Kings and Kingdoms of England and France (973-c.1350)

three_orders.jpg image by aBlueKnight

Compiled by Dr. Richard Abels 

for HH315: Age of Chivalry and Faith at the United States Naval Academy.

Copyright 2009

(Feel free to use this document for academic purposes, but please provide proper citation)




c.950-1300   Period of steady demographic and economic growth in Western Europe.  The population of Europe (excluding Russia) more than doubled, growing from about 30 million people in A.D. 1000 to about 70-80 million in 1250, after which population growth leveled off until it began to decline in the fourteenth century.  The greatest population growth occurred in western and southern Europe.  Demographic growth was supported by (and, in turn, supported) an expansion of food resources.  European agricultural production increased markedly between c. 900-1300, especially between 1050 and 1250.  This represented both extensive and intensive agricultural growth. Most of the increase in grain production came from expanding the acreage under cultivation. (There is little good evidence for a significant increase in the crop yield to seed ratio, which for wheat remained between 3.5:1 and 4:1.) The increase in arable acreage under cultivation was the result of both natural and human action.  The climate of northern Europe between c.950 and c.1300 climate was warmer than in the early Middle Ages. This Medieval Climate Optimum meant longer growing seasons and the ability to cultivate lands further north and expand the repetoire of crops. Human activity took the form of extensive woodland clearance (assarting) and draining of marshes, both encouraged and funded by nobles who granted freedom to serfs willing to establish new villages in woodland clearances. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries marked the period of the greatest deforestation in Western European history. By 1250 there were few trees left in France large enough for ship masts and cathedral beams. New farming practices also resulted in higher crop yields. The most important of these was the shift from a two field system, in which half the land always lay fallow, to a three-field system of crop rotation.  Closer integration of animal husbandry and cereal agriculture led to more efficient manuring (animal and human manure were the main sources of fertilizer).  More extensive cultivation of beans and peas, nitrogen-fixing crops, not only improved peasant diets but also helped restore the soil’s fertility. Technology also played a role, especially the widespread use of the heavy plow with iron coulter and plowshare and mouldboard, which allowed cultivation of the fertile heavy clay lands of northern Europe.  The invention of the horse collar and horseshoes made possible the replacement of oxen with horses for plowing and transport; the latter was especially important in reducing transportation costs for marketing. Underlying all these innovations were improvements in mining and metallurgy that increased the supply and reduced the cost of iron.  The period 950-1300 also witnessed the widespread use of watermills and vertical (post) windmills (introduced, c.1180), not only for grinding grain but for the production of iron, textiles, paper, and beer.

The expansion of agricultural production encouraged and made possible the growth of towns, increased trade, and an integrated European-wide monetized commodity economy. Flourishing textile industries arose in the towns of Flanders (Bruges, Ypres, Brussels) and northern Italy.  Regions became economically interdependent (e.g. in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Flemish cloth makers depended upon English wool grown in Yorkshire.) Between the late twelfth and the late thirteenth centuries, the fairs of Champagne in France served as wholesale markets linking the merchants and clothmakers of Flanders and Italy. During the thirteenth century the growth of international trade led to the emergence of banking houses in Italy which developed instruments of financial exchange that side-stepped the Christian prohibition on money-lending (usury).


973   Edgar the Peace-keeper’s coronation at Bath, marking the emergence of the Kingdom of England from the kingdom of the West Saxons. After reigning 14 years, King Edgar the Peace-keeper (r.959-975) was crowned king of England—probably for a second time—at Bath, an old Roman town on the West Saxon/Mercian border, in a consciously “imperial” ceremony meant to emphasize his rule over a united English people. The coronation service was devised by Archbishop Dunstan and celebrated with a poem in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  Soon after, Edgar held court at Chester, where the Celtic kings and rulers of northern Britain formally submitted to him, pledging to be his faithful men “on land and sea” [in land and naval warfare]. The twelfth-century medieval chronicler John of Worcester preserved a tradition in which eight British kings rowed Edgar's state barge on the River Dee with the king at the rudder. In that same year, Edgar, in a practical demonstration of royal power, reformed the English coinage and ordered scheduled recoinages every six years, a system that survived past the Norman Conquest.

From the Kingdom of Wessex to the Kingdom of England (by way of the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, 886-973): Edgar’s reign marks the culmination of the efforts of the West Saxon dynasty of King Alfred the Great (r.871-899) to expand its power over the formerly independent kingdom of Mercia and the Danelaw (English territories that had been conquered by the Danes). King Alfred, like his father and grandfather, had been king of the West Saxons, the tribal kingdom in southwestern England. Between 866 and 878, the Danish “Great Heathen Army” had overrun all the kingdoms of England except for Wessex, which had almost succumbed to them in the winter of 877 when its king Alfred was driven to take refuge in the fens of Somerset.  Alfred’s victory in the Battle of  Edington in 878 saved his kingdom and left the House of Wessex as the only remaining native English dynasty still ruling in Britain. Alfred’s treaty with the viking King Guthrum recognized the latter as king of East Anglia and Alfred as king of Wessex and overlord of the western half of the now kingless Mercian kingdom. Alfred’s subsequent military reorganization of his kingdom, based upon the building of fortified towns (burhs), the transformation of the ad hoc levies of the royal army (fyrd) into a mounted standing army, and the building of a small navy, proved its value during the crisis of 893-896 when a second Great Army attempted without success to conquer Wessex.  From 886, when Alfred took control of and restored  Mercian London, until his death in 891, Alfred bore two royal titles: King of the West Saxons and King of the “Anglo-Saxons” [literally the West Saxons and the Anglian Mercians]. To him equally important for the defense of the kingdom was the program he sponsored for reviving Christian learning in England. This entailed the establishment of a court school to promote literacy, the insistance that royal officials be literate in the vernacular, Alfred himself translated several books that he deemed essential for acquiring “wisdom” from Latin into Anglo-Saxon (Pope Gregory I the Great’s Pastoral Care, Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, Augustine’s Soliloquies, the first fifty Psalms)  His son Edward the Elder (r.899-924) and his grandsons Athelstan (r.924-939), Edmund I (r.939-946), and Eadred (946-955) made the claim of a Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons into a reality by militarily extending West Saxon rule northward into the territories of the “Danelaw” (the northern and eastern regions of England conquered and settled by the Danes}. Edgar, who succeeded after his elder brother Eadwig’s brief reign, consolidated these conquests. By the crowning of 973, the Kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons can accurately be called the Kingdom of England.”

Edgar’s nickname Pacificus is usually translated as Peaceable or Peaceful but probably ought to be translated as “Peace Keeper.” Edgar’s reign was characterized by freedom from threats of foreign invasion or viking raiding (due in part to the strong navy that Edgard maintained), prosperity, estblishment of uniformity of coinage, weights, and measures, and ecclesiastical reform. Edgar was a strong supporter of monastic reform, lending royal muscle to the efforts of the saints Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, Bishop Æthelwold of Winchester, and Bishop Oswald of Worcester to replace secular canons at minster churches with monks and to restore the rule of St. Benedict in English monasteries. Among the monasteries either founded or restored during Edgar’s reign were Ely, Ramsey, and Peterborough. One result was that Edgar’s reign was a golden age for Anglo-Saxon art.  A penny issued by Edgar. Miniature of the Baptism of Christ, in Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, folio 25, 971x979; St Æthelthryth, on fols. 90v-91r.. Edgar’s support of the monastic reform, which entailed the forced purchase of lands for monasteries, led to a anti-monastic reaction during the brief reign of his eldest son King Edward the Martyr (r.975-978].

978-1016   Reign of Æthelred II the Unready and the Second Wave of Viking Invasions of England.  Æthelred became king in 978 at the age 10 when his half-brother King Edward the Martyr was murdered, probably by supporters of Æthelred’s mother. His reign was dominated by a renewed wave of viking invasions, beginning with low intensity raiding in the 980s, which intensified in 991 when a large raiding fleet defeated the Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, in the Battle of Maldon. The result was the first of a series of large tribute (gafol) payments to purchase truces. The taxes through which these tributes were raised are popularly known as the “danegeld.”  In 994 a large viking fleet led by King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark and a Norwegian prince Olaf Tryggvason laid siege to London and were bought off with another large tribute payment. Soon after, Æthelred contracted a formal peace treaty with Olaf Tryggvason, who enriched with English silver returned to Norway to seize the throne. Many of his followers, however, settled in England and received employment as royal mercenaries. After three years of peace, the raiding began again in 997 and continued almost annually for the remainder of Æthelred’s reign. In 1002, after having paid a large tribute to a viking fleet, Æthelred boldly ordered a massacre of the remnants of the army of 994, who despite their oaths of the king had aided the raiders (the St. Brice’s Day Massacre, see below). In the same year Æthelred married a Danish princess Emma as part of an Anglo-Norman alliance designed to close Norman ports to viking fleets. The St. Brice’s Day Massacre backfired, as it led King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark to return to England in 1003 with a large fleet, to avenge the massacre. He was joined in 1009 by an independent fleet under the command of the viking adventurer Thorkell the Tall.  Even more tribute payments followed. In 1012 Thorkell’s men disobeyed his orders and murdered the captive Archbishop of Canterbury Ælfheah.  Thorkell, fearing loss of control over his men, entered the employ of King Æthelred as a mercenary captain, just in time (1013) to fight for the king against a full-scale invasion by King Swein Forkbeard.  Despite Thorkell’s loyal service, Swein’s forces intimidated the English ealdormen into submitting to him. With only the city of London remaining loyal to him, Æthelred prudently withdrew to Normandy. Swein was accepted as king by the English nobility in late 1013 but died a few months later. The Danish fleet swore loyalty to Swein’s son Cnut, but the English nobility invited Æthelred to resume his kingship on the understanding that he would rule more justly. Cnut was defeated and returned to Denmark, but in 1015 court intrigues led the king’s eldest son Edmund Ironside to revolt against his father and his favorites. Father and son reconciled when Cnut returned in 1015. Æthelred died on 23 April 1016 while fighting a losing war against Cnut.

          Æthelred the Unready has become a byword for ineffectuality, but this is perhaps unfair to him. His nickname, although critical, is misleading. Æthelræd Unræd is an Anglo-Saxon pun that can be translated as “Noble Counsel, No Counsel,” and refers to Æthelred’s notoriously poor judgment in choosing advisers and generals (notably the treacherous Earl Eadric Streona of Mercia). He has been criticized, especially in the twentieth century, for his policy of buying off viking raiders with tribute (popularly called “danegeld”), which has been characterized as “appeasement.” This is well captured in Rudyard Kipling’s poem of 1911, “Dane-geld (980-1016)”:

 IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:
"We invaded you last night - we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."


And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
  But we've  proved it again and  again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
  You never get rid of the Dane.

 More recently historian Simon Keynes has attempted to balance this criticism by observing that Æthelred’s poor reputation is largely the consequence of his negative portrayal in the main source for the reign, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was written after his defeat and death. Æthelred’s reign was also marked by general economic prosperity (despite the raiding) and cultural accomplishments. The reign witnessed a flowering of manuscript art and literature, represented by the ecclesiastical, political, and historical works of Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham, Archbishop Wulfstan of York, and the monk Byrhtferth of Ramsey. Although Æthelred paid thousands of pounds in tribute to vikings, he also took vigorous measures to improve the civil defense of the realm. The archaeological evidence points toward a major program of refortifying boroughs (sometime replacing earthen and wooden defenses with stone walls). In 1008 he ordered England to be divided into naval ship districts of 300 “hides” (the hide was a unit of taxation based on a notional 120 acres of land] and decreeing that a mail coat and helmet be produced from every eight hides of land. The bottom-line, however, is that none of Æthelred’s measures succeeded and it is difficult to save him from the criticism that he trusted the wrong people and either promoted or allowed political divisions and intrigues within his court that weakened England’s ability to fight off viking invasions. Penny issued by Æthelræd Unræd, 997x1003. King with witan, from illustrated OE Hexateuch, c.1000. Map of viking campaigns, 991-1005.

987   Capetian dynasty of France. Hugh Capet crowned king of France, ending the Carolingian dynasty of West Francia. The Capetian dynasty that Hugh founded ruled France until 1328.  Until 1204, the Capetian kings of France directly ruled over only the Ile-de-France, a region in north central France centered on Paris, and were too weak to have a significant influence on the unification of France. The real power in eleventh-century France was in the hands of dukes, counts, and castellans (barons who possess territory controlled by castles). The great contribution of the early Capetians to the growth of French royal power was their ability to live long enough to crown their sons while they still lived, which transformed the French monarchy from an elective office (i.e. chosen by a consensus of the counts, dukes, and bishops) to a hereditary office. Although the power of the early Capetians was limited, they had considerable authority because of the support given to them by the French episcopacy, which promoted the idea of theocratic kingship.

989   Peace of God. Synod of Charroux (at a Benedictine monastery in La Marche in western France on the border of Aquitaine): beginning of the Christian “Peace of God” movement. Threatens excommunication “for attacking or robbing a church, for robbing peasants or the poor of farm animals—among which the ass is mentioned but not the horse which would have been beyond the reach of a peasant—and for robbing, striking or seizing a priest or any man of the clergy who is not bearing arms. Making compensation or reparations could circumvent the anathema of the Church.” Subsequent peace councils were held at Poitiers (1011-14) and Limoges (994, 1028, 1031, 1033).


