The story of our family...for my sons

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eleanor Plantagenet...15th Great Grandmother

Directly back through the Stewarts and Allens we come to the House of Plantagenet, a royal dynasty that produced the fourteen Kings of England who ruled England for the 331 years from 1154 until 1485. The male line Plantagenets descended from the Angevin Counts of Anjou. It is claimed the name arose because Geoffrey V of Anjou wore a sprig of the common broom in his hat, this became his nickname Plantegenest [1] derived from the broom's Latin name Planta genista. His nickname was not an hereditary surname and only began to refer to the dynasty from the mid-15th Century.

Geoffrey married the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I of England, who vied with Stephen of Blois for the English throne for a twenty-year period in what became known as the Anarchy. After Stephen's death in 1154 the English crown passed to Henry II, Geoffrey and Matilda's son, under the terms of the Treaty of Winchester. By this and his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine Henry accumulated a vast and complex feudal holding, the so-called Angevin Empire, that at its peak stretched from the Pyrenees to Ireland and the border with Scotland.

The Royal House ended in 1399 as the dynasty splintered into two competing cadet branches: The House of Lancaster and The House of York. Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the legitimate male line became extinct with the execution of his nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick in 1499.

The era was typified by intermittent but frequent conflict between the Plantagenets, Roman Catholic Church, the English Barons, the Kings of France, the Welsh, Scots, Irish and in later years a developing middle class. This included what is now called the the Anarchy, First Barons' War, the Second Barons' War, the Hundred Years' War, the Peasants' Revolt, Jack Cade's rebellion and the Wars of the Roses. To be a successful Plantagenet monarch required military success and some of the Plantagenets were renowned as warriors. Richard I of England had distinguished himself in the Third Crusade. Edward I of England was known as "Hammer of the Scots". This comes from the Latin inscription on his tomb, which reads Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus hic est, 1308. Pactum Serva ("Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots, 1308. Keep the Vow").[2] Edward, the Black Prince gained fame at the fields of Crécy and Poitiers, but died on campaign before succeeding to the crown. Henry V of England left his mark with a famous victory against larger numbers at the Battle of Agincourt.Out of this conflict largely driven by the English Barons' reluctance to support the Plantagenet's personal continental ambition developed lasting social developments sector such as Magna Carta. This was often driven by weakness in the Plantagenet position forcing them to compromise in accepting constraints on their power granting rights and privileges in return for financial and military support.Winston Churchill, for example, argued that "[w]hen the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns".[3]

The reign of the Plantagenet Kings saw a re-adoption of what was to become the English language. The Norman and Angevin aristocracy had little or no understanding of the language of the greater part of the population. They spoke Norman French or the Langues D'Oc and Latin was the language of record. In 1362, at the high point of the Plantagenet kingship Edward III made English the official language of royal courts and parliaments with the Statute of Pleading.[4] English was transformed from the language of serfs into one fit for poetry and scholarship. Among others the Pearl Poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and William Langland created a distinctive English culture and art.

The Plantagenets transformed the English landscape with significant building and patronage of the arts. Westminster Abbey, Windsor, York Minster, the Welsh Castles and the golden age of cathedral building in the Gothic style are the most significant examples of this. Richard I foundered Portsmouth as a military town, King John Liverpool and Henry III Harwich. London prospered and brick building was reintroduced for the first time since the Romans

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