|Effigy of King Henry III in Westminster Abbey, c. 1272 (Cast in V&A Museum, London)|
|Reign||19 October 1216 – 16 November 1272|
|Coronation||28 October 1216, Gloucester
17 May 1220, Westminster Abbey
|Regent||William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1216–1219)
Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent (1219–1227)
|Consort||Eleanor of Provence|
|Edward I of England
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Beatrice, Countess of Richmond
Edmund, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster
Katherine of England
|House||House of Plantagenet|
|Father||John, King of England|
|Mother||Isabella, Countess of Angoulême|
1 October 1207|
Winchester Castle, Hampshire
|Died||16 November 1272
|Burial||Westminster Abbey, London|
Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272) was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for 56 years from 1216 until his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready. England prospered during his reign and his greatest monument is Westminster, which he made the seat of his government and where he expanded the abbey as a shrine to Edward the Confessor. He is the first of only five monarchs to reign in the Kingdom of England or its successor states for 50 years or more, the others being Edward III (1327–1377), George III (1760–1820), Victoria (1837–1901) and Elizabeth II (1952–present).
He assumed the crown under the regency of the popular William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, but the England he inherited had undergone several drastic changes in the reign of his father. He spent much of his reign fighting the barons over Magna Carta and the royal rights, and was imprisoned by rebel leader Simon de Montfort, leader of the baronial cause. Under de Montfort's leadership, and against Henry's will, England's first Parliament was called. His son Edward, aided by ally Roger Mortimer would eventually defeat de Montfort and reassert royal power. Henry was also unsuccessful on the Continent, where he endeavoured to re-establish English control over Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine.
Henry III was born in 1207 at Winchester Castle, the son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême. His grandfather was Henry II of the powerful Angevin empire. He was also the great-great-grandson of Louis VI of France. His coronation at age nine was a simple affair, attended by only a handful of noblemen and three bishops at St. Peter's Abbey, Gloucester. In the absence of a crown (the crown had recently been lost with all the rest of his father's treasure in a wreck in East Anglia) a simple golden band was placed on the young boy's head, not by the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was at this time supporting Prince Louis "the Lion", the future king of France) but by another clergyman—either Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, or Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, the Papal legate. In 1220 a second coronation was ordered by Pope Honorius III who did not consider that the first had been carried out in accordance with church rites. This occurred on 17 May 1220 in Westminster Abbey.
Under John's rule the barons had supported an invasion by Prince Louis because they disliked the way that John had ruled the country. However, they quickly saw that the young prince was a safer option. Henry's regents immediately declared their intention to rule by Magna Carta, which they proceeded to do during Henry's minority.
One of Henry's priorities early in his reign was to reclaim the Duchy of Normandy, which had been lost by his father to the French. In 1226, he promised to marry Yolande of Brittany. An alliance with her father Peter I, Duke of Brittany would open Brittany as a place from which the English could launch attacks on Normandy. Recognizing this danger, Queen Blanche of France swiftly pushed Duke Peter to have Yolande marry one of her own sons instead. Henry then pledged himself to Joan of Ponthieu, but since this also meant danger to Normandy, the French intervened again and prevented it. In 1236, Henry married Eleanor of Provence, whose sister Margaret had already married Louis IX of France.
In 1242, The Saintonge War broke out between France and England the centre-west French region of Saintonge. The conflict arose because some vassals of Louis were displeased with accession of his brother, Alphonse, as count of Poitou. The French decisively defeated the English at the Battle of Taillebourg and concluded the war by successfully besieging Saintes.
In 1244, when the Scots threatened to invade England, King Henry III visited York Castle and ordered it rebuilt in stone. The work commenced in 1245, and took some 20 to 25 years to complete. The builders crowned the existing moat with a stone keep, known as the King's Tower.
At the marriage of Alexander III of Scotland to Margaret of England in 1251, Henry III of England seized the opportunity to demand from his son-in-law homage for the Scottish kingdom, but Alexander did not comply. After this event, Henry III did not compel Alexander III to pay him homage anymore.
Henry's reign came to be marked by civil strife as the English barons, led by Simon de Montfort, demanded more say in the running of the kingdom. French-born de Montfort had originally been one of the King's foreign counselors—a group much resented by the barons. Henry, in an outburst of anger over de Montfort's behaviour in a financial matter, accused de Montfort of seducing his sister and forcing him to give her to de Montfort to avoid a scandal. When confronted by the Barons about the secret marriage that Henry had allowed to happen, a feud developed between the two. Their relationship reached a crisis in the 1250s when de Montfort was brought up on spurious charges for actions he had taken as lieutenant of Gascony, the last remaining Plantagenet land across the English Channel. He was acquitted by the Peers of the realm, much to the King's displeasure.