  991   The Battle of Maldon.  A large viking raiding fleet was intercepted near Maldon, Essex, by Ealdorman Byrhtnoth and the fyrd [royal military levies] of Essex. Byrhtnoth was killed and the English defeated in the battle that followed. The English were compelled to the pay the vikings tribute (gafol], the first in a series of such payments. The main reason for the fame of the battle, however, is literary rather than historical, owing to a famous Anglo-Saxon heroic poem of 325 lines, The Battle of Maldon, which has been frequently translated and anthologized. The poem, written well after the event, possibly as late as c.1030, is a valuable window on to the heroic values of the late Anglo-Saxon warrior aristocracy. Viking weapons and army (Universitetets Oldsaksamling, Oslo) Danish longship: reconstruction of Skuldelev 2 (c.1042), Roskilde. Viking shield wall (reenactors)


1002  On St. Brice’s Day Massacre (13 November), King Æthelred the Unready, reacting to rumors of a plot to kill him and his advisers, ordered a massacre of “all the Danish men who were in England (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). Although this sounds like an order for genocide, it’s unlikely that Æthelred’s goal was to kill everyone of Danish descent, which would have been impossible given the density of Scandinavian settlement in the north and east of England (the Danelaw). The more likely target was the bands of Danes who had taken service with Æthelred in 994 and who had settled in England as royal mercenaries. In the previous year (1001), many of them had betrayed their oaths by making common cause with a large viking fleet that was ravaging the southern shires.  Whatever its overall extent, the massacre was real enough. A royal charter issued to a church in Oxford recounts how the Danes of that town took refuge in the church which was then burnt down around their heads in accordance with the king’s decree “that  all the Danes who had sprung up in the island, like cockle among the wheat, were to be destroyed by a most just extermination.” The St. Brice’s Day Massacre was one prong of a two prong strategy to limit England’s vulnerability to viking raiding. The other was Æthelred’s marriage in that same year to a Norman princess, Emma, as part of an Anglo-Norman alliance designed to close the ports of Normandy to Danish raiders. Historians, half facetiously, have remarked that the ability to order a concerted massacre of Danes throughout his realm is testimony to the administrative effectiveness of King Æthelred’s government. Be that as it may, the massacre proved to be a strategic blunder as well as a crime, apparently provoking the Danish King Swein Forkbeard and the Danish viking captain Thorkell the Tall to return to England in the following years to wreak revenge.


1013-1014  King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark conquers England. Abandoned by the English nobility, King Æthelred the Unready takes refuge in Normandy.  Swein is crowned king of England but dies soon after, and Æthelred is restored to the kingship.


1016  Cnut the Great, son of King Swein Forkbeard of Denmark and (briefly) England (r.1013-1014), crowned king of England. In 1016 Cnut defeated King Edmund Ironside (r.1016/d.1016) in the battle of Ashingdon, which led to a treaty dividing England in half. When King Edmund died a few months later, Cnut (r.1016-1035) was recognized as king of all of England. Cnut ruled over a northern empire that included Denmark, England, Norway, and southern Sweden. Cnut divided England into four great earldoms, which he entrusted to “new men”: the Englishmen Godwin and Leofric and the Danes Thorkell the Tall and Siward. To shore up his legitimacy, he married Emma, the Norman widow of his predecessor King Æthelred II the Unready (r.978-1014, 1015-1016), whose two sons by the late king, Alfred and Edward, had taken refuge in Normandy. He consciously projected the image of a Christian king, even going on pilgrimage to Rome in 1027 to attend the coronation of the Salian Conrad II as Roman Emperor. As English king he emphasized continuity with the Anglo-Saxon past, reflected in the great law code written for him by Archbishop Wulfstan of York, the author of the law codes issued by Æthelred II the Unready. Cnut, however, recognized that his rule rested upon a foundation of military power and maintained throughout his rule a standing fleet of 40 warships and a large, well organized royal bodyguard (housecarls) paid for by imposing a tax (heregeld) upon his English subjects.  Cnut was succeeded by his sons King Harold Harefoot (r.1035-1040] and King Harthacnut [r.1040-1042]. English penny of King Cnut; Cnut’s remain in Winchester Cathedral; Cnut and Queen Emma present a cross to Winchester Church, from the Liber Vitae of New Minster, Winchester, c.1031

File:Donjon Gisors001.jpg1010s-c 1020  Events described in The Agreement of Hugh IV of Lusignan and Count William V of Aquitaine,” a text that relates a dispute between a Poitevin castellan and his lord, the count of Aquitaine, over the former’s claims to castles and lands held by his kinsmen. The text portrays the events from the viewpoint of the “wronged” vassal, who protests his love and loyalty for his lord, despite being repeatedly lied to and betrayed. Hugh eventually is driven to “defy” (i.e. formally withdraw loyalty from) Count William, who responds to Hugh’s threat of war by reconciling with his erstwhile vassal. The “Agreement” should be read as a justification for Hugh’s violation of his oath of loyalty. The political world revealed by the “Agreement” was one in which power derived from the possession of castles and horsemen/knights (at this point serving men rather than nobility). Hugh’s disagreements with Count William were over contested property. Hugh claimed castles that his kinsmen had held from the Count. William insisted that these castles were comital grants, to be given and revoked at the pleasure of the count. The famous “Letter of Bishop Fulbert of Chartres on the duties of faithful men to their lords” written in 1020 in response to a query by Count William V.  Both works serve as invaluable windows on to the value system underlying lordship in early eleventh-century France and on to the political tensions between counts and the castellans who were their “men.”

1027   Truce of God. Council of Toulouges (in eastern Pyrenees) proclaims the “Truce of God,” prohibiting warfare on Sundays and holy days.

1033   Peace of God.  Peace council at Limoges adds merchants to list of noncombatants protected by the Peace of God.


1042-1066  Reign of King Edward the Confessor of England.  Edward, the son of King Æthelred the Unready and the Norman princess Emma, returned from Normandy to succeed his half-brother King Harthacnut. Edward the Confessor was the penultimate Anglo-Saxon ruler of England and the last from the House of Wessex (the dynasty of King Alfred the Great]. Edward’s reign was marked generally by prosperity and peace, though the latter was marred by conflict with the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and with political intrigues and civil war arising from political tensions within Edward’s court, due in large measure to the favoritism that Edward showed toward Norman kinsmen and clerics.  Map of England in the reign of Edward the Confessor.

Anglo-Saxon Government and Law under Edward the Confessor.. The institutions of Anglo-Saxon government and law were precocious by eleventh-century standards. Central administration belonged to the king and his council of advisers, the Witan, made up of the two archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, kinsmen of the king, and great magnates. The king issued his orders to royal officials through a written instrument known as the sealed writ. The realm was divided into administrative districts known as shires (later the counties of England), with each shire being subdivided in hundreds or wapentakes, the latter appearing in the “Danelaw,” areas in the north and east where Danish settlement had been the greatest. Shires, hundreds, and wapentakes had administrative, judicial, military, and financial functions. Local administration was in the hands of earls (previously known as ealdormen), entrusted with rule over several shires each; bishops, who were both spiritual leaders of the church and royal officers in their diocese; shire-reeves (sheriffs), the king’s agents in the shires, who oversaw the king’s lands, conveyed and enforced royal orders, and presided over the public courts of the shire that met twice a year to hear major disputes over land and adjudicate crimes committed by powerful men; borough reeves, who performed a similar function in royal towns (boroughs], including presiding as judges in borough courts; lesser reeves and royal thegns (owners of at least five hides of ‘bookland’  who were responsible for the payment of financial and military dues owed from their land] who attended the courts of the hundred which met monthly and where most local civil and criminal disputes were tried. At the end of the tenth century, juries of twelve leading men in each hundred and wapentake court were tasked with bringing criminal charges against malefactors in the localities, the ancestor of the jury of presentment instituted in the second half of the twelfth century by King Henry II (see under 1154 below). Maintenance of the peace was a duty of the royal reeves and of all free men. Because there was no public police force, all free males over 12 were required to swear public oaths to the king not to be a thief or to aid a thief, and were organized into groups of ten (tithings) that were held responsible for crimes committed by their members. (This system was called frankpledge after the Norman Conquest.] All free men were also responsible for answering a “hue and cry” to pursue thieves and other criminals. In this system bishops were both spiritual leaders of the church and royal officers.  The English aristocracy, known as thegns, legally defined as those owning at least 600 acres of taxable property [five hides of land], were considered to be king’s men responsible for maintaining public peace and enforcing royal orders, regardless whom they took as their personal lords.

               Law was public and royal. Anglo-Saxon kings legislated in consultation with their witans, and royal law codes survive from the seventh century on. The courts of the shire, hundred, and borough were public and presided over by royal officials, and the king’s court served as a court of appeals. Law was a mechanism for raising revenues, as the guilty were compelled to pay fines to the Crown as well as to make restitution. Some monasteries and bishops enjoyed immunities, which meant that the abbot or bishop rather than a sheriff enforced law, presided over the courts, and collected the fines of justice, but such “liberties” were less prominent in England than on the Continent. Legal procedures were traditional and placed a great deal of weight on communal opinion. Proof was established by oaths and ordeals. To clear oneself of an accusation, a defendant was required to produce a specified number of oath-helpers (depending upon his rank and the severity of the accusation0 who were to swear to his innocence. Ordeals placed the determination of guilt or innocent in God’s hand, but whether an ordeal was successfully passed or not was often a matter of communal consensus. For example, in the ordeal of fire the accused had to carry a red-hot iron a specified number of steps, after which his burnt hands would be bandaged. After three days his hands were unwrapped in the presence of the court. If they festered, he was guilty. If they were healing normally, he was innocent. The judgment as to which was the case was left to the suitors of the court.

               The late Anglo-Saxon State was particularly well developed in terms of taxation and military recruitment, both of which were based upon the ownership of land.  The taxable liability of land was assessed in “hides,” a notional 120 acres of land, thought in the eighth century to be the minimum needed to support a free family. Taxes were levied on the basis of hidage, as were military dues. Every five hides of land owed the Crown one armed and provisioned warrior for sixty days of military service in the royal army (fyrd] if the king went on expedition. That meant that landowners were required to recruit and outfit soldiers on the basis of their landed wealth. Landowners with less than five hides were organized into five hide units and were made jointly responsible for producing a soldier. This system was able to function because of written records of the tax liabilities owed by hundreds and shires. The royal administration of Anglo-Saxon England was unique in its use of vernacular written administrative instruments (writs and charters) and records.

   As sophisticated as the Anglo-Saxon State was institutionally, it also had weaknesses, beginning with the power of the earls, especially Earl Godwin of Wessex, the king’s father-in-law. Edward relied upon the earls to do his will, and if an earl refused, he relied upon the other earls for the military power necessary to discipline the recalcitrant magnate. The ultimate mechanism for enforcing the royal will was the threat of ravaging a shire or a borough that resisted royal commands.


c.1050   First European ‘Industrial Revolution’ in textiles. Horizontal looms appear in Flemish towns; Flemish cloth trade develops, facilitating the development of towns and cities in Flanders. Similar developments occur in northern Italy.  Merchant and craft guilds develop into specialized, chartered economic association, the purpose of which was to secure a monopoly of town's business for its members and to regulate competition among them. Each trade/profession had own guild (c. 1250 there were 101 guilds in Paris). Not all guilds were created equal. The great merchant guilds, representing the urban patriciate, were usually the dominant political powers in towns. Crafts guilds, in fact, were often formed to guard interest of artisans against the economic and political power of the merchant capitalists. Craft guilds were professional associations more like the American Medical Association (AMA) or plumbers union rather than modern trade unions, which represent the interests of labor against capital. Only “masters” were full members of a guild. Guilds regulated production and limited competition by prescribing prices and quality of goods, and hours and wages of laborers; determined who could practice craft and what training they needed before becoming masters. Guild regulations represented compromise between artisans, looking to their self-interest, and town magistrates (representing the urban patriciate), who insisted on the inclusion of rules to protect the consumer. The master's shop (ideally) was an economic household, with the master filling the role of father, and the journeymen and apprentices, his sons/boys.


1051   Earl Godwin and his sons are exiled from England. Count Eustace II of Boulogne, brother-in-law to King Edward the Confessor, and his men became involved in a brawl with the townspeople of Dover in which several of his entourage were killed. An infuriated King Edward order Earl Godwin of Wessex, within whose jurisdiction Dover lay, to ravage the town in retribution for their mistreatment of his guest and kinsman. Godwin refused, and when summoned by the king to answer for his disobedience, he raised an army. King Edward appealed to Earl Siward of Northumbria and Earl Leofric, who raised armies from their earldoms and brought them south in support of the king. Outnumbered and with his forces melting away, Godwin and his sons went into exile. Godwin and his sons Tostig, Gytha, and Sweyn (the twice outlawed earl of Hereford), took refuge in Flanders, while Godwine’s other two sons, Harold, earl of East Anglia went to Ireland to raise a mercenary fleet. King Edward stripped his wife Edith, Godwin’s daughter, of all her lands and wealth and consigned her to a nunnery. About this time Duke William the Bastard of Normandy (who fifteen years later would become King William the Conqueror) apparently crossed the channel to visit his cousin. Norman tradition has it that Edward promised William the throne if he should remain childless (which with the queen in a convent, seemed likely).

1052   Earl Godwin and his sons return from exile and are restored to offices and power. Earl Godwin and his sons came back at the head of a large fleet. Landing in the south, there forces swelled as they picked up local support from their confiscated lands in Kent and Sussex. This time civil war was averted by Earls Siward and Leofric persuading Edward to reconcile with Godwin. Godwin and his sons were restored to their earldoms and Edith to her lands and queenship. Edward’s Norman favorites, including Earl Eustace and Archbishop Robert of Canterbury, fled to Normandy. For the remainder of Edward’s reign, the House of Godwin held the real power in England.



