Relation to me: 21st Great-Grandfather
Henry Plantagenet III was also known as Henry of Winchester. He held the titles of Lord of Ireland, Duke of Aquitaine and King of England from 1216 until his death. Henry was the son of King John and his wife Isabella of Angouleme. His father died when Henry was just nine years old in the middle of the First Barons’ War. Cardinal Guala had declared the war against the rebel barons to be a religious crusade and Henry’s forces, which were led by William Marshal, would defeat the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217.
Henry had promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, which had limited his royal power and protected the rights of major barons. His early rule had been dominated by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who had re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, King Henry made an attempt at reconquering the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt, led by William Marshal’s son, Richard, had broke out in 1232, which ended in a peace settlement that was negotiated by the Church. After the revolt, Henry had ruled England by himself, rather than governing through his senior ministers.
Traveling less than his predecessors, he invested in some of his favorite palaces and castles. Henry would marry Eleanor of Province and together they would have five children. He was known for his piety, held lavish religious ceremonies and gave generously to charities. The king was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, who he adopted as his patron saint.
Henry would extract great sums of money from the Jews throughout England, ultimately crippling their ability to do business. As attitudes towards the Jews had hardened, Henry had introduced the Statue of Jewry, attempting to segregate the community. In a fresh attempt to regain his family’s lands in France, he invaded Poitou in 1242, leading to the disastrous Battle of Taillebourg. After the battle he relied on diplomacy, cultivating an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II.
He also supported his brother Richard in his bid to become the King of the Romans in 1256, but was unable to place his own son Edmund on the throne in Sicily, despite having invested large amounts of money. Henry had planned on going on a crusade to the Levant, but he was prevented in doing such by the rebellions in Gascony.
By 1258, Henry’s rule was growing increasingly unpopular. His expensive foreign policies and notoriety of his Poitevin half-brother, the Lusignans, and the role of his local officials in collecting taxes and debts resulted in failure, and a coalition of his barons, who were initially probably backed by Eleanor, had seized power in a coup d’etat. This would expel the Poitevins from England, reforming the royal government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford.
Henry and the baronial government enacted a peace with France in 1259. Under the agreement, Henry gave up his rights to his other lands in France. In return King Louis IX of France recognized him as the rightful ruler of Gascony. The baronial regime collapsed but Henry was unable to reform a stable government. The instability across England would continue and in 1263, one or more radical barons, such as Simon de Montfort seized power, resulting in the Second Barons’ War.
King Louis of France would be persuaded by Henry to support his cause and mobilized an army and the Battle of Lewes would occur in 1264. Henry was defeated and taken as a prisoner. His eldest son, Edward, escaped from captivity and would defeat de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in the next year and then freed his father. Henry had initially enacted a harsh revenge on the remaining rebels, but he would be persuaded by the Church to mollify his policies through the Dictum of Kenilworth.
Reconstruction was slow and Henry had to acquiesce to various measures, including further suppression of the Jews so as to maintain baronial and popular support. In 1272, Henry would pass away, leaving his son Edward as his successor. Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey, which he had rebuilt in the second half of his reign. He was moved to his current tomb in 1290. Some miracles were declared after his death, but he was never canonized.
Young Henry III
Henry was born at Winchester Castle on the 1st of October in 1207, as the eldest son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme. There is not much known of his early life, which seems to be the case among a lot of people this far back in history. He was initially looked after by a wet nurse by the name of Ellen in the South of England, away from his father’s itinerant court. He was probably very close to his mother. Henry also had four legitimate younger brothers and sister: Richard, Joan, Isabella and Eleanor, as well as many other illegitimate siblings that were older than him.
In 1212, Henry’s education was entrusted to Peter des Roches, the Bishop of Winchester. It was under his direction that Henry was given military training by Philip D’Aubigny and taught to ride, most likely by Ralph of St. Samson.
There is not much known about what Henry had looked like. He was probably around five feet and six inches tall. After his death, accounts suggest that he had a strong build with a droopy eyelid. Henry would grow to occasionally show fits of a fierce temper, but had mostly, as historian David Carpenter describes, an “amiable, easy-going, and sympathetic” personality. He was known to have been unaffected and honest, showing his emotions on his sleeve, he’d easily be moved to tears by religious sermons.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the Kingdom of England had formed part of an empire that spread across Western Europe. Henry had been named after his grandfather, Henry II, who had built up this vast network of lands that had stretched from Scotland and Wales, through England, and across the English Channel to the territories of Normandy, Brittany, Maine, and Anjou in the Northwest of France, onto Poitou and Gascony in the Southwest. For many years, the French Crown was pretty weak, which enabled Henry II to first dominate over France, and then his sons Richard and John to do the same.
In 1204, John had lost Normandy, Brittany, Maine and Anjou to Philip II of France. This would leave English power on the continent limited to just Gascony and Poitou. John had raised taxes to pay for military campaigns so as to regain his lands, but unrest had grown among many of the English barons. John also sought new allies by declaring England to be a Papal fiefdom, owing it’s allegiance to the Pope.
During 1215, John and the rebel barons had negotiated a potential peace treaty, the Magna Carta, which would limit the potential abuses of royal power. It also demobilized the rebel armies and set up a power-sharing arrangement. However, in practice, neither of the sides complied with its conditions. John and the loyalist barons firmly repudiated the Magna Carta and the First Barons’ War would erupt with the rebels being aided by Philip’s son, the future Louis VIII. The war had soon settled into a stalemate, and neither side were able to claim victory.
King John had became ill and passed away on the night of October 18th, 1215. The King would leave his nine-year-old son, Henry, as his heir and successor.
Henry’s Minority (1216-1226)
When King John died, Henry was staying safely with his mother at Corfe Castle, located in Dorset, England. On John’s deathbed, he appointed a council of thirteen executors to help Henry reclaim the kingdom. He also requested his son to be placed in the guardianship of William Marshal, one of the most famous knights in England at the time. The loyalist leaders made the decision to crown young Henry immediately, so as to reinforce his claim to the throne. William Marshal had knighted the young boy and Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, the papal legate to England, had overseen the coronation of Henry at Gloucester Cathedral on the 28th of October, ten days after his father passed away. In the absence of the Archbishops of Canterbury or York, Henry was anointed by the bishops of Worcester and Exeter, and then crowned by Peter des Roches. During the nations civil war, the royal crown had been either lost or sold, so instead the ceremony used a simple gold corolla that belonged to Queen Isabella.
