady of the English as she was also known during her own struggle for the English crown which unleashed the civil war known as The Anarchy on the English people, with her cousin Stephen of Blois on the opposite side of the battlefield – and Geoffrey ”the Fair”, count of Anjou.

Just as his mother, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, had a strong sense of birth right, and had a vast kingdom at the end of his reign, all of which he is said to have kept under control by constantly being in the saddle, riding back and forward through his domains.

He would come to have eight children with Eleanor, and it is somewhat of an understatement to say that the harmony was sometimes lacking in the family.

His son´s Henry, the heir to the throne and referred to as Henry the Young King, and his brothers Richard (known to history as Richard the Lionhearted) and Geoffrey would eventually rebel – with the backing of their mother – against their father.

Henry was of course also the king who appointed his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, and caused his death through the allegedly misinterpreted words “Will someone rid me of this turbulent priest” once the friendship had turned sour.

The conflicts with his son´s continued, and after having been defeated in a final rebellion in 1189, he shortly after died from what is believed to have been a bleeding ulcer.


Henry II – New Interpretations: Nicholas Vincent, Christopher Harper- Bill.

Henry II – W. L. Warren.

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England – Dan Jones

Edward the Black Prince


There are certain names that can intrigue you, people, present or historic, it can be places, sometimes even things, or Edward the Black Princefor me, in this case; The Black Prince.

The truth is that the name the Black Prince did not come into use until about 200 years – during the Tudor Era – after the death of Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.

But this is the day on which he was born in 1330, during a calamitous time of his father´s reign. For the past three years, England had been de facto ruled by the lover of Edward III´s mother, Roger Mortimer who – supported by Isabella (the queen of Edward II and mother of Edward III – after a lengthy war had imprisoned Edward II and allegedly had him murdered at Berkley Castle in 1327, only months after Edward III had been crowned king.

This year, after the birth of Edward of Woodstock, the actual name of the Black Prince, things started to turn around. Accused of a number of crimes, one of which was assuming the Royal power, Roger Mortimer was hanged at Tyburn on November 29th 1330.

But this post isn´t about Roger Mortimer, Edward II or Edward III, who undoubtedly DO deserve a line or two on the blog. But this one is about, as earlier mentioned, another Edward; Edward the Black Prince.

King_Edward_III_from_NPGEdward III and Philippa of Hainult would have several children – without being able to really verify this straight up, it is said that the majority of the English people are actually decedents of this fertile royal couple – but Edward was the one meant to carry the dreams of a continued dynasty, the heir to the crown, and at the age of sis he was made Duke of Cornwall. This was actually the first time that the English word “Duke” was used, as up until now the French wording of “Duc” had been used.

Another one of Edward´s titles was of course the Prince of Wales.

During his entire life, the Hundred Years War would be raging, and he turned out to be a highly talented soldier who took part in the invasion of Normandy already at the age of 16, on which occasion he was knighted as he got off the ship in France, maybe slightly ironical it took place side by side of another Roger Mortimer, the grandson of the man Edward III had seen executed 16 years before. Only days after, the English army engaged in the Battle of Crecy of August 26th 1346, in which Edward of Woodstock led the vanguard, but considering his – at the time – limited military experiences, it is likely he was advised by more experienced military commanders such as the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Northampton.

The Battle of Crecy, which the English won not least through the force of the English longbows, came to be a definingBattle_of_crecy_froissart point of the young Prince, and came not only to determine how the English would execute the war in France, would influence his household, most likely his view of himself, and not least his reputation which would live on through the centuries.

From Crecy the army marched on towards Calais to embark on an almost year-long siege after which the French surrendered due to the French king Philip VI failing to deliver aid. This was part of a recapture of France after king John had lost most of the vast territory held by his father, and England would hold Calais until 1558 when it was finally lost by Mary I.

The battle of the Hundred Years War in which Edward of Woodstock played a prominent role did not, however, only take part on dry land.

In 1350, he and his father Edward III engaged the kingdom of Castile in the Battle of Winchelsea, a bloody confrontation at sea in which the English captured somewhere between 14 and 26 Castilian ships while they themselves lost two during the battle.

The mentioned battles and siege would only be the beginning of a long line of battles, negotiations, victories and losses during the Black Prince short life, and I will not list them all here, after all, the blog is not intended to be a dictionary, but aim to inspire those of you who hopefully read the posts to find out more about what may interest you.

But I´m not quite done with Edward yet. Amidst all the fighting, he built up a reputation which almost can be seen as dual, and of course, which version would be told depended on one which side the one telling the story would find themselves.