  1066   Battle of Hastings and the Norman Conquest of England. After the death of King Edward the Confessor (r.1042-1066), William the Bastard, duke of Normandy, claiming rights of inheritance and citing Edward’s promise that he would succeed him, invades England and defeats the last Anglo-Saxon ruler of England King Harold Godwinson (r.1066] in the Battle of Hastings. Harold’s and his brothers’ deaths in battle remove William’s major rivals. However, the English magnates, led by the brothers Earl Morcar and Earl Edwin and the two archbishops Stigand and Ealdred, proclaimed Edgar Ætheling as the new king. Edgar was only a child and had spent his earliest years in exile in Hungary, but he had the best hereditary claim to the throne, being a grandson of King Edmund Ironside and the last male heir to the House of Wessex. William followed up his victory by reverting to his more usual style of warfare: ravaging and pillaging the counties of the southeast and those surrounding London.  Unable to contain William, the English magnates in London sent a delegation to him at Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire to offer their surrender. Edgar withdrew his claim to the throne, and on Christmas Day, 1066, in Westminster Abbey, William was crowned king by Archbishop Ealdred of York, in a ceremony marred by William’s Norman soldiers setting fire to some buildings, having mistaken the rowdy cheers of the Englishmen in the church for the beginning of an uprising. Duke William the Bastard of Normandy had become King William I the Conqueror (r.1066-1087). Over the next twenty years William would replace the native Anglo-Saxon nobility with his Norman followers. By William’s death in 1087, Englishmen held only 5.5% of the land in England. The Norman Conquest fuses French and English cultures (and ultimately language) because William is both the King of England and the Duke of Normandy.  English kings will continue to hold lands in France as French dukes and counts until the conclusion of the Hundred Years War in 1453. Duke William with his brothers Robert of Mortain and Bishop Odo (Bayeux Tapestry) Bayeux Tapestry (wonderful reproduction). Coin of King William I of England.


            1085/1086   Domesday Book Inquest.  In 1085 England faced invasion by the king of Denmark Cnut IV by right of inheritance from his ancestor Cnut the Great.  William the Conqueror responded by raising a large army of mercenaries, whom he billeted on the estates of his tenants-in-chief throughout England, making each landholder responsible for provisioning a specified number of troops “in proportion to his land” (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle}. William, however, only roughly knew who held what, as the Normans had been playing a game of tenurial musical chairs for twenty years in which the real losers were the native landowners. He also wanted to review each estate’s tax assessment (measured in “hides”) to see whether he could extract more revenues out of it. The single largest source of royal revenue in 1085 was the so-called “Danegeld,” a tax instituted by Æthelred the Unready to pay for the services of Thorkell the Tall, and continued by Cnut and his Danish successors to maintain their standing fleets. Edward the Confessor, in a show of confidence in the legitimacy of his kingship, had abolished it, but William revived it after the Conquest. What was needed was a thorough review of the landed resources of the realm, and that is precisely what William order done in midwinter 1085. England was divided into circuits, each consisting of several shires, and royal commissioners were assigned to the each circuit and dispatched to find out the landed resources available to the king in each. Using the shire courts, the commissioners asked a series of standard questions about every estate in that shire: who owned it in 1066 on the day that Edward the Confessor died, to whom was it given after the Conquest, who owned it in 1086, what was its value (estimate of annual revenues) in 1066 and 1086, numbers and types of peasant tenants, agricultural resources, extent of arable land, and the estate’s assessed tax liability in hides or “carucates.” The returns from the shires were subsequently recorded in a giant land register that came to be known as Domesday Book in the months preceding William’s death or, as has been recently argued, during the reign of his son William Rufus (1087-1100). Domesday Book is organized by shire, and within each shire, the estates are listed by landholder rather than geographically. The Domesday Inquest revealed that twenty years after the Conquest the king held 17% of the landed wealth of England; the church, 26.5%; the lay tenants-in-chief (those who held their land directly from the king), 48.5% (top 10 holds 20%); pre-Conquest holders, 5.5%; and royal servants, 2.5%. (Folio from Domeday Book.)

1086   Salisbury Oath. King William the Conqueror summoned “all the landowners who were of any account over all England, no matter which man's men they were” to meet him on Salisbury plain on 1 August “.... and they all bowed themselves before him, and became his men, and swore him oaths of allegiance that they would against all other men be faithful to him.” William drew upon the Anglo-Saxon idea of royal liege lordship, that the king was the primary lord of all men who held land freely. This notion of kingship would be revived by King Henry II (1054-1089).

1087   Death of William the Conqueror/succession of his son King William Rufus to throne of England (r.1087-1100). William died in France fighting against his feudal overlord King Philip of France and his rebellious eldest son Robert Curthose. William’s second son William Rufus (r.1087-1100) succeeded to the throne of England and Robert Curthose, to the duchy of Normandy. This division pleased neither man and, as a result, the brothers fought each other until Robert left on Crusade in 1096. William Rufus was an outstanding military commander. He was also ruthless, greedy, clever, irreverent, blasphemous, and probably homosexual. In need of cash to finance going on the First Crusade, Robert mortgaged the Duchy of Normandy for three years to William in return for a payment of 10,000 marks. Robert’s willingness to entrust his duchy while on crusade to his brother, with whom he had been fighting over the duchy and kingship, and his belief that William would return it to him upon his return has been held as a mark of the chivalrous duke’s naïveté and political incompetence.

       William did not passively ‘hold’ Normandy for his brother. He fought two wars to expand its/his power in France: in the Vexin to the east against his nominal overlord, king Philip I of France; and against the counts of Maine and Anjou to the south. His conquest of Maine in 1098-1099 was a model of medieval military efficiency, as was his suppression of a rebellion by some northern earls in England angered by his extortionate approach to feudal prerogatives (jacking up reliefs as high as possible and demanding large feudal aids from his tenants-in-chief to fight his wars) and his rigorous enforcement of royal forest laws, which were as obnoxious to the local nobility as they were profitable to the Crown. (Think here of “Robin Hood” hunting the king’s deer in the royal forest.) In his never ending quest for revenues, William deliberately left about twenty abbacies and bishoprics vacant, so that he could profit from the revenues generated by their lands.

       The man in charge of overseeing these vacances was William’s chief financial officer (as well as keeper of the royal seal, treasurer, and chief justiciar),  Ranulf Flambard, a cleric whose loyalty was squarely with the king. Ranulf Flambard was extremely inventive and effective in finding ways to squeeze money out of the king’s subjects. For this he was rewarded by William Rufus with the powerful and wealthy bishopric of Durham. Henry I, immediately after assuming the throne, imprisoned Flambard for embezzlement in the Tower of London (the first prisoner ever held there). Subsequently, Ranulf escaped to Normandy where he became an advisor to Count Robert Curthose, leading to his deposition from his bishopric in England. When Henry defeated and imprisoned his brother, Flambard made his peace with the king and retired into private life.

       William Rufus’ irreverent and blasphemous side came out in his dealings with his pious archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm. William had left the see of Canterbury vacant for three years (during which time he had been pocketing the revenues of the see) when suddenly in 1093 he fell deathly ill. Suddenly penitent, William sought the holiest man he knew to become his archbishop, the pious scholar Anselm, the Italian born abbot of Bec in Normandy. Anselm was reluctant to accept the position—the nobles around the king’s sick bed had to forcibly force open Anselm’s clenched fists to invest him with the ring and crozier—and told William that it was a bad match (the metaphor he used was having him as archbishop and William as king was like yoking together an old sheep and an unbroken bull to a plow). Anselm was prophetic. When William recovered, he immediately regretted having given up the revenues from Canterbury and having saddled himself with an archbishop committed to the liberties of the English church and obedient to the dictates of the pope. King and archbishop tangled over several issues, mostly having to do with William’s encroachments upon the property of the Church of Canterbury.  Matters came to a head in 1097 over the issue of lay investiture. Anselm himself seems to have been indifferent to the issue. His mentor Lanfranc had been invested archbishop of Canterbury by the hand of William the Conqueror as had he by William Rufus. (His clenched fist resistance came from his reluctance to assume the office of archbishop rather than the impropriety of having the ring and crozier handed to him by a layman. But in 1095 at the famous Council of Clermont which launched the First Crusade, Pope Urban II prohibited (for the umpteenth time) the practice of lay investiture.  Anselm felt it his duty as bishop to follow the dictates of the pope; William was going to be damned if he gave up the royal right of lay investiture, which to him meant the right to appoint (or not appoint) bishops and abbots. As a result, Anselm spent the final three years of William’s reign in exile in Rome.

       Rufus outraged the monastic chroniclers by protecting Jews against Christian proselytizing, largely because he saw them as a source of revenues. (Jews were moneylenders, and as royal serfs, the king could arbitrarily squeeze them for cash when he needed it.) He was accused of homosexuality by early twelfth-century monastic chroniclers, who decried the long hair and effiminate clothing worn by the young men of his court, and he at one point had an acrimonious exchange with Anselm about the archbishop’s intention to publicly condemn the vice of sodomy. The chroniclers, however, hated Rufus for his rough and arbitrary treatment of the Church, in particular his hounding of Anselm, and his casual impiety, so it is possible that the charge of homosexuality was simply another way of blackening his posthumous reputation. But it is likely that they pegged Rufus’ sexual preferences accurately. He never married despite living into his forties, apparently had no mistresses or concubines, and sired no bastard children, all of which was unusual for a king or noble of the period. Rufus’s court as described in the sources was a “boys club” in which noblewomen were conspicuous for their absence. The only women hanging out in it, apparently, were prostitutes. The king clearly preferred the company of males, and his favorite pursuits were stereotypically ‘masculine’: hunting, hawking, and war.  William Rufus was an avid hunter, a courageous and capable soldier, and a canny military leader. But, even if we take into account the obvious bias of the sources, William Rufus was a king loved only by his household. The great nobles of England hated him for extorting money from them by misusing (in their view) his feudal prerogratives; the clergy loathed him for his willingness to leave sees and abbacies unfilled and his open lack of piety; and the common people feared and hated him for the heavy taxation he imposed upon them in support of his wars.

1093   (St) Anselm, then abbot of Bec in Normandy, is appointed archbishop of Canterbury by a gravely ill King William II Rufus of England. William Rufus recovers and immediately regrets choosing the saintly Anselm, whom he drives into exile in 1097. 


1100-1135          Reign of Henry I, king of England. When his brother King William II Rufus (r.1087-1100) suddenly died in a hunting accident, Henry quickly took the throne, which ought to have passed to his older brother Duke Robert of Normandy, absent on the First Crusade.  Henry’s first act as king was to issue a “Charter of Liberties” to firm up his support among the English nobility.  In this charter Henry pledged to abolish the unjust customs of his predecessor and to rule justly. Henry I was especially important in establishing a powerful central administration in England. His governmental reforms amounted to a revolution in governance that helped produce an administrative kingship. Henry's goal was to enhance royal power by advancing justice and political stability. Typical was Henry I's order that royal officials and royal servants who abused their offices were to be blinded and mutilated. His harshness extended to his own family. In a dispute over custody of the castle of Ivry, Henry exchanged hostages with his son-in-law Eustace de Bréteuil, giving Eustace the son of the castellan of Ivry and receiving from Eustace two of his daughters, Henry’s granddaughters. When Eustace blinded his hostage and sent him back to his father, Henry turned over his two granddaughters to the wronged castellan, who retaliated by cutting off their noses and blinding them. Their mother, Henry’s illegitimate daughter Juliane tried to kill her father with a crossbow during negotiations over her surrender. Henry’s response was to confiscate Eustace and Juliane’s holdings. Unlike his predecessor William Rufus, Henry’s brutality was seen by contemporary chroniclers as deliberate and just, always with the purpose of maintaining peace and order. Acts such as the above earned him praise as “the lion of justice and the rex pacificus [peace-keeping king].” In this twelfth-century chroniclers loved to contrast him with his impious elder brother and immediate predecessor King William Rufus.  And Henry appears to have promoted the favorable comparison. Whereas William Rufus’ royal household ravaged the countryside as if it were an invading army in the king’s peregrinations around England, Henry carefully arranged his intinerary and gave notice of when and where he was going so merchants could meet the court, sparing the local landowners and their tenants.

Henry’s greatest accomplishment during his long reign was the creation of several institutions of royal governance, in particular the Exchequer, the royal accounting office, which received its name from the large chess-board that was used as an abacus in the settling of accounts. Twice a year, at Michaelmas (Sept 29) and Easter, the king’s court became the Exchequer court; sheriffs and other officials were required to turn in the revenues they collected from the areas within their jurisdiction and provide explanations for shortfalls. Their returns were recorded on parchment sheets, which were sewn together and rolled up for storage. These royal financial records are known as the “Pipe Rolls.” Henry I also instituted a system of itinerant royal justices, sent out from court to localities to hear and judge 'pleas of the Crown' (i.e., serious criminal offenses) in the courts of the shires and the hundreds (see above under Edward the Confessor, 1042-1066). Henry I extended the scope of royal law and is one of the fathers of English Common Law (called this because it was binding upon all free Englishmen).

Henry I reunited the Anglo-French holdings of his father William the Conqueror by seizing Normandy from his older brother Duke Robert Curthose in 1106. Although he had about two dozen illegitimate children, his one legitimate son died in a boating accident in 1120, leaving only one legitimate offspring, his daughter Matilda, the young widow of the German Emperor Henry V. He married her in 1128 to his main continental rival, Geoffrey Plantagenet, son and heir of the Count of Anjou, and compelled the English barons to swear that they would support her succession to the throne. One of them, Henry I’s nephew Stephen of Blois, reneged and claimed the kingship upon his uncle’s death. This led to a civil war that wracked England for a generation. (King Henry I dreams of threats to the throne from peasants, knights, and bishops, from mid 12th-century ms. of Chronicle of John of Worcester.)

1106        Henry I of England and Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury agree on a compromise over the practice of lay investiture. Henry gives up the claimed right to invest bishops with ring and crozier, while Anselm agrees that newly elected bishops should do homage to the king for their lands. This is a dry-run for the compromise that sixteen years later ended the Investiture Controversy in Germany, the Concordat of Worms (1122).

