Angevin Empire

Dafato Team | Jul 29, 2023

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The Angevin Empire (French: Empire angevin) or rather Plantagenet (French: L'Empire Plantagenêt) was a set of states ruled by the Plantagenet-Angevin dynasty. This definition of "Angevin Empire" remains a historiographical neologism, however, because these dominions never constituted a unitary state but a dynastic union; another such example is the North Sea Empire.

The Plantagenets ruled in the 12th and 13th centuries over an area stretching from the Pyrenees to Ireland, encompassing about one half of medieval France, England and Ireland. As kings of England they were totally sovereign in the territories they controlled in the British Isles, but across the English Channel, where they owned more fiefs and lands than the kings of France themselves, they still turned out to be feudal vassals of the latter, to whom they had to pay homage.

Despite the extent of Plantagenet power, they were eventually defeated by Philip II Augustus, King of France, of the Capetian dynasty, who caused them to lose all the provinces north of the Loire, including their original core of Normandy and Anjou. This defeat, which left the Plantagenets with rule over their English possessions and Gascony in France, set the stage for the subsequent Saintonge and Hundred Years' Wars.

"Angevin Empire" is a neologism in Anglo-Saxon historiography to denote the territory controlled by the Plantagenet rulers, Henry II, Richard I, and John Landless. As is obvious to historians, there was at the time no term to designate the region under the control of the Anjou-Plantagenets, but descriptions such as "our kingdom and everything under our power, whatever it is." The term "Angevin Empire" was coined by Kate Norgate in her 1887 publication England under the Angevin Kings. In France, the term "Espace Plantagenêt" is most often used to refer to the territories ruled by the Plantagenets. Italian historiography, too, prefers to use the term Plantagenet to refer to English rulers on both sides of the English Channel, to avoid confusion, preferring to reserve the term Angevin for the namesake cadets of the later Capetian lineage, enfeoffed of Anjou.

By adopting the Angevins as a point of reference, this term marked a reassessment of time, considering that English and French influence had both spread to the dominated territory in the half-century in which their union lasted. The term "Angevin" itself is the adjective applied to the inhabitants of Anjou and its historic capital, Angers; the Plantagenets came from Anjou, hence precisely the term.

The use of the term "empire" has arisen controversially among various historians. Since it is merely a collection of the territories inherited or acquired by Henry II, it is not known whether or not there was a common identity among the various domains. Some historians argue that the term "empire" should strictly refer to the Holy Roman Empire, the only political structure in Western Europe so named. Other historians believe that Henry II's empire was neither powerful, centralized, nor vast enough to correspond to an imperial title. Although the Plantagenets themselves claimed no imperial title, some chroniclers, often working for Henry II himself, used the term "empire" to describe this set of territories. In practice, the highest title was "King of England," to which, in France, were added the titles of dukes and earls, which were completely independent of the royal title and not subject to any English law.

For these reasons, some historians prefer to "empire" the term "commonwealth," which emphasizes the fact that this so-called "Angevin Empire" was more of a dynastic set of seven completely independent and loosely intertwined sovereign entities.

At its peak, the empire included the Kingdom of England, the Lordship of Ireland, the duchies of Normandy, Gascony and Aquitaine (also called Guyenne) as well as Anjou, Poitou, Maine, Turenna, Saintonge, La Marche, Périgord, Limousin, Nantes and Quercy. While the duchies and counties were controlled with varying levels of vassalage by the king of France, the Plantagenets held rule over Brittany, Toulouse, the Kingdom of Scotland, and Wales in various ways, although these areas were not formally part of the Empire. Further claims were made on Auvergne and Berry but were not successful.

Sometimes the boundaries were well-defined and easy to draw such as that between the demesne, the demesne territory (in other cases, however, they were not so clear, especially that to the east of Aquitaine where there was a difference between the boundary that Henry II and later Richard I claimed and the one where their power actually ended.

One of the most important features of the Angevin Empire was its "polycratic" structure, a term taken from John of Salisbury's "Policraticus," a political writing on the Angevin Empire.

Norman England was under fairly tight control: the kingdom was divided into counties with sheriffs reinforcing the "Common Law." A judge was appointed by the king to enforce his will while he was away. Since the kings of England were more often in France than at home, they made greater use of decrees than previous Anglo-Saxon rulers; paradoxically, therefore, their frequent absence made the administration of English territory more robust and efficient. During the reign of William the Conqueror, the Anglo-Saxon nobles had been largely replaced by Anglo-Norman nobles who owned lands in both English and French territory: hence the extent of contiguous estates that each of them could accumulate was less, and as a result it was more difficult for them to rebel against the king, with the need to defend their lands simultaneously. The English counts had a similar status to the European counts, yet none of them was ever a threat to the king.

In the "Grand Anjou," however, two types of officers reinforced control: the Prévots (provosts) and the Seneshals (syniscalchi). These were based in Tours, Chinon, Baugé, Beaufort, Brissac, Angers, Saumur, Laudun, Lauch, Langeais, and Montbazon. The other places were administered not by the Plantagenets but by other families. Maine, by contrast, was largely independent and lacked control. The Plantagenets made several attempts to improve the administration of this state by placing new officers, such as syniscalchi, in Le Mans. These reforms were too late, and the only ones who benefited from them were the Capetians (kings of France), after they had annexed the "Grand Anjou."

Gascony was certainly a loosely administered region, with officers located only in Entre-deux-Mers, Bayonne, Dax, on the Garonne River up to Agen, as well as on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The rest of the territory was left without a governor and was a vast area compared to other provinces. It was very difficult for the Angevins, as for that matter for the previous dukes of Poitiers, to establish their authority over the duchy, which was difficult to govern because of the conformation of the territory.