Henry also became embroiled in funding a war in Sicily on behalf of the Pope in return for a title for his second son Edmund. This situation led many of the barons to fear that Henry was following in his father's footsteps and therefore also needed to be kept in check. De Montfort became leader of those who wanted to reassert Magna Carta and force the king to surrender more power to the baronial council. In 1258 seven leading barons forced Henry to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, which effectively abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy, giving power to a council of fifteen barons to deal with the business of government and providing for a thrice-yearly meeting of parliament to monitor their performance. Henry was forced to take part in the swearing of a collective oath to the Provisions of Oxford.
In the following years those supporting de Montfort and those supporting the king grew more and more polarised. Henry obtained a papal bull in 1262 exempting him from his oath and both sides began to raise armies. The Royalists were led by Prince Edward, Henry's eldest son. A civil war, known as the Second Barons' War, ensued.
The charismatic de Montfort and his forces had captured most of southeastern England by 1263, and at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner by de Montfort's army. While Henry was reduced to being a figurehead king, de Montfort broadened representation to include each county of England and many important towns—that is, to groups beyond the nobility. Henry and Edward remained under house arrest. The short period that followed was the closest England was to come to complete abolition of the monarchy until the Commonwealth period of 1649–60 and many of the barons who had initially supported de Montfort began to suspect that he had gone too far with his reforming zeal.
Fifteen months later Prince Edward had escaped captivity (having been freed by his cousin Roger Mortimer) and led the royalists into battle, turning the tables on de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Following this victory, savage retribution was exacted on the rebels.
Though not seen as the most tyrannical of kings, unlike his son Prince Edward, discontent was common during Henry's time and, though traditionally thought of as belonging to the time of King John, the earliest Robin Hood sources and tales suggest that, if he existed at all, it was during Henry's reign.
As Henry reached maturity he was keen to restore royal authority, looking towards the autocratic model of the French monarchy. Henry was known for his anti-Jewish decrees, such as a decree compelling Jews to wear a special "badge of shame" in the form of the Two Tablets. He exacted several tallages specifically from Jews to raise money for his campaigns. Henry married Eleanor of Provence and he promoted many of his French relatives to higher positions of power and wealth; these events collectively led him to become deeply unpopular with the common people of England. For instance, one Poitevin, Peter de Rivaux, held the offices of Treasurer of the Household, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, Lord Privy Seal, and the sheriffdoms of twenty-one English counties simultaneously. Henry's tendency to govern for long periods with no publicly appointed ministers who could be held accountable for their actions and decisions did not make matters any easier. Many English barons came to see his method of governing as foreign.
Henry was much taken with the cult of the Anglo-Saxon saint king Edward the Confessor who had been canonised in 1161. After learning that St Edward dressed in an austere manner, Henry took to doing the same and wore only the simplest of robes. He had a mural of the saint painted in his bedchamber for inspiration before and after sleep and even named his eldest son Edward. Henry designated Westminster, where St Edward had founded the abbey, as the fixed seat of power in England and Westminster Hall duly became the greatest ceremonial space of the kingdom, where the council of nobles also met. Henry appointed French architects from Rheims to renovate Westminster Abbey in the Gothic style. Work began, at great expense, in 1245. The centrepiece of Henry's renovated abbey was a shrine to Edward the Confessor. It was finished in 1269 and the saint's relics were then installed.
Henry was pious and his journeys were often delayed by his insistence on hearing Mass several times a day. He took so long to arrive for a visit to the French court that his brother-in-law, King Louis IX of France, banned priests from Henry's route. On one occasion, as related by Roger of Wendover, when King Henry met with papal prelates, he said, "If [the prelates] knew how much I, in my reverence of God, am afraid of them and how unwilling I am to offend them, they would trample on me as on an old and worn-out shoe."
Henry's advancement of foreign favourites, notably his wife's Savoyard uncles and his own Lusignan half-siblings, the children of his mother's second marriage to Hugh X of Lusignan, was unpopular with his subjects and barons. He was also extravagant and avaricious; when his first child, Prince Edward, was born, Henry demanded that Londoners bring him rich gifts to celebrate. He even sent back gifts that did not please him. Matthew Paris reports that some said, "God gave us this child, but the king sells him to us".
According to Proulx et al., Henry was a thickset man of great stature who was often revered for his smooth skin. The Chronica of William Rishanger also states that he was "[O]f middling height. He had a narrow forehead, and one of his eyelids was half-closed, and almost hid the dark of the pupil. Strong in physique, he was impulsive in action..." ((His son, Edward I, also appears to have had a droopy eyelid).
There is reason to doubt the existence of several attributed children of Henry and Eleanor.
are known only from a 14th-century addition made to a manuscript of Flores Historiarum, and are nowhere contemporaneously recorded.
Another daughter, Matilda, is found only in the Hayles Abbey chronicle, alongside such other fictitious children as a son named William for King John, and an illegitimate son named John for King Edward I. Matilda's existence is doubtful, at best. For further details, see Margaret Howell, The Children of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1992).
|Ancestors of Henry III of England|
Henry III of EnglandBorn: 1 October 1207 Died: 16 November 1272
|King of England
Duke of Aquitaine
Lord of Ireland
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