       Following his reconciliation with Archbishop Anselm and now secure in the support of the English Church, Henry invaded Normandy, defeated his brother Robert in the Battle of Tinchebray, and assumed the title of duke of Normandy, reuniting the dominions held by their father William the Conqueror. Henry held Robert in prison for the rest of his life (about twenty years). (King Henry I dreams of threats to the throne from peasants, knights, and bishops, from mid 12th-century ms. of Chronicle of John of Worcester.)

1108-1137   Louis VI “the Fat,” the first important Capetian king of France, consolidates royal power within the Ile-de-France by suppressing the robber barons. He establishes an alliance between the French monarchy and the French church, and promotes the development of towns, using clergy and burghers rather than great nobles as royal administrators. The peace he establishes allows agriculture, trade and intellectual activity to flourish in the Ile-de-France. Paris begins its expansion which will make it by 1200 the greatest Christian city north of the Alps. The reign of Louis VI is detailed (and praised) in Abbot Suger’s The Deeds of King Louis the Fat. (Great Seal of King Louis VI.)

1112   The commune of Laon rises up against the town’s ruler Bishop Gaudry (r.1107-1112) and kills him (recorded in Guibert of Nogent’s autobiography).

1120   Wreck of the White Ship. King Henry I of England’s only legitimate son drowns, leaving Henry’s daughter the Empress Matilda (wife of Emperor Henry V of Germany) as his only legitimate offspring (he has dozens of bastards). In 1125 the Emperor Henry V died leaving a Matilda a young widow. She returned to England and Henry compelled his barons—including her cousin Stephen of Blois—to take an oath that they would support her succession to the throne. To secure peace between Normandy and Anjou (the greatest threat to Normandy), Henry arranged a marriage in 1128 to his 26 year old daughter to the 15 year old Geoffrey Plantagenet, then count of Maine and heir apparent to his father the count of Anjou. This is the back story to the King Stephen-Queen Matilda civil war that would wrack England between 1137 and 1153.

1120s-1200   Historical study flourishes in England and Normandy.  Chronicles based upon historical evidence and written in classically influenced Latin were written by Orderic Vitalis (1075-1142), William of Malmesbury (c.1090-1143), Henry of Huntingdon (1080-1160), William of Newburgh (c.1135-c.1200), Roger of Howden (1174-1201).  A notable exception to this program of attempting to depict the past accurately is the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1100-c.1155), who eschewed historical research into sources and oral testimony in favor of inventing good stories based upon a legendary past that included King Arthur (see under 1136-1138).


1122-1151   Suger abbot of St. Denis. Abbot Suger was a statesman-prelate who served as adviser and confidant to the French kings Louis VI and Louis VII.  He is credited with introducing the architectural style known as “Gothic” (emphasis on stained glass windows, arched vaults, and flying buttresses) with the building of the Abbey Church of St. Denis (1137-1144), about which he wrote in his tracts Liber de Rebus in Administratione sua Gestis and Libellus Alter de Consecratione Ecclesiae Sancti Dionysii.  Suger also wrote several works of history, including a panegyric for King Louis VI (the Fat), The Deeds of King Louis the Fat.

1130s-1170s    Fairs of Champagne become meeting place of merchants from Italy with those of Flanders (wholesale trade: Italian cloth, swords, warhorses; silks, sugar, spices from east/Flemish cloth and English tin); cycle of 6 trade fairs in four cities. The Champagne fairs remain central to the European commercial economy until the late thirteenth century.

1135   Henry I of England dies and his nephew Stephen of Blois renounces his oath to support his cousin Matilda’s succession and claims the throne of England. Matilda and her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou, respond with an invasion in 1137, and England is embroiled in civil war (“The Anarchy”) until 1153, when a compromise is reached: Stephen will remain king for the rest of his life (d. 1154) and Matilda’s son Henry (II) will succeed him as king. During this time of turmoil, the English Crown loses many of its traditional prerogatives over the Church. Barons throughout England build private castles to protect their lands or to threaten the lands of their neighbors.


 1136-1138  Geoffrey of Monmouth composes his “History of the Kings of Britain” in which he invents much of the framework for the story of King Arthur. (For online medieval texts dealing with King Arthur, see the Camelot Project of the University of Rochester.) Manuscript of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum (Harley 225, fol.3, British Library, 2nd half 12th century).

1147-1219  Chivalry. William Marshal, the “flower of English chivalry.” William was the fourth son of John fitz Gilbert, royal marshal to the kings of England and a local magnate in southwestern England. He began his career as a royal household knight and rose to become one of the greatest landholders in Ireland and Wales and regent for the young King Henry III (r.1216-1272) after King John’s death in 1216. William Marshal is a good example of “practical” chivalry during the second half of the twelfth century. William leveraged a reputation for loyalty and exceptional skills as a tournament knight and soldier achieved while a household knight of the Young King Henry and, later, his father King Henry II of England into marriage with a royal ward that brought him extensive lands, wealth, and the title of earl.


 c. 1150-1200   Chivalry: emergence and development of French chivalric literature and courtly society. The second half of the twelfth century witnessed the flowering of French vernacular courtly literature: romances, chansons de geste, and troubadour love poetry.  The French poet Chrétien de Troyes (flourished c.1160-x.1190) recast Welsh traditions about King Arthur and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s imaginative History of the Kings of Britain (see above 1138) as chivalric Arthurian Romances. Chrétien’s contributions to the Arthurian legend include Lancelot, the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere (Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, dedicated to Countess Marie de Champagne), the stories of Eric and Enide and of Cligès and Fenice, and the quest for the Holy Grail, introduced in his last work, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, an unfinished poem written c.1190 for Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders. (Several continuations of Chrétien’s Perceval were written in the first half of the thirteenth century.) Chrétien was the first writer to advance the idea of romantic love within marriage (e.g. in his poem Yvain, The Knight with the Lion). Thomas of Britain (c.1160) and Beroul (c.1190) wrote early treatments of the story of Tristan and Iseult. Their contemporary Marie de France, writing in England in the late twelfth century, composed a series of twelve “lais” (short narrative poems) in rhymed French that focus on chivalry, in particular, love and courtliness. Chivalry, the literal meaning of which is "horsemanship," was transformed by the troubadours at the behest of their noble patrons into an aristocratic ethos that includes not only martial qualities (prowess in combat, demonstrated in tournaments; loyalty to lords and friends, courage) but also the newer qualities of courtliness (courtoisie) required by life within baronial households: affability, largesse, skill in languages and music, self-restraint, elegant manners, knowing how to romance women. 

       Courtliness and chivalric romances were products of French courtly society; one might almost call them a design for living within a court. By the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries feudal society revolved around the courts of kings, counts, and other barons. These courts moved with the lord as he peregrinated through his various estates and castles (a necessity for 1) keeping order and control, and 2) for feeding a household that could number in the hundreds). A lord's court included his close kin (wife, children, brothers--those who slept in the chambers of the castle), other members of his household (bachelor knights, chaplains, domestic servants), and landed vassals whom he had summoned to escort or serve him. Courts were supposed to reflect the power and glory of a lord; the honor of a lord was reflected by the size and magnificence of his household. Those who entered a noble's household came within the sphere of his protection. To injure one under a lord's protection was to insult that lord. The problem faced by lords was how to maintain peace and order within large households, filled with belligerent young men competing with one another for favor. One solution was to punish harshly those who broke the peace. Another was to foster a code of behavior that was conducive to the maintenance of peace. Courtliness was a set of behaviors that permitted constant competition among young knights while restraining them from killing each other. It moderated the ethos of revenge. It served to domesticate the knights while preserving their martial values.

       Medieval illuminated manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes Perceval and Yvain. Perceval: opening of poem (BNF fr. 12577, fol. 1, c.1340); Perceval arrives at the Graal Castle, BNF fr. 12577; Chretien de Troyes' Perceval: Arthur and Guinevere welcome Perceval’s return (BNF fr. 1453, fol. 27); early 13th-century manuscript of Perceval;  Chretien’s Yvain: Calogrenant fights d'Esclados le Rouxr, from Yvain, BNF, fr. 1433 (c.1340) ; Scenes from Yvain: Yvain fights two demon brothers; Yvain and Gawain unknowingly fight, BNF. fr. 1433 (c.1340); Yvain: Lunette reconciles Yvain with the Lady Laudine, BNF, fr. 1433,(c.1340). “In Parenthesis,” an online collection of texts maintained by York University, has several Old French medieval romances in translation.


 1154-1189   King Henry II, son of Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou and the Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England and widow of Emperor Henry V, assumes the throne of England after a generation of civil war (1137-1153) between his uncle King Stephen of Blois and his mother. By inheritance, Henry II was 1) king of England, 2) duke of Normandy, 3) Count of Anjou. (Together Henry II’s holdings are called “The Angevin Empire.”) Through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine (in 1152) he also holds (very loosely) the duchy of Aquitaine. By the time of his death in 1189 Henry's dominions will include England, Ireland, and the western half of France. The king of France's domain, in comparison, was a territory about the size of Vermont extending from a little north of Paris to Orleans. Henry II is considered one of England's greatest kings due to his judicial reforms and legal innovations. His most important contribution to English governance was to increase the king’s financial and judicial rights over his free subjects. Henry II and his counselors advanced a doctrine of royal liege lordship that asserted the king to be the primary lord of all free Englishmen, whosoever their immediate lord might be. Henry's basic policy in England was to increase the power of the Crown over his lay and ecclesiastical barons (or, as he put it, to recapture the royal powers and customs that had belonged to his grandfather Henry I which the barons had usurped during the anarchy). Henry II's innovative mind led him to create an English 'common law,' binding upon all free men, and led him to embrace such novel experiments as the 'Saladin Tithe,' an income and property tax invented to help finance a crusade against the Sultan Saladin.

a. Initial moves: ordered that all private castles be 'justified' by license of the Crown, confiscated, or razed. If he deemed a castle to be dangerous, he disregarded whether the castellan had a proper franchise or not. He also appointed his own followers to royal offices, ignoring claims of those who had held these offices prior to his accession.

b. Long term "domestic" policy: to use his feudal prerogatives as king and duke to increase royal revenues, extend royal justice over all freemen in England, so that it would become the ‘common law’ of the realm, and strengthen the Crown’s military power by relying on mercenaries rather than feudal levies. 

c. Long term "foreign" policy--to maintain and increase control over continental possessions and to minimize the rights and authority of his feudal overlord the king of France.

In a series of assizes (royal councils in which the king and his barons modified customary legal practices) Henry translated his view of kingship into a royal legal system, the Common Law, royal lord that extended to all free men in the realm, which found its roots in the Anglo-Saxon past and in the legal reforms of is grandfather King Henry I. Juries of free men in the localities were now held responsible for indicting and trying criminals before itinerant royal justices. Disputes over the legal possession of land, which had been formerly been heard in honourial courts (the private jurisdictional courts of barons), were now brought into royal courts presided over by royal judges who decided upon the evidence adduced by local juries. This meant that the Crown’s courts superseded the private baronial courts. (He tried to do the same with ecclesiastical courts but lost.) It also meant the king’s revenues grew, since litigants had to pay for the king to issue a writ for the case to be heard, and the losing party had to pay a fine to the Crown.  The king claimed the right to judge disputes not only between his own landed vassals (tenants-in-chief) but between his vassals and their free men! This swelled the royal coffers by taking "business" away from feudal baronial courts (the king was paid for the issuance of writs and fined the loser of the suit—he profited no matter who won). Henry’s assizes established as an underlying principle that gave preference to those in possession of property over those who claimed it or tried to take it from them.

Politically, Henry’s reign was marked by wars against his feudal overlord, the king of France (Louis VII and then his son Philip Augustus) and against his great vassals on the Continent. His Achilles heel was his sons and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. On and off from 1173, Henry faced rebellions by one of more of his sons, often supported by his wife and by the French king looking to make mischief. In 1173 Henry the Younger, tired of being a bachelor knight with a titular crown, demanded that his father give him the rule of either Normandy, Anjou, or England. Spurred on by his father-in-law King Louis VII and with the support of the counts of Flanders and Boulogne and some English earls (Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk; Robert, earl of Leicester; Hugh, earl of Chester), Henry the Younger and his teen-age brothers Richard (15) and Geoffrey (14) waged war against Henry, and came close to unseating the father. He rebelled again in 1182, and died a rebel in 1183. In 1188 Richard, fearing that his father might pass him over in favor of John, rebelled with the aid of Philip Augustus (to whom he had done homage and fealty for Normandy and Aquitaine, "against all men save only the fealty wh he owed to his father the king"). Henry was defeated by Richard, largely because few barons chose to resist the heir to the throne. Henry, sick and dying, was forced to acknowledge Richard as heir to all his lands and to pay Philip an indmenity of 20,000 marks. Henry II died on 6 July 1189 at Chinon, deserted by all his barons and kin, including John. Tomb effigies of Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, Fontevraud Abbey.

1155   King Louis VII of France grants Charter of Lorris, which becomes a widely imitated model for subsequent charters of urban liberties (royal grants of economic and judicial privilege to towns and cities). The issuance of the Charter of Lorris is indicative of royal support for town foundation and urban development in northern France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The alliance of the French Crown with a growing prosperous urban middle class provides French kings with increased revenues and non-aristocratic royal officials, which become twin engines for the development of royal power in France, c.1150-1300.