In both Poitou and Aquitaine, castles were concentrated in Poitou, where there were official representatives (which were absent in the eastern provinces of Périgord and Limousin). There were, on the other hand, lords who ruled these regions as if they were autonomous, and had concrete powers, such as minting money. Richard the Lionheart went into his decline in Limousin.

Normandy was probably one of the most controlled states in the Angevin Empire. The prévots and viscounts lost importance in favor of magistrates (baillis, bailiffs), with executive and judicial power. They were introduced in the 12th century in Normandy and organized the state similarly to the syniscalchi in England. Ducal authority was strong on the border between the royal feudal territory and the duchy, but milder on the rest of the region.

Ireland was ruled by the Lord of Ireland, who initially had difficulty establishing himself. Dublin and Leinster were Angevin strongholds, while Cork, Limerick and Ulster were owned by the Normans of South Wales.

In Aquitaine and Anjou, although the authorities of the duke and count existed, there was no homogeneity. For example, the Lusignan family, very powerful in these lands, proved to be an influential opponent for the Plantagenets.

Scotland was an independent kingdom, but after the disastrous campaign led by William the Lion, English garrisons were deployed to the castles of Edinburgh, Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick in southern Scotland, as defined in the Treaty of Falaise.

Toulouse was kept under control with the vassalage of the Count of Toulouse, but the latter rarely proved sufficient. Only Quercy was administered by the Plantagenets and remained a disputed area at that time.

Brittany, a region where nobles were traditionally very independent, was firmly controlled by the Plantagenets. Nantes was under the unchallenged power of the Angevins, while the Plantagenets often meddled in the affairs of the Bretons, appointed archbishops and thus imposed themselves on the region.

Wales obtained good freedoms provided it paid a duty to the Plantagenets and recognized them as sovereigns; nevertheless it remained almost independent. It supplied the Plantagenets with knives and longbows, which would later be used by England with great success.

The economic aspect of the Angevin Empire was quite complex because of the different political structures of the dominions. Areas such as England and Normandy, where central power was stronger, produced more tax revenue than less controlled regions such as Limousin, where local princes could mint their own coins.

It is commonly believed that the money collected in England was used for the needs of the continental part.

British revenues themselves varied according to period:

In Ireland revenues were quite low, only £2,000 in 1212; however, the data are mostly incomplete. As for Normandy, there were many variations in relation to Duchy policy. In 1180 revenues were only £6,750, but reached £25,000 per year in 1198, more than England. Most impressive was the fact that Normandy's population was somewhat smaller than England's: the former is estimated at 1.5 million, the latter at 3.5.

For Aquitaine, Anjou, and Gascony we have no data on income, but these regions were not poor: there were large vineyards, important cities, and iron mines. This is what Ralph of Dicetus, an English chronicler, wrote about Aquitaine:

Capetian kings did not benefit from as much revenue, although royal power was more centralized under Louis VII and Philip II than it was under Hugh Capet or Robert the Pious.

The wealth of the Plantagenet kings was definitely considered greater; Giraldo of Wales wrote about it in these words:

Petit Dutailli commented that "Richard maintained such superiority in resources that, had he lived longer, it would have given him the opportunity to annihilate his rival."

There is another explanation, little followed and proven wrong, namely that the king of France had recorded such revenues that his principality alone would have recorded higher revenues than the entire Angevin Empire.

In 1135, upon the death of Henry I, a serious crisis of succession to the English throne, at that time ruled by the Normans, which goes by the name of Anarchy.

Henry I had had two legitimate children: Matilda, born in 1102, and William, born in 1103. Following William's death in the wreck of the White Ship (November 1120), King Henry had forced the Anglo-Norman barons to recognize Matilda as his heir and swear allegiance to her. However, the fact that she was a woman and, moreover, the wife (since 1128) of an Angevin count, hindered Matilda in her succession to the throne, on which her cousin Stephen of Blois took office in December of the same 1135.

The result was a long period of unrest and strife, in which not only Stephen and Matilda - also her husband Goffred V of Anjou and later their son Henry, born in 1133. Goffredo and Henry managed to prevail first on the continent-where they became dukes of Normandy first Goffredo in 1144 and then Henry in 1150-and later in England, following the renunciation of Stephen, whose son and heir Eustace had died in 1153. By the Treaty of Wallingford (Nov. 6, 1153), Stephen recognized Henry as his own adopted son and heir. Thus, upon Stephen's death (thus ended the Norman rule of England and the Plantagenet dynasty originated instead.

Henry Plantagenet then became Henry II of England in December 1154. He combined in his hands the Anglo-Norman possessions inherited from his mother (duchy of Normandy and kingdom of England) and the Angevin possessions inherited from his father (counties of Anjou and Maine). Moreover, having married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, Henry had also extended his control over the duchies of Aquitaine and Gascony. Thus the core of the Angevin empire had been formed. Subsequently the question of his oath over Anjou and his brother Godfrey arose again. Henry II received a dispensation from Pope Adrian IV, on the pretext that the oath had been imposed on him; Henry II proposed compensation to Goffredo, at Rouen, in 1156, but the latter refused and returned to Anjou to rise again against Henry II. Although Goffredo had a solid moral right, his position was nevertheless very weak. Louis VII did not interfere since Henry II paid tribute of vassalage to the King of France for Normandy, Anjou and Aquitaine. Henry II suppressed Goffredo's revolt and had to be satisfied by an annual pension.

Expansions of the Angevin Empire.