The young king had inherited a rather difficult situation. Over half of England had been occupied by rebels and most of his father’s continental possessions were still in the hands of the French. Henry had substantial support, however, from Guala, who had intended to win the civil war for Henry and punish the rebels. Guala set out to strengthen the ties between England the Papacy, starting with the coronation of Henry itself. Henry would give homage to the Papacy, recognizing that the Pope was his feudal lord. Pope Honorius declared Henry as his vassal and ward, and that the legate had complete authority to protect Henry and his kingdom. As an additional measure, Henry took the cross and declared himself a crusader and was thus entitled to special protection from Rome.
Two senior nobles had stood out as candidates to head Henry’s regency government. The first was William Marshal, who, though elderly, was renowned for his personal loyalty and could help support the war with his own men and material. William had diplomatically waited until both Guala and Ranulf had requested for him to take up the post before he’d assume power. Des Roches was then appointed as Henry’s guardian, freeing William to lead the military effort. Ranulf de Blondeville, the Earl of Chester was the second and was one of the most powerful of the loyalist barons.
The war was not going very well for the loyalists and the new regency government had thought about retreating to Ireland. Prince Louis and the rebel barons, however, were also finding it difficult to make any further progress. Even though Louis controlled Westminster Abbey, he couldn’t be crowned as the king because the English Church and Papacy had backed Henry. Upon John’s death, some of the rebel concerns had been defused. The royal castles were still holding out in the occupied parts of the country. In a bid to take advantage of this, Henry encouraged the rebel barons to come back to his cause in exchange for the return of their lands. He also reissued a version of the Magna Carta, albeit having first removed some of the clauses, including those that were unfavorable to the Papacy. The move was unsuccessful though and an opposition to Henry’s new government hardened.
In February, Louis set sail for France to gather reinforcements. In his absence, arguments broke out between Louis’s French and English followers. Cardinal Guala had declared Henry’s war against the rebels to be a religious crusade, which would result in a series of defections from the rebel movement. The tide of the conflict would be in favor of Henry. Louis had returned at the end of April and reinvigorated his campaign, dividing his forces into two groups. One group of his forces was sent to the north with their mission being to besiege Lincoln Castle. He kept the other group in the south, with their mission to be to capture Dover Castle. When he had learned that Louis divided his army as well, William Marshal gambled on defeating the rebels in a single battle.
William marched to the north and attacked Lincoln on the 20th of May. He would enter through a side gate and take the city in a sequence of fierce street battles and sacked the buildings. A large number of senior rebels were also captured. Historian David Carpenter considers this battle to have been “one of the most decisive in English history”. In the aftermath of Lincoln, the loyalist campaign stalled. Only one would recommence in late June, when the victors had arranged the ransoming of their prisoners. Meanwhile, support for Louis’s campaign was falling apart in France. He concluded that the war in England was lost. The French prince negotiated terms with Cardinal Guala, under which he would renounce his claim to English throne. In return, his followers would be given back their lands and any sentences of excommunication would be lifted. Henry’s government would promise to enforce the Magna Carta, but the proposed agreement soon began to unravel. Some of the loyalists would claim that it was generous towards the rebels, particularly the clergy who had joined the rebellion. In the absence of a settlement, Louis stayed in London with his forces that had still remained.
The the 24th of August 1217, the French fleet had arrived off the coast of Sandwich. With Louis’s soldiers, they brought a siege of engines and fresh supplies. Hubert de Burgh, a justiciar of Henry’s would set sail to intercept the men, which would result in the Battle of Sandwich. De Burgh’s fleet scattered the French, capturing their flagship that was commanded by Eustace the Monk, who was probably executed. When news had reached Louis, he entered into a fresh peace negotiation with Henry. Henry, Isabella, Louis, Guala and William would come to agreement which was the final Treaty of Lambeth, also known as The Treaty of Kingston, on the 12th or 13th of September. It had been similar to the first peace offering, but kept out the rebel clergy, who’s lands and appointments had remained forfeited. Louis would accept a gift of 6,666 pounds to speed his departure from England, and he promised to try to persuade King Philip to return Henry’s lands in France. Louis then left England as was agreed and joined the Albigensian Crusade in the south of France.
The Restoration of Royal Authority
With the end of the civil war, Henry’s government had faced the task of rebuilding royal authority across large parts of the country. By the end of 1217, many former rebels were routinely ignoring any instructions from the center, even among Henry’s loyalist supporters there was jealousy as they had believed that they should maintain independent control over the royal castles. Illegally constructed fortifications, known as adulterine castles had popped up all across the country, and the network of county sheriffs collapsed, along with it the ability to raise taxes and collect royal revenues. The powerful Welsh Prince Llywelyn had posed a major threat in Wales and along the Welsh Marches during this time as well.
Despite his success in winning the war, William had far less success in restoring royal power after a peace was met. In part, this was due to William being unable to offer significant patronage, despite expectations from loyalist barons that they would be rewarded. He would try to enforce the traditional rights of the Crown to approve marriages and wardships, but had little success doing so. Nonetheless, he was able to reconstitute the royal bench of judges and reopen the royal exchequer. The government would issue the Charter of the Forest in an attempt to reform the royal governance of the forests. The regency and Llywelyn came to an agreement known as the Treaty of Worcester in 1218. It had generous terms, of which Llywelyn became effectively Henry’s justiciar across Wales and underlined the weakness of the English Crown.
Henry’s mother was unable to establish a role for herself in the regency government. She would return to France in 1217 and married Hugh de Lusignan, a powerful Poitevin noble. William Marshal would fall ill as well and ended up dying in April of 1219. A replacement government was formed around the grouping of three senior ministers including: Pandulf, who was the replacement Papal Legate, Peter des Roches, and Hubert de Burgh, a former justiciar. The three had been appointed by a great council of nobility at Oxford. The government would come to depend on these councils for their authority. Hubert and des Roches were political rivals. Hubert was supported by a network of English barons, des Roches was backed up by nobles from the royal territories in Poitou and Touraine. Hubert had moved decisively against des Roches in 1221, accusing him of treason and then removed him as the King’s guardian. The Bishop would leave England for the crusades. Pandulf was recalled by Rome in the same year, leaving Hubert as the dominant force in Henry’s government. This new government had little success initially. In 1220, through the fortunes of Henry’s government it would begin to improve. The Pope would allow for Henry to be crowned for a second time, using a new set of royal regalia. A fresh coronation was intended to affirm authority of the King. Henry would promise to restore the powers of the Crown and the barons would swear that they would give back the royal castles and pay their debts to the crown, upon the threat of being excommunicated.