 1164   Outbreak of the Becket Controversy. Henry II issues the Constitutions of Clarendon in an attempt to regain power for the royal courts that had been lost to ecclesiastical courts during the civil war.  Citing the customs of the realm in the time of his grandfather King Henry I, Henry II declared that clerics who commit crimes were first to be tried in an ecclesiastical court and, if found guilty, were to be stripped of holy orders, rearrested, and brought to answer in a royal court where they were to be treated like laymen, subject to the penalties of royal law. Clerical appeals to the pope and excommunications by bishops were to be subject to royal approval. The Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket, the king’s former chancellor, initially accepted the Constitutions but then reneged. The result was a furious quarrel between the king and the archbishop, the former citing the “ancient customs of the realm” and the latter, “the liberty of the Church.” Becket fled to France, where he received support from King Louis VII in a move meant to embarrass King Henry II. Kings of England were traditionally crowned by the archbishop of Canterbury. When Henry II had his eldest son Henry the Younger crowned king by the archbishop of York, Becket excommunicated the archbishop and in 1170, after six years of exile, returned to England to uphold the privilege of Canterbury. The points of contention, however, remained.  Neither Henry nor Becket would budge, which led to an exasperated Henry blurting out on to his household on Christmas Day something along the lines of, ‘Will no one rid me of this pestilent priest?” Four of the king’s household knights took this as a royal order, went to Canterbury to arrest Becket and force him to submit to the king’s will. They broke into the Cathedral and found Becket conducting Mass. When Becket ignored them, they grew enraged and murdered him. Becket had never been popular with the clergy and monks of Canterbury when alive. Now, however, he was perceived as a martyr for the “liberty of the Church.” Pope Alexander III had him canonized in 1173, and Henry, facing a rebellion by his son and wife, aided by the king of France, went to Canterbury to admit his (unwitting) guilt in instigating the murder and to do penance before the tomb of the saint. Henry had to concede the immunity of clergy to royal criminal justice and the rights of clergy to freely elect their bishops and abbots (although Henry kept a veto right). None of the murderers were punished officially, although miracle stories arose in which they all suffered divine retribution. Becket became the most revered English saint and Canterbury became a favorite site for pilgrimages. Manuscript illumination of Henry II and Becket. Reliquary casket depicting Becket’s martyrdom, French, commissioned by prior Benedict of Peterborough Abbey to hold Becket’s bones (c.1180).

1166   Assize of Clarendon and the Cartae Baronum: King Henry II establishes juries of presentment in England to make criminal accusations before itinerant royal judges on circuit. Henry also conducts an inquest into number of knights' fees in England (asking his barons how many they owed to the king on the death of Henry I in 1135, and how many they had enfeoffed since). Henry attempted to claim that his tenants-in-chief owed him the service of all knights holding fiefs from them. In this Henry could no better than get a compromise: he could only collect from knight's fees created before the death of his grandfather, Henry I. The findings of the inquest were recorded in the Cartae Baronum: 318 tenants in chief reported 7,525 knights' fees representing owed service to crown of 5,000 knights. The information of the Cartae Baronum of 1166 was preserved by the English clerk Alexander of Swereford in 1206 in a handbook of information for the Exchequer called the Little Black Book; Alexander arranged the material by shire and barony, a la Domesday Book. Sometime before 1250 he compiled the Red Book of the Exchequer, in which he recopied the inquest of 1166 and added to it the inquest of 1172. Philip Augustus ordered his own feodaries to be prepared for Normandy in 1207, to account for confiscated honors.

1172   Henry II, in his capacity as duke of Normandy, ordered an inquest in 1172 into the owed service from Normandy. (Again, he asked two questions: how many knights are owed the king? how many knights are in your service?) From the written returns one can calculate that Henry was owed the service of 581 knights from about 1500 enfeoffments.

1173-4   Rebellion of King Henry' IIs eldest son, King Henry the Younger (supported by Henry II's overlord King Louis VII of France—a reminder of the feudal paradox that Henry II's role as a French baron made him a vassal of a king less powerful than himself). Despite the support of a number of powerful earls in England and barons in France, Henry the Younger’s rebellion fails.

1175-1202   The period covered in the Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk, England) by the monk Jocelin of Brakelond who began writing it in the 1190s. Jocelin’s Chronicle, which focuses on the charismatic and strong willed Abbot Samson, is a valuable window on to the practical aspects of twelfth-century Benedictine monasticism: the often contentious relationship between the monks and their abbots, priors, and cellarers; the factions that formed within monastic communities; the difficulties of monasteries in keeping control over and getting service from lands held from the monastery fiefs by knights; the relationship between abbots and kings. The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds possessed by royal grant rights of jurisdiction over the town and surrounding countryside. It also enjoyed an exemption from the authority of the local bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury by a privilege from the Pope. Jocelin details Abbot Samson’s struggles to maintain these privileges.

1176   Assize of Northampton confirms the edicts of the Assize of Clarendon (1166) and establishes legal actions at law in disputes over the possession of land, the writs of mort d'ancestor, novel disseisin, which establish the principle that those in possession in property should remain in possession until their right to the land is disproved.


 1177-1179   Chivalry: William Marshal is on the tournament circuit as partner to another “bachelor” (i.e. landless knight} in Henry's household, Roger de Gaugie; for two years they go from tourney to tourney. According to list kept by Wigain, the young king's clerk, they captured 103 knights in the course of 10 months.

     Tournaments were a staple of chivalric literature. All of the Arthurian romances depict their heroes as champions at tourneys (e.g., YWAIN). Although there were probably similar sorts of war games in the 10th century, tournaments as such seem to have arisen toward the end of the 11th or beginning of the 12th century. By 1125 the growing popularity of tournaments in France (especially northern France) provoked a papal denunciation by Innocent II in 1130. By 1200 the popularity of tournaments had spread throughout Western Europe, although France was still known as the home of the best and greatest tourneys. (English chroniclers called the tournament "the Gallic battle.") William Marshal's career reflects the importance of tournaments for knights. Great French lords, such as the counts of Champagne and Flanders, gained reputation and prestige from their patronage of tournaments, while ordinary knights gained—or forfeited—fame, glory, possibility of material gain in the form of horses, trappings, armor, and ransom). The tournament was the arena in which a landless knight could prove his worth to potential lords (for which read: 'employers'). Tournament served as training grounds for warfare, as opportunities for knight to obtain booty and prestige, as social gatherings of the aristocracy, and, generally, as arenas for chivalric theater, ceremony, and ‘play.’ In essence, the tournament helped the nobility to define itself, and changed as the nobility's self image changed.  The tournament at Lagny-sur-Marne, from the History of William the Marshal (poem, c. 1225).



File:Sceau Philippe Auguste.jpg 1180-1223   Reign of Philip II Augustus of France, Louis VI's grandson. Philip, pragmatic and clever (if uneducated), increased the royal domain to the north through marriage and to the west through war against King John of England, from whom he took Normandy, Anjou, and Maine in 1203-1204. His foreign policy aimed at breaking the power of the Plantagenet kings of England in France, and his main weapon was the internal rivalries in the English royal family. He consolidated royal power by improving the royal. The French king's bureaucracy was transformed from one based on a) the five traditional court/domestic offices held by magnates and b) local prévôts (forty-five in 1202, presiding over sixty-two prévôtés) responsible for collecting the king’s revenues from his demesne lands and disbursing alms to churches and money annuities (fief-rentes) to knights, to a far more sophisticated one (permanent treasury/Norman exchequer, royal justices, baillis and seneschals) modelled on the Angevin institutions of government and staffed by men drawn from castellan families. He created the offices of baillis and seneschals to serve as his chief local officials, supervising the prévôts and ensuring obedience to royal edicts, and gave them financial, judicial, and military authority in the duchies and counties that they administered. Drawn from the bourgeois and gentry of the Ile-de-France, many of them were trained in Roman law. They were appointed by the king, served at his pleasure, and were regularly rotated so as not to form local affiliations.  Philip’s reformed his central government by establishing a permanent treasury in Paris (1190), an accounting bureau in Paris to review the payments owed by baillis and seneschals, an exchequer of Normandy, to do the same thing for revenues from Normandy, and by replacing the great barons with castellans and lesser knights from the Ile-de-France in the five great royal household offices: seneschal (provisions); chamberlain (bedchamber); butler (drink); chancellor (chapel); mashall/constable (stables). The king's bureaucracy was transformed from one based on a) the five traditional court/domestic offices held by magnates and b) local prevots, to a far more sophisticated one (permanent treasury/Norman exchequer, royal justices, baillis and seneschals) modelled on the Angevin institutions of gov't and staffed by men drawn from castellan families. Even more basic administrative change was the transformation of the royal court from an itinerant court to one based in Paris. This was a long process which had been largely completed by the accession of Philip Augustus. Whereas King Philip I (c.1100) was constantly traveling through the royal domain, in Philip Augustus’s reign Paris and Fountainbleau had become the center of royal activity. The king spent between 48% and 55% of his time in the Paris region.

Philip is one of the founders of the medieval French state. During his reign he quadrupled the revenues of the Crown of France. He did so largely by increasing the royal domain through marriage and war. His first wife Isabella of Hainault (married 1180-1189, died in child birth), daughter of Baldwin V Count of Hainault and niece of Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, brought with her the county of Artois as the queen's dowry and a claim to her family's other lands, including part of Vermandois, both on the northern borders of the royal domain, the Ile-de-France. He successfully pressed his claim to his deceased wife’s lands by defeating Philip of Hainault in battle in 1186. The king received the city and county of Amiens and 65 castles, the county of Mondidier and reversion of Philip of Alsace's share of Vermandois. Philip gained even more territory and revenues by seizing Normandy, Maine, and Anjou from King John of France in 1203-1204, using John’s refusal to answer a feudal summons as a pretext. Philip Augustus and King Richard receive surrender of Acre. Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century. Philip Augustus penny 1180x1201

1181   Assize of Arms. King Henry II of England orders that all free men possess weapons appropriate to their rank, status, and wealth. The reason for this is so that Henry could call upon the entire free male population to defend his realm, and so that the localities could be adequately policed. (England had no police force, so the pursuit and capture of criminals was the responsibility of local men, in particular members of the “tithing” to which the accused man belonged, led by the sheriff.)

1182   Philip Augustus expels the Jews from France after confiscating their property. He readmits them in 1198, imposing upon them royal taxes and regulations that guarantees the Crown’s financial profit from their money lending. (Jews being persecuted, from Chronicle of Matthew Paris, c.1260.)

1183   King Henry II of England’s eldest son King Henry the Younger dies in the midst of rebellion against his father. Henry the Younger’s loyal household knight and master of arms, William Marshal, goes on crusade to fulfill an oath taken by his dead lord. When he returns in 1186 he enters the service of King Henry II of England.

1184 Philip Augustus orders the streets and roads of Paris paved. The chronicler Rigord reports: “It happened after a few days that king Phillip "semper Augustus" staying for a while in Paris was walking about the royal hall deep in thought about the affairs of the realm, when he came to palace windows from which he was accustomed sometimes to look out at the river Seine for the refreshment of his soul. Horse-drawn carriages crossing through the city churned up the mud. The king walking about his hall could not bear the intolerable stench they caused. He therefore took on a hard but very necessary task which none of his predecessors had dared to attempt because of its great expense and difficulty. He called together the burgesses and prévôt of the city and ordered by royal authority that all the streets and roads of the whole city of Paris should be covered with hard and strong stones. The most Christian king was trying to take away from the city its ancient name; for it had been called "Lutea" from the stink of the mire (a luti fetore).”

1188   Saladin Tithe. Upon hearing of the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin, King Henry II of England and King Philip Augustus of France both took the Cross and vowed to liberate the Holy City.  To raise money for the expedition, they devised what might be the first national income tax. The Saladin Tithe was, as its name implies, a tax of a tenth of the value of all moveable properties and revenues upon all those not going on crusade. The edict issued by Henry and Philip declared: "This year each man shall give in alms a tenth of his revenues and movables with the exception of the arms, horses and garments of the knights, and likewise with the exception of the horses, books, garments and vestments, and all appurtenances of whatever sort used by clerks in divine service, and the precious stones belonging to both clerks and laymen." In France the resistance to the Tithe was so great that King Philip was not only forced to suspend it but apologized for having proposed it. In England, where royal power was stronger, the Tithe was collected and raised £70,000 from Christians and approximately another £10,000 from the Jews. In England, the Saladin Tithe was collected with ruthless efficiency. Because it was a “tithe” rather than a royal secular exaction, the money was collected by parish priests, bishops, deans of the local churches, local barons, and royal sergeants rather than by sheriffs, and turned over to a special office with ten tellers set up in Salisbury rather than to the Exchequer. Henry II used the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller to help organize the collection.  Anyone who joined the crusade was exempt from the Tithe. This was meant to encourage participation, and many did indeed join in order to avoid the tallage. All other landowners, both clerics and laymen, had to pay; if anyone disagreed with the assessment of their property, they were imprisoned or excommunicated. The procedures established for the Saladin Tithe formed a model for future English royal exactions, such as those used to ransom Richard in 1194 and to pay for John’s Continental wars in 1207.

1188-1189   Revolt of Richard the Lionheart. Richard, duke of Aquitaine, Henry II's eldest son and heir presumptive, rebels against his father with the aid of Henry's feudal overlord, King Philip Augustus of France (1180-1223). Richard had long been angered--since 1184--by Henry's stated plan to take the duchy of Aquitaine away from him and to transfer it to his brother John (of Robin Hood and Magna Carta fame) in return for acknowledging Richard as heir to the Crown. In 1188 Henry, in negotiations with Philip Augustus over Richard’s invasion of the county of Toulouse, found himself outmaneuvered by the French king. Philip proposed to allow Richard to retain the lands he had taken in the Toulousain if Henry allowed Richard to marry Philip’s sister Alice and require the barons throughout his lands to swear fidelity to Richard as his heir. Henry refused to confirm that Richard would succeed him, which led Richard to defect to the side of King Philip and to do homage to the French king for Normandy and Anjou. In the civil war that ensued, the ailing Henry was abandoned by most of his barons. William Marshal, however, remained loyal to King Henry II, who rewarded him with the promise of marriage to the wealthy heiress Isabel de Clare, daughter of Earl Richard of Clare, known as “Strongbow,” Earl of Pembroke in Wales and conqueror of Leinster in Ireland. On July 4, 1189 Henry met with King Philip and Richard and agreed to all their terms. By this time, Henry was very ill and could barely stay on his horse. Two days, just after learning that his beloved youngest son John had gone over to Richard, Henry died at his castle at Chinon.