Henry II clearly claimed new lands and worked for the creation of a ring of vassal states, especially around England and Normandy, as a "buffer zone." The most obvious were Scotland, Wales, Brittany and Flanders, which could also be used as a starting point for further expansion.

David I of Scotland had taken advantage of the Anarchy to seize Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland.

Important leaders such as Rhys of Deheubarth and Owain of Gwyneed had emerged in Wales.

In Brittany there is no evidence that the Duke of Brittany, named Odox, had recognized Norman sovereignty. Two vital castles on the frontier, Moulines-la-Marche and Bonmoulins, were never retaken by Goffredo Plantagenet and remained in the hands of Robert of Dreux. Count Thierry of Flanders had joined the alliance promoted by Louis VII in 1153. Further south, the Count of Blois acquired Amboise. From Henry II's point of view there were some disputes to be resolved.

King Henry II proved to be a very daring and courageous king, and he was also very active, traveling often, in fact, he was more present in France than in England, as Ralph of Diss, the Rector of St. Paul's Church, ironized about it, "There is nothing left for us to send to bring the king back to London except the Tower of London."

Castles and strongholds in France

Henry II of England reacquired Vernon and Neufmarché in 1154. From then on this new strategy based the relations between the Plantagenets and the Capetians.

Louis VII could not deny his failed attempt to oust Henry II. Because of the Angevin control of England in 1154 it was futile to oppose the superiority that the Angevin forces mustered over the Capetian ones. Henry II did not want to stop claiming the lands until the Norman Vexin was entirely recaptured.

Thomas Becket was sent as ambassador to Paris in 1158 to conduct negotiations and showed all the wealth the Angevins could glory in compared to the Capetians. Louis VII's daughter Margaret, who was still a child, was promised to Henry, the future "Young King" (son of King Henry II). Although a child, Margaret was nevertheless old enough for her to be given a dowry for her marriage. This dowry happened to be the Norman Vexin. Henry II was given back the castles of Moulines-La-Marche and Bonmoulines. Tybalt the Good obtained Amboise back.


Although Thierry of Alsace had taken part in the attacks against Henry II along with Louis VII, the wool trade between England and Flanders fostered a cordial relationship between the two dominions, so much so that Thierry named Henry II protector of his lands as he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

In 1159 William of Blois, who was Stephen's last son, died without an heir, leaving the titles Count of Boulogne and Count of Mortain vacant. Henry II assumed the title of Count of Mortain but wanted to grant that of Boulogne to Thierry's son Matthew, who married Mary of Boulogne. The title of Count of Boulogne also included important manors in London and Colchester. England received much of its wool from Flanders through the port of Boulogne; an alliance with these two counties was thus sealed by this marriage and the granting of the manors.

Henry II first had to take Mary out of her convent, which was a common practice in England since Norman times. The few remaining official documents show that in 1163 Henry II and Thierry renewed the treaty signed by William the Conqueror. Flanders offered Henry II knights in exchange for an annual tribute of money.


In Brittany, Duke Conan III of Brittany declared his son Hoel III of Brittany a bastard and disinherited him; it was his sister Bertha who became Duchess of Brittany, making her husband, Odo, nominally Duke. Hoel then reigned together with his brother-in-law, and was to be satisfied as Earl of Nantes; Bertha was the widow of Alain of Brittany with whom he had a son, Conan, who had become Earl of Richmond in 1148, and who was Henry II's chosen candidate to become the new Duke of Brittany, so that any duke with important possessions in England would be easier to control.

In 1156 the duchy of Brittany was hit by civil uprisings that led to the rise of Conan IV of Brittany while in Nantes the population asked Henry II for help against Hoel. Geoffrey (Henry II's brother) was appointed as the new count of Nantes by Henry II, but he did not hold the position for long, as he died in 1158 at only 24 years old. In 1158 Conan IV also ruled briefly as count of Nantes; Henry II took the title the same year by raising an army at Avranches to threaten Conan.

In 1160 Henry II arranged a marriage between his cousin Margaret of Scotland and Conan; he then appointed the archbishop of Dol. Without the custom of strict government in Brittany among the nobles discontent grew: this led to a revolt to which Henry II responded in 1166; he made Goffredo, his seven-year-old son, betrothed to Conan's daughter and later forced Conan to abdicate for his future son-in-law, making Henry the ruler of Brittany but not yet the Duke of it. The nobles of Brittany strongly opposed this, and more attacks on Brittany followed (first in 1167, then in 1168 and finally in 1173). Each of these was followed by seizures, and Henry II placed William Fitzhamo and Rolland of Dinan as his own men on the spot.

Although not formally part of the Plantagenet territory, Brittany was under firm control.


Henry II met with Malcolm IV of Scotland in 1157 to decide about Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumbria before he was captured by his grandfather, David I of Scotland. In 1149, before Henry II came to power, he made a pact with David, namely, that the lands north of Newcastle would belong to the king of Scotland forever. Malcolm reminded him of this pact but Henry II had no intention of keeping it.

There is nothing to show that Henry II obtained a dispensation from the Pope of that time as William of Newburgh testifies instead:

Malcolm IV did tribute in exchange for Huntingdon, which he inherited from his brother.

William the Lion, the next king of Scotland, resented Henry II because William himself had received Northumbria from David in 1152, then lost it to Henry, and Henry finally ceded it to Malcolm IV in 1157.

As a member of the coalition formed by Louis VII William the Lion first invaded Northumbria in 1173, again in 1174; later he was captured near Alnwick and had to sign the onerous Treaty of Falaise. Garrisons were sent to the castles of Edinburgh, Roxburgh, Jedburgh and Berwick. Southern Scotland remained from then on under strict control as was Brittany. Richard I of England would cancel the Treaty of Falaise in exchange for money to finance his crusade, creating a context for cordial relations between the two "Lion" Kings.