His troops where noted for an extreme brutality in the sacking of Limoges in September 1370, when men, women and children were said to have been killed indiscriminately.

After a period of siege, the town was stormed on September 19th, when the commander in charge of the town, the Duke of Berry, had left it with only 140 men to defend it left in the town.

Siege_of_LimogesThe English forces was led not only by Edward the Black Prince, but also by his brothers John of Gaunt – through whom Margaret Beaufort would have her claim to the throne – and Edmund of Langley.

At this point the illness which would later claim his life already struck Edward, and he was carried on a litter.

The account of how over 3 000 people died in a massacre after the town of Limoges had fallen comes from the French author and court historian Jean Froissart, and has been claimed to be French bias, but the fact is that at the time of the massacre of Limoges, Froissart was at the service of Philippa of Hainault, mother of Edward, Edmund of Langley and John of Gaunt. The recent discovery of a letter in Edward´s own hand in a Spanish archive by the French historian Dr Guilhem Pepin sheds a different light on the story. Combined with other evidence, it seems that 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died.

Regardless, the sack of Limoges has been seen as the absolute opposite of chivalry, something for which Edward the Black Prince had otherwise been noted. He is however said to let expediency override the chivalry on a number of occasions.

Edward married Joan, countess of Kent and baroness Wake of Liddell, a widow two years older than Edward and Joan_of_Kentknown for her beauty; so much so that she was called by already mentioned Froissart “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”. She had five children from a previous marriage, and also already at the age of 12 had married without the Royal consent needed for a woman of her station.

Needless to say, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault was less than thrilled by their oldest son´s choice of consort. Two sons were born, one of whom – Edward of Angouleme –  only lived until the age of six and Richard, who after the death of his grandfather, only a year after the Black Prince, would be crowned Richard II.

After having been invested Prince of Aquitaine the royal couple lived there, to return to England only when Edward´s ill health prevented him from performing his duties in the territory.

The Black PrinceEdward the Black Prince died in his bed at Westminster Palace on June 8th 1376, only a week before his 46th birthday.

By request he was buried at the cathedral of Canterbury, and his tomb can be seen on the south side of where the shrine of Thomas Becket used to be. Above the tomb, replicas of his heraldic achievements can be seen, and not far from the tomb, one can still see the actual originals behind a glass pane

The poem below can be seen on his tomb;

Such as thou art, sometime was I

Such as I am, such shalt thou be

I thought little on th´our of Death

So long as I enjoyed breath

But now a wretched captive I am,

Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.

My beauty great, is all quite gone,

My flesh is wasted to the bone

One last word, well, quite a few, about the name the Black Prince; as said before, it didn´t appear until 150-200 yearsComplete_Guide_to_Heraldry_Fig478 after his death, and of course there has been speculations as to where and why it originated. One suggestion has been made that it was due to his brutality in the field, other  suggestions has been that it is related to his black shield (posted above), and maybe also that his armour could be perceived as black, as it has been described  as being of dark brown metal.



Edward the Black Prince, power in Medieval Europe – David Green

The Plantagenets; the warrior kings and queens that made England – Dan Jones

Article: Was Edward the Black Prince really a nasty piece of work – BBC Magazine 2014-07-07


Lady of the English – Empress Matilda

Empress_MathildaEmpress Mathilda (or Maude, both names are used) isn´t the most well-known of the English regents, at least not outside England. But as granddaughter of William I – better known as William the Conqueror and victor at the Battle of Hastings 1066 – and grandmother of both Richard the Lionheart and the reluctant signer of Magna Carta, King John, as well as a participant in the civil war known as The Anarchy, she´s an interesting acquaintance.

She was born on this day, February 7th, 913 years ago, 1102.

While still a child she moved to Germany to be wed to the future emperor of the Great Roman Empire in 1114, Henry V. Matilda participated in the ruling of the empire and also acted as regent in Italy in her husband´s name. He was almost 20 years older than her, and the marriage was to be childless. Henry V died in 1125, five years after the White Ship disaster in which Mathilda´s brother William Adelin, heir to the throne, had died and left England in a vulnerable situation.

Matilda hurried to her father Henry I in Normandy where he made his court swear fealty to Matilda and her future children. She also entered a second marriage, this time with Geoffrey of Anjou, count of Anjou, Toulouse and Maine, to defend the southern borders of the empire. The marriage was reputedly unhappy, both due to age difference and cultural barriers. The realm of the English regent at this time consisted of large lands in France as well. Together with Geoffrey she had the son Henry Curtmantle, later Henry II.