Hubert would be accompanied by Henry when he moved into Wales to suppress Llywelyn in 1223. Back in England his forces steadily reclaimed Henry’s castles. The effort against the remaining recalcitrant barons came to a head in 1224 with the siege of Bedford Castle, which Henry and Hubert besieged for eight weeks. Bedford Castle finally fell and almost all of the garrison were executed.
Meanwhile, Louis VIII of France allied himself with Hugh de Lusignan and first invaded Poitou then Gascony. Henry’s army in Poitou was under-resourced and lacked much support from the Poitevin barons. Many of them felt that they were abandoned during the years of Henry’s minority, as a result of this the province had quickly fell. It had become clear that Gascony would also fall, unless reinforcements were sent from England.
In early 1225, a great council approved a tax of 40,000 pounds to dispatch an army, which quickly retook Gascony. In exchange for agreeing to support Henry, the barons demanded the King reissue the Magna Carta as well as the Charter of the Forest. This time, the King had declared them with his royal seal, which gave the new Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest of 1225 much more authority than any previous versions. The barons had anticipated the King would act in accordance with these charters, as he was subject to the law and moderated by the advice of the nobility.
Henry’s Early Rule
Henry assumed formal control over his government in January of 1227, even though some of his contemporaries argued that he was legally still a minor until his twenty-first birthday the following year. The King made Hubert de Burgh the Earl of Kent and gave him extensive lands across England and Wales as a reward for his service during his minority years. Despite his coming of age, Henry had remained heavily influenced by his advisers for his first few years of rule. He would retain Hubert as his justiciar to run the government, and Hubert remain as such for the rest of his life.
The fate of Henry’s family’s lands in France were still uncertain. The reclaiming of these lands would be extremely important to Henry. He had used terms like “reclaiming his inheritance”, “restoring his rights”, and “defending his legal claims” to refer to the territories in diplomatic correspondence. The French kings, however, had an increasing financial, and thus military, advantage over Henry. Even under John, the French Crown had enjoyed considerable, though not overwhelming advantage in resources. Since then however, the balance had shifted even further, with ordinary annual income of the French kings almost doubling between 1204 and 1221.
Louis VIII would pass away in 1226, leaving his twelve year old son, Louis IX to inherit the throne. He would be supported by a regency government. The young French king was in a much weaker position than that of his father. He had faced opposition from many of the French nobility who had still maintained their ties in England. This would lead to a sequence of revolts across the country.
Against this background, in late 1228, a group of potential Norman and Angevin rebels called upon Henry to invade and reclaim his inheritance. Peter de Dreux, the Duke of Brittany, openly revolted against Louis and gave his homage to Henry. King Henry’s preparations for the invasion had progressed slowly. He had had finally arrived in Brittany with an army in May of 1230, his campaign didn’t go over well. Possibly on the advice of Hubert, the King decided to avoid a battle with the French by not invading Normandy. Instead, Henry marched south into Poitou where he campaigned ineffectually over the summer before finally progressing safely onto Gascony. In 1234, a truce was made between Henry and Louis. Henry would return to England, overall achieving nothing. The historian Huw Ridgeway describes the expedition as a “costly fiasco”.
Richard Marshal’s Revolt
Henry’s chief minister, Hubert de Burgh had fallen from power in 1232. His old rival, Peter des Roches, had returned to England from the crusades in August of 1231 and allied himself with Hubert’s growing number of political opponents. He put a case to Henry that his justiciar had squandered royal money and land and was responsible for a series of riots against foreign clerics. Hubert would take sanctuary in Merton College Chapel, but Henry had him arrested and then imprisoned at the Tower of London. Des Roches had taken over the King’s government, backed by a Poitevin baronial faction in England, who had seen this as a chance to take back the lands of which they had lost to Hubert’s followers in the previous decades. Des Roches would use his new authority to begin stripping his opponents of their estates, circumventing courts and the legal process. Complaints from the powerful barons, such as William Marshal’s son Richard had grown and they would argue that Henry was failing to protect their legal rights as was described in the 1225 charters.
A new civil war would break out between des Roches and Richard’s followers. Des Roches would send his armies into Richard’s lands in Ireland and south Wales. In response to these action, Richard had allied himself with Prince Llywelyn and his own supporters rose up in a rebellion in England. Henry was not able to gain clear military advantage and grew concerned that Louis of France may seize the opportunity to invade Brittany, where their truce was about to expire, while he was distracted in his homeland.
Edmund Rich, the Archbishop of Canterbury would intervene in 1234. Rich had held several great councils where he would advise Henry to accept the dismissal of des Roches. Henry eventually agreed to make a peace, but before negotiations were completed Richard died of wounds that he had suffered in the battles, leaving his younger brother Gilbert to inherit his lands. The final settlement was confirmed in May. Henry was widely praised for his humility in his submission to a slightly embarrassing peace agreement. Meanwhile, a truce with France in Brittany had finally expired and Henry’s ally, a Duke by the name of Peter came under fresh military pressure. Henry could only send a small force of soldiers to assist him and Brittany would fall to Louis in November. For the next twenty-four years, Henry would rule his kingdom personally, rather than through his senior ministers.
Henry as a King
Traditionally, the royal government in England centered on several great offices of state. It was filled by powerful and independent members of the baronage. Henry had abandoned this policy, leaving the post of justiciar vacant and turned the position of chancellor into more of a junior role. A small royal council was formed but its role was ill-defined. Appointments, patronage and policy were decided personally by Henry and his immediate advisers, rather than by the larger councils that had marked his early years. The changes had made it a lot harder for those outside of Henry’s inner circle to influence policy or to pursue legitimate grievances, particularly against the King’s friends.
Henry had believed that kings should rule England in a dignified manner, surrounded by ceremony and
ecclesiastical ritual. He also thought that his predecessors had allowed the status of the Crown to decline, so he sought to correct this during his reign. The events of civil war in his youth had deeply effected him. He had adopted Edward the Confessor as his patron saint, hoping to emulate the way in which the Anglo-Saxon king had brought peace to the country and reunited his people in order and in harmony.
Henry would try to use his royal authority leniently, hoping to appease the more hostile barons and maintain a peace in England. As a result, despite his symbolic emphasis on royal power, Henry’s rule was relatively circumscribed and constitutional. Henry generally acted within the terms of charters, preventing the Crown from taking extrajudicial action against the barons, including fines and expropriations that had been common under his father. However, charters didn’t address the sensitive issues of the appointment of royal advisers and the distribution of patronage. They had also lacked any means of enforcement if the King chose to ignore them. Henry’s rule had become lax and careless, which resulted in the reduction of royal authority in provinces, ultimately leading to the collapse of his authority at court. Inconsistency with which he had applied the charters over the course of his rule would alienate many of his barons, even those within his own faction.