Rhys of Deheubarth, also called Lord Rhys, and Owain of Gwynedd were opposed to negotiating. Henry II had attacked Wales three times, in 1157, 1158 and 1163 so that they would respond to his call to court: however, the conditions were too harsh and much of Wales rebelled against him, and he thus undertook a fourth invasion in 1164, this time with a massive army, as is narrated in the "Prince's Chronicle."

Bad weather and floods slowed the Angevin army and hindered the conquest of Wales; Henry II, furious about this, had Welsh hostages mutilated. Wales would remain safe for a while, but the invasion of Ireland in 1171 put pressure on Henry II to bring the matter to a conclusion through negotiations with Lord Rhys.


Further expansion plans were considered because Henry II's last brother had no possessions. The Holy See would have been more supportive of a campaign in Ireland that integrated the Church in this state into the Christian-Latin world of Rome. Henry II had obtained Rome's blessing in 1155 in the form of a papal bull, but he was forced to postpone the invasion of Ireland because of all the issues concerning his lands and surrounding areas. Here is a passage from the Laudabiliter Bull:

William of Poitou died in 1164 without having settled in Ireland, but not even at this point did Henry II abandon his conquest. In 1167 Dermot of Leinster, an Irish king, was recognized as "prince of Leinster" by Henry II and allowed to recruit soldiers in England and Wales for use in Ireland against other sovereigns. The early knights enjoyed great success in carving out land in Ireland, so much so that this annoyed Henry II enough to prompt him to land in Ireland in October 1171 near Waterford: impressed by this demonstration, many Irish kings recognized him as their lord. Even Rory O'Connor, the king of Connacht who claimed to be "the High King of Ireland" paid homage to Henry II. Henry II placed some of his men in strongholds such as Dublin and Leinster (after Dermot's death).

He thus gave the unconquered kingdoms such as Cork, Limerick and Ulster to his men and let the Normans divide their lands of Ireland. In 1177 he appointed John, his son, the first "Lord of Ireland," although John was still young: when he landed on the island in 1185, he failed to impose his authority over the territory and had to return to his father. It would not be until 25 years later that John would return to Ireland while others built castles and made their own interests.


Much less well-founded was the claim to Toulouse. Eleanor's ancestors had asked for the vast County of Toulouse as it was to serve as a center for the power of the ancient Duchy of Aquitaine in the time of Hodon the Great. Henry II and perhaps even Eleanor were probably not related to this ancient dynasty of dukes (Eleanor was a Ramnulfid while Henry II was an Angevin).

Toulouse was a very large city; it was richly fortified and wealthier than many cities of its time. It had strategic importance because of its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. As if that were not enough, the county of Toulouse was the largest state in the Kingdom of France with its wide access to the Mediterranean Sea, and it included important cities such as Narbonne, Cahors, Albi, Nîmes, and Carcassona.

Toulouse was not easy prey, in fact it was incredibly vast and fortified for a medieval city. Raymond V married the sister of Louis VII, so Henry, by attacking Toulouse, would have jeopardized the policy of peace with the King of France. The County of Toulouse also had extremely fortified areas such as Carcassonne and others such as Queribus, Aguila, Termes, Peyrepertuse, and Puylaurens.

In June 1159 Henry II gathered at Poitiers what was the largest army he had ever assembled. Formed of troops from all his fiefs (from Gascony to England), that army also included reinforcements sent by Thierry and Malcolm IV. Henry II attacked from the north while all his allies, namely Trencavels and Ramon Berenguer, from another front.

Henry II failed to capture Toulouse and the recurrent conflicts with the city would be called the "Forty Years' War against Toulouse" by William of Newburgh. Henry II captured Cahors and also many other castles in the Garonne Valley (in 1161 he withdrew and then was occupied elsewhere with conflicts in his fiefdoms and thus left his allies to fight against Toulouse. Alfonso II, King of Aragon, also had war-related interests there.

In 1171 Henry II made an alliance with Humbert of Maurienne adding among his allies one of Ramon V. In 1173 at Limoges, Ramon finally surrendered after ten days of hard fighting. He paid tribute to Henry II, his son Henry, and his other son Richard the Lionheart appointed Duke of Aquitaine again.

Louis VII was known to his contemporaries for his piety and love of peace. This is what Stephen of Paris wrote about him:

Even Walter Map, a satirical chronicler who was his contemporary, was kind to Louis VII and honored him by contrasting him with other kings he had harshly criticized.

So King Louis VII was a man of peace, opposed to war and violence, but the attacks on Toulouse made it clear that peace with Henry II was not real peace but an opportunity to wage war elsewhere. He himself was not in a happy position: the territory under him was far more powerful than he was, and to make matters worse he was without male heirs. Constance, his second wife, died in childbirth in 1160, and Louis VII announced that he would immediately remarry, in urgent need of a male heir, to Adèle of Champagne. Young Henry finally married Margaret, only two years old, under pressure from Henry II, and as arranged in 1158 he had the Norman Vexin as dowry. If Louis VII had died without male heirs, Henry the Younger would have been in a good position to become king of France himself (they certainly ignored the Salic Law).

In 1164 King Louis found a fairly turbulent ally in Archbishop Thomas Becket. The two had already met in 1158 but now circumstances had changed: Louis had already housed clergy refugees on his estates and was therefore called Rex Christianissimus by John of Salisbury.

