Old World: The Normans

(My Family in History > Old World: The Normans)

Living in Norway, Sweden and Denmark were people of two different cultures. To the west were the Getic pheasants who were enterprising, independent and diverse, living in timber houses on sheltered fjords. To the east and on the open coast lived the Scythian chieftains, in stone houses. Their cult of Odin believed that honor was awarded for bravery alone—the Scythians ruled the tenant and thrale of the Scandinavian population.
[Image at left, samples of the Lewis Chess pieces, carved of walrus tusk in Norway ca 12ooAD]

At the time there was occurring an improvement in the northern climate.

The fusion of these divergent cultures under an improved climate were conditions for hybrid enterprise and rapid technical evolution. During the first eight centuries of the Christian era, Scandinavia began to receive immigrants; Roman iron workers came in, Roman ship builders and seamen arrived. Iron axes removed forests and agriculture spread deep inland. Fighting men went to serve in the Byzantine forces. Returning, they brought not only gold and silver, but other free and slave craftsmen, who made tools, weapons and jewelry. The Scandinavians planned their homes and camps with precision using Roman foot measure. They learned how to build ships for sail on the open sea. These ships, which reached up to fifty tons, were keeled, masted and carried square sails. The new ships opened up the unknown ocean for exploration, trade, piracy and colonization.

Without doctrinal guidance, the Vikings soon followed the same path on the watery fringes of the Roman Empire, which the Muslim Arabs were pursuing on the desert fringe. It was a path of enslavement, polygamy and hybridization. The Viking saga was to continue for four centuries, from around 700 to 1100 AD.

By 700 AD, the Vikings had set up settlements in Ireland. In the 800s they turned to attacking England, an equitable tradition which continued for two hundred years. By the 900s, they began to switch from attacking the poorer, more primitive northern areas of Europe to the richer lands of France.

In the Ninth Century, scarcely 150 years before the birth of William I (The Conqueror), the Vikings were over running England and France.

In France, 30,000 to 40,000 Norse soldiers, led by Rollo had taken over the Lower Seine and besieged Paris. A great battle ensued in which 7,000 of the invaders died at the hands of the  United Forces of France. However, not long after this, Rollo dictated the terms of peace to the weak Frankish king, Charles the Simple, and subsequently took possession of a great part of the province of Neustria—which became Normandy.

Rollo was recognized at the court of Rouen, a legitimacy that introduced him to the developing feudal system that was emerging from the decay of Charlemagne’s empire. His heirs expanded his holdings, won the title of Duke, they rebuilt abbeys destroyed by their ancestors. By taking French wives, the invaders learned to speak French, to write Latin and embrace the Carolinian concepts of law. Yet, they retained their Viking vigor and independence of spirit. By the time the Norman conquest of England, the Normans would number about one million, about half of England’s population, but they would be pent up on a strip of land one forth the size of England.

Without losing their knowledge of the sea, they acquired an understanding of the horse, with its harness and stirrups. It was this hybridization of a heavily armed man on horseback that would later win the Battle of Hastings for the Normans.

The uniting of the barbaric Scandinavia with the civilized Frank was to produce in the Norman nobility a notable capacity to govern. The Norman nobles weredistinguished by their graceful bearing and insinuating address, by their skill in negotiation and a neutral eloquence, but their chief fame was derived from their military exploits from the prodigies of their discipline and valor.

Being entirely new to the business of government, they were completely dedicated to exploiting the abilities of others; they were calculating, single minded, aggressive and ruthless. Without any ideas of their own they used, without prejudice, all races and classes of men to serve them; which countered the established civilized way and religious education of the time.

The greater Norman barons, including William I (the Conqueror) were of Norwegian blood, representatives of the dispossessed royal families of the twenty two ancient kingdoms of Norway, who had been deprive of their domains by the conquests of Harold Harfager. The descendants of the early kings of the North and the Merovian barons of France are found at present among the Norman people of England and North America.[1]
[Image below right, Lewis Chess pieces, carved of walrus tusk in Norway ca 12ooAD]

Here then are but a few hardy branches on a very large genealogical tree.

Line of Norman Descent [2]:

Hrolf, Duke of the Normans
William Longsword
Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy
Richand the Good, Duke of Normandy
Robert the Magnificent, 6th Duke of Normandy
William I, 7th Duke of Normandy

William I –The Conqueror

William I was born about 1027 AD in Normandy, France to Robert I and the “lovely Arlette”. His father, Robert I, surnamed, “The Devil” was 6th Duke of Normandy, died 1035. It was written of William that ”…he was begotten of Arlette, a Mediterranean furriers daughter, of Falise, to whom his father was attracted by her beauty as he observed her washing clothes in a stream” It was also written that Arlette was the daughter of Fulbert of Falise, a chamberlain in the Castle Falise, which was home of Robert I.

[Image, Left William I coin, Right William I portrait]

As the years passed, William was made a chamberlain in his fathers court. It was the hybridizing union between the Scandinavian noble and the working class French which developed in him a combination of military, literary and artistic talent. In time, William succeeded his father and became 7th Duke of Normandy.
Around 1051 and about 24 years old William married his fifth cousin, the 4 foot 2 inch tall, Matilda.
Matilda was daughter of Baldwin, Earl of Flanders, a descendant of Alfred the Great (849-901AD,England) and Charlemagne (747-814 AD). They produced four sons and six daughters, among which was Henry I.
[Photo at right, Falise castle, Normandy]

During these times, the Norman cities were flourishing in building, religion, philosophy and armaments. But in the countryside, there was unemployment, the people were reduced to subsistence, large families gathered around the hearth, for whose keep the father could not provide.
The land was cut up into small quillets or ‘feeding farms’ that were too small to feed a family…unease prevailed. The spirit of adventure was turning pilgrims into crusaders, while the Norman feat of arms made them conquerors of Apulia, Calabria and Sicily. During this period, the growing Duke William had influence from England to Anselm.
Meanwhile, England stagnated and her king, Edward the Confessor, died without heir on January 5, 1066.