The term “parliament” would first appear in the 1230s and 1240s. It was used to describe the large gatherings of the royal court. Parliamentary gatherings would be held periodically throughout Henry’s reign and were used to agree to the raising of taxes, which in the 13th century were single, one-off levies and were typically on movable property. These were intended to support the King’s normal revenues for particular projects. During Henry’s reign, counties started to send regular delegations to the parliaments to represent a broader cross-section of the community than just the major barons.
Despite the various charters in Henry’s time, provision of royal justice was inconsistent and driven by the needs of immediate politics. On other occasions some problems would simply be ignored. Royal eyres, courts that had toured the country to provide justice at the local level were held by lesser barons and the gentry that claimed grievances against the major lords. They had little power and this would allow the major barons to dominate the local justice system. Power of royal sheriffs had also declined during Henry’s reign. There were now often lesser men that were appointed by the exchequer, rather than coming from important local families. The royal sheriffs would focus on generating a revenue for the King. Their robust attempts to enforce fines and collect debts generated unpopularity among the lower classes towards the sheriffs. Unlike King John, Henry’s father, he did not exploit the large debts that the barons had frequently owed to the Crown. Henry was slow to collect any sums of money that were due to him.
The royal court was formed around Henry’s trusted friends, including: Richard de Clare, the brothers Roger and Hugh Bigod, Humphrey de Bohun and Henry’s own brother, Richard. King Henry had wanted to use his court to bring together his English and continental subjects, including Simon de Montfort who had originally been a French knight and had married Henry’s sister, Eleanor, and then became the Earl of Leicester. Henry’s court had also followed the European styles and traditions, which were heavily influenced by Henry’s Angevin family traditions.
French was the spoken language at court, since Henry had close links to the royal courts of France, Castile, the Holy Roman Empire and Sicily. Henry would travel less than his predecessors, seeking a more tranquil, more sedate lifestyle. He would stay at each of his palaces for long periods of time before moving on. He had focused more attention on his palaces and houses. According to architectural historian John Goodall, Henry was “the most obsessive patron of art and architecture ever to have occupied the throne of England”. Henry had extended the royal complex at Westminster in London, which had been one of his favorite homes. He had rebuilt the palace and abbey at the cost of nearly 55,000 pounds. He would spend more time in Westminster than had any of his predecessors, shaping the formation of England’s capital city. In all Henry had spent 58,000 pounds on his royal castles.
At the Tower of London, Lincoln and Dover, Henry would carry out major work, both military defenses and internal accommodation of these were significantly improved. At Windsor, a huge overhaul of the castle produced a lavish palace complex. The style and detail there would inspire many subsequent designs in England and in Wales. The Tower of London was extended to form a concentric fortress, with extensive living quarters. Even though Henry had primarily used the castle as a secure retreat in the event of war or civil strife, he also kept a menagerie here. This was a tradition of his father’s as well. Henry’s exotic specimens had included an elephant, leopard and camel.
Henry had also reformed the system of silver coins in England in 1247. This would replace the older Short Cross silver pennies with the new Long Cross design. Due to its initial costs of transition, Henry required financial help from his brother Richard to undertake the reform, but the re-coinage occurred quickly and efficiently. In 1243 through 1258, the King assembled two great hoards, or stockpiles of gold. In 1257, rather than selling the gold quickly and depressing its value, Henry chose to introduce gold pennies into England. The gold pennies would resemble the gold coins that were issued by Edward the Confessor, but were overvalued currency, which attracted complaints from the City of London, and was ultimately abandoned.
Henry was known for publicly demonstrating his piety and appears to have been genuinely devout. He promoted rich, luxurious Church services and unusually for the time, he attended mass at least once a day. He also gave generously to religious causes. He had paid for the feeding of five hundred paupers each day and also helped orphans and fasted before commemorating Edward the Confessor’s feasts, even possibly washing the feet of lepers.
He would also regularly go on pilgrimages, particularly to the abbeys of Bromholm, St. Albans and Walsingham Priory. However, he appears to have at times used these pilgrimages as an excuse to avoid dealing with his pressing political problems. Henry would share many of his religious views with King Louis of France. The two appear to have been somewhat competitive in their piety. Towards the end of his reign, Henry may have taken up the practice of curing sufferers of scrofula, often called “the King’s evil”. He would touch these people, possibly emulating Louis, who also had taken up the practice. Henry was famous for his vast collection of Passion Relics and stored them at Sainte-Chapelle. In 1241, Henry had paraded the Holy Cross through Paris. Then in 1247, he took possession of the relic of the Holy Blood, marching it through Westminster and then installed it in Westminster Abbey, which he had promoted as an alternative to Sainte-Chapelle.
He was particularly supportive of mendicant orders and his confessors were drawn from Dominican Friars. Henry would build mendicant houses in Canterbury, Norwich, Oxford, Reading and York, helping to find valuable space for new buildings, in what were already crowded towns and cities. Supporting military crusading orders, Henry became a patron of the Teutonic Order in 1235. Universities that were emerging in Oxford and Cambridge had also received royal attention. Henry would reinforce and regulate their powers, encouraging scholars to migrate from Paris to teach at them. Their rival institution at Northampton was declared as the King’s to be a mere school and not a true university.
The support that was given to Henry by the Papacy during his early years had a lasting influence on his attitude towards Rome. Henry would defend the mother church diligently throughout his reign. Rome in the 13th century was at once both the center of Europe-wide Church and political power in central Italy.
During Henry’s reign, the Papacy had developed a strong, central bureaucracy. Tensions between this practice and the needs of local parishioners grew, exemplified by his dispute with Robert Grossertete, the Bishop of Lincoln and the Papacy in 1250.
Even though the Scottish Church had become more independent of England at this time, Papal Legates had helped Henry continue to apply his influence over its activities at a distance. Pope Innocent IV’s attempts to at raising funds had begun facing opposition from within the English Church during Henry’s reign. In 1240, Papal emissary’s collection of taxes to pay for the Papacy’s war with the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II began. This had resulted in protests and Frederick was ultimately overcome with the help of Henry and the Pope. During the 1250’s, Henry’s crusading tithes had faced a similar resistance.