There were in fact growing conflicts between the king of England and the archbishop, and Henry II caused the assassination of Thomas Becket by uttering words similar to these:

Thomas Becket was killed in 1170, and the Christian world condemned Henry for it. Against him, Louis, who had protected Thomas Becket, gained a general consensus, so even though his secular power was less, he now had a moral advantage.

By 1165 the idea of a possible ascension by Henry the Younger to the throne of France had completely vanished as Philip had been born to Adele. With the birth of the future King of France it was clear that peace was over; Henry II claimed Auvergne and marched there in 1167 when he also made claims on Bourges and invaded it in 1170. Louis VII responded by raiding the Norman Vexin, forcing Henry II to risk his troops in the north; Louis VII then moved south and liberated Bourges. At that point, it was not only Louis who wondered if Henry II's expansionism would ever end.

Henry II, as a consistent ruler, never ceded his lands but planned to distribute them to his sons as private estates. Henry the Younger was crowned king of England in 1170 but never really ruled; in 1172 Richard the Lionheart became Duke of Aquitaine, in 1181 Godfrey was Duke of Brittany, and John Lord of Ireland in 1185. Eleanor, on the other hand, born in 1162, was promised to Alfonso VII with Gascony as dowry during the campaign against Toulouse in 1170. This division of lands among his sons made it more difficult for him to control them, as many of them would later turn against him.

Following the coronation Henry the Younger demanded part of his inheritance, at the very least either England, Normandy or Anjou but Henry II refused to give up anything. Henry the Younger then joined Louis VII at his court, Eleanor of England herself entered the conflict, and both Richard and Godfrey of Brittany joined the court of France. Henry II was thus forced to fight, and other sovereigns would later side with Louis VII: William the Lion, King of Scotland, Philip, Count of Flanders, Count of Boulogne, and Tybalt, Count of Blois. Henry II emerged victorious from this war, for with his wealth he was able to recruit a large number of mercenaries: he soon had Eleanor of Aquitaine captured and imprisoned, and forced William the Lion into the Treaty of Falaise.

Henry II acquired the county of Marche, then enjoined that he be given the French Vexin and Bourges immediately, but this time there was no invasion to support the claims.

Philip II Augustus and Richard the Lionhearted

Louis VII died and was buried in the basilica of Saint Denis in 1180. His son, only 15 years old, became king in 1183 under the name Philip II; his policy was to use the sons of King Henry II against him. Richard the Lionheart administered Aquitaine from 1175, but his policy of centralizing power became unpopular in the eastern part of the Duchy, mainly Périgord and Limousin. Richard was accused of numerous crimes there, such as murder and rape.

But if he was not as popular in Aquitaine, Philip was equally unappreciated by his contemporaries; comments were made such as, "Cunning, manipulative, calculating, stingy and ungainly ruler."

In 1183 Henry the Younger joined a revolt led by Limoges and Godfrey Lusignan against Richard to take his place. They also benefited from the union of Philip II Raymond V and Hugh III, duke of Burgundy. Henry the Younger died suddenly in 1183, allowing Richard to be saved; he was buried at Notre Dame de Rouen.

Richard thus remained the eldest son of Henry II and inherited the privileges of Henry the Younger. His father ordered him to cede Aquitaine to his brother John, but he refused to obey.

Henry II had too many problems to solve at the time to deal with: the princes of Wales were challenging his authority, William the Lion was demanding that his castles be returned to him, and, because Henry the Younger was dead, Philip II was demanding that the Norman Vexin be returned to him.

Eventually Henry asked Richard to cede Aquitaine to Eleanor, while effectively retaining control. Also in 1183, Raymond V had recaptured Cahors, and Henry asked Richard to make an expedition against Toulouse.

Godfrey of Brittany was heavily feuding with his brother Richard, and it was obvious that those could be used by the Capetians, but his death in a tournament in 1186 made the plan impossible. By 1187, Philip II and Richard were more than strong allies, as Roger of Hodeven reported:

In 1188 Raymond V attacked again, with the support of the Lusignans; it is said that Henry II himself financed the revolt. At the same time Philip II attacked Henry II in Normandy and took some strongholds in Berry. In 1188, Philip and Henry met to rediscuss the peace, Henry II refused to name Richard his heir, and Richard's response that has been handed down is, "Now, at last, I must believe what I always thought impossible."

Richard soon paid tribute to the king of France for all the lands his father held, and this was the real collapse of Henry's entire strategy. So when Richard and Philip attacked Henry, no one in Aquitaine resisted him, and even the Bretons considered joining the attack.

Henry's hometown of Le Mans was also captured, and Tours soon fell: Henry then, locked in his castle at Chinon, was forced to surrender, paid a large tribute in money to Philip II, and swore that all his possessions in France and England would recognize Richard as their lord. Henry II died two days later, knowing that John had joined Richard and Philip; he was buried in Fontevrault Abbey.

Eleanor, who was Henry's prisoner, was then freed while Lord Rhys rose again and began the reconquest of the southern parts of Wales that Henry had annexed. In 1189 Richard was crowned king as Richard I in Westminster Abbey, when he was already Duke of Normandy, Earl of Anjou, and Duke of Aquitaine. Philip II therefore demanded that the Norman Vexin be returned to him, but the demand was settled when Richard announced that he would marry Philip's sister Alice. Richard also stipulated that Auvergne belonged to the domain of the King of France and not to the Duke of Aquitaine, ending Henry's claims to the place. In Brittany King William the Lion began negotiations with Richard to revoke the Treaty of Falaise and an agreement was reached.