[Image below left: Wood carving from the middle ages thought to be Mathilda, wife of William I.]

On April 24, 1066 a “star with hair” appeared in the skies and shown with exceeding brightness. To many of the time, this (Halley’s Comet) portended a great change in some kingdom.

The English crowned Harold Dgodwinson, their king, but William contested, claiming that King Edward had named him his successor. At age 39, William recruited his feudal levies; mercenaries from all parts of France,Flanders and the Norman territories in Italy. With his army, William sailed across the English Channel on September 27 to confront the English.

In the early morning hours on Saturday, 14 October 1066, William rode out to meet King Harold on the low rolling hills of Hastings. The English stood watching as there approached a great Norman van, with bowmen in front, followed by infantry in armor and finally the mounted knights, As the Normans looked, there across the field stood a wall of shields 600 yards long and 10-12 men deep. With the terrible sound of trumpets, the armies came together…by four o’clock in the afternoon the battle was over, Kind Harold was dead and the Normans had won.

William was crowned King of England on Christmas day 1066 at the Church of St. Peter-Westminister Abby.
Defeating various internal rebellions two years later earned William I the name—The Conqueror.

William introduced the feudal system of land tenure based on military service, so that every acre of land was registered and held by someone for some form of service. The country was divided into 700 Baronies or great Fiefs, which were controlled by the noblemen or barons. These baronies were further subdivided into  a total of 60,000 Knights Fees. Each Knights Fee consisted of three to five small farms. On the average then, each military commander of baron controlled about 86 Knights Fees or around 342 small farms. Each of the fighting men who provided all their own military equipment, the knights, were awarded three to five farms.

In his latter years, William’s success was disturbed. During 1079, at age 52, his eldest son Robert II wounded him during a quarrel. This prompted William to write in his Will: “I grant unto my son, Robert, for that  he is my first begotten and hath already received homage of all  the barons of his country, that honour given cannot be again undone, but yet without rule of his government, for he is a foolish proud knave and to be punished with cruel misfortune.” 

This proved prophetic, for in 1096, Robert II pawned Normandy for 10,000 marks to his brother Rufus, in order to raise money for the First Crusade. In 1106 when returning to England, Robert II was captured by his brother Henry I at Tinchebra. He was then imprisoned for the rest of his life at the castles Bristol and Cardif, where he died.

During 1987, at age 60 and heavy with fat, William attacked and burned Mantes, Francein a campaign against the French. As William rode down the steep streets of Mantes, his horse slipped, stumbled and fell among the debris. William was thrown against the saddle and suffered a fatal rupture. He died near Poen on September 9, 1087 an hour after sunrise and was buried at Caen.

An account of William I from William of Malmesbury, “Historian Anglorum”.
“He was of just stature. Ordinary corpulence, fierce countenance; his forhead was bare of hair; of such strength of arm, that it was often a matter of surprise, that no one was  able to draw his bow, which himself could bend when his horse was on a full gallop; he was majestic whether sitting or standing, although the protuberance of his belly deformed his royal person; of excellent health so that he was never confined with any dangerous disorders, except at last; so given to the pleasures of the chase, that as I have said before, ejecting the inhabitants when at liberty from other vocations, he might there pursue his pleasures.
Other written descriptions of his appearance which describe him as, burly and robust with a guttural voice.

His anxiety for money is the only thing of which he can deservedly be blamed. This he sought all opportunities of scraping together, he cared not how; he would say and do some things and indeed almost anything, unbecomming to such a great majesty, where the hope of money allured him. I have here no excuse to offer, unless it be, as one has said that ’of necessity he must fear money, whom many fear’.”

Henry I

Descended from Alfred the Great and Charlemagne
Robert I    +    Arlette Baldwin, Earl ofFlanders
          William  I                               + Matilda of Flanders
                                                    Henry I

Henry was born in Selby,Yorkshirein 1068, two years after the Battle of Hastings to William I and Matilda.

During this time, Englandwas coming out of a period of stagnation. The literate and educated class was being rapidly expanded by immigration. These people were intellectually employed to restoring England with the Roman world, which resulted in rapid technological development. With a national premium on education, Henry was educated and earned the surname, “Beauclerk,” for his scholarship.

Henry’s eldest brother, Robert II, assumed the throne upon William’s death in France. As you may recall, Robert had wounded his father during a quarrel, and pawned Normandy to help finance the First Crusade. During Robert’s absence in the holy Land, Henry was crowned king at Westminster Abbey on 5 August 1106. When Robert II returned from the Crusade to redeemNormandy, he was defeated by Henry at the Battle of Tinchebrai and subsequently imprisoned.

[Image at right. Statues of Henry 1 and Matilda fo Scott from the fron of Rochester Cathedral]

Henry’s court became the center of law making as he created the beginnings of a civil administration. Chroniclers wrote of him, “Good man he was and there was a great awe of him. In his days no man dared harm another.”, to wit he further earned the title, “Lion of Justice”.

Henry consolidated his relations with the Saxons on 11 November 1100, by marrying Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scotts.
Matilda of the Scotts, was born in 1082, married Henry at age 21 and died 1 May 1118 at age 39 years. Matilda was a descendant of Alfred the Great and Charlemagne.

You may recall that Henry’s mother, Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, Earl of Flanders was also a descendant of Alfred the Great and Charlemagne, so certain literary and other predisposition’s toward strategic planning were again bred back into the line, as had been the general social custom amongst Getic nobility since Classical times. These predisposition’s were to show up in their daughter Matilda (Maude) and later in their grandson, Henry II.
[Image at left, Matilda of the Scotts.]

Although his father’s martial fidelity was unique in Norman annals, Henry, by his marriage united the Norman, Saxon and Scottish royal houses. And by his liaisons, he attached himself to every race, Norman, Saxon and Welch and every social class in his kingdom.

His illegitimate children included nine sons and eleven daughters

On one hand the offspring spread through the Norman baronage, on the other they influenced the growth of learning of the Learned Class.

On 25 November 1120, calamity struck as William, Richard and Mary, three of his legitimate heirs drowned in the Whiteship.