 1189-1199   Reign of Richard the Lionheart. In his ten year reign Richard spends a total of six months in England. The majority of his reign is taken up by planning and going on Crusade (1189-1192), captivity in Germany (1192-1194), and campaigns to recover French lands seized by King Philip Augustus during his captivity (1194-1199). His rule exemplifies the strength of the governmental foundations set up by Henry II. During Richard's absence, ministers take care of administration and help to raise taxes for the support of the crusades.  (Richard the Lionheart, late 12th-century codex.) Great Seal of Richard the Lionheart

Impressed by William Marshal’s loyalty to his father in the recent civil war, Richard allowed him to marry Isabel de Clare, the heiress whom Henry II had promised William. By right of his wife, William becomes Lord of Striguil and Pembroke. (Striguil consisted of 65.5 knights' fees, and a large demesne in southeast Wales; Pembroke was an earldom in southwest Wales.) William also received his wife's claim to a great lordship in Ireland, Leinster (in theory a great prize, but in practice held firmly by Richard's brother, John), and the lands of Orbec and Longueville in Normandy. Richard allowed William to buy control of the office of sheriff of Gloucester, and to purchase half of another lordship, the lordship of Giffard.)

1190    King Philip II Augustus of France established the Temple in the Ile de Cite in Paris as the permanent royal treasury. Revenues were to be brought to the Temple three times a year and handed over to 6 Parisian burghers and to the royal Marshal. The treasurer was a Templar, Brother Haimard, who was in charge of receiving surplus revenues and paying out sums for operations of gov't and costs of war. Between 1190 and 1203 PA also introduced a royal accounting bureau consisting of 6 bourgeois of Paris and the marshal at Paris. The accounts would be presented by prevots and baillis and recorded on rolls of parchment (like the English pipe rolls). This was the beginning of what was to be called the Chambre of Comptes in the beg. of the 14th century. Accounts were to be rendered during 3 terms: 1) All Saints (1 Nov), 2) 2 Feb (Purif. of the Virgin, 3) Ascension (May and June). Norman Exchequer was biannual. Each prevot assounted for his farm, deducted expenses, and handed over balance to the treasurer.The model for this system is clearly the English.

1191-1192   Richard the Lionheart leads the Third Crusade. The arrival at Acre of King Philip II Augustus of France in April and King Richard I of England in early June with about 18,000 soldiers between them proved decisive in the siege of Acre, which fell to the crusaders in early July after a siege of two years. In the aftermath of the victory Richard made a mortal enemy of Duke Leopold of Austria when he ordered the Duke’s banner, which had been raised beside his and King Philip’s, removed from the city’s walls. When Philip Augustus decided to return to France because of illness and political concerns, Richard assumed sole command of the crusading army, including the French and German contingents. After massacring 2,700 Muslim captives when Saladin missed the deadline for ransom, Richard began a march down the coast. Richard secured the coast by marching from Acre to Jaffa, taking each port city along the way. This march was among Richard’s most impressive military feats. The crusaders marching in close formation were under constant attack, as Saladin tried to lure Richard into a set battle. Richard, intent on securing the port cities as a necessary prelude to taking Jerusalem, refused to get drawn into battle. Using Cyprus (which he had taken on his way to the Holy Land in 1191) as a supply depot and Acre as a logistical base, Richard ordered his fleet to follow along the coast, so that they could bring supplies and reinforcements to the troops and take away the wounded and sick. When the crusaders’ patience finally gave out near Arsuf, just shy of Jaffa, and the Hospitallers in the rearguard decided to charge the Saracens, Richard quickly deployed his troops from line of march to line of battle using prearranged trumpet signals, and attacked. Although victorious in the battle, Richard chose not to pursue Saladin’s army but instead continued his march to Jaffa. Richard, however, came to recognize that although he could take Jerusalem, because it was inland he would not be able to hold it. His best chance was to attack the capital of Saladin’s empire, Egypt, but the army balked and insisted on marching to Jerusalem. Faced with news that his brother Prince John with the support of Philip Augustus was attempting to seize the English throne (the historical setting for most modern versions of the Robin Hood story), Richard negotiated a three year truce with Saladin and a settlement that allowed Christian pilgrims access to Jerusalem, although the city remained under Muslim control. Saladin, fearful of the threat posed to Egypt, required also that the walls of Ascalon, the southern most port in Palestine, be levelled. Richard was unsuccessful as well in his attempt to preserve the kingship of Jerusalem for his Poitevin vassal King Guy of Lusignan.  Faced with an unanimous vote by the barons of the Kingdom, Richard reluctantly accepted Conrad of Montferrat, a supporter of Philip Augustus, as King of Jerusalem. He sold Guy the lordship of Cyprus as a consolation prize. Before he could be crowned Conrad was assassinated by two members of the Ismali Shiite sect the Hashshashins. Suspicion immediately fell on Richard. Conrad belonged to a well connected family, having been a cousin of the Emperor Henry VI of Germany, King Philip Augustus of France, and Duke Leopold of Austria. All of them held Richard responsible for his murder.

1192-1194   Richard the Lionheart in captivity in Germany. Attempting to return to England by sea, Richard was shipwrecked near Aquileia at the shores of the northern Adriatic and was forced to travel overland through the territory of his enemy Duke Leopold of Austria. Richard and his small entourage traveling in disguise were discovered and captured near Vienna. Accusing him of the murder of Conrad of Montferrat (and getting personal revenge as well for the slight to his honor at Acre), Leopold imprisoned Richard despite his the immunity from prosecution he was guaranteed by his status as crusader. A few months later Leopold turned him over to another of Richard’s enemies, King Henry VI of Germany (r.1190-1197), also a cousin of Conrad, who held a political grudge against Richard for his support of the Welfs—Henry the Lion had been Richard’s brother-in-law—and for placing Tancred into the kingship of Sicily against the claims of Henry’s wife. (Pope Celestine III  excommunicated both Leopold and Henry for violating Richard’s crusader immunity.) While in captivity Richard wrote a song Ja nus hons pris or Ja nuls om pres ("No man who is imprisoned"), addressed to his half-sister Marie de Champagne, in which he accused his friends and kinsmen of abandoning him. But they hadn’t. Despite a civil war arising from Prince John’s attempt to usurp his brother’s throne, Richard’s mother Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and his supporters managed raise the150,000 marks Henry demanded in ransom (about three times the annual revenues Richard enjoyed as king) by heavily taxing both the clergy and the laity.  Philip Augustus offered Henry VI 80,000 marks more to keep Richard imprisoned for a few months more, but Henry turned the offer down. Philip let John know in a terse message: “The Devil is loose. Look to yourself!”

1194   King Richard the Lionheart of England pays his full ransom to King Henry VI of Germany and is released after two years of captivity. His brother John goes into hiding until ensured that Richard would forgive him. Richard spends the next five years fighting to recover lands in France that had been taken by King Philip Augustus in his absence.


 King John of England (r.1199-1216). When Richard the Lionheart died besieging the castle of Chalus-Chabrol in Limoges, France, his younger brother John took the throne with the support of the English nobility. The French nobility, however, supported the claim to the throne of his nephew Arthur, the twelve year old count of Brittany. In 1200 Philip Augustus formally acknowledged John as duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, count of Anjou and Poitou, and overlord of Brittany, dealing a major blow to Arthur’s position. Two years later King Philip reversed his position when John refused to answer a feudal summons to Paris to answer charges made against him by Count Hugh de Lusignan of Le Marche; he confiscated the lands in France that John held as a vassal of Philip, and transferred them to Arthur. By this time, however, Arthur’s military position had become precarious. Tomb effigy of Richard the Lionheart, Fontevraud abbey.

c. 1200   Philip Augustus, sometime between 1190 and 1220, ordered a new wall constructed around Paris because of the phenomenal growth in the city’s population and area of settlement. Philip Augustus’ wall ran for 2800 meters on the right bank and 2600 meters on the left bank. It was three meters thick at the base, nine meters high, and had a fourteen meter high tower every seventy meters.  Philip ordered the Louvre built to reinforce the western defenses. (The wall’s primary purpose at this time was still military defense.) Paris’s Roman wall enclosed 25 acres (the island in the Seine River known as the Ile-de-Paris); Philip Augustus’s wall enclosed 640 acres. According to the chronicler Rigord, Philip Augustus also was responsible for paving the streets of Paris. See under 1184. (Remnant of Philip Augustus’s walls around Paris.)

1202   King John of England defeats and captures his nephew Count Arthur of Brittany at Mirabeau, securing his throne. This is the highpoint of John’s kingship. John imprisons Arthur, who “disappears” from history. (The smart money is on John having ordered the kid killed.)

1203-1204   Philip II Augustus of France takes Normandy, Maine, and Anjou from King John of England. Three years earlier John for political reasons had broken up the impending marriage between his vassal Hugh X of Lusignan, Count of Le Marche, and Isabelle, the twelve year old daughter and heir of the Count of Angoulême, and married Isabelle himself. This led Hugh and his Poitevin allies to rise in rebellion. Unable to match John militarily, Hugh appealed to their mutual overlord, King Philip Augustus, for justice. In 1202 Philip summoned John to answer the charges in his court at Paris. When John ignored the summons, Philip formally confiscated the counties and duchies that John held in France (Normandy, Anjou, Maine, Brittany, and Aquitaine). Philip systematically took everything John held in France except for Poitou and Aquitaine, aided by the disaffection of the French nobility toward John. Expansion of French royal domain under Philip Augustus, 1180-1223

1205-1212   King John of England builds a large royal fleet (an antecedent to the Royal Navy) in preparation against a threatened invasion by King Philip Augustus of France.

1207-1213   Pope Innocent III and King John of England fight over the archbishopric of Canterbury. In 1207 Pope Innocent III appointed the English cardinal-priest Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury to resolve a disputed election (King John of England forced the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury to “elect” his favorite, John de Grey, Bishop of Norwich, while some of the younger monks secretly elected the subprior of Christ Church. Pope Innocent received a delegation of 16 monks from Canterbury, deposed both claimants, and ordered the delegation to elect an archbishop in his presence, suggesting Stepehn Langton as an obvious candidate. The monks elected Langton and Pope Innocent III consecrated him as archbishop. A royally pissed King John responded by closing the ports of England to the new archbishop, pronouncing as a public enemy anyone for upheld Stephen Langton’s claim, and expelling the monks of Canterbury, who now unanimously supported Stephen, from Christ Church, taking possession of the lands of the monastery and the archbishopric. Pope Innocent III responded in 1208 by placing England under interdict and excommunicating John in 1209. John ignored the papal pressure placed upon him and simply seized all the revenues from the bishoprics since they were no longer performing sacraments, and Innocent, faced with John’s recalcitrance, allowed in 1212 last rites to performed in England and masses to be held in some churches, as long as the doors remained closed. In early 1213 Pope Innocent III went one step further and formally deposed King John, asking King Philip Augustus to invade in a papally sanctioned war. John responded by submitting to Innocent’s demands. Not only did he accept Stephen Langton as archbishop, he formally gave his kingdom to “St. Peter” and received it back as a papal fief.  In recognition of Pope Innocent III’s lordship, John agreed to pay the papacy 700 marks a year from England and an additional 300 marks a year from Ireland. This was John’s “Canossa” (see above 1077). By becoming the vassal of the papacy, John had insured Pope Innocent III’s and the English church’s support against the threatened invasion from France.


 1209-1229   Albigensian Crusade against the ‘Cathar’ heretics of southern France/Cathar heresy. After the murder of the Cistercian monk and papal legate (St) Peter of Castelnau following a stormy meeting with Count Raymond VI of Toulouse (1156-1222) over the count’s supposed protection of heretics, Pope Innocent III calls for the Albigensian Crusade against the dualist Cathar heretics (Albigensians) and their supporters in Languedoc (“land of the language of ‘oc’ [yes]”=southern France, as opposed to ‘Langedoïl,’ northern France where people used “oïl”/oui to say yes). Although King Philip II Augustus of France, faced with enemies to his west (King John) and east (Emperor Otto IV) showed no interest in leading this crusade, he gave permission to his barons in the Ile-de-France to answer the summons. The northern French crusading army was led by the pious, sanctimonious, and brutal Count Simon de Montfort (c.1165-1218), lord of Montfort l’Amaury in the Ile-de-France, and father of the English Earl Simon de Montfort (see below 128/1259). Montfort had gone on the Fourth Crusade but had left in disgust when the crusaders attacked Christian Zara to pay the Venetians for transport to the Holy Land. This ferociously brutal war began with a massacre in the southern French city of Béziers in 1209, after which crusaders and southern French defenders exchanged atrocities. Montfort’s army of northern French crusaders proved initially successful, and apparently “won” the war when they defeated King Pere II of Aragon in the Battle of Muret in 1213, after which Montfort styled himself Count of Toulouse and Narbonne. Montfort’s brutality, however, led to renewed support for Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Montfort died besieging Toulouse in 1218, crushed by a rock thrown by a mangonel. Count Raymond VI died in 1222, and his capable son Count Raymond VII took up the fight. The turning point in the war came in 1226 when King Louis VIII of France (r.1223-1226) brought the full military weight of the French Crown to bear against the southern French. In 1229 the Albigensian Crusade came to an end. Count Raymond VII was allowed to retain his county, but it was to pass after his death to his daughter and her husband, Alphonse of Artois, the younger brother of King (St) Louis IX. The ultimate political consequence of the Albigensian Crusade was that Languedoc became part of the French king’s royal domain.  Siege of Carcassonne, early 13th-century carving.