The Third Crusade

The next priority was the crusade: it had been delayed even too long, and Richard thought it was time to fulfill his Catholic duty. Beyond the strictly religious plan, his progenitor Folk V had been king of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan was a nobleman from Poitou, and his wife, Sibyl, was Richard's cousin. The crusade and French affairs would be the reasons for Richard's absence in England: he spent only six months of his reign at home.

Before Richard I left, he had to make sure that nothing would go wrong during his absence. There was a small chance that Raymond V would take the opportunity to expand his possessions in Aquitaine; to counter this threat he allied himself with Sancho VI the Wise, king of Navarre. On his way to the Holy Land, Richard married Berengaria, princess of Navarre, after repudiating Alice in 1191. To appease Philip, he agreed that if he had two sons, the younger would take Normandy, Aquitaine or Anjou and rule it on behalf of the king of France.

The administration he organized worked reasonably well: an attack from the Count of Toulouse was repulsed with the help of Sancho VI. The siege of Acre was soon lifted as Philip II, stricken with dysentery, had to return to his kingdom, still upset at the way his sister Alice had been treated.

Richard I had also upset Leopold V the Virtuous by having his banner removed from Acre. Much has been said about the reasons why Philip returned to France, but dysentery is still considered the main reason. Other causes could be that following the death of the Count of Flanders, named Philip, he returned to his homeland to claim his share of Artois; or that he could not tolerate his vassal flaunting more power or wealth than he did.

Richard I left Palestine in 1192: returning home he would have found his lands intact, had he not been captured by Leopold V near Vienna, who accused him of the murder of his cousin Conrad and then took him to Emperor Henry VI. John was summoned to Philip's court, and agreed to marry Alice with nothing less than Artois as dowry, in exchange for the entire Norman Vexin being returned to the possession of the king of France. After all, no one was sure that Richard I would be freed.

All the forces John could muster were a handful of mercenaries, even as William the Lion had not joined his revolt and, worse, had not sent money for Richard's ransom. Another revolt in Aquitaine was suppressed by Elias de la Celle, but in Normandy Philip II himself was leading operations. By April 1193 he had reached Rouen, and although the capital of the Duchy could not be taken, he and his allies had control of all the ports from the Rhine to Dieppe.

In relation to the situation, the regents of Richard's throne granted the Treaty of Mantes in July 1193 confirming Philip II's rule over all the lands he had conquered (including the entire Norman Vexin, the castles of Drincourt and Arques in Normandy and those of Loches and Chatillon in Tourraine) and also adding a substantial payment once Richard returned.

In a new treaty of 1194 the concessions to the king of France went further when Tours, with all the castles of Tourraine and all those in eastern Normandy except Rouen, were ceded. The county of Angoulême was declared independent with respect to Aquitaine, Vendôme was given to Louis of Blois, and Rotrou III of Perche assumed the Moulins and Bonmoulins under his rule.

Finally Emperor Henry VI released Richard I in 1194 in exchange for the ransom.

Richard is freed, recovers his lands and dies

Richard I was in a difficult position; Philip II had seized large areas of his possessions and gained Amiens and the Artois. England was the firmest territory in Richard's hands; Hubert Walter, who had been with the king on the Crusade, was appointed as his judge. Richard removed John's control of Ireland and rejected William the Lion's claim to the northern territories.

As soon as Richard I crossed The English Channel to take back his lands, John betrayed Philip II by killing the garrison of Évreux and surrendering the city to his brother. William the Breton wrote, "First he betrayed his father, then his brother and now our king."

Santius the Strong, future king of Navarre, joined the conflict and attacked Aquitaine, conquering Angoulème and Tours. Richard himself was known to be a good military commander. The first part of this war was difficult for Richard, who was forced to make several retreats, but in October the new count of Toulouse, Raymond VI of Toulouse Raymond VI, left the Capetian faction and came over to Richard's side.

He was imitated by Baldwin IV of Flanders, the future Latin emperor, since he was reclaiming the Artois from Philip II. In 1197 Henry VI died and was succeeded by Otto IV, Richard's grandson. As if that were not enough, Rinaldo of Dammartin, the Count of Boulogne and a skilled leader, deserted Philip II's coalition. Baldwin IV was invading Artois and taking Saint Omer while Richard I was waging war in Berry, and then inflicted a crushing defeat on Philip II at Gisors, near Paris.

A truce was accepted, and Richard I had almost recovered all of Normandy, and now possessed more territory in Aquitaine than he had ever had. Richard I again had to deal with a revolt, which in this case came from Limousin. He was pierced by an arrow in April 1199 at Châlus-Chabrol and died of the resulting infection. His body was buried at Fontevault as it was for his father.

John was not yet king when he had to fight to keep his lands. Following the news of Richard's death, Philip II took Évreux in a raid. John attempted to take the Angevin treasury and the castle of Chinon to establish his power there. But in the customs of the time the son of an elder brother was preferred to a pretender. From that moment they chose Arthur as their ruler, son of Godfrey of Brittany, depriving John of the historically Angevin lands.

Arthur established his power only in Normandy and England; in Normandy he was made Duke in Rouen in April 1199 and was crowned King of England in May in Westminster Abbey. As in Aquitaine, he left his mother, Eleanor, in control.

His allies, Aimery of Thouars and three Lusignan nobles, led an attack on Tours in an attempt to capture Arthur and make John count. Aimery of Tours was promised that if he captured Arthur, he would be given the title of syniscal.

At this same time John went to Normandy to negotiate a truce with Philip II. With it he managed to bring together Richard's past allies, especially the Count of Boulogne, the Count of Flanders, and the Holy Roman Emperor. Eventually no fewer than 15 French counts swore allegiance to John, who was now in a genuinely better position than Philip.