Henry’s Jewish Policies
The Jews of England during this time were considered to be property of the Crown. They had traditionally been used as a source of cheap loans and easy taxation, in exchange for royal protection against antisemitism. Jews had suffered considerable oppression during the First Barons’ War, but during Henry’s early years the Jewish community had flourished and became one of the most prosperous in Europe, primarily as a result of the stance taken by the regency government. The government had taken a range of measures to protect the Jews and encouraged lending, driven by financial self-interest, as they had stood to profit greatly from the strong Jewish community in England. Their policy had ran counter to instructions being sent from the Pope, who had laid out strong anti-Jewish measures at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. William Marshal would continue with his policy even though there were complaints from the Church.
In 1239, Henry would introduce different policies, possibly trying to imitate those of Louis of France. Jewish leaders across the country were imprisoned and then forced to pay fines, equivalent to a third of their goods. Any outstanding loans were to be released, further huge demands for cash had followed. In 1244, forty thousand pounds were demanded, for example around two-thirds had been collected within just five years, destroying the Jewish community’s ability to lend money commercially. Henry had built Domus Conversorum in London in 1232 so as to help convert Jews to Christianity, efforts would then intensify after 1239. As many as ten percent of the Jews in England would convert to Christianity by the late 1250s. Anti-Jewish stories had involved tales of child sacrifice would also flourish at this time. In response, Henry had passed the Statute of Jewry in 1253. This would be an attempt to segregate the Jews and also forced them to wear Jewish badges. It remains unclear to what extent this was actually implemented by Henry.
Henry had investigated a range of potential marriage partners in his youth, but they had all proved unsuitable, either for reasons of European and domestic politics. However, in 1236, Henry had finally married Eleanor of Province. Eleanor was the daughter of Raymond Berengar, the Count of Provence and
Beatrice Savoy. She was well-mannered, cultured and articulate. The primary reason for the couple to be married was political, Henry had stood to create a valuable set of alliances with rulers of the south and southeast of France. Over the upcoming years, Eleanor had emerged as a hard-headed and firm politician. Historians Margaret Howell and David Carpenter have described her as being “more combative” and “far tougher and more determined” than Henry was.
The couple’s marriage contract was confirmed in 1235 and Eleanor had traveled to England to meet with Henry for the first time. The pair were married at Canterbury Cathedral in January of 1236 and then Eleanor was crowned as queen at Westminster not long after, in a lavish ceremony that had been planned by Henry. A substantial age gap was between the couple, Henry was twenty-eight, while Eleanor was just twelve years old. Margaret Howell, a historian, observed that the King “was generous and warm-hearted and prepared to lavish care and affection on his wife”. Henry had given Eleanor extensive gifts and also paid his personal attention to establishing and equipping her with a household. He had also bought her fully into his religious life, including involving her in his devotion to Edward the Confessor.
Despite some concerns that the Queen may be barren, Henry and Eleanor had five children together. In 1239, she had given birth to their first child, Edward. He was named after Edward the Confessor and Henry was overjoyed and held huge celebrations. He had also gave lavishly to the Church and the poor to encourage God to protect his young son. Eleanor and Henry’s first daughter, Margaret, had followed a year later. She was named after Eleanor’s sister. Margaret’s birth was also accompanied by celebrations and donations to the poor.
The couple’s third child, Beatrice had been born two years later, in 1242, and she was named after Henry’s mother-in-law. Beatrice was born in Poitou during one of Henry’s campaigns. They welcomed their fourth child, Edmund, in 1245. He was named after the 9th century saint. Concerned with Eleanor’s health, Henry donated large amounts of money to the Church throughout his wife’s pregnancy. Their final child, a daughter, was born in 1253, and she was named Katherine. She had soon fell ill, possibly as a result of a degenerative disorder, such as Rett syndrome. She was not able to speak and passed away in 1257, leaving Henry distraught. Their children would spend most of their childhood’s at Windsor Castle. Henry appears to have been extremely attached to them, rarely spending long periods of time apart from his family.
After Eleanor’s marriage to Henry, many of her Savoyard relatives joined her in England. At least one hundred and seventy Savoyards arrived in England after 1236, coming from Savoy, Burgundy and Flanders, including her uncles: Boniface, who would become the Archbishop of Canterbury and William, who became Henry’s chief adviser for a short time. Henry would arrange marriages for many of them into the English nobility, a practice that had initially caused friction with the English barons. Whoever resisted had their lands passed into hands of foreigners. The Savoyards were careful not to exacerbate the situation and became increasingly integrated into English baronial society, forming an important power base for Eleanor in England.
Poitou and the Lusignans
In 1241, barons in Poitou, including Henry’s step-father, Hugh de Lusignan, rebelled against the rule of Louis of France. The rebels would count on the aid of Henry, but they lacked domestic support. Henry was slow to mobilize an army, they wouldn’t arrive in France until the following summer.
Henry’s campaign was hesitant and was further undermined by Hugh, who had switched sides and returned his support to Louis. On May 20th, Henry’s army was surrounded by the French at Taillebourg. Henry’s brother, Richard, had persuaded the French to delay their attack and the king took the opportunity to escape to Bordeaux. Simon de Montfort, who had fought successfully in a rearguard action during the withdrawal, was furious with the King’s incompetence. He told Henry that he should be locked up like 10th Century Carolingian king, Charles ‘the Simple’. Poitou’s rebellion then collapsed and Henry entered into a fresh five-year truce. His campaign would be a disastrous failure and cost England 80,000 pounds.
In the aftermath of the revolt, the French power extended throughout Poitou, threatening the interest of the Lusignan family. In 1247, Henry encouraged his relatives to travel to England where they were rewarded with large estates, mostly at the expense of the English barons. Afterwards, more Poitevins had followed, until around one hundred of them had settled in England. Around two-thirds of them were also granted substantial incomes worth sixty-six pounds or more by Henry. He would encourage some of them to help him on the continent, others had acted as mercenaries and diplomatic agents, or had fought on his behalf in his European campaigns. Many were given estates along the contested Welsh Marches or in Ireland, where they had protected the frontiers. For Henry, community was an important symbol of his hopes to one day reconquer Poitou. The rest of Henry’s French lands, and many of the Lusignan’s as well, became close friends with Henry’s son, Edward.
The presence of Henry’s extended family in England had proved to be controversial. Concerns had been raised by contemporary chroniclers, especially the works of Roger de Wendover and Matthew Paris. The term “Poitevins” became a loosely applied term to this grouping, although many had come from Anjou and other parts of France. By the 1250s, there was a fierce rivalry between the relatively well established Savoyards and newly arrived Poitevins. The Lusignans started to break the law with impunity, pursuing personal grievances against other barons and the Savoyards. Henry had taken little or no action to restrain them. By 1258, the general dislike of the Poitevins had turned into hatred. Simon de Montfort was one of their strongest critics.
