Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Revolting Rebels & a Meh King

So we got no crown jewels, no treasury, no religion, Frenchies plundering & pillaging, peeps milling about aimlessly going wouldja lookit this mess, & John's heir was a 9 yo boy, Henry of Winchester. The Scots traditionally love a good regency throughout their history & that's b/c kidlet kings dunno nuffin & can be taken advantage of real good. John's widow Isabella of Angouleme offered up a gold bracelet to crown the poor kid w/ & then promptly decamped to Lusignan to marry her old BF's kid ICK.  She left her 5 children by John in England; there was also Richard, Duke of Cornwall, Joan, Isabella, & Eleanor, who wasn't even a yr old.  Isabella went on to have 11dy6 more kids w/ Hugh Jr, some of whom would aggravate the English merely by breathing.

Hubert de Burgh, who was the only peep John had left at the end, William Marshal (so called b/c he was the Lord Marshal of England), & Rannulf de Chester, said to be a bastard rellie via the prolific Henry I, formed the locus of the regency council & tried to restore order.  W/ John gone, the peeps all banded together & hurled out the Frenchies, thumbing their noses at the claim that Louis's wife Blanche, being the eldest surviving child of John's sole surviving sib, Eleanor of Castile, was entitled to be Queen of England.  There were always more goodies to be made off a regency & the boy king was made to swear to uphold Magna Carta. They glared sternly at the Welsh & so there was peace in the realm for a change.

They contracted a nice marriage for Henry w/ Eleanor of Provence.

stone carving of Eleanor of Provence

The only problem was, Eleanor had a slew of poor rellies coming out of the woodwork for goodies once she was queen, & Isabella kept busily breeding Lusignan half-sibs who also wanted goodies, & a papal legate called Peter des Roches, who'd crowned Henry, kept hanging round ingratiating himself into the chancellorship, so by the time Henry was old enough to be in charge by himself peeps were muttering about his outrageous expenditures & glaring at the queen & assorted sibs. Plus he was quite interested in the latest craze for cool Gothic architecture & toddled about building lots of nice cathedrals & castles. Cathedrals were mighty expensive & sometimes took like 50 yrs to build, so twas an ongoing drain on the treasury & peeps were unfussed about the taxes thing. John had lost Normandy & Aquitaine to the Frenchies, so Henry's kingdom was substantially reduced as was his tax base. The only good thing they had to say about Henry was at least he wasn't off dragging them into all sorts of foreign wars like Richard & old Henry had.

Alas, Richard of Cornwall, the 2nd son, was said to be more kingly & able.  Richard had a knack for making money hand over fist but unlike Henry, he didn't give it all away.  He married William Marshal's youngest sister Isabella after the demise of her 1st DH, Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, & he mainly resided in sunny southern France keeping an eye on the few Plantagenet possessions left there.  He also was offered the crown of King of the Romans & then took up residence in Italy.  There was another tiresome Crusade & Richard went on that w/ his bro-in-law, Simon de Montfort. 

The youngest princess, Eleanor, had been married to the 40 yo Marshal as a child of 9, & William demised when she was 16, on the night of Henry & Eleanor of Provence's wedding.  Some said heart attack, some said poison, & Peter des Roches, now the Bishop of Winchester, snickered & spread the tale that the voracious sexual demands of the princess had kilt the old man.  Peeps bought into this b/c of how John & Isabella were & it made a splendidly salacious tale to bandy about.  Eleanor was so distraught that she took a vow of perpetual chastity over her DHs bier & vowed never to wed again, until de Montfort crossed her path 3 yrs later.  He was from a family that had to choose did they wanna keep their Normandy stuff or their English stuff when John lost French possessions, & he was reknowned as a great warrior & popped over to England to see if mayhap he couldn't get the family's English goodies back.  He managed to get the earldom of Leicester back, but it was pretty run down & he needed a rich wife.  He almost married some rich older widows, Mahaut of Bolougne & Joan of Flanders.  But once Simon & Eleanor started making eyes at each other, there was a seecrud wedding posthaste & it cost him plenty of groats to dash off to Rome & get Eleanor's grief-stricken vows erased.  This was necessary to accomplish posthaste b/c Eleanor was said to be already 6 mos pregnant w/ their 1st son, Henry, when they got hitched.  The king was irked b/c he'd already made great matches w/ his other 2 sisters; Isabella married the Emperor of Germany, Frederick, while Joan was sent over the wall to wed Alexander II, King of Scots (no breeding there & Joan got to come home after Alex demised).  The barons were irked b/c Kenilworth was a great stronghold (de Montfort had made it impregnable by flooding the land around it & placing it in the middle of a lake) & Eleanor's riches went into improving it.  They started to look at him sideways & hmmm'd a lot.