A great supporter of the king, William des Roches, changed sides because of so much power and handed over to John Arthur, whom he was supposed to protect. Arthur, however, soon joined the court of Philip II. This was the time when the court of Flanders and many knights also decided to join the crusade and deserted John's court. John's superior status was thus short-lived and he had to accept the Treaty of Le Goulet in 1200.

Philip II's authority over the lands he had conquered in Normandy was confirmed with further concessions in Auvergne and Berry. John was recognized as head of Anjou in exchange for having sworn that he would not interfere if Baldwin IV or Otto IV attacked Philip II.

The case of the Lusignanos and the decisive defeats

Hugh IX of Lusignan took Eleanor as hostage, and John recognized him as Count of La Marche, thus expanding Lusignan power in the region. In August 1200 John had his first marriage annulled, married Isabella who had already been promised to Hugh X, and confiscated La Marche.

The Lusignanes themselves invoked the help of Philip II, who summoned John to his court. John refused to see the king, forcing Philip to use his feudal power to confiscate all the lands John owned in France and accept Arthur's homage for Poitou, Anjou, Maine and Tours (1202). Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, joined Philip as did Rinaldo of Dammartin, while most of John's allies were either in the Holy Land or had left him. Only Santius VI the Strong remained with him, but he was more in need of help than he could offer.

Arthur attacked Poitou with his Lusignan allies, while Philip II invaded Normandy and captured many castles on the frontier. John was in Le Mans when these invasions took place and decided to go south. He captured none other than Arthur, Hugh X and 200 knights; this success was soon followed by the capture of the Viscount of Limoges and his imprisonment at Chinon. 1202 was a successful year for John, who had defeated many of his enemies in a way that neither Richard nor Henry II had ever been able to do.

John was vile and "could not resist the temptation to kick a man while he was already down," so he derived pleasure from humiliating the knights he had captured. Arthur was killed in prison, most likely at John's behest. Many knights who had relatives on the opposite side became incensed at this behavior and abandoned him.

John's allies surrendered Alençon in Normandy to Philip II, and already many of them were fighting him. Vaudreuil was also ceded to the King of France without a fight, and while John tried to retake Alençon, he had to retreat when Philip II arrived. Château-Gaillard itself had fallen in 1204 after a 6-month siege: it was an emblematic loss for the Angevins. Philip II continued fighting in Normandy and captured Argentan, Falaise, Caen, Bayeux and Lisieux in just three weeks; meanwhile an army of Breton knights took Mont Saint-Michel and Avranches. Tours fell in 1204, Loches and even Chinon followed in 1205, only Rouen and Arques continued to hold out but Rouen opened its gates to the king, who had the ducal castle destroyed and a larger one planned.

Eleanor died in 1204 and most of the nobles of Poitou joined Philip II since they were loyal to her but not to John. Alfonso VIII finally claimed Gascony, which was part of the dowry Henry II had given to his daughter, and settled there. Gascony was one of the few French parts of the former Angevin Empire that remained loyal to the Angevins since it resisted Alfonso and remained in John's hands.

Finally the two kings agreed to a truce in 1206. What had once been "the Angevin Empire" remained with England, Gascony and Ireland.

Campaigns in the British Isles and return to France

Following the loss of Normandy and Anjou, John had to make his power over the islands unquestionable. He moved war in South Wales in 1208, on the Scottish border in 1209, in Ireland in 1210, and in North Wales in 1211, and these campaigns often achieved their aims. John used all the resources he could raise to finance a future campaign in France. Taxation of the Jews gave additional revenue; all lands that were owned by the Church were confiscated, which led to John's excommunication.

In 1212 John was ready to land and invade France, but a revolt in Wales forced him to postpone his plans, and then a revolt of the barons in England made matters worse. Philip II was then in the process of invading England when his fleet was destroyed while at anchor at Damme, near William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury. Hearing the news, John ordered all the forces that were to defend England to set sail for Poitou. He landed at La Rochelle in 1214 and was then allied with Rinaldo of Dammartin, Count Ferdinand of Flanders, and, of course, Otto IV. His allies would attack northeastern France, leaving the southwest to him.

John went to Gascony and attempted to install his garrison at Agens, but was rebuffed. Unlike Normandy (Philip II had never invaded Poitou), Gascony only changed alliances. To invade Paris from England, it was shorter to go through Normandy than to the southwest, so King Philip II concentrated his forces there. The issue was twofold, as it was easier for Philip II to launch into the invasion of England from Normandy. As a result Poitou was left without a strong royal presence. John promised his daughter Joan to Hugh X, son of Hugh IX of Lusignan, in return that Saintonge and the island of Oleron would be promised to the Lusignans, and as many further concessions as possible in Turenna and Anjou; these were great purchases for the Lusignans, and again John called this "bringing them into submission."

Peter was the Duke of Brittany at the time, and he was loyal to the King of France, but his claim to the throne of Brittany was clearly unfounded. Eleanor of Brittany had strong claims to various things, and among them was the daughter of the late Arthur. John on the one hand had captured her and used her as blackmail against Peter, and on the other tempted him by offering him Richmond, but Peter eventually refused to change his allegiance, and even, later, the capture of his brother Robert III of Dreux near Nantes did not change his position.

John entered Angers and captured a newly built castle near Roche-au-Moine, but Prince Louis rushed in from Chinon with an army and drove John back, forcing him to retreat. Although this was a setback, John had at least made his allies' job easier by dividing the Capetian army. Then happened the disastrous battle of Bouvines in which all his allies were defeated by King Philip II.