Henry I was intelligent, educated and amorous, but he was also brutal and calculating. He is thought to have murdered one brother, blinded another and to have blinded two granddaughters.
Henry died 1 December 1135 at St. Denis,Normandy at age 67 years and was buried at Reading.

Account of Henry I from William of Malmesbury’s , Historia Anglorum
“He was of middle stature: His hair was black, but scanty near the forehead; his eyes mildly bright; his chest brawny; his body fleshy; he was facetious in proper season, nor did multiplicity of business cause him to be less pleasant when he mixed in society. Not prone to personal combat, he verified the saying of Scopio Africamus, ‘My mother bore me to a commander, not a soldier’., wherefore he was inferior to no king of modern time; and as I may almost say, he clearly surpassed all his predecessors in England and preferred contending by counsel, rather than by the sword. If he could, he conquered without bloodshed; if it was unavoidable, with as little as possible. He was free, during his whole life, from impure desires; for, as we have learned from those who were well informed, he was led by female blandishments, not for the gratification of incontinency, but for the sake of issue; nor condescended to casual intercourse, unless where it might produce that effect; in this respect the master of his natural inclinations, not the passive slave of lust. He was plain in his diet, rather satisfying the calls of hunger, than surfeiting himself by variety of delicacies. He never drank but to allay thirst; execrating the least departure from temperance, both in himself and in those about him. He was heavy to sleep, which was interrupted by frequent snoring; His eloquence was rather unpremeditated than labored; not rapid, but deliberate.”

Matilda the Empress

Descended   from Alfred the Great and Charlemagne
William I     +    Matilda ofFlanders Malcolm III
              Henry   I                                  + Matilda ofScotland
                                                      Matilda (the Empress)

Matilda was born to Henry I and Matilda of Scotland in the year 1102. On 3 April 1127, at age 25, she was given in marriage by her father to Jeffrey Plantagenet, who was Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy and son of Fulk V, the Crusade king of Jerusalem.
Geoffrey was born on 24 August 1113 and was fifteen years old at the time of his marriage, ten years younger than Matilda.

Geoffrey (the Fair) was reputed to be handsome, clever and eccentric. He had a tradition of wearing a sprig of broom (plana genista) in his cap. This plant was used on occasion as a badge and became the nickname for the family line—the Plantagenet’s.
[Image at right, Empress Matilda.]

Matilda was in Normandy with Geoffrey when her father, Henry I dies. His cousin Stephen, who was also in France, hurried back to England and claimed the throne. Matilda was ambitious and as unamiable as her father and was not going to give up the throne without a fight. In 1139, she and her half brother, Robert, Earl of Glouchester, raised an army and invaded England. Stephan was captured and was proclaimed “Lady of the English” on the battlefield. However, as she entered London, the prosperous citizens therein drove her out, subsequently her half brother was captured by Bishop Henry of Winchester. After exchanging prisoners, she returned to Normandy.

Several years later, another campaign was launched that ended in total disaster. Matilda retired to Normandy never to return.

During their twenty three years together, Matilda and Geoffrey produced three sons, of which we are descended from Henry II.

When their son, Henry II was seventeen years old, Geoffrey began transferring his power and influence to the boy. One responsibility was to pay homage to King Louis VII of France, so Geoffrey  and Henry rode to Paris. While in the royal French court, Henry met Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Louis VIII’s wife) who would later become his wife.

After paying homage to the king for the great fief of Normandy, Geoffrey and young Henry rode homeward in the scorching days of late summer. On the way, Geoffrey decided to take a swim in a cold river, that evening he was sweating and shivering. A few days later, on 7 September 1151, Geoffrey died at age 39 years.

[Image at left, Geoffey of Anjou, founder of the House of Plantagenet]

Matilda died sixteen years later on 10 September 1169 at age 65 years, during the thirteenth year of the reign of her son Henry II, king of England.

The Crusades
The intrusion of the Vikings and their descendants into all parts of Europe by the end of the 11th Century had done little to soften the war like temper of the military governing class. They were constantly employed in raids, wars and insurrection. Western Europe was beginning to bristle with fortifications and their territories were under attack by pagan and infidel armies.

Under Pope Urban II, a Council of the Church was convened on 27 November 1095. Pope Urban II exhorted his Christian brothers to give up fighting one another and take up arms against the Arabs and Turks.

Large bodies of warriors of all ranks from the feudal hierarchy set forth with the cross as their emblem, to set free the Holy Places for the worship of Christian pilgrims.

In 1128, Baldwin II, a veteran of the First Crusade and king of Jerusalem, sent his constable to Louis VI of Franceto choose a baron who could succeed him as king. Louis VI advised Baldwin to offer his daughter and crown to Fulk V.

Fulk V was great baron in France, being Count of Anjou and Maine, he was as powerful as the king himself. Fulk had recently married his son Geoffrey Plantagenet to Matilda the heiress of England. (Matilda was daughter of Henry I and Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III ofScotland). Fulk V had also been to the Holy Landto a pilgrimage in 1120.

Fulk V accepted the proposal and on 2 June 1129 the short coarse red haired man of forty married the young and lovely Melisende, daughter of Baldwin II. Fulk became King of Jerusalem and ruled from 1131 to 1142. He realized that he was king of a country which only existed by means of its army, an army numerically too weak even for a country which enjoyed peace on all its frontiers.

Peace is a temporal thing, the wars grew and the European invaders were slowly pushed back and out of theMideast. In the early 1300s, the Crusades were all but exhausted. The last remnant of this activity was terminated in 1348 when the Bubonic Plague, carries by Black Ship Rats were brought from China, taken from Mecca by pilgrims to Palestine and from there to the Italian trading fleet and on to Europe.

Henry II

Henry I     +     Matilda ofScotland Fulk V
      Matilda (the Empress)                 + Geoffrey of Anjou- Plantagenet
                                                    Henry   II

Henry II was born 5 March 1132 AD to Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet at LeMans, Normandy. It should be pointed out that as we refer to Henry as Henry II, that this was his official titled name, he was personally known as Kurt Mantel.