Scotland, Wales and Ireland
Henry’s position in Wales had been strengthened during the first two decades of his personal rule. After the death of Llywelyn the Great in 1240, Henry’s power in Wales expanded. Three military campaigns were carried out in the 1240s. New castles were constructed, royal lands in the County of Chester were expanded, which increased Henry’s dominance over the Welsh princes. Dafydd, Llywelyn’s son, resisted incursions, but he had died in 1246. Henry confirmed the Treaty of Woodstock in the following year, with Owain and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Llywelyn the Great’s grandsons. Under the Treaty, they ceded their land to the King but had retained the heart of their princedom in Gwynedd. In southern Wales, Henry had gradually extended his authority across the region, but the campaigns were not pursued with much vigor. The king did little to stop the Marcher territories along the border becoming increasingly independent of the Crown.
In 1256, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd had rebelled against King Henry and widespread violence had spread across Wales. Henry promised a swift military response, but ended up not carrying through on his threats. Ireland was an important area to Henry, both as a source of royal revenue and as a source of estates that could be granted to his supporters. The royal revenue, on average would send 1,150 pounds from Ireland to the Crown each year during the middle of Henry’s reign. The major landowners looked to the east to Henry’s court for political leadership, many also possessed estates in Wales and in England as well.
The 1240’s saw major upheavals in land ownership, due to deaths among the barons, enabling Henry to redistribute Irish lands to his supporters. In the 1250s, Henry gave out numerous grants of land along the frontier of Ireland to his supporters. This had created a buffer zone against the native Irish. Local Irish kings began to suffer increased harassment, as the English power increased across the region. These lands were, in many cases, unprofitable for the barons to hold and English power had reached its zenith under Henry for the medieval period. In 1254, Henry would grant Ireland to his son, Edward, on the condition that it would never be separated from the Crown.
Henry maintained peace with Scotland during his reign. He was the feudal lord of Alexander II and thus assumed he had the right to interfere in Scottish affairs, which brought up the issue of his authority with the Scottish kings at key moments. Henry had lacked inclination or resources to do much more. Alexander had occupied parts of northern England during the First Barons’ War, but had been excommunicated and forced to retreat. He then married Henry’s sister, Joan in 1221. After the marriage, Henry had signed the Treaty of York in 1237, securing the northern frontier of England. Despite Alexander’s refusal to give homage to Henry for Scotland, the two had continued their relationship on good terms. Henry would have Alexander and Margaret rescued from Edinburgh Castle when they were imprisoned there by the rebellious Scottish barons in 1255 and also took additional measures to manage Alexander’s government during the rest of his minority years.
Henry’s European Strategy
Henry had no further opportunity to reconquer his possessions in France after the collapse of his military campaign at Taillebourg. His resources were really inadequate in comparison to those of the French Crown. By the end of the 1240s it was clear that King Louis had become the preeminent power across France. Henry would instead adopt what historian Michael Clanchy had described as a “European Strategy”, attempting to regain his lands in France once more. Through diplomacy, rather than force, Henry built alliances with other states that were prepared to put military pressure on the King of France, hoping to turn against Louis or allow his nobility to join Henry’s campaigns. In the process, Henry’s attention became increasingly focused on European politics and events rather than domestic affairs.
During the 13th Century, crusading was a popular cause. In 1248, Louis had joined the ill-fated Seventh Crusade, having first made a fresh truce with England and receiving assurances from the Pope that he would protect his lands against any attack by the English King. Henry may have joined the crusade himself, but the rivalry between the two kings made this pretty much impossible. After Louis’ defeat at the Battle of Al Mansurah in 1250, Henry instead announced that he would undertake his own crusade to the Levant. Henry had started to make arrangements for passage with friendly rulers around the Levant region. He’d impose efficiency savings on the royal household and arranged for ships and transport, appearing almost over-eager to take part. His plans reflected his strong religious beliefs, but they also stood to give him additional international credibility when arguing for the return of his possessions in France.
King Henry’s crusade would never depart as he was forced to deal with his problems in Gascony, where harsh policies of the King’s lieutenant, Simon de Montfort, had provoked a violent uprising in 1252. The uprising was supported by King Alfonso X of the neighboring Castile. The English court was split over the problem, Simon and Eleanor argued that the Gascons were to blame for the crisis. Henry, backed by the Lusignans, blamed Simon’s misjudgment, King Henry and Eleanor had quarreled over the issue and were not reconciled until the following year. Being forced to intervene personally, Henry carried out an effective, yet expensive, campaign with the help of the Lusignans and stabilized the province. Alfonso had signed a treaty of alliance in 1254. Gascony was given to Henry’s son Edward and he married Alfonso’s half-sister, Eleanor, delivering a long-lasting peace with Castile.
Upon his return from Gascony, Henry met with Louis for the first time in an arrangement set up by their wives. The two kings became close friends. The Gascon campaign had cost more than two-hundred thousand pounds and used all money that was intended for Henry’s crusade. This left him heavily in debt and reliant on loans from his brother Richard and the Lusignans.
The Sicilian Business
Henry didn’t give up on his hopes of going on crusade, but he had become increasingly absorbed in a bid to acquire the wealthy Kingdom of Sicily for his son Edmund. Sicily was controlled by Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire, for many years a rival of Pope Innocent IV. Upon Frederick’s death in 1250, Pope Innocent had started to look for a new ruler, one that was more amenable to the Papacy. Henry saw Sicily as both a valuable prize for his son and as an excellent base for his crusading plans in the east. With minimal consultation within his court, Henry came to an agreement with the Pope in 1254 that Edmund should be the next king. Innocent had urged Henry to send Edmund, along with an army, to reclaim Sicily from Frederick’s son Manfred, offering to contribute to the expenses of the campaign.
Pope Innocent would be succeeded by Alexander IV, who had been facing increasing military pressure from the Empire. He could no longer afford to pay for Henry’s expenses, instead he demanded that the King compensate the Papacy for the ninety-thousand pounds that had been spent on the war so far, only to be rebuffed. Further attempts would follow though. By 1257, only partial parliamentary assistance had been offered. Alexander had grown increasingly unhappy about Henry’s prevarication. In 1258, Alexander sent an envoy to England, threatening to excommunicate Henry if he hadn’t first paid his debts to the Papacy and then send the promised army to Sicily. Parliament had again refused to assist the King in raising the money, instead Henry had turned to extorting money from his senior clergy, who were forced to sign blank charters. These charters promised to pay effectively unlimited sums of money in support of the King’s efforts, raising around 40,000 pounds. The English Church felt that the money had been wasted, vanishing into the long-running war in Italy.
