Category: Government and politics

William the Marshal: 1st Earl of Pembroke & Regent of England

By , July 6, 2010 10:55 pm

William Marshal 1146 – 14th May 1219

William Marshal unhorsing an opponent in a joust, from Matthew Paris' "History"

William Marshal unhorsing an opponent in a joust, from Matthew Paris' "History"

This is the second article about William Marshal, covering his years of service to King Richard I, King John, and King Henry III, and his two periods as Regent / co-Regent of England.

It also considers William’s marriage to the great heiress, Isabel de Clare, and their children.

The first article details his rise  from the obscurity of being a 4th son of a minor knight through being renowned across Europe as a tournament fighter (and winner) to his service to Henry the Young King and then King Henry II.  William the Marshal: The Greatest Knight.

William Marshal and King Richard I

Richard I, also known as Richard Lionheart (Richard Coeur de Lion) was crowned Duke of Aquitaine on the 20th July 1189, and King of England in Westminster Abbey on 3rd September 1189.

Although William the Marshal had been supporting King Henry II, Richard’s father, throughout their wars in 1188 and 1189, Richard

King Richard I, also known as Richard Lionheart, or Richard Coeur de Lion

King Richard I, also known as Richard Lionheart, or Richard Coeur de Lion

valued William’s loyalty to his father, and William immediately swore an oath of loyalty to Richard and was set high in Richard’s household and esteem.

After William Marshal had shot off to England to release Richard I’s mother, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, from her 16 year imprisonment, King Richard fulfilled his father, Henry II’s, offer of the marriage and estates of Isabel de Clare.

King Richard the Lionheart on Crusade

King Richard I had always been interested in going on a crusade. As Count of Poitou, he had taken the cross 2 years earlier. He prepared extensively to leave for the Holy Land on the 3rd crusade.

Later in 1189, King Richard left England on his way to the 3rd crusade, and appointed a Regency Council to govern the kingdom in his absence. He named 6 people as members of the Regency Council while he was absent, include William the Marshal.

Pembroke Castle, mostly built by William Marshal, as 1st Earl of Pembroke

Pembroke Castle, mostly built by William Marshal, as 1st Earl of Pembroke

The leader of the regency council was William Longchamp, who bought the office of Chancellor of England for £3,000, and was also appointed as Bishop of Ely.

Longchamp also became a papal legate in England. Longchamp appeared to be keen to draw in revenue, marginalised other officials appointed by King Richard I, and brought in fellow Normans to fill offices.

In 1190, Richard Longchamp fell out with King Richard I’s younger brother, Prince John.

As a consequence of this Longchamp besieged Lincoln Castle because the Castellan would not surrender the castle and be replaced by Longchamp’s man. The Castellan had sworn allegiance to Prince John, so John then besieged and took 2 castles himself.

Striguil Castle, now known as Chepstow Castle, build by William Marshal

Striguil Castle, now known as Chepstow Castle, build by William Marshal

William the Marshal supported Prince John in his struggle with Longchamp. Longchamp was eventually stripped of many of his offices and tried to flee from Dover disguised as a woman.

During the hostilities between the Council of Regency on the one hand and Prince John in the other, William Marshal fought against Prince John. William’s older brother, John Marshal, died defending Marlborough Castle on behalf of Prince John.

Richard granted the Marshalsea to William, and also the paternal lands of Hampstead Marshal.

When King Richard I was captured by the Duke of Austria on return from his third crusade, Prince John joined forces with King Philip of France, trying to prolong Richard’s imprisonment. William Marshal refused to support John in this, as he had given his oath to King Richard who was still king.
William Marshal was a prime mover in raising the necessary funds for the vast ransom that had to be paid to the Duke of Austria for Richard’s release.


Marriage of William Marshal and Isabel de Clare

The Great Hall at Striguil Castle, now known as Chepstow Castle

The Great Hall at Striguil Castle, now known as Chepstow Castle

Upon the marriage in August 1189, William Marshal went from being a landless knight to being one of the wealthiest and most powerful barons in England, Wales and Ireland.

He also became by right of his wife, Isabel, Earl of Striguil and Overlord of Leinster. He did not inherit the earldom of Pembroke until King John’s reign.

At the time of the arranged marriage, William was 43 years old, and Isabel was 17.

The marriage appears to have been happy, and Isabel travelled extensively with her husband.

The couple had 10 children who survived to adulthood, 5 sons and 5 daughters.