Henry II had bright reddish gold hair, gray eyes, freckles, a muscular build and a majesty of presence. He inherited his father’s violent temper and intellectual vivacity, but not his striking good looks; superficially, he was less attractive, but he could charm both men and women if he chose. His neck was somewhat thrust forward from his shoulders, his chest was broad and square. His frame was stocky with a pronounced tendency toward corpulence, due to nature rather than overindulgence. He taxed his body with excessive hardship, seldom at rest, always standing so he often wore out the whole court. He enjoyed hunting, horseback riding, traversing wastelands, penetrating forests and climbing mountains.

[At right: Tomb effigy of Henry II, Plantagenet]

During Medieval times, the marriage of great persons were arranged to provide political alliances and unite kingdoms of fiefs, indeed marrying for love was contrary to the customs of the age. With this in mind, recall that during late August, Henry and his father, Geoffrey Plantagenet had been to the French royal palace to pay homage for the great fief of Normandy. While staying at the royal court, Henry met Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen and wife to Louis VII, King of France. In early September, Geoffrey died, leaving Henry II a powerful baron in France and contender to the English throne. Eleanor did not like her husband, Louis VII and was granted a divorce by him.

On18 May 1153, Henry II married Eleanor.

Eleanor, born in 1123 was heiress of Aquitaine, Pointers and Toulouse. The consolidation of Henry’s domains in France-by marriage-was considered the boldest political stroke of the age.

Meanwhile, King Stephan’s son, Eustace was heir apparent, but soon after ravaging Archbishop Theobald’s estates, he suddenly fell sick and died.

Henry pressed King Stephan to be named his successor, Stephan accepted his nephew on the condition that he would be allowed to remain King of England for the rest of his life.

One year later, on25 October 1154, Stephan died.

[At left: Tomb effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine.]

Immediately, Henry, his wife Eleanor, Henry’s brothers and many Lords set sail across the storm tossed English Channel. On 19 December 1154, Archbishop Teobald placed the English crown on Henry II head in a ceremony at Westminster Abby.

During Henry’s reign, he ruled an empire that stretched from the Arcticto the Pyrenees, though he was a Frenchman, with foreign speech. He introduced a legal reform which replaced the old method of “Trial by ordeal”, by a “trial by jury”. He also forbade the issue of coinage by any other than the royal mints.

Henry and Eleanor produced eight children among whom were  the three sons: 1) Henry, who died rather young, 2) Richard, who became known as “Richard the Lionhearted” of the Third Crusade and 3) John, (our ancestor) against whom the fabled Robin Hood fought.

Henry’s personal life was full of tragedy.
1)  His sons were rebellious and waited for his death.
2)  When he was around forty years old, he had Eleanor imprisoned in Woodstock Castle (she was over fifty at the time), where upon he pursued his unquenchable lust for his inseparable concubine, the beauteous, Rosemund Cifford.
3)  Then too, there was a man, Thomas Becket, a clerk of humble birth who rose to be Henry’s great friend and minister. Desiring more control of the church, Henry appointed Thomas Becket to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Having been given this great position, Thomas regarded his first duty to the Church and resisted the Kings proposals. It is not known whether Becket’s subsequent assassination on 29 December 1170was planned or was the result of hasty words spoken by the Henry, while in anger.

After losing a battle against the King of France, who was allied with his sons, Richard and John, Henry was utterly numbed by his misfortune. His physical condition rapidly deteriorated. On 5 July, Henry was obviously dying when he received word that his son John had disappeared to join his fortunes with brother Richard and the French King. On 6 July, Henry died at Chinon, France. Some of his servants stripped his corpse after it had been ceremoniously laid in the Chapel of Chinon. One of Henry’s bastard sons covered the naked corpse with a riding cloak, found a crown, scepter and ring ( possibly from a religious stature) then carried the body to Fonteurault for burial.

Eleanor outlived Henry II by fifteen years, dying on3 March 1204; she was also buried at the Abby of Fonteurault.
An account of Henry II from Sir Richard Baker, A Chronicle of the Kings of England.
“He was somewhat red of face, and broad breasted; short of body and therewithal fat, which made him use much exercise, and with little meat. He was commonly called Henry Shortmantle, because he was the first that brought the use of short cloaks out of Anjou into England. Concerning endowments of mind, he was of a spirit in the highest degree generous; which made him often say, that all the world suffice not to a courageous heart. His custom was to be always in action; for which cause, if he had no real wars, he would have feigned; and would transform forces either into Normandy or Brittany, and go with them himself, where by he was always prepared of an army; and make it a schooling to his soldiers, and to himself an exercise. To his children he was both indulgent and hard; for out of indulgence he caused his son Henry to be crowned King in his own time; and out of hardness his younger sons to rebell against him. He was rather superstitious than not religious; while he showed more by his carriage toward Becket being dead than while he lived. His inconstancy was not so much that he used other women besides his wife, but that he used the affianced wife of his own son. He married Eleanor, daughter of William Duke ofGuienne, late wife of Lewis the  Seventh of France. Some say King Lewis carried her onto the Holy land, where  she carried herself not very holy, but led a licentious life; and; which is the worst kind of licentiousness, in carnal familiarity with a Turk.”

John (Lackland)

Matilda (The Empress) + Geoffrey Plantagenet William  Duke ofGuienne
                            Henry II                    + Eleanor of Aquitaine

John was born to Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine on 24 December 1166 at Oxford, England.

He grew to a height of five foot five inches, which was not short by the standards of his century; he was a stout man and his stockiness increased with age. His effigy, thought to be a genuine likeness, shows a face in which cunning, humor and strength of will are forcefully represented. He possessed the same diabolical temper as other previous members of his family and was given to violent affections and violent hates. What John lacked in majesty, he put on good display, he spent vast sums on rich clothes and loaded himself with jewels. John replaced his brother, Richard (the Lionhearted) on the  throne, where he was crowned king on Assention Day, 27 May 1199 in Westminster Abby.
[Image at right: Tomb effigy of John Lackland]

In 1200 AD John had his childless marriage to Havisa of Gloucester annulled. He then married the young Isabelle of Angouleme on 30 August 1200. This marriage broke a political alliance that was forming between the powerful house of Angouleme and Lusignan.
Isabelle was born in 1188 making her 12-13 years old at the time of her marriage. Henry III was their first of six children.