Henry tried to influence the outcomes of the elections in the Holy Roman Empire in the meantime, which would appoint a new King of the Romans. When the more prominent German candidates had failed to gain traction, Henry started to back his brother Richard’s candidature. Richard would give donations to his potential supporters in the Empire and was elected in 1256 with the expectations of possibly being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor, but had continued to play a major role in English politics. In England, his election had faced a mixed response. Richard was believed to provide a moderate, sensible council, his presence was missed in the English barons, but he’d also faced criticism, which was probably incorrectly, for funding his German campaigns at England’s expense. Although Henry had now increased his support in the Empire for potential alliance against Louis of France, the two kings were now moving towards a potential settling of their disputes peacefully. For Henry, a peace treaty could allow him time to focus on Sicily and his crusade.
Henry’s Later Reign (1258-1272)
In 1258, Henry had faced a revolt among the English barons. Anger among them had grown about the way that the King’s officials were raising funds, the influence of the Poitevins at court and Henry’s unpopular Sicilian policy. Even the English Church had grievances over its treatment by the King. The Welsh were still in an open revolt and had now allied themselves with Scotland. King Henry was also critically short on money, although he had still had some reserves of gold and silver. The amount of reserves were totally insufficient to cover Henry’s expenditures, including the campaign for Sicily and his debts to the Papacy. Critics darkly suggested that Henry had never really intended to join the crusades, but was simply intending to profit from the crusading tithes. To compound the situation, the harvests in England had failed as well. Within Henry’s court there was a strong feeling that the King would not be able to lead the country through these problems.
The discontent had finally erupted in April of 1258. Seven of the major English and Savoyard barons had secretly formed an alliance to expel the Lusignans from court. These seven barons included: Simon de Montfort, Roger and Hugh Bigod, John Fitzgeoffrey, Peter de Montfort, Peter de Savoy and Richard de Clare. This move was probably also quietly supported by the Queen as well. On the 30th of April, Roger Bigod had marched into Westminster in the middle of the King’s parliament, backed up by his co-conspirators. They would together carry out a coup d’etat. Henry, afraid that he was about to be arrested and imprisoned, agreed to abandon his policy of personal rule, instead he would govern through a council of twenty-four barons and churchmen, half of which were chosen by Henry and half by the barons. However, Henry’s own nominees to the council had been drawn heavily from the hated Lusignans.
Pressure for the reform would continue to grown unabated and a fresh parliament would come together in June. They would pass a set of measures that would be known as the Provisions of Oxford. Henry would swear to uphold provisions that would create a smaller council of fifteen members, who would be elected solely by the barons. They would then have the power to appoint England’s justiciar, chancellor and treasurer, which would be monitored through tri-annual parliaments. The pressure from the lesser barons and gentry that were present at Oxford had also helped to push through a wider reform. This was done to intentionally limit the abuse of power by the King’s officials and the major barons. The new government had immediately took steps to exile the leading Lusignans and seize key castles that were located across the country.
Disagreements between the leading barons that were involved in a revolt had soon become evident. De Montfort had championed radical reforms, that would place even further limitations on the authority and power of major barons as well as the Crown. Others, such as Hugh Bigod, had promoted only a moderate amount of change. The conservative barons, such as de Clare, had expressed concerns about the existing limitations on the King’s powers. Henry’s son, Edward, had initially opposed the revolution, he would later ally himself with de Montfort, helping him pass the radical Provisions of Westminster in 1259. This would would introduce even further limits on the major barons and local royal officials.
Through the next four years, neither Henry, nor the barons, were able to restore the stability in England. Power had swung back and forth between the different factions. One of the priorities for the new regime though, was to settle the long-running dispute with France. At the end of 1259, Henry and Eleanor had left for Paris to negotiate the final details of a peace treaty with King Louis, escorted by Simon de Montfort and most of the baronial government. Under this treaty, Henry would give up any claim to his family’s lands in the north of France, but he would still be confirmed as the legitimate ruler of Gascony and various neighboring territories in the south, he would also give homage and recognize Louis as his feudal lord for these possessions.
When de Montfort had returned to England, Henry, who was supported by Eleanor, had remained in Paris where he would seize the opportunity to reassert his royal authority and also started to issue royal orders independently of the barons. Henry had finally returned to retake power in England in April of 1260, where conflict was brewing between de Clare’s forces and those of de Montfort and Edward. Henry’s brother Richard would mediate between the parties and averted a military confrontation. Edward was then reconciled with his father and de Montfort was put on trial for his actions against the King. Henry was unable to maintain his grip on his power and in October a coalition, headed by de Montfort, de Clare and Edward, had briefly seized back control. Within just a few months, their baronial council had collapsed into chaos as well.
Henry had continued to publicly support the Provisions of Oxford, but he had secretly opened discussions with Pope Urban IV, hoping to be absolved from the oath he had made at Oxford. In June of 1261, King Henry had announced that Rome had released him from his promised, and he quickly held a counter-coup with the support of Edward, purging the ranks of the sheriffs of his enemies and taking back control over many of the royal castles. The baronial opposition, which was led by de Montfort and de Clare, were temporarily reunited in their opposition to Henry’s actions. They would bring their own parliament together, independent from the King, and established a rival system of local government across England. Henry and his wife would mobilize their own supporters, raising a foreign mercenary army as well. Facing the threat of a civil war, the barons had decided to back down. De Clare would switch sides once again and de Montfort left for exile in France and the baronial resistance collapsed.
The government under Henry had relied mostly on Eleanor and her Savoyard supporters. Henry tried to settle the crisis permanently by forcing the barons to agree to the Treaty of Kingston. The treaty would introduce a system of arbitration to settle outstanding disputes between the King and the barons, while using Richard as the initial adjudicator, being backed up by Louis of France, in case Richard failed to generate a compromise.
Henry had softened some of his policies in response to some concerns of the barons. He had soon started to target his political enemies and recommence his unpopular Sicilian policy. His government was weakened when de Clare passed away, as his heir Gilbert had sided with the radicals. The king’s position was further undermined by major Welsh incursions along the Marches and the Pope’s decision to reverse his judgment on the Provisions, this time confirming them to be legitimate. By the early part of 1263, Henry’s authority had disintegrated and the country slipped back towards an open civil war.