Oddly, each of their 5 sons inherited the Earldom in turn, William, Richard, Gilbert, Walter, and Ancel / Anselm became the Earls of Pembroke in turn. Each of the 5 sons died without a legitimate heir.

The 5 daughters, Maud / Matilda / Mahelt, Isabel, Sibyl, Joan and Eva, all married and had many descendents.

Both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, 2 of the wives of King Henry VIII, were descended from William Marshal and Isabel de Clare, as is the current royal family.

Death of King Richard I

King John

King John

King Richard I died in April 1199 as a result of an arrow injury sustained when he was besieging a castle. At the time of Richard’s death, he had no legitimate heirs.

The choice for the next king lay between his next brother Geoffrey’s son, Arthur, Duke of Brittany, and his youngest brother, Prince John.

When Richard died, William Marshal was in Normandy, and was a principal supporter of the right of King John to inherit the throne.

At a time when a king or a duke led his forces and his personality in person were extremely important for the exercise of power, many English and Norman barons preferred an adult over a 12 year old boy.

Arthur of Brittany was also closely associated with the French throne, and many of the English and Norman barons disliked the influence King Philip had over Arthur and Brittany.

On King Richard I’s deathbed he designated William Marshal as the custodian of Rouen and of the Royal Treasury.

William Marshal and King John

Tomb effigies of William Marshal and his sons in Temple Church, London

Tomb effigies of William Marshal and his sons in Temple Church, London

As King John took his throne, in 1199, there were major offensives by the French King, Philip, against the Duchy of Normandy and the Duchy of Aquitaine.

William Marshal was in Normandy for most of the time between 1200 and 1203, taking charge of the king’s army.  He was on King John’s ship when John abandoned the Duchy in December 1203.

However, John and William Marshal fell out when William paid homage to King Philip of France for his lands in Normandy.

King John had the ability to fall out with almost everyone, especially the barons and leading earls.

In 1207, King John made moves against many of the major Irish barons.

John’s Irish Justiciar invaded William Marshal and Isabel de Clare’s Irish lands, burning his town of New Ross, and trying to assault his castles.

William Marshal remained estranged from John’s Court until he was summoned back in 1213.

King Henry III

King Henry III

During the First Baron’s War, which ended with the signature of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215, William Marshal was one of the very few English barons who remained loyal to King John.

When King John died in November 1216, William the Marshal was named by John as Head of the King’s Counsel, and protector of John’s eldest son, the 9 year old King Henry III.

By the time John died, the grip on the English throne was precarious.  The son and heir of King Philip of France, Prince Louis, had invaded at the invitation of the rebel barons and had been offered the throne.

Much of the barons’ support for the French claim fell away when King John died, but war continued for a couple of years afterwards.


William the Marshal and King Henry III

13th century depiction of the Battle of Lincoln in 1217

13th century depiction of the Battle of Lincoln in 1217

William Marshal was, by the time he was named as the King’s Protector in 1216, about 70 years old.

William was, nevertheless, not only the King’s Protector but was leader of the King’s Armed Forces.

There was a major battle in May 1217, at Lincoln.  Prince Louis had taken and held the city of Lincoln, but the castle remained in the hands of the King’s men.

William the Marshal led an army to Lincoln, and attacked the north gate of Lincoln while the rest of his force attacked other gates.

William was not directing from a distance, but at the head of the armed knights who battled into the City of Lincoln on horseback.

The British Museum's copy of the Magna Carta signed in 1215 by King John

The British Museum's copy of the Magna Carta signed in 1215 by King John

The Battle of Lincoln essentially ended the attempt by Prince Louis to claim the throne of England, and shortly thereafter in a peace negotiated by William Marshal, Prince Louis and his remaining mercenaries and supporters left England.

William was an admirer of the Magna Carta and the liberties set out therein.

In early 1217 and again in late 1217 he reissued the Magna Carta, signed by King John two years earlier, and signed it as one of the witnessing barons.

For more about King Henry III’s long reign, see  The 5 Longest Reigning Kings & Queens – Henry III, Fourth Place

Final Years , Death and Burial

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke: effigy in Temple Church, London

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke: effigy in Temple Church, London

William Marshal began to fail in February 1219, and a month later left the Tower of London, resigning the Protectorship at his estate in Caversham in Oxfordshire.

A meeting was held – the main barons, King Henry III, the papal legate, Pandulf Masca, the Royal Justiciar, de Burgh, and the Bishop of Winchester all attended.