In 1207 AD, Pop Innocent III intervened in the election of a new Archbishop of Canterbury. John refused to recognize the Papal appointment, because he objected to the Popes interference. The Pope then placed England under an Interdict in which; 1) the dying were refused Last Rights, 2) the dead had to be buried in unhallowed ground, 3) church marriages ceased, and 4) sermons were preached outdoors. This state of affairs continued for six years. Then John confiscated the property of the clergy who refused to celebrate the Mass.In 1209, the Pope excommunicated King John. The  king held out for two more years, but fearing a Pope backed French invasion,  he surrendered his kingdom in 1213.

A few days later, he received the kingdom back on the condition that he and his successors hold England and Ireland as a “feudatory” of the See of Rome for 1000 marks of silver.

[Image at left: Tomb effigy of Isabelle of Angouleme]

It was not unusual for kings to issue written declarations that they intended to keep the customs and laws as handed down by their ancestors. The Magna Charta was in such a tradition, it defined a number of feudal liberties and set limits to the use of royal power. It was not a document forced upon a reluctant monarch, by aunited kingdom. It was only after ages, when liberty had a fuller meaning, that the  Magna Charta came to symbolize, as an acceptable precedent, the spirit of the  United States Constitution.

John had a weakness for pretty women, which he treated with generosity and kindness. In his dealings with people he could be genial and generous, or he could be suspicious and sadistic. He had a knack of endowing the most solemn occasions with an element of farce.

John died at Newark-on-Trenton 19 October 1216, at the age of 49. He had been traveling up to 50 miles a day in a campaign against rebel nobles, and then attending to government business at night. After a meal of peaches and new cider, he came down with dysentery. His fever was aggravated by the loss of his personal belongings. The men in charge of transporting his belongings had taken a short cut over the sands of the Wash and were subsequently overwhelmed by the tide.

After John’s death, Isabelle remarried. Later still, she took vows in the monastery at Fontervault, where she died in 1246 at age 58 years.

An account of John, from Sir Richard Baker’s, A Chronicle of the Kings of England.
He was of stature indifferent, and something fat, of a sour and angry continence, and concerning his conditions, it may be said, that his nature and fortune did not well agree; for naturally he loved his ease, yet his fortune was to ever be in action. He won more of his enemies by surprise than by battle, which shows he had more of lightning in him than thunder. He was never so true of his word as when he threatened, because he meant always as cruelly as he spoke, not always as graciously; and he that would have known whet it was he never meant to perform, must have looked upon his promises. He was neither fit for prosperity nor adversity; for prosperity made him insolent, and adversity dejected; a mean fortune would have suited best with him. He was all that he was by fits; sometimes doing nothing without deliberation, and sometimes doing all upon a sudden; sometimes very religious, and sometimes scare a Christian.
His insatiableness of money was not so much that no man knew what he did with it, gotten with much noise, but spent in silence. He was but intemperate in his best temper, but when distempered with sickness, most of all, as appeared at his last when being in fever he would needs be eating of raw peaches, and drinking of sweet ale. If we look upon his words we must needs think him a worthy prince, but if  upon his actions, nothing less; for his words of piety were very many, as hath been shown before, but as for his actions, he neither came to the crown by justice, nor held it with honor, nor left it in peace. Yet having many good parts in him, and especially having his royal posterity continued to this day, we can do no less than honor his memory.”

Henry III

Henry   II     +     Eleanor ofAquitaine
                 John                         + Isabelle of Angouleme
                                             Henry   III

Henry III was born to John and Isabelle on 10 October 1207 at Winchester.
He succeeded to the throne at age 9 years, when his father John, died. He was crowned King of England on 28 October 1216.

With the death of John, those barons who had rallied to Louis of France instantly returned their allegiance to the English crown. A sense of nationality was becoming strong; remember, the English nobility were of Norman and French extraction and they had strong ties with their families on the continent.

Henry III was precociously clever and handsome, apart from a drooping eyelid (which his son Edward I inherited). He never lost a simple boyish delight in friendship, in beautiful things and grand occasions. He was also unable to keep his word, would not take advice and would to concentrate on one subject at a time. After 1232, Henry acted as his own chief secretary, chief justice and treasurer, as a result the  business of government became hopelessly disorganized.

[Image at right: Tomb effigy of Henry III]

On 14 January 1236at age 28 years, Henry married Eleanor of Provence. Eleanor was born in 1217 and was 20 at the time of their marriage. They produced ten children, amongst which was Edward I.

Provence was historically a region in S.E. France bordering the Mediterranean Sea. After the marriage, Henry further upset the barons by surrounding himself with Eleanor’s uncles and employing these foreigners as counselors and ministers. He was a spendthrift, especially where his wife’s many relations were concerned.

Henry stood for absolutism in a time when the essential forces in the country were trying to impose checks in royal power. In 1265, all the elements of future Parliament were brought together: Lords, county members (2 knights from each county) and borough members (2 citizens from each city). And so the first Parliament was summoned.

[Image at left: Sculpture of Eleanor of Provence]

Henry III confirmed the Greater Charter which heralded the transformation of feudal usage into national law respected by the king.

During his reign, Henry III rebuilt Westminster Abby with soaring arches and graceful windows, all in honor of Edward the Confessor.
Henry died 16 November 1272 and was buried at Westminster Abbey. Eleanor died nineteen years later on 24 January 1291.