Ferdinand was captured and imprisoned. Otto IV was almost captured; His position in Germany collapsed when he was ousted by Frederick II, the man whom ironically Philip II had supported against Richard I's candidate. Rinaldo of Dammartin suffered in prison for the rest of his life, until he committed suicide. William Longespée, who had led the English forces, was himself captured and exchanged for Robert III, whose father, Robert II, had fought in the battle. John was defeated, the economy of the Kingdom of England went bankrupt, and he was later seen as a fraud. All the money he managed to earn and all the power he used led to nothing, and all his allies were shot down and captured.

The Capetians in England

In 1215 the English barons became convinced that John would not abide by the Magna Carta conventions and sent a letter to the French court where they offered the crown of England to Prince Louis. In November a Capetian garrison was even sent to London to support the rebels, and on May 22, 1216, Capetian forces arrived in Sandwich led by Prince Louis himself. At that time John fled, allowing Louis to take London and Winchester.

Augustus controlled most of the territories in eastern England except Dover, Lincoln, and Windsor. King Alexander II of Scotland moved to Canterbury and paid homage to Prince Louis as King of England for the northern territories.

John died two months later, also defeated in England. The following government established as law the Magna Carta, signed by John but never enforced because Henry III was too young to do so. By that time all of Louis' support had collapsed, and he was defeated almost a year later at Lincoln and Sandwich. Thus ended his claim to England, which he conceded in the Treaty of Lambeth in September 1217.

This passage, taken from Capetian France 987 - 1328, sums up the reasons for the Angevin collapse quite well:

Cultural influence

The hypothetical continuation and expansion of the Angevin Empire through the centuries was the subject of many fairy tales and historical uchrony reconstructions. Historically, both French and English scholars had viewed the juxtaposition of English and French lands under Angevin control as something akin to an aberration or an offense against national identity. For English historians, the lands in France were a hindrance, while French historians viewed the union as an English Empire.

This is what historian of the Whig stream of thought Macaulay wrote in his History of England about the union of the two lands.

The Plantagenet kings adopted wine as their main drink, replacing the beer and cider used by the Norman kings. The ruling class of the Angevin Empire spoke French, while the Church retained ecclesiastical Latin.

The 12th century is also characterized by Gothic architecture, first known as "Opus Francigenum," from the work of Abbot Sugerius of Saint-Denis in 1140. Early English Gothic began around 1180-1190, at the time of the Angevin Empire, from which it was, however, totally independent; only it was born at the same time and then spread throughout England. The strongest influence on architecture directly associated with the Plantagenets is the kitchen.

The British royal motto, said to come from this period, echoes Richard's words, "Dieu et mon droit"; three lions were also adopted as a symbol. While at first these symbols did not represent England (they were in fact Plantagenet personal coatings for arms and did not represent a political structure) they are still associated with it today. Normandy and Aquitaine did, however, keep leopards on their flags, probably the earliest Norman symbol.

From a political point of view, continental problems aroused more interest in English monarchs than in British monarchs already under the Normans. Under Angevin rule things also became clearer since the balance of power had been dramatically established in France, and Angevin kings often spent more time in France than in England. With the loss of Normandy and Anjou, the fiefdom was divided into two parts, and thereafter the descendants of the Plantagenets could be regarded as English kings, reputing Gascony under their rule.


  1. Angevin Empire
  2. Impero angioino
  3. ^ The term imperium is used at least once in the 12th century, in the Dialogus de Scaccari (c. 1179), Per longa terrarum spatia triumphali victoria suum dilataverit imperium.[1] Some 20th-century historians have avoided the term empire, Robert-Henri Bautier (1984) used espace Plantagenêt, Jean Favier used complexe féodal. Empire Plantagenêt nevertheless remains current in French historiography.[2]
  4. ^ In medieval heraldry, these lions passant guardant are known as leopards[191]
  5. Fin efectivo del Imperio angevino; de jure hasta la muerte de Juan
  6. Gobierno de jure
  7. Ο όρος imperium χρησιμοποιήθηκε τουλάχιστον μία φορά τον 12ο αιώνα, στο Dialogus de Scaccari (περ. 1179), Per longa terrarum spatia triumphali victoria suum dilataverit imperium (Canchy, England, p. 118; Holt, 'The End of the Anglo-Norman Realm', p. 229). Κάποιοι ιστορικοί του 20ού αιώνα αποφεύγουν τον όρο "αυτοκρατορία", ο Robert-Henri Bautier (1984) χρησιμοποίησε τον όρο espace Plantagenêt, ενώ ο Jean Favier χρησιμοποίησε το complexe féodal. Ωστόσο, ο όρος Empire Plantagenêt υπάρχει στην γαλλική ιστοριογραφία. Aurell, Martin (2003). L'Empire des Plantagenêt, 1154–1224. Perrin. p. 1. ISBN 9782262019853.
  8. John H. Elliott (2018). Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion. Yale University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780300240719.
  9. Barbara H. Rosenwein (2014): A Short History of the Middle Ages, University of Toronto Press, blz. 203.
  10. a b Ralph V. Turner (1995): "The Problem of Survival for the Angevin "Empire": Henry II's and His Sons' Vision versus Late Twelfth-Century Realities". In: The American Historical Review, 100(1), 78-96, blz. 78.
  11. Ralph V. Turner (1995), blz. 82.
  12. Kate Norgate (1887): England Under the Angevin Kings, Londen, Macmillan, blz. 393.
  13. a b Martin Aurell (2003): L'Empire des Plantagenêt, 1154–1224, Perrin, blz. 11.

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