The papal legate was named as William Marshal’s replacement as Regent of England.

William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke: effigy in Temple Church, London

William Marshal, 2nd Earl of Pembroke: effigy in Temple Church, London

In early May 1219, William renounced his marriage vows and became a Templar Knight, apparently fulfilling a promise he had made when he made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem after the death of Henry the young king.

On 14 May 1219 he died at Caversham, in Oxfordshire, and was buried in Temple Church, London, as a Templar Knight.

William’s effigy, and those of his 3 of his sons who were also buried in Temple Church, can be seen to this day.

Tomb effigy of Gilbert Marshal, son of William Marshal, in Temple Church, London

Tomb effigy of Gilbert Marshal, son of William Marshal, in Temple Church, London

William was succeeded by his son, also called William, who became the 2nd Earl of Pembroke.

Although Isabel de Clare was 25 years younger than her husband, she outlived him by only a year, dying in 1220.


William the Marshal: The Greatest Knight

By , July 3, 2010 10:44 am

William Marshal 1146 – 14th May 1219

William Marshal unhorsing an opponent in a joust, from Matthew Paris' "History"

William Marshal unhorsing an opponent in a joust, from Matthew Paris' "History"

William the Marshal’s life is astonishing, and shows him as one of the towering giants of Medieval England.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, rose from the obscurity of being a 4th son of a minor knight, to serving Kings and Queens of England and the Duchies of Anjou, Normandy, Maine &  Aquitaine, and was then Regent of England.

He was known across Christendom as “the Marshal”, and even went to Jerusalem as a pilgrim.

William’s loyalty and commitment were legendary, and enabled him to serve successive Kings who loathed and fought each other (despite the fact that those Kings were father / son or brothers).

Knights jousting, from René d'Anjou's "Livre des tournois"

Knights jousting, from René d'Anjou's "Livre des tournois"

William was a powerhouse of military skill and strength, winning prizes and acclaim throughout Europe.

He also won a reputation as being a loyal, chivalrous and honourable knight, who made his name on the tournament circuit, and was still leading an army at the age of 70, when his forces won the Battle of Lincoln on behalf of Henry III.

William married one of the greatest available heiresses, Isabel de Clare, who was 17 years old to his 43, and yet appears to have had a happy marriage, fathering many children.

This is the first of two articles about William. This one looks at his family, childhood, early exploits, and service under Henry the Young King and King Henry II.

The second looks at William’s services to King Richard I and King John, his role as governor of England, and as  the Regent who ruled while King Henry III was a child, and can be found by clicking on this link:

William the Marshal: 1st Earl of Pembroke & Regent of England

Family and Childhood

The Empress Matilda, also known as the Lady of the English

The Empress Matilda, also known as the Lady of the English

Born During the Anarchy

William was born half-way through the time called “The Nineteen Year Winter”, a bitter civil war which started in 1135 when King Henry I died without a male heir.

The following 19 years saw a battle between King Stephen, Henry I’s nephew, and Empress Matilda, Henry’s daughter, which ended only when Stephen died in 1154 and was succeeded by King Henry II, Matilda’s eldest son, and Henry’s Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

For more about this Civil War, see this article: Empress Matilda v King Stephen: When Christ and His Saints Slept.

William suffered directly and personally in the Civil War.

John FitzGilbert the Marshal – William Marshal’s Father

William was the 4th son of John FitzGilbert the Marshal, also known as just John the Marshal. The Marshal post was a mostly hereditary job in the Royal Household.

Originally the Marshal (or Maréchal in the Norman French spoken by the top levels of society) was in charge of the King’s horses and stables (the Marshalsea), but the post expanded to include organising the King’s household and soldiers in general.

The remains of Marlborough Castle, held by John the Marshal, and probable birthplace of William Marshal

The remains of Marlborough Castle, held by John the Marshal, and probable birthplace of William Marshal

John’s father, Gilbert, had also been a royal marshal, for King Henry I. (John’s often-used surname, FitzGilbert, means “son of Gilbert” in Normal French).

John the Marshal married firstly Aline Pipard, and they had two sons, Gilbert and Walter. His marriage to Aline was annulled, and he then married Sybilla of Salisbury, by whom he had four more sons, John, William, Henry and Ancel (or Anselm), and two daughters.

John was renowned for being extremely tough and a fierce opponent. He was described as being “a limb of hell and the root of all evil”.

During a battle John was imprisoned