An account of Henry III, from Sir Richard Baker’s, A Chronicle of the Kings of England.
“He was of stature but mean, yet of a well compacted body, and very strong; one of his eyelids hanging down and almost covering the blacks of his eye. For his inward endowments, it may be said, he was wiser for a man, than for a prince; for he knew better how to govern his life than his subjects. He was rather pious than devout, as taking more pleasure in hearing masses than sermons, as he said to the King of France, he had rather see his friend once than hear from him often. His mind seemed not to stand firm upon its basis, for every sudden accident put him into passion. He was neither constant in his love, not in his hate; for he never had so great a favorite whom he cast not into disgrace, nor so great and enemy whom he received not into favor. An example of both which qualities was seen in his carriage toward Hubert de Burgh, who was for a time his great favorite, yet cast out afterward in miserable disgrace, and though no man held in greater hatred, yet received afterward into grace again.
He was more desirous of money than honor, for else he never would have sold his right to the two great dukedoms of Normandy and Anjou to the king of Francefor a sum of money. Yet he was more desirous of honor than quietness, for else he would never have contended so long with his barons about their charter of  liberty, which was upon the matter, but a point of honor. His most eminent virtue, and that which made him more eminent, as being rare for princes, was his continency.”

Edward I

John     +      Isabelle ofAngouleme
     Henry   III                         + Eleanor of Provence
                                      Edward   I

Edward I was born to Henry III and Eleanor of Provence on 17 June 1239 AD atWestminster.
Edward I had reddish hair, a long hooked nose, flashing eyes and muscular limbs, because of his tall, 6 foot 2 inch height, he was nicknamed “Long shanks”. His personality stands out by the variety of his achievements, his wise choice of counsels, his mastery of law, his skills in war and his passionate interest in castle building and town planning. He had a supple, but conservative mind. He also inherited the choleric temper and vindictive cruelty so prevalent in his family.
During October 1254, at age 15, he married Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon. This marriage bore thirteen children; however, only five daughters and one son (Edward II) survived Eleanor.

[Image at left: Statues of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile]

When his father, Henry III died, Edward was away in the Holy lands on the Seventh Crusade. Returning toEngland, he was crowned King on 19 August 1272 at Westminster Abby. Coming to the throne at age 33 years., he brought a wide education in the art of ruling.

Edward I regulated the amount of land that could be held by the Church, for as landowners, clerics had not been paying their proportion of the kingdoms taxes. He further agreed that no tax should be raised without the consent of Parliament. Note, that the first Parliament was held in 1265 and only a generation later, this organization had the power of consent over taxation!

Edward was serious about the work of administration and believed that the king should live according to, and not above the law.

In 1275, the English Jews were forbidden by law to lend money at interest, by 1278 a number of these people we accused of debasing the currency and were hanged. In 1290, there was a total expulsion of the Jewish population—they did not return to England in any number until 1655.

In 1278, an ancestor from another line of our family, John DeWarrene, had dealings with Edward I. “John DeWarrene, Earl of Surrey stood before a panel of commissioners of Edward I, they asked, “By what right do you hold these lands?” and thrust forward a bundle of documents describing his vast estates. John glowered at the panel, and then, from behind his back produced a rusty old sword and threw it on the table. “Here are my title deeds!”, he cried, ”My ancestors came over with the Conqueror and won their land with this, and with it will keep them from anyone who tries to take them from me”. He turned and stalked out of the room.”
In 1290 AD, after the age of forty, Eleanor of Castile died.
During 1296, King Edward sent John DeWarrene to Scotland as his governor.

In 1299, Edward remarried and was wed to Margaret, sister to King Philip IV of France. At the same time, Edward I son, Edward II, married King Philips daughter, Isabella.

Edward led four military expeditions against the Scots, which earned him the nickname, “Hammer of the Scots”. While on yet another expedition to Scotland, Edward as an old man was being carried on a litter when he died. Edward died on 7 July 1307 at Burgh-on-the Sands near Carlisle. He was buried in Westminster Abby with others in the family line.

An account of Henry III, from Sir Richard Baker’s, A Chronicle of the Kings of England.
“He was tall of stature, higher than ordinary men by head and shoulders, and there of  called Longshanks; of a swarthy complexion, strong of body but lean; of a comely favor; his eyes in his anger, sparkling like fire; the hair of his head black and curled. Concerning his conditions, as he was in war peaceful; so in peace he was warlike, delighting especially in that kind of hunting, which is to kill stags or other wild beasts with spears. In continency of life, he was equal to his father; in acts of valor,  far beyond him. He had in himself two wisdoms, not often found in any single; both together, seldom or never: an ability of judgment in himself, and a readiness to hear judgment of others. He was not easily provoked into passion, but once in passion, not easily appeased, as was seen by his dealing with the Scotts, toward whom he showed at first patience, and at last severity. If he be censured for his many taxations, he may be justified by his well bestowing them: for never a prince laid out his money to more honor of himself, or good of his kingdom. His great unfortunateness was in his greatest blessing; for of four sons which he had by his wife Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were worthy to have out lived him; and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy never to have been born.

Edward II

Henry III    +    Eleanor ofProvence Ferdinand  III
           Edward I                       + Isabel of Castile
                                         Edward II

Edward II was born to Edward I (Longshanks) and Queen Eleanor of Castile on 25 April 1284 AD at Caernarvon,Wales.

Edward grew to be a strange man, a mixture of vigor and effeminacy. He took no interest in the affairs of the kingdom and surrounded himself with unworthy friends. His character was in complete contrast to that of his father, he was feckless, lazy, and extravagant; passionately interested in the breeding of horses and dogs and happy in the company of grooms. He loved music and stage plays, but was quite unfit to be a monarch.

In 1299, at the age of 15, Edward II married Isabel, daughter of Louis IV, King of France. Their union produced two sons and two daughters. One son became Edward III.
[Image at left, tomb effigy of Edward II.]

The twenty three year old Edward II was with his father on a military campaign against Scotland when the elder Edward died. As Edward lay dying, he asked the younger Edward to continue on with the army and defeat the Scots, before they became stronger. Young Edward II promised to see the battle through, but after his father died he returned to London and disbanded the army.

Edward II was crowned King of England in 1307 at Westminster Abby.