Geoffrey of Anjou deserve a special mentioning, not least due to his habit of wearing a broom flower in his hat, a PlantaGeoffrey_of_Anjou_Monument Genista in Latin, from which the house he helped found, The Plantagenet’s, derive its name. The first monarch to actually use the name was his son by Matilda, Henry, and the last one was Richard III

But back to Matilda; a female heir to the throne was nothing that was relished in 12th century Europe and the resistance among the barons, whose support was needed, was strong and Matilda was prevented from being crowned after the death of Henry I. Instead she called herself the Lady of the English (the empress title came from her position as empress in the Holy Roman Empire 1114 – 1125). Instead Mathilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois, assumed the throne with the backing of the church

Together with her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and the backing of her maternal uncle, the Scottish king, David I, Matilda invaded England from Normandy in 1139, and action that initiated the civil war known as the Anarchy. This period will at a later point get a post of its own.

Henry_II_of_England_croppedMatilda never won the war against Stephen, instead it would be her son, who at the time of the invasion had stayed behind in France. Henry Curtmantle, however, never defeated Stephen in battle, but instead made a peace agreement with him after Stephen´s son and heir Eustace had died, which meant that Henry would take the English throne after the death of Stephen which occurred in October 1154. Henry Curtmantle began his reign as Henry II in December that same year.

Henry would become a sometimes ruthless king that spent a great deal of his reign in the saddle, riding back and forth through his vast realm on both sides of “the narrow sea” (the English channel) in an effort to keep it together. I have written briefly about him in my previous post about the murder of Thomas Becket (yet to be translated). He was the first to use the name Plantagenet and would later become dad to the latter day legend Richard the Lionheart.

Matilda herself withdraw to Normandy in 1148 but to a high extent functioned as a political advisor for her son, not least did she try to mediate in the conflict between Henry and Becket

She died in 1167, 65 years old and was put to her final rest in Bec Abbey in Normandy.


Sources: The Plantagentes; the warrior kings and queens who made England – Dan Jones

A History of Britain 3000 BC-AD 1603 – Simon Schama

For a fictional account of Mathilda, I recommend the book Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, or for that matter the tv-series with the same name based on said book.


Will someone rid me of this turbulent priest?

Henry_II_of_England_wlThe words in the headline is according to popular tradition those of Henry II, the first Plantagenet king in relation to his former friend and Chancellor Thomas Becket, at the time Archbishop of Canterbury and a recurring thorn in the side of the king.

When the previous Archbishop, Theobald of Bec died in 1161, the king saw the chance to weaken the privileges of the church and appointed Thomas Becket as the successor, something that turned out to be a mistake. While he had had no problems revoking or weakening church privileges as a Chancellor, things changed once Becket became an archbishop. Instead of continue doing the king´s bidding, Thomas Becket developed into a strong defender of church privileges.

It is sometimes stated that Becket, who as a chancellor had been a lover both of clothes, wine and good food, went through an instant transformation from a man living the good life to an aesthetic, but there are no sources to support for example that he wore a monk´s habit under the more luxurious robes of an archbishop, or that he ever wore a shirt made of horsehair. His diet – it is sometimes alleged that he basically starved himself – had changed years before his appointment, but not due to religious zeal, instead it was colitis that made Thomas Becket careful about what he ate.

One of the things that had angered the hot-headed king was the leniency the Church tended to show members of the clergy when an individual had committed a crime. In cases when a royal court would have sentenced the guilty part to death, church court could be satisfied with defrocking the sentenced man, or sending him off on a pilgrimage.

While there had been minor conflicts between the king and Becket previously, theBecket straw that broke the camel´s back was most likely Thomas Becket´s behaviour when he in January 1164 was being required to agree to the Constitutions of Clarendon, a set of legislative procedures consisting of 16 articles, which aimed primarily to address the problem with what was called criminous clerks of the church and to amend the perceived flaws in church courts, but also to restrict ecclesiastical privileges and curb papal power in England, something that had been increasing during the somewhat anarchic rule of king Stephen, and Henry II wanted to bring church back to the position it had been in during the reign of his grandfather, Henry I, which the church under royal jurisdiction. Becket had seen this coming, but after urging for resistance for months in advance, he left the rest of the clergy in disbelief when he decided to agree to the constitution.

Later he again urged resistance to the constitution, and one can imagine that the priests and bishops were finding it hard to know both on which foot to stand, or knowing where they actually had the archbishop. Becket wasn´t a popular figure to begin with within the clergy, and this hardly helped to strengthen his position or support for his cause, whatever that might have been.

Jindrich2_Beckett (1)A conflict between crown and church should not be underestimated, as the priests and the rest of the clergy had the power to excommunicate both nobility and royalty as they saw fit, another thorn in the side of the king, as he was of the opinion that all excommunications of the nobility should take place in agreement between himself and the church, an opinion clearly not shared with Thomas Becket.