Kenilworth Castle ruins today (sans lake)

Henry was ignoring Magna Carta now that he was a grownup & constantly looking for new ways to squeeze his peeps for money.  He was horrendously in debt b/c he never pd anyone back.  Then he ticked Simon off at the christening of the new Prince Edward, Henry's 1st child, by accusing Eleanor of having committed adultery w/ Simon whilst still married to William Marshal & accusing Simon of seduction & abduction for marrying his sister, even tho he'd given his consent for the wedding when he found out Eleanor was breeding.  Warrants were issued & the de Montforts fled to Italy, where Simon went on Crusade w/ Richard & Frederick for a while.  Then Henry got in trouble w/ the barons for wasting more money on a useless war in Sicily, trying to win a crown for his 2nd son Edmund, & said he would rescind the arrest warrants if Simon would come back to help him out of his jam.  While in Italy, the de Montforts had a 2nd son, Simon.  In all they had 5 boys, w/ the additions of Amauri, Guy, & Richard, & a daughter Eleanor who was known as the Demoiselle.

To Henry's shock, Simon emerged as the leader of the baronial opposition once he'd had a look-see at Henry's doings.  Henry was made to sign off on the Provisions of Oxford, sort of a codicil to Magna Carta, & told to straighten up & fly right.  Of course he pffft'd at this just as his father had, & continued doing what he pleased.  Simon & his peeps took up arms against the king & trounced him at the battle of Lewes, where he, his bro Richard, & his heir Edward were taken prisoner.  De Montfort was king in all but name, & was responsible for inventing parliamentary elections w/ widespread representation to curb royal power, & peeps started looking at him sideways again, thinking he'd gone too far now.

Edward managed to escape (with the help of the Mortimer Welsh Marcher lords) & raised the royal standard, making a daring attack on Kenilworth & sneakily helping himself to de Montfort banners along w/ his cuz Henry of Almain, Richard's son by Isabella Marshal (Richard had 3 wives in total).  Simon was expecting to rendezvous w/ a lg force led by Simon Jr, & Edward's use of the captured banners fooled de Montfort into thinking his allies were approaching & not his enemies.  Edward annihilated Uncle Simon's troops at the battle of Evesham, violating Sanctuary (when you went into a church you were supposed to be safe from attack) & yanking peeps out of it to butcher them.  Henry de Montfort was also killed there, but Dad suffered the worst, as Edward had Simon's body hacked into pieces & sent all over the place, incl his head to the Mortimer peeps. 

medieval manuscript illustration depicting
Simon de Montfort's mutilation

In return, 1/2 a doz yrs later Simon Jr & Guy de Montfort murdered Henry of Almain in an Italian church as he clung to the altar & screamed for sanctuary, just as their bro Henry had done.

Edward restored Dad's honors, crushed the baronial opposition, dusted off his gloves & considered it a fine day's work.  Hey, it was his Dad; reckon it didn't matter to him that he was a lazy, weak, vacillating spendthrift.  Then he went on Crusade to the Holy Land.  He was on the way home when he found out Henry was demised.

tomb effigy of Henry III in Westminister Abbey

Edward was known as Longshanks b/c he was really tall, but once he assumed the duties of kingship he was also known as a PITA in the Welsh behind & the Hammer of the Scots. Yes, those formerly blue peeps had come out of the woodwork, being heartily sick of haggis & salivating for steaks & burgers once more. Longshanks has the distinction of having the most impressive set of little swimmers ever seen in an English king & how he had time for all this warfare w/ all the begetting he did is a mystery to this day, b/c he kept at it into his late 60s w/ his 2nd wife....

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