Years later, after the Scots had retaken nearly every English castle in their country, Edward gathered an army of 100,000 men.
Even though the English outnumbered the Scots 2 to 1, the English were slaughtered. You see, Edward spent his heavily armored troops in an attack across a bog. Just beyond the bog, the Scots had dug trenches and covered these with brush so as to stop cavalry. His heavily armored men were then caught in a bog and in the trenches as a hail of Scottish arrows and spears cut them down. Then a wave of Scots descended from their hill position with swords and battle axes to decimate their tattered ranks. So terrible was the defeat that Edward II panicked, broke his camp and fled from the field, leaving the army to its fate.

In 1324 Edward failed to pay homage for his territories in France where upon they were declared forfeit and subject to French rule.

During these times: The population of the English kingdom had risen from about 2 million in 1066 to around 4 million. The population was scattered in villages across a wild and wooded land. Among these villages were the stone manor houses of the well to do, which were some 200 years old and of course the castles of the very rich. Salt was precious and its possession marked the line between persons of high and low degree. In the early 1300s the invention of gunpowder reached England from China. By 1326, the earliest recorded gun, a  vase shaped metal mortar was drawn in a manuscript.
[Image at right, statue of Isabella of France, wife of Edward II]

By 1327, Queen Isabel was openly living with Roger Mortimer, Earl of March and Edward II chief enemy. Together, Isabel and Mortimer overwhelmed Edward’s forces and persuaded Parliament to depose Edward II in favor of his young son, Edward III. Parliament approved and Edward II was imprisoned at Berkley Castle, where he was half starved and horribly murdered on 22 September 1327 at age 43. Edward II was buried at Gloucester Cathedral.
For the next three years, Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabela were political “guardians” of England, ruling through Edward III.

An account of Edward II, from Sir Rafael Holingshed, Chronicles of England.
“Thus was King Edward murdered, in the year 1327, on 22 of September. He was known to be of good and courteous nature, though not of the most pregnant wit. And albeit in his youth he fell into certain light crimes, and after by the company and counsel of evil men, was induced into more heinous vices, yet it was thought that he purged the same by repentance. He had surely good cause to repent his former trade of living, for by his indiscreet and wanton misgovernance, there were headed and put to death during his reign (by judgment of law) to the number of 28 barons and knights.

All these mischief’s and many more happened not only to him, but also to the whole state of the realm, in that he wanted judgment and prudent discretion to make choice and sage and discreet counselors, receiving those in favor, that abused the same to their private gain and advantage, for which they only sought, in so much that by their covetous rapine, spoil, and immoderate ambition, the hearts of the common people and nobility were quite estranged from the dutiful love and obedience which they ought to have showed to their sovereign.

But now to make an end of the life as well as the reign of King Edward the Second, I find that after he was deposed his kingly honor and title, at length the brought him back again in a secret manner unto the castle of Berkeley, where whilst he remained the Queen would send unto him courteous and loving letters with apparel and other such things, but she would not once come near to visit him, bearing him in hand that she durst not, for fear of the people’s displeasure, who hated him so extremely. How beit, she with the rest of her confederates had laid a plot of their device for his dispatch, though by painted words she pretended a kind remorse to him in his distress.

Where upon when they saw that such practices would not serve their turn, they came suddenly one night into the chamber where he lay in bed fast asleep. And with heavy featherbeds or a table being cast upon him, they kept him down and withal out into his fundament an horn, and through the same they thrust up into his body a hot spit through the pipe of a trumpet a plumber’s instrument of iron made very hot, the which passing up into his entrails, and being rolled to and fro, burnt the same, but so as no appearance of any wound or hurt outwardly might be once perceived. His cry did move many within the castle and town of Berkeley to compassion, plainly hearing him utter a wailful noise, as the tormentors were about to murder him, so that diverse being awakened there with prayed heartedly to God to receive his soul, when they understood by his cry what the matter meant.”

Edward III

Edward I     +     Isabel ofCastile Louis IV King ofFrance
              Edward II                         + Isabel, French Princess
                                              Edward III

Edward III was born to Isabel, the French princess and Edward II in 1312 at Windsor Castle.

In 1327, when Edward III was 15, his father was forced to abdicate the throne by  Queen Isabel, her lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March and a consenting Parliament. Later that year, Edward II was murdered and the young Edward III crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

For the nest three years Edward III was a figurehead, while the power of the throne was wielded by Mortimer and Isabel. The young Edward had a very different nature than his father; he rebelled against the tyranny of Mortimer. In 1330 while staying at Nottingham Castle, the 18 year old King gathered his trusted followers. They crept up to the room of his mother and her lover, Mortimer, entered and arrested them at sword point.

[Image at left, tomb effigy of Edward III]

Roger Mortimer was tried, found guilty of organizing the murder of Edward II and was immediately hanged. Isabel was honorably confined at Rising Castle for the rest of her life, where she died.

Edward was tall and handsome, with bright golden red hair and penetrating eyes. He had charming manners, a ready wit, extraordinary energy and determination.

Edward married his second cousin, Philippa of Hainault, on 24 January 1328 at York.
Philippa was described as, “tall and upright, wise, gay, humble and pious, liberal and courteous, adorned in her time with all noble virtues, beloved of God and mankind.” Their marriage produced twelve children, consisting of seven sons and five daughters. We are descended from their seventh son, Thomas Plantagenet,  who was also known as, Thomas of Woodstock.

Edward III set about reviving the glories of his grandfather Edward I (Longshanks). He renewed the rift with Scotland and defeated the Scots in 1333.
He was a realist sovereign and a good administrator; taxes came in freely, especially when waging popular war.
He made the  use of the longbow compulsory on all small landowners, at the same time making it illegal to play tennis, bowl, skittles and other games. Learning archery became the only national pastime. In 1346, with prosperity at home, Edward III landed in France with 1000 ships, 4000 knights and 10,000 English and Welsh bowmen. And thus began “The Hundred Years War”.

[Image at right, tomb effigy of Philippa of Hainault.]

At the onset of the war, the English and French viewed each other differently. The English hated the French, due to ancestral memories which dated back to the “Conquest”; however, the French did not hate the English. Because of the attitude of his countrymen, the French king could not muster taxes from his indifferent villagers.