After having the door slammed in his face when trying to see the king after Clarendon, Becket seemed to realise that England might not be the place for him, and attempted to leave the country, but was recognised when trying to leave the country without the king´s consent, and was brought back to his sovereign, who candidly asked him if he thought England wasn´t big enough for the two of them.

By attempting to leave England without seeking royal permission, Becket had already broken one of the articles of the Constitution of Clarendon which stated that it wasn´t “lawful for archbishops, bishops, and persons of the kingdom to go out of the kingdom without the permission of the lord king”, but when he was brought to justice, it was for two other offences; failing to answer summons in a dispute over archiepiscopal lands and mismanaging funds in his role as chancellor. Both accusations were serious, and as if that wasn´t enough, the charge of communicating with the pope without going through the king (a violation of the constitution of Clarendon) was added. Becket was found guilty of all charges, but was freed by the supporter Herbert of Bosham, and together they fled for the continent in 1164.

The following years they spent under the protection of Louis VII in a Cistercian AbbeyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA in Ponitgny, and here he according to some sources had pope Alexander send him a monk´s habit, as his resolve hardened, and allegedly he wore a shirt not of horse hair under it, but one of the even more uncomfortable goat´s hair. His attitude did not bode well for a benign outcome of the conflict. As Thomas Becket´s militancy grew, so did the anxiety of both the pope and Henry II.

In 1169 Henry tried to defuse the situation when he wanted his son and heir, Henry the Young, crowned, a task traditionally performed by the archbishop of Canterbury, and the two met at Montmirail, on the border between France and Angevin lands. The two former close friends met for th first time in four years, both aged and Henry more choleric than ever. It all seemed well when Thomas Becket fell to his knees in front of his monarch, verbally submitting to his clemency, but true to form managed to aggravate the king by adding words to the affect the God´s judgment of course weighed heavier than anything the king could come up with.

No reconciliation took place, and in the end coronation was instead performed by the archbishop of York, something which sent Thomas Becket into a rage, and he retaliated by having the archbishop of York and the bishop of London excommunicated.

During this period the pope Alexander III, who in principle supported Becket but needed Henry´s support in his own conflict with the German emperor Fredrik I Barbossa, advocated a diplomatic solution to the conflict and in 1170 sent delegates to make that come about.

In July that year another meeting took place between the two, this time in on the banks of the Loire where the two rode to greet each other, a reunion that allegedly was tearful on both sides, and when they were about to part, Thomas threw himself at the hooves of the king´s horse.

This seemingly amicable reunion turned however out to be worth nothing. While Henry had agreed to pardon Thomas followers, Becket himself gave nothing back in terms of recalling the excommunications of Henry´s noblemen.

After a second meeting, when Henry stated that if Thomas Becket abide by Henry´s wishes, he would have everything but getting no response, the two never met again.

Becket returned to England the first week in December 1170, continuing to aggravate the king, leading up to the sickly Henry uttering the words that since has been changed to the ones found in the headline.

English_-_Carrow_Psalter_-_Walters_W34_-_Reverse_DetailWhat the king really did say was ”What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and promoted in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!”, a phrase not necessarily to be taken as an incentive to murder. But that´s exactly how it was taken by four knights who arrived in Canterbury, seeking an audience with Becket.

They were turned away and allegedly retreated to the still existing house The Conquest, from which they supposedly later made their way to the cathedral through a tunnel which still can be seen on the lower floor of the house.

They found Becket in the cathedral on December 29, 1170, where they basically cut the archbishop to pieces, chopping off the upper half of his skull and spreading his brain on the floor.

There wasn´t much doubt as to who the guilty party was, but the only punishment dealt out was excommunication of the knights. They later travelled to Rome to ask for forgiveness and was ordered to serve in the Holy Land for 14 years.  Henry on his part was being required to do penance before being able to attend church again. As a part of the penance, Thomas 517Becket´s sister was appointed abbess at Barking Abbey in 1173. That same year Becket was also canonised.  Henry also visited Becket´s tomb. In 1220 Becket´s remains were moved from the tomb to a shrine where it was kept until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538.

Today a lit candle marks the place where the shrine used to stand.


Roman Canon Law in the Church of England: six essays – F.W. Maitland

 History of England, At the edge of the world 3 000bc -ad1600  –  Simon Schama

 Thomas Becket, warrior, priest, rebel, victim – John Guy


Thomas Becket – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/Frank Barlow






Canterbury Cathedral

Jag tar en liten paus från personer och händelser för ett inlägg som inte handlar om någondera, men ändå genom århundradena har spelat en viktig roll i Englands historia, och som även var ett av målen för sommarens resa till England: Canterbury Cathedral.