The Second Barons’ War
In April of 1263, de Montfort returned to England, convening a council of rebel barons in Oxford to pursue a renewed anti-Poitevin agenda. A revolt would break out in the Welsh Marches not long after this. By October, England had faced a likely civil war between Henry, who was backed by Edward, Bigod and conservative barons, and Montfort, de Clare and the radicals. De Montfort marched to the east with an army as London rose up in a revolt. Henry and Eleanor were trapped inside the Tower of London by the rebels. The Queen tried to escape up the River Thames to join her son’s army at Windsor, but she was forced to retreat back to London by the crowds. De Montfort took the pair as prisoners. Even though he had maintained a fiction of ruling in Henry’s name, the rebels had completely replaced the royal government and household with their own trusted men.
De Montfort’s coalition quickly began to fragment. Henry regained his freedom of movement and a renewed chaos spread across England. Henry appealed to Louis of France for arbitration in the dispute, as was laid out in the Treaty of Kingston. De Montfort was initially hostile to this idea, but as the war became more likely, he had decided to agree to the French arbitration as well. Henry left and went to Paris in person, accompanied by de Montfort’s representatives. Initially, de Montfort’s legal arguments held sway, but in January of 1264, Louis announced the Mise of Amiens. This would condemn the rebels, upheld the King’s rights, and annulled the Provisions of Oxford. Louis had his own strong views of the rights of kings over those of the barons, but he was also influenced by his wife Margaret, who was Eleanor’s sister, and by the Pope. Eleanor would leave Paris to assemble mercenary reinforcements, but Henry wouldn’t return to England until February of 1264. When he got back, violence was brewing in response to the unpopular French decision.
The Second Barons’ War finally started in April of 1264 when Henry led an army into de Montfort’s territories in the Midlands, then advanced to the southeast to reoccupy the important route to France. Becoming desperate, de Montfort marched in pursuit of Henry and the two armies met at the Battle of Lewes on the 14th of May. Despite their numerical superiority, Henry’s forces were overwhelmed. Henry’s brother, Richard, was captured, Henry and his son Edward would retreat to the local priory and then surrendered the following day. Henry was then forced to pardon the rebel barons and reinstate the Provisions of Oxford, leaving him, as historian Adrian Jobson describes: “little more than a figurehead”. De Montfort was not capable of consolidating his victory and a widespread disorder persisted across the country. In France, Eleanor would make plans for an invasion of her own on England, with the support of Louis of France. Edward escaped his captors in May and formed a new army of his own. He would then pursue de Montfort’s forces through the Marches, before striking the east in the attack on the fortress at Kenilworth, then returning once more to be a rebel leader himself. He, along with the captive Henry, were not capable of retreating and the Battle of Evesham ensued.
Edward was triumphant, and de Montfort’s corpse was mutilated by the victors. Henry, who was wearing borrowed armor, was almost killed by his own son’s forces during the fighting, before they recognized the King and escorted him to safety. In some places, the now leaderless rebellion dragged on. Some of the rebels gathered at Kenilworth, which Henry and Edward took after a long siege in 1266. The remaining areas of resistance were mopped up. The final rebels that were holed up in the Isle of Ely, surrendered in July of 1267, marking the end of the war.
Reconciliation and Reconstruction
Henry had quickly taken revenge on his enemies after the Battle of Evesham. He had immediately ordered the sequestration of all the rebel lands, triggering a wave of chaotic looting across the country. Henry had initially rejected any calls for moderation, but in October of 1266, he was persuaded by the Papal Legate, Ottobuono de’ Fieschi, to issue the less draconian policy, the Dictim of Kenilworth. This had allowed for the return of rebel lands, in exchange for payment of harsh fines. The Statute of Marlborough had followed in 1267, it had effectively reissued much of the Provisions of Westminster and placed limitations on powers of local royal officials and major barons, but without restricting central royal authority. Most of the exiled Poitevins began to return to England after the war. In September of 1267, Henry made the Treaty of Montgomery with Llywelyn, recognizing him as the Prince of Wales and giving him substantial land concessions.
In the final years of Henry’s reign, he was increasingly infirm and focused on securing peace within the kingdom and his own religious devotions. Henry’s son Edward became the Steward of England and started to play a more prominent role in the government. Henry’s finances were in a precarious state because of the war, and when Edward chose to join the crusades in 1268 it had become clear that fresh taxes were necessary. Henry was concerned that with his son’s absence that further revolts would be encouraged. He was swayed by his son to negotiate with multiple parliaments over the next two years to raise the money for Edward’s crusade. De Montfort had exacted harsh penalties on the Jews, but Henry initially reversed them. He would reintroduce a range of anti-Jewish measures under the pressure of the parliament in the final years of his reign. Henry also continued to invest in Westminster Abbey, which had become a replacement for the Angevin mausoleum at Fontevraud Abbey. During 1269, he had overseen a grand ceremony to rebury Edward the Confessor in a lavish new shrine, personally helping to carry the body to its new resting place.
The Death of a King
During 1270, the 8th Crusade was underway, led by Louis of France. Henry’s son, Edward, would also attend, but his father became increasingly ill, and concerns about a fresh rebellion grew. In the following year, King Henry wrote to his son asking him to return to England, but Edward did not turn back. Henry did recover slightly and announced his renewed intention to join the crusades himself, but he never did regain his full health. On the evening of the 16th of November 1272, Henry passed away in Westminster, probably with his wife Eleanor at his side. He was succeeded by his son Edward, who had slowly made his way back to England via Gascony, finally arriving in August of 1274.
At Henry’s request, he was buried in Westminster Abbey, in front of the church’s high altar, in the former resting place of Edward the Confessor. A few years later, work started on the grander tomb for the King, in 1290, Edward would move his father’s body to its current location in the Abbey. Henry’s gilt-brass funeral effigy was designed and forged within the abbey grounds by William Torell. It is unlike any other effigy of the period and is particularly naturalistic in style, but is probably not a close likeness of Henry himself.
Eleanor had probably hoped that he would be recognized as a saint, as his contemporary Louis IX of France had been. Henry’s tomb did resemble the shrine of a saint, complete with niches, possibly intended to hold relics. When the King’s body was exhumed in 1290, contemporaries noted that the body was in perfect condition. His long beard had still remained and was well preserved, which at the time was considered to have been an indication of saintly purity. Miracles had began to be reported at the tomb, but Edward was skeptical about these stories, reports had ceased and Henry was never canonized. Two years later Henry’s heart was removed from his tomb and was then reburied at Fontevraud Abbey with the bodies of his Angevin family.