The Cathars were dualists who believed that there were two gods, the good god of the New Testament who created the world of spirit and the evil god of the Old Testament who created the material world. They believed that the evil god had imprisoned the souls of men into prisons of flesh, and that unless released by the sacrament of the Consolamentum (akin to baptism but without the use of water), the soul upon the physical death of a person would transmigrate to a new “prison of flesh.”  The Cathar clergy, known as “Perfects” (also as the Good Men and the Good Women), lived lives of purity, abstaining from meat, fish, sex, or any worldly pleasures or luxuries, and conceived of themselves to be living vessels of the Holy Spirit. Upon death their souls would be released to go back to heaven. There were few Perfects. There were many more who were “Believers,” Cathar laity, who lived lives much like their Catholic neighbors but hoped to receive the Consolamentum upon their deathbeds. Of course, the Cathars rejected completely the Catholic Church, its clergy, and its sacraments. Even in southern France Cathar believers made up only a small minority of the population. But they were disproportionately well represented among the lesser nobility and were tolerated—and sometimes protected—by Catholic nobles, including the count of Toulouse, Raymond VI. The religion originated in the East, perhaps Bulgaria, and spread to the West in the middle of the twelfth century via Constantinople. It took root in southern France, in part because of the weakness of the institutional church in that region. In the first decade of the thirteenth century (St.) Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish Augustinian canon, and the Diego, bishop of Osma, conducted a preaching mission against the Cathars, debating them in public. The failure of this preaching movement led to the Albigensian Crusade and, later, to the Papal Inquisition. The Church regarded the Cathars as the most serious of the various heretical movements of the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

1214   Philip Augustus of France wins the Battle of Bouvines (in northern France on the border with Belgium) against a coalition of forces organized by King John of England that includes King Otto IV of Germany and the counts of Flanders and the Lowlands. The result is Philip retains possession of Normandy and Anjou, Otto IV is deposed, and King John is discredited, leading to the barons from whom he extracted money for the campaign to rebel (the “Magna Carta” rebellion). In terms of political significance, Bouvines is one of the few truly decisive medieval battles.

 1215    Magna Carta. As a consequence of the Battle of Bouvines, rebel English barons impose the "Magna Carta" (Great Charter) on King John in response to his demands for money from the nobility to conduct wars on the Continent.  The Magna Carta establishes that the king can only “tax” (actually take feudal “aids” from) his barons with their consent, requires judgment by a jury of peers, and regulates feudal exactions (reliefs, i.e. inheritance payments; aids; and wardship and marriage) that the king could take from his tenants-in-chief. The Magna Carta placed the king under his own Common Law. (Copy of Magna Carta.)

1216   French invasion of England/death of King John. English rebel barons offer crown to Louis (VIII), the eldest son of King Philip Augustus of France. Louis accepts and invades England with an expeditionary force. King John dies and his nine year old son is crowned King Henry III. The dying John names William Marshal as his son’s regent.

1216-1272   Reign of King Henry III of England. Henry became king at the age of nine. His fifty-seven year reign was marked by military failures in France that left English kings with only a fraction of Aquitaine. During the early years of his reign England was governed by the king’s regent William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, the John’s justiciar Hubert de Burgh (before 1180 –1243), and a baronial council. The baronial regents reissued Magna Carta in 1217 under Henry III name. After Marshal’s death in 1219, Hubert de Burgh effectively ruled England until Henry III came of age in 1227. Henry III named earl of Kent in 1227 and justiciar for life in the following year, but removed Hubert from power in 1232. Henry had chafed under the guardianship of Hubert and his policies upon reaching majority were to restore his personal royal authority.  Resenting the native baronage who controlled the kingdom during his minority, Henry III appointed his Lusignan half-brothers and his wife Eleanor of Provence’s Savoyard cousins to the major royal offices in England, making them men of power and wealth. Henry III consistently favored Poitevins over native English nobles, relying on men such as his favorite Peter des Riveaux, who held the offices of Treasurer of the Household, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, Lord Privy Seal, and the shrievalties (office of sheriff) of twenty-one English counties simultaneously. Henry's tendency to govern for long periods with no publicly-appointed ministers who could be held accountable for their actions and decisions and his patronage of foreigners created baronial resentment, culminating in the issuance of the Provisions of Oxford and Westminster in 1258 and 1259 as an attempt to place the king under the control of a baronial council. This, in turn, led to a fierce civil war, in which the baronial party was led by a former royal favorite, the Frenchman Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Henry III was captured by Simon in the Battle of Lewes (1265), although he was freed and restored to power the following year when his son Prince Edward (later Edward I) won the Battle of Evesham (1265) in which Simon de Montfort was killed.  Baronial opposition continued until 1266, when the rebels and Henry III agreed to a formal reconciliation (the Dictum of Kenilworth) that recognized the supremacy of the king. The last baronial hold-outs were brought to heel in the following year. The full restoration of royal authority was commemorated with Parliament’s issuance of the Statue of Marlborough in 1267.

     Henry III was noted for his piety. He was a firm supporter of the papacy, providing money and resources to popes to support their wars in Sicily and Italy.  He ordered Westminster Abbey to be lavishly rebuilt along Gothic lines (1245-1265), and established his royal court in Westminster Hall. His piety also manifested itself in a series of anti-Jewish edicts, forcing Jews to identify themselves with special badges in the shape of the Two Tablets.


1217   Magna Carta reissued. The regent William Marshal and the baronial council that ruled England reissued Magna Carta in the name of the child king Henry III. Magna Carta had been quashed by Pope Innocent III; its free reissuance in 1217 made it the law of the land.

1223-1226   Louis VIII, Philip Augustus' son, rules for three years and concludes the military operations of the Albigensian Crusade by conquering most of southern France.

1226-1270   Reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France. King Louis IX succeeded to the throne at the age of twelve, with his very capable and strong-willed mother Queen Blanche of Castile assuming the role of regent (1226-1234). Louis’s minority was dominated by a series of baronial revolts led by his bastard half-brother Philip Hurepel, Peter Mauclerc count of Brittany, Hugh de Lusignan XI count de la Marche, and, initially, Count Thibault IV of Champagne. The first rebellion occurred in 1227. A second occurred three years later when King Henry III of England invaded to recover the lands his father John had lost in France. Henry III landed in Brittany, where he was supported by its count Peter Mauclerc, bit Louis Queen Blanche was able to defeat the coalition with military aid from Count Thibault of Champagne (rumored to be in love with Blanche) and the papal legate Frangipani. Raymond VII of Toulouse, threatened by Blanche with a renewed crusade, submitted to the Crown in 1229, ending the Albigensian Crusade. Henry III invaded again in 1242, this time in league with the Poitevin count of La Marche, Hugh de Lusignan XI, but was defeated by Louis and forced to agree to a treaty on French. Hostilities between England and France would come to a formal end in 1258 with the Treaty of Paris, by which Henry III renounced claims to Normandy and Anjou and did homage to King Luis IX for the duchy of Guyenne (a portion of the old duchy of Aquitaine).

Louis was probably the greatest medieval king of France. The leader of two (unsuccessful) crusades (1247-1251 and 1270), Louis is the exemplar of Christian royal piety in the Middle Ages. During the last two decades of his reign France experienced peace, prosperity, and brilliant cultural advances (Gothic churches, University of Paris, a literary flowering). Louis increased royal power vis-à-vis the French nobility; increased the royal domain to include Languedoc; rooted out corruption in royal administration by sending out itinerant investigators to oversee the local royal officers (baillis and seneschals); issued royal edicts that outlawed private warfare, trial by combat in royal courts, and made the king’s currency run throughout France; helped make his brother king of Sicily; defeated King Henry III of England and made peace with him (highly favorable to France); negotiated a settlement between King Henry III of England and rebel barons; promoted the Franciscan Order; and persecuted the Jews. In 1297 he was canonized by the Church for his piety (and because Pope Boniface VIII wished to placate King Philip IV “the Fair” of France, Louis’s grandson, with whom he had been fighting over taxation of the clergy). (Louis IX with his mother Blanche of Castile.)

1227   King Henry III of England comes of age.

1229    Albigensian Crusade formally ends. The papal legate Frangipani had persuaded Pope Gregory IX not only to support Blanche of Castile’s regency of France but also to allow her to collect tithes from all French dioceses in support of a renewed crusade in southern France. This was forestalled by the submission of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The treaty ending the Albigensian Crusade included an agreement on part of Raymond VII that his daughter and heiress should marry Louis IX’s younger brother Alphonse of Poitiers and if the couple should die childless, Languedoc would escheat to the Crown and become part of the royal domain—which is what happened.

1236   King Louis IX of France comes of age.

1242   Peace of Bordeaux   King Louis IX defeats King Henry III in France. St. Louis's victory over this coalition at Taillebourg, 1242, was followed by the Peace of Bordeaux which annexed to the French realm a part of Saintonge.

1244   Having fallen deathly ill, King Louis IX takes the crusader vow to recover Jerusalem from the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, to whom it had just fallen again. Louis spent the next four years raising about 1.5 million livre to conduct this crusade.

1248‑1254   Seventh Crusade. (St.) King Louis IX of France, having organized the best funded crusade to date and having taken the Egyptian port city of Damietta without opposition, gets himself and his entire army captured as he marches down the Nile in hope of taking Cairo. Louis agrees to a ransom for himself and his army of 50,000 gold bezants, about the same amount as the annual royal revenue of France. (St. Louis buries the dead after Battle of Mansourah, Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century.)

1258    Treaty of Paris. After Louis IX gave Henry III all the fiefs and domains belonging to the King of France in the Dioceses of Limoges, Cahors, and Périgueux; and in the event of Alphonse of Poitiers dying without issue, Saintonge and Agenais would escheat to Henry III. On the other hand Henry III renounced his claims to Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Maine, Poitou, and promised to do homage for the Duchy of Guyenne. Joinville reports that the French barons thought Louis IX had been far too generous to Henry III, whom he had defeated several times, and that Louis should not have made any territorial concessions to Henry III.

1258/1259  Provisions of Oxford/and Westminster. In April 1258 King Henry III of England (r.1216-1272) called a Great Council (i.e. a Parliament) to raise the money he had promised to Pope Innocent IV in support of the pope’s Sicilian War against the Hohenstaufen Manfred. The decision to call Parliament backfired. The kingdom had been suffering from poor harvest, torrential rains, and cattle murrain, and the barons were in no mood to fund the king’s foreign adventures. Disgusted by the vast sums of money wasted on unsuccessful wars in France and in Henry’s futile attempt to gain the Sicilian throne for his younger son Edmund, and chafing at the favoritism the king showed his French maternal relatives, the barons demanded that Henry dismiss all aliens from royal offices and create a council of twenty-four barons, twelve chosen by the barons and twelve by the king, to draw up a plan for governmental reform. That plan was the Provisions of Oxford, presented to the king when the Great Council next met at Oxford in June. The Provisions of Oxford limited the power of the monarchy by creating a council of fifteen barons and bishops to supervise ministerial appointments, local administration, and the custody of royal castles. This council was to be augmented three times a year by a committee of twelve drawn from the Great Council to deal with matters of national importance. A council of twenty-four was also constituted to handle all royal finances. To drive the point home, the barons also forced Henry III to reissue Magna Carta.  In the following year the baronial council issued the Provisions of Westminster, which reaffirmed the Provisions of Oxford and enacted a series of judicial reforms that limited the competency of feudal courts and continued the process of making royal Common Law the law of the land. The reforms had remade England into a baronial oligarchy; the king was now little more than a figurehead. Henry III responded as his father John had done when rebellious barons had forced him to issue Magna Carta in 1215: he appealed to the pope for relief. The precedent of 1215 held: the pope released Henry III from his oaths to accept the two Provisions on grounds that his consent had been coerced. The barons rejected the papal decision and prepared to go to war against the king. To forestall the looming civil war, the barons and Henry III agreed to allow the French king (St.) Louis IX to arbitrate the dispute. In the Mise of Amiens (1264) King Louis IX unsurprisingly found in favor of royalty. Although King Louis held that Henry III was bound by Magna Carta, which he had reissued under his name twice, he annulled the Provisions of Oxford and the Provisions of Westminster as offensive to royal dignity. The result was not peace but the Second Barons War (see 1264-1267). The baronial party throughout all this was led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester (youngest son and namesake of the leader of the Albigensian Crusade, see above 1209), who, ironically, had come to England in 1230 as a landless French noble with a claim to the earldom of Leicester, and who had risen as a favorite of King Henry III, whose sister he married in 1238.


 1264-1267   Second Barons War: English civil war between royalist forces led by Prince Edward (later King Edward I), son of King Henry III and rebel barons led by Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. De Montfort captured both Henry III and Edward in the Battle of Lewes (1264), leading to the (temporary) establishment of baronial rule in England.

1265        First elected English Parliament  Having captured and imprisoned King Henry III and his son Edward, Simon de Montfort set up a government with a three-person executive (himself, the Earl of Gloucester, and the Bishop of Chichester) in which he himself held the greatest power. To bolster the legitimacy of the new government, de Montfort called a meeting of an assembly of representatives from the shires and boroughs, i.e. a Parliament. De Montfort asked each shire to elect two knights and a select number of royal boroughs (towns) to elect two burgesses to serve as representatives. (The franchise in the shires was limited the small percentage who owned land in freehold worth at least 40 shillings a year.] English kings had summoned representative assemblies or Great Councils before this, but De Montfort’s Parliament was the first in which the representatives were elected. Ten years were to pass before the next Parliament was summoned by King Edward I (1272-1307), and it was not until the Model Parliament of 1295, which also had elected representatives from the shires and boroughs, that Parliament was to become a regular feature of English royal government.


