John was an able administrator interested in law and government but he neither trusted others nor was trusted by them. Heavy taxation, disputes with the Church (John was excommunicated by the Pope in 1209) and unsuccessful attempts to recover his French possessions made him unpopular. Many of his barons rebelled and in June 1215 they forced the King to sign a peace treaty accepting their reforms. This treaty, later known as Magna Carta, limited royal powers, defined feudal obligations between the King and the barons, and guaranteed a number of rights. The most influential clauses concerned the freedom of the Church; the redress of grievances of owners and tenants of land; the need to consult the Great Council of the Realm so as to prevent unjust taxation; mercantile and trading relationships; regulation of the machinery of justice so that justice be denied to no one; and the requirement to control the behaviour of royal officials. The most important clauses established the basis of habeas corpus ('you have the body'), i.e. that no one shall be imprisoned except by due process of law, and that 'to no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice'. The Charter also established a council of barons who were to ensure that the Sovereign observed the Charter, with the right to wage war on him if he did not. Magna Carta was the first formal document insisting that the Sovereign was as much under the rule of law as his people, and that the rights of individuals were to be upheld even against the wishes of the sovereign. As a source of fundamental constitutional principles, Magna Carta came to be seen as an important definition of aspects of English law, and in later centuries as the basis of the liberties of the English people. As a peace treaty Magna Carta was a failure and the rebels invited Louis of France to become their king. When John died in 1216 England was in the grip of civil war.
The Plantagenet periodwas dominated by three major conflicts at home and abroad. Edward I attempted to create a British empire dominated by England, conquering Wales and pronouncing his eldest son Prince of Wales, and then attacking Scotland. Scotland was to remain elusive and retain its independence until late in thereign of the Stuart kings.In the reign ofEdward III theHundred Years War began, a struggle between England and France.At the end of thePlantagenet period, the reign of Richard II saw the beginning of the long periodof civil feuding known as the War of the Roses.For the next century, the crown would bedisputed by two conflicting family strands, the Lancastrians and theYorkists.
The period also saw the development of new social institutions and a distinctive English culture. Parliament emerged and grew. The judicial reforms begun in the reign ofHenry II were continued and completed by Edward I. Culture began toflourish. Three Plantagenet kings were patrons of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry.During the earlypart of the period, the architectural style of the Normans gave way to theGothic, in which style Salisbury Cathedral was built. Westminster Abbey wasrebuilt and the majority of English cathedrals remodelled. Franciscan and Dominican orders began to beestablished in England, while the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had theirorigins in this period.
Amidst the order of learning and art, however, weredisturbing new phenomena. The outbreak of Bubonicplague or the 'Black Death' served to undermine military campaigns and causehuge social turbulence, killing half the country's population.The price rises and labour shortage whichresulted led to social unrest, culminating in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.
THE PLANTAGENET DYNASTIES
1216 - 1485
HENRY III = Eleanor, dau. of Count of Provence
Eleanor, = EDWARD I
dau. of (12721307)
King of Castile
EDWARD II = Isabella, dau.
(13071327) of PHILIP IV,
King of France
EDWARD III = Philippa, dau. of Count
(13271377) of Hainault and Holland
Edward, Prince = Joan, dau. of Earl Lionel, Duke = Elizabeth Blanche of = John, Duke = Katharine Swynford,
of Wales, of Kent (son of Clarence de Burgh Lancaster of Lancaster dau. of Sir Roet
The Black Prince of EDWARD I) of Guienne
RICHARD II Edmund, = Philippa Mary = HENRY IV John Beaufort,
(13771399) Earl of March Bohun (13991413)
Roger, Earl = Eleanor HENRY V (1) = Katherine, dau. John Beaufort,
of March Holland (14131422) of CHARLES VI, Duke of Somerset
King of France
Richard, Earl = Anne HENRY VI Margaret Beaufort = Edmund Tudor,
of Cambridge Mortimer (14221461, Earl of Richmond
Richard, Duke = Cecily Elizabeth of York, = HENRY VII
of York Neville dau. of EDWARD IV (14851509)
EDWARD IV = Elizabeth, dau. RICHARD III
(14611470, of Sir Richard (14831485)
EDWARD V Elizabeth = HENRY VII
HENRY III (1216-1272)
Henry III, King John's son, was only nine when he became King. By 1227, when he assumed power from his regent, order had been restored, based on his acceptance of Magna Carta. However, the King's failed campaigns in France (1230 and 1242), his choice of friends and advisers, together with the cost of his scheme to make one of his younger sons King of Sicily and help the Pope against the Holy Roman Emperor, led to further disputes with the barons and united opposition in Church and State. Although Henry was extravagant and his tax demands were resented, the King's accounts show a list of many charitable donations and payments for building works (including the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey which began in 1245). The Provisions of Oxford (1258) and the Provisions of Westminster (1259) were