The Early Plantagenet Kings

From 1154 AD to 1399 AD a royal house called the Plantagenets ruled England.

They seized power after being victorious in a civil war (1135-1154 AD).

The Plantagenets were the first to use the Three Lions as a symbol of England.

The first Plantagenet king was Henry II (1154-1189), who made considerable strides towards creating Britain’s legal and constitutional foundations.

What became known as Common Law developed under Henry, as did trial-by-jury.

Henry also conquered Ireland, extended English holdings in France, and curbed the power of the aristocratic barons.

(Above) Richard the Lionheart, a great warrior king who came close to defeating Saladin and the Muslims in Jerusalem.

Henry was succeeded by his son, Richard I (1189-1199), better known as Richard the Lionheart.

Richard I was a popular ruler, but spent only seven months of his ten year reign actually in England.

Shortly after assuming the throne, he joined Philip Augustus of France and Frederick Barbarossa in a Crusade to re-take Jerusalem from Saladin and the Muslims.

The Crusade was not however successful, the only thing achieved was pilgrimage rights for Christians.

It was during the reign of Richard the Lionheart that the legend arose of Robin Hood.

Richard was succeeded by his brother John (1199-1216), who was famous for being forced by his nobles to sign the Magna Carta (Great Charter), granting all free citizens of the realm equal rights under the law.

(Above) King John is forced to sign the Magna Carta, 1215 AD, guaranteeing all free citizens of the realm equality before the law. He faced a stark choice: sign or face retribution at the hands of his nobles.

The English nobles that forced King John the Bad, as he became known, to sign the Magna Carta formed a committee to ensure that he kept his word.

This committee was the forerunner of the House of Lords in the modern British Parliament.

During the reign of King John, Cambridge University was founded in 1209 AD.

King John’s successor, Henry III (1216-1272), took the throne at a very young age, and was famous for facing a major revolt, led by Simon de Montfort, who instituted the first English Parliament in 1265.

(Above) The first English Parliament was short lived and in the ensuing war de Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham.

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