I feel we are now getting to some of the British monarchs most of us have heard of, either through history or perhaps some of the plays by Shakespeare. Once again from "Kings and Queens of England and Scotland" and this time we have:
HENRY III 1216-1272
Born at Winchester on 1st Ocober, 1207.
Eldest son of his predecessor John.
Married in 1236 to Eleanor of Provence then aged 14, sho survived him and died in 1291.
Children: EDWARD, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund, who all survived him, and Richard, John, Katherine, William and Henry, who all died young.
Died naturally at Westminster on 6th November, 1272, aged 65, having reigned 56 years.
Buried at Westminster Abbey.
Profile: Short stature; always plump; bobbed hair and beard which went prematurely grey; a kindly face and a gaze taking in only a short perspective in every sense; the left eyelid was noticeably drooping.
Henry had a domestic character and artistic interests. Statesmanship was beyond him, and drove him to a desperation of error. He would have excelled as a cultured country gentleman, interested in the lives of everyone on the estate but flummoxed by an agrarian dispute with another country gentleman,
and impelled into extravagant intrigues to forestall the innocent ambitions of a parish council. In this sense he was a bad king. In another sense he was good for the country. His genuine passion for the arts and his ability as Royal Patron to foster them was great. His debts were huge, as he said, "By God's head I owe 300,000 marks!" He endowed the land with public munificence and a richening influx of artists and craftsmen who basked in the fashionable appreciation that royalty sponsored. It also gave us a Westminster Abbey rebuilt as we largely know it today. This is Henry's masterpiece, and the building can be well judged from the interior. Later accretions rob its distant impact of the airy vitality with which the Early English style replaced the stolidity of the Norman, and which is best seen now in the contemporary Salisbury Cathedral.
Politically, Henry was a failure, and may therefore be cited as the illustrative personality, condemning hereditary monarchy. But morals are part of politics, and Henry - son of that John who had demanded the flesh of the wives of his nobility with a brutal insistence unparalleled since the decadent Roman Empire - was himself a model husband and father, ecstatically wrapped up in his family. He was, too, the grandson of Henry II and the father of Edward I, politically two of the most capable monarchs in English history. Perhaps Henry's trouble was that he had inadequate training.
He was king at the age of nine, and from that time on he was long in the hands of priests who gave no instruction in kingship, though at the same time the country was very adequately governed by a regent. Trouble intensified when Henry declared himself of age to rule.
It fell to Henry to confirm formally the decline of English possessions in France. In 1268 he resigned Normandy (which he had never controlled) in return for a subsidy from the King of France. Anjou had been lost by his father, King John, and in the course of his reign Henry had to do homage to the King of France for Guienne, the major part of the Duchy of Aquitaine. This diminution of the responsibilities of the English throne - virtually the extinction of the Angevin Empire - has been generally welcomed by English historians as concentrating the interests of the king and the activities of the better type of English barons on the development of England as country of individual character and customs. Yet the English continued to expend much warlike energy on attempting to retain the old imperialism. And, if they had succeeded. a Franco-British Empire - which was the logical development of the Angevin Empire -might have been a strong pacifying influence in Europe for centuries to come. It would have avoided the culturally destructive and financially horrendous distraction of the Hundred Years War and the 50 later years, ending in Waterloo, when England was at war with France.
Henry, though English born and bred (and early deserted by his mother), had a remarkably European orientation. His brother, Richard of Cornwall, became King of the Romans, and his son Edmund was given the emptier title of King of Sicily (which Henry's Angevin brother-in-law later exploited far more fully). His sister Isabella married the Emperor Frederick II. His sister Joan and his daughter Margaret married successive kings of the Scots. while his half-sister Joan married Llywelyn the Great. His daughter Beatrice married the Duke of Brittany, who also held the English earldom of Richmond. His wife Eleanor was one of four sisters who became queens - of France, England, Rome and Sicily. (The kings of France and Sicily were brothers. as were the kings of England and Rome - a remarkable consanguinity with four sister queens).
Henry certainly did not accept the loss of empire, and spent much time and money fighting, or negotiating, and sometimes just artistically dawdling, with his brother-in-law Louis IX of France. As an absentee tax gatherer, and moreover a taxing-master regulating the collection of dues for the Pope, he did not increase his popularity at home. His expensive administration stuck the more sharply in English throats when it was seen to be increasingly carried out by the Italians from Rome, Provencals from his wife's family, and even the young Frenchmen from Poitou who were Henry's half-brothers. The recalcitrant nobility, excluded by foreigners from government. and resisting high taxes for foreign indulgences as well as ecclesiastical foundations, were led in revolt ironically, by another foreigner, Simon de Montfort, who had inherited his earldom of Leicester and subsequently married the King's sister Eleanor. Montfort engineered the convention at Oxford called The Mad Parliament, where armed barons intimidated the king into governing by a representative Council of State balancing the royal needs and the national interests.
In subsequent sparring Henry himself, not Montfort, called the knights of the shire to Windsor. The two sides were preparing for battle, and two years of civil was ensued. They ended with Montfort's capture of Henry and his heir, Edward, and the calling of the first true embryo Parliament in London in 1265, where bishops, barons, knights and - at last - the burghers of the towns all met. Later that year Edward escaped from imprisonment, and Simon de Mountfort was defeated and killed in the subsequent battle of Evesham. Edward exploited his victory with an effective military campaign against the suddenly unorganised rebel barons. Surprisingly, in a man who had been pictured as an effete, yet dangerous, tyrant, Henry revised his attitude after the shock of the civil war. He trimmed his demand and saw his reign end in unaccustomed stability. He attended the completion of Westminster Abbey, re-interred the body of Edward the Confessor in a new shrine, and was himself buried in the Confessor's former coffin in Westminster, where his bronze effigy now stands.
Please forgive any typing errors. My hands are painful at times and I fear my accuracy may not be as good as it once was. I can proof read but one seldom sees one's own typing errors as we tend to read what we know should be there and miss the mistakes.