1265   Battle of Evesham. At Evesham in Worcestershire, a royalist army led by Prince Edward defeated a baronial army led by Simon de Montfort. Simon de Montfort was killed and the baronial cause was fatally weakened. Two years later, the rebel barons submitted to King Henry III (the Dictum of Kenilworth) ending the war.


 1272-1307   Reign of Edward I of England, Henry III's son. Edward I, the “English Justinian,” reissued Magna Carta, promulgated statute law (first time in England since the Norman Conquest), and established Parliament, a body representing the nobility and communities of the realm, as a regular institution of government. Originally the king’s court, Parliament’s purpose was to grant the king taxes. It gradually developed a legislative element through the bargaining process that accompanied its grants of taxes to successive medieval kings. Edward claimed that all justice flows from the king and that baronial courts can only sit if they have written royal license. He also issued a statute prohibiting any further subinfeudation of land. Militarily, Edward conquered Wales and consolidated the conquest through the construction of a network of castles. He also extended his overlordship to Scotland, initially through diplomacy, and later militarily. His military campaigns were costly and Edward relied greatly on loans from the Riccardi, an Italian banking family from Lucca, Italy. The revenues he used to repay them came largely from the customs tax on exported wool that he levied in 1275. (Portrait of King Edward I.) (Conwy Castle, Wales.)

1285-1314   Philip IV the Fair of France. France becomes the strongest power in Europe under the rule of St. Louis' grandson, Philip the Fair (i.e. handsome). Philip reformed and improve royal administration in France, relying on middle-class officials rather than nobles. He established a royal financial accounting office modeled on the English Exchequer and a high court for royal justice, the Parlement of Paris. To increase his revenues and royal authority, Philip attempts to gain full control over the French Church from Rome, which leads him into conflict with Pope Boniface VIII. (King Edward I of England does homage to King Philip the Fair, Grandes Chroniques de France, 14th century.) (Effigy of Philip the Fair.)

1290   Jews expelled from England. After levying heavy taxes on them, King Edward I of England confiscates the property of his Jewish subjects and orders them expelled from England.

“Bastard Feudalism.” In the same year Edward I issued the statute Quia Emptores which is sometimes seen as marking the end of “feudalism” in England. Quia Emptores prohibited new subinfeudation. From this point on land could be sold or given away but could not be transferred to others to be held as fiefs. The purpose of the legislation was to simplify landholding to ensure that the Crown received all the dues owed it by tenants-in-chief. The result was that lords increasingly retained men through the use of money fiefs (annual payments of cash) and promises of “good favor” (i.e. patronage and support), a system known as “bastard feudalism.”

1294   Pope Boniface VIII (p. 1294-1303) opposes the kings of France and England over the taxation of the clergy for support of war. Boniface VIII claimed the full powers of the papal monarchy but would run into political problems with King Philip IV of France.

1294        Bankruptcy of the Riccardi bank.  King Edward I of England had used the Riccardi family of Lucca as the official bankers of the English Crown, and their loans (repaid by granting them right to collect custom taxes on wool) had financed his Welsh and Scottish wars. In 1294 Edward turned to them for an enormous sum of money to fight against King Philip IV of France. When Philip got wind of this, he confiscated all Riccardi assets in France. At the same time, Pope Boniface VIII, who opposed a war between England and France, demanded repayment of monies the Riccardi owed the papacy. As a consequence, the Riccardi experienced a disastrous liquidity problem and were unable to come up with the enormous advances required by Edward. Edward responded by angrily excluding them from collection of the English wool customs which sent the banking family into irremediable decline. Important as an example of the inadequacy of the international financial system in the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

1295   Edward I’s “Model Parliament  Needing money to fight wars in Wales, Scotland, and France, King Edward I summoned Parliament to consent to new taxes. Edward proclaimed in his writ of summons, “what touches all, should be approved of all, and it is also clear that common dangers should be met by measures agreed upon in common.” Following the precedent of De Montfort’s Parliament (1265), Edward I ordered each shire to elect two knights, each borough to elect two burgesses, and each city to elect two citizens to represent their communities. Edward I’s Parliaments and those of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were not legislative bodies but representative assemblies empowered to grant the king new taxes. The legislative function came as a byproduct of the negotiations between these Parliaments and the kings in which the redress of grievances became a quid pro quo for the granting of money.

 1296-1328   The First War of Scottish Independence. In 1289 the Guardians of Scotland, a council of Scots nobles and bishops, the de facto rulers of Scotland, turned to King Edward I of England to arbitrate between the claims of John de Balliol and Robert the Bruce to the Scottish throne. Before doing so, Edward I demanded that the Guardians and the claimants acknowledge his overlordship of Scotland, which they did. Edward I in 1292 found in favor of John de Balliol, but immediately pressed his asserted rights as overlord of Scotland. When in 1294 he demanded military support against King Philip the Fair of France, Balliol responded by making an alliance with France. In 1296 the Scots crossed into England to take Carlisle, but were driven back by Edward who defeated them in battle at Dunbar, and campaigned as far north as Elgin. He seized the Scottish coronation stone (the Stone of Destiny), deposed Baliol, and claimed direct rule over Scotland, which would become a province of the English kingdom. The response was the First War of Scottish Independence, initially led by William Wallace and Andrew de Moray (d.1297), who defeated an English army at Stirling Bridge in 1297.  Edward I struck back, defeating Wallace decisively at Falkirk (1298). The Scottish nobility capitulated to Edward I in 1304, but by 1307, as Edward lay dying, the war was being renewed by Robert the Bruce, who would win a decisive victory over King Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314 and would force the English to recognize the independence of Scotland in the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northhampton in 1328..

c. 1300   Decline of Champagne fairs (reflects the growing maturity of the European international commercial economy; use of resident agents in foreign cities by merchant houses and rise of professional carter to transport goods make fairs unnecessary). (Lendit Fair, Saint-Denis. 15th century ms.)



1302  Battle of Courtrai (in Belgium), a.k.a the Battle of the Golden Spurs. In 1297 King Philip IV of France imprisoned Count Guy de Dampierre of Flanders for entering into an alliance with King Edward I of England. King Philip ended Flemish independence and made the county part of the royal domain. The townsmen of Flanders, who had chafed under Count Guy’s taxation, found Philip’s direct rule even more oppressive and revolte Philip sent his brother Count Robert II of Artois to put down the revolt with an army of about 8,000 men, 2,500 of whom were men-at-arms (heavily armored men on horseback), supported by 1,000 crossbowmen, 1,000 spearmen, with the remainder light infantry. In response, the towns of Flanders gathered their combined militias in the city of Courtrai. The largest contingent was the militia of Bruges, about 3,000 strong, led by William of Jülich, grandson of Count Guy, and Pieter de Coninck, a rebel leader from Bruges. This was joined by another army of about 2,500 men from the coastal areas of Flanders, led by Guy of Namur, son of Count Guy, with the two sons of Guy of Dampierre. Ghent supplied an additional 2,500 men, and Ypres and Zeeland, another 1,000. Altogether the Flemish forces numbered about 9,000 men, of whom about 400 were nobles. The Flemish town militias were highly disciplined infantry, and were armed with pikes and Goedendags (a 4-6 foot club with a spike on top). They numbered about 9,000, including 400 nobles. Before the battle began, the Flemish leaders gave the order that no prisoners were to be taken. This was to be a fight to the death. The Flemish lined up outside of the town of Courtrai in a strong position. Their flanks were protected by the town and a river, and to their front were a number of small brooks. Robert of Artois, thinking the Flemings to be a rabble, ordered a cavalry attack without support from his archers or infantry. Slowed to a trot by the streams the French charge was unable to build up momentum, and the Flemings held their ground. The result was a slaughter. The French lost at least 1,000 nobles, whose golden spurs were hung in the church of Courtrai as a thanksgiving. Military historians sometimes regard Courtrai as evidence for the superiority of well trained infantry over heavy cavalry, but the victory had at least as much to do with the particular terrain. Twenty-six years later at Cassels, French cavalry was to score an equally decisive victory over Flemish infantry.

1306   Expulsion of the Jews from France. King Philip IV orders the arrest of all the Jews in France, confiscates their property and expels them from his realm—sixteen years after Edward I had expelled them from England.

1315-1317   The Great Famine. Bad weather and crop failure result in famine across northwestern Europe. The Great Famine affected approximately 400,000 square miles. The Mediterranean famine and the Great Famine probably affected thirty to forty million people. Unsanitary conditions and malnutrition increase the death rate and make the population more susceptible to epidemic diseases. Even after the revival of agricultural conditions, weather disasters reappear. A mixture of war, famine and plague in the Late Middle Ages reduces the population by one-half.

File:Bannockburn.jpg1314   Battle of Bannockburn. Decisive victory of the Scots under King Robert I the Bruce (r.1306-1329) over the English under King Edward II (r.1307-1327).  Bannockburn secured the independence of Scotland from English rule, although the English did not formally acknowledge Scottish independence until the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328.

1328   The last heir of the Capetian dynasty dies and is replaced by the first ruler of the Valois dynasty. The young King Edward III of England is more directly descended from the Capetian line but he does homage for his French county of Gascony to the Valois King Philip VI.  He will later lay claim the French crown to justify a war (The Hundred Years War, see 1337) to preserve his control over Gascony.

1328   Battle of Cassels. At Cassels (about 14 miles south of Dunkirk), King Philip VI of France defeated a Flemish rebel army led by Nikolaas Zannekin and restores Louis I as count of Flanders. Politically, the Battle of Cassels placed Flanders for the time being under the control of the French crown. Militarily, it represents a reversal of the Battle of Courtrai (1302).


 1337-1453   The Hundred Years' War, a series of wars (broken up by periods of truce) between the kings of England and the kings of France that begun over English claims to sovereignty over Gascony and, subsequently, evolved into a dispute over the claim by the English kings to be the rightful rulers of France. The main military activities of the Hundred Years War were raiding, pillaging, and sieges. The English favored the chevauchée, a rapidly moving mounted raid, the purpose of which was to harm the French economy, undermine French morale, enrich the participants, and (perhaps) to lure the enemy into a battle on favorable terms to the invader.  There were few major battles, most of which were won by the English, largely because of the effectiveness of their longbowmen. The most famous of these were Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415). The war waxed and waned. The successes of King Edward III (r.1327-1377) and his eldest son Edward the Black Prince in the first two decades of the war and the capture of King John II of France at Poitiers led to the Peace of Bretigny (1360-1369), which acknowledged the English king as possessing virtual sovereignty over an expanded duchy of Aquitaine. Between 1369 and 1380, however, the French King Charles V (r.1364-1380) and his Constable Bertrand du Guesclin regained through Fabian tactics all the territory ceded by the Peace of Bretigny. Under King Henry V (r.1413-1422), the English conquered Normandy (1417-1419) in a series of sieges, and with the aid of the disaffected Burgundians, was able to compel the French king Charles VI to give him a daughter in marriage and to recognize him as his heir (the Treaty of Troyes, 1420), . Nonetheless, the French regrouped under King Charles VII (r.1422-1461) and, after a reconciliation with the Burgundians, Charles recovered all the lands lost to the English. Joan of Arc (d.1431) helped inspire the French to take up the fight once more against the English, but the ultimate French victory owed more to Charles VII investment in the new gunpowder technology, which resulted in an effective artillery train, and a standing army.


1340 Battle of Sluys. An English fleet of 250 ships under the command of King Edward III won a decisive victory off the coast of the town of Sluys (now in Zeeland, Netherlands) over a French fleet of 190 ships.  The battle, one of the first military actions of the Hundred Years War, resulted in the destruction of most of France's fleet, making a French invasion of England impossible, and ensuring that the war would be fought mostly in France.

1346   Battle of Crecy (Hundred Years War). English victory over the French at Crecy. Although outnumbered (about 15,000 to 35,0000), the English under King Edward III defeated a French army through a combination of the longbow and dismounted men-at-arms. The English are reputed to have used cannons during the battle, but if they did, the cannons played little role in the victory. Crecy allowed the English to take the port city of Calais, which gave the English a secure base in northern France.

1355   Edward, the Black Prince (eldest son of King Edward III) conducted a devastating and highly profitable chevauchée (raid) throughout Languedoc (southern France).

1356   Battle of Poitiers (Hundred Years War). On 6 July 1356, Edward, the Black Prince began a great chevauchée (mounted raid) north from English held Bordeaux, in an effort to relieve allied garrisons in central France, as well as to raid and ravage the countryside. His Anglo-Gascon forces (about 7,000 mounted troops) burned numerous towns to the ground and living off the land, until they reached the Loire River at Tours. His army was unable to take the castle nor could they burn the town, due to a heavy downpour. His delay there allowed John II, King of France, at the head of an army of at least 10,000 men, many of them heavily armored men-at-arms, to catch Edward's army. The battle took place on 19 September. After attempting unsuccessfully to negotiate a withdrawal, the Black Prince drew up his troops in a strong position, deploying most of them on a hill protected in the rear by woods and in the front by a hedge and marshes. He ordered all but 200 of his men-at-arms to dismount; the 200 mounted men-at-arms under the command of the Captal de Buch were hidden in the woods behind the hill. The French arranged their troops into four battalions. The first was a small force of about 300 cavalry tasked with riding down the English archers; the other three were dismounted (apparently drawing the wrong lesson from Crecy). The English archers mowed down the cavalry as it charged; the second battalion was beaten back, while the third, dissolved in confusion. King John led the fourth battalion which reached the English lines and almost overwhelmed the English forces. The Captal de Buch, however, swept around the hill and fell on John’s rear. The panicked army disintegrated and King John was captured. The capture of King John of France made this battle particularly significant. It not only resulted in the payment of a huge royal ransom but also to the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360, which left the English in possession of an expanded duchy of Aquitaine.