The English won battle after battle with their well trained archers which used the long bow. The long bow, a relatively new weapon, stood over seven feet tall and had a range over 300 yards. It’s arrows could penetrate chain mail or sheet armor and the archers could shoot six arrows per minute, making it more efficient than the crossbow. And so by using his men, “encased in steel” as shock troops and a large compliment of long bow archers, Edward beat the French.

In one of the earliest battles, at Ciecy, the French outnumbered the English 3 to 1. When the French knights and infantry assaulted the English archers, they were simply slaughtered.

In 1346, Edward’s eldest son, The Black Prince, stood with eight thousand troops against a French army of eighty thousand soldiers. At the end of the battle, eight thousand French troops were killed and Poitiers had fallen to the English—such was the power of the long bow.
[Drawing at left, Thomas of Woodstock, 7th son of Edward III and  Philippa of Hainault, from which my family line descends]

Later, in 1358 the English captured the important coastal city of Calais, which remained under English control for 200 years.

Before long, the French army refused to fight the superior English longbow in the open and so retired to their strongholds. Since the English were not equipped for siege warfare, they wandered around the countryside and campaigns became long drawn out affairs.

In 1347, Bubonic Plague broke out inEurope. During 1349, plague reduced the English population from 4 million to 2.6 million. Labor became scare, workers demanded higher wages, prices went up…
During 1348, Edward founded “The Order of the Garter”, which consisted of two groups of twelve knights. This was the most famous order of Chivalry.
On 15 August 1369, Philippa died of dropsy. After her death, a terrible decline took place in the character of the king.

In his old age, Edward III became senile. He died 21 June 1377, at age 65 in Richmond. He died deserted by his friends and despised by his people, who had forgotten his former greatness. Edward III was buried at Westminster Abbey.

An account of Edward III, from Sir Rafael Holingshed, Chronicles of England.
“This king, besides his other gifts of nature, was aided greatly by his seemly personage. He had  a provident wit, sharp to conceive and understand: he was courteous and gentle, a man of great temperance and sobriety, of body well made, of a convenient stature, as neither of the height nor lowest sort: of face fair and manlike, eyes bright and shinning and in age bald, but so it was rather a seemingliness to those his ancient years than and disfiguring to his visage; in knowledge of martial affairs very skillful, as the enterprise and worthy acts by him achieved do sufficiently witness.

Examples of bounteous liberality, and great clemency he shewed many; so that in manner he alone amongst all other kings was found to be one, subject to none, or at least to very light and small faults. But yet he was not void of evil haps: for whereas, during the term of forty years space he reigned in high felicity, and as one happy in all doings; so in the rest of his time that followed, he felt a wonderful change in fortune. For such is the state of this world, seldom doth prosperity continue, and guide the stern of our worldly doings. For in the first years of his reign, after he once began to govern of himself, he recovered that which had been lost in Scotland, buy great victories obtained against his adversaries, subduing the country on each hand, so that he placed governors, bestowed offices, lands and livings in that realm at his pleasure.

But finally the thing that most grieved him, was the loss of that most noble gentleman, his dear son Prince Edward (The Black Prince),in whom was found all parts that might be wished in a worthy governor.  By this and other mishaps that caused to him now, in his old years, might seem to come to pass for a revenge of his disobedience showed to his father in usurping against him, although it might be said, that he did it by constraint, and through the advice of others. But whether remorse here of, or of his other offenses moved him, it may seem that the consideration of this world’s mutability, which he tried in full, caused him to have in mind the life in the world to come, and therefore of a  pure devotion founded in the church and college of Saint Stephan at Westminster, and another at Cambridge called ‘King’s Hall’.”

An account of Philippa of Hainault: report made by Bishop Stapleton on the prospective bride of Edward III, 1319. From the book, Every One A Witness-The Plantagenet Age.
“Inspection and Description of the Daughter of the Count of Hainault, Philippa by name.
The Lady whom we saw has not uncomely hair, bewix blue-black and brown. Her head is clean shaped; her forehead high and broad, and standing somewhat forward. Her face narrows between the eyes, and the lower part of her face is still more narrow and slender than the forehead. Her eyes are blackish brown and deep. Her nose is fairly smooth and even, save that it is somewhat broad at the tip and also flattened, and yet it is no snub nose. Her nostrils are also broad, her mouth fairly wide. Her lips somewhat full, and especially the lower lip. Her teeth which have fallen and grown again are white enough, but the rest are not so white. Her lower teeth project a little beyond the upper; yet this is but little seen. Her ears and chin are comely enough. Her neck, shoulder, and all her body are well set and unmaimed; and nought is amiss so far as a man may see. Moreover, she is brown of skin all over, and much like her father; and in all things she is pleasant enough, as it seems to us. And the damsel will be of age nine years [3] on St. Johns day next to come, as her mother saith. She is neither too tall nor too short for such an age; she is of fair carriage, and well taught in all that becometh her rank, and highly esteemed and well beloved of her father and mother and all her meinie, in so far as we could inquire and learn the truth.”

[1] The Norman People, Originally published 1874, London, England, reprinted by The Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, MD 1975.
[2]  Reference sources for the generations William I, “The Conqueror”, through Thomas Plantagenet, son of Edward III.
•   The Royal Heraldry of England by J.H. and R. V. Pinches, © 1974, Charles E. Tuttle Co., Rutland, VT.
•   The Age of Chivalry, by The National Geographic Society, © 1969
•   The Crowned Lions-The Early Plantagenet Kings by Caroline Bingham, © 1978, David and Charles London,England
•   The Crusades by Zoe Oldenborg, © 1966, Random House Inc.
•   The Hollow Crown by John Barton and Joy Law, © 1971, Hamish Hamilton, Ltd.,England.
•   Americans of Royal Descent by Charles H. Browning, J. B, Lippincott Co.,Philadelphia,PA.
[3] Philippa of Hainault married Edward III nine years after the ‘Inspection and Description’ was made, when she reached approximately 18 years of age.

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