Det är fullkomligt omöjligt att inte i det närmaste känna sig överväldigad när man kommer in i en byggnad som denna katedral, både som byggnadsverk och som plats för historiska händelser. Har man dessutom som jag, och många med mig, sett dramatiseringen av Ken Follets ”Svärdet och Spiran” är det lätt att få en bild av hur det kan ha sett ut när katedralen i Canterbury uppfördes.

Katedralen i Canterbury grundades 597, och är därmed en av de absolut äldsta katedralerna i Storbritannien, och återfinns inte helt oväntat på Världsarvslistan. Mellan 1070 och 1077, byggdes katedralen om helt och hållet till följd av en förödande brand 1067, alltså ett år efter slaget vid Hastings och Wilhelm Erövrarens övertagande av den engelska tronen. Den senaste större ombyggnaden ägde rum 1834.


Katedralen är totalt 160 meter lång med ett mittskepp som är 54 meter långt, 22 meter brett och 24 meter högt. Koret i sin tur är 55 meter långt, 47 meter brett och 22 meter högt. Katedralen har tre torn vilka är vardera 72 meter höga. Tornen hyser totalt 21 klockor, vara av en, Great Dunstan, med sina 3,2 ton är den största kyrkklockan i Kent, grevskapet där Canterbury är beläget och som ringer in varje heltimme. Dunstan har fått sitt namn efter en av de klockor som förstördes i den stora jordbävningen 1382. Den idag äldsta av katedralens klockor heter Bell Harry och varje dag ringer klockan 8 och klockan 21 för att meddela katedralens öppnande och stängande. Bell Harry gjöts 1635.

Katedralen är också sätet för Ärkebiskopen av Canterbury, den anglikanska kyrkans överhuvud. Den förste biskopen, som då naturligtvis representerade den katolska kyrkan 508och Rom, var Augustine av Canterbury, som år 596 skickats till England av påven Gregorius den Store för att kristna saxarna. Sittande biskop, Justin Welby är Canterburys 105:e ärkebiskop i en tradition som nu går tillbaka 1 400 år i tiden.

Under en så lång period har det naturligtvis funnits gott om intressanta levnadsöden, men jag nöjer mig med att här nämna tre som för den som är intresserad av engelsk historia säkerligen är välbekanta:

Thomas Becket, en gång vän till Henry II, krigare, rikskansler och ärkebiskop av Canterbury 1162 till 1170 då han mördades i katedralen på förmodat, men inte säkert, uppdrag av kungen själv. Separat inlägg om Becket kommer att komma.

I katedralen kan man se både var Becket mördades, var skrinet med hans reliker fanns 517fram till reformationen och var han idag vilar.

Thomas Cranmer, ärkebiskop mellan 1533 och 1555. Tillsatt av Henry VIII och inblandad i annulleringen av den sammes äktenskap med Katarina av Aragonien och ledande i den engelska reformationen. Behöll sin post under Edward VI men när denne dog och efterträddes av sin syster Maria I vars främsta mål var att återinföra katolicismen anklagades Cranmer för kätteri och brändes till döds på bål den 21 mars 1556. Cranmers aska spreds för vinden efter hans död, och ingen grav finns.

Reginald Pole tillsattes av Maria I och Canterburys sista katolska ärkebiskop mellan 1556 och 1558. I fråga om den gode Reginald, och till skillnad från de två förstnämnda, är det inte primärt hans gärning som ärkebiskop som är mest spännande (inte i mina ögon i alla fall) utan det faktum att han var barnbarn till George, hertig av Clarence och bror till Edward IV och Richard III samt Isabella Neville, kungamakaren Warwicks äldsta dotter.

Han tillhörde därmed Huset Plantagenet och utgjorde på så sätt ett ”hot” mot Huset Tudor, ett faktum som kostade hans mamma, Margaret Plantagenet, hertiginnan av Salisbury, livet då hon 1541 avrättades under groteska former i Towern. Reginald Pole själv dog dock i influensa i London, mindre än ett dygn efter att Maria I dött. Hans grav finns i Corona kapellet i katedralen.

Katedralen är naturligtvis viloplats för en lång rad historiska personer, inte minst ärkebiskoparna genom århundradena, men jag väljer att nämna Edward av Woodstock, son till Edward III och av sin eftervärld känd som The Black Prince – den Svarte Prinsen, samt Henry IV och hans drottning Joan av Navarra.

Och så ett litet urval av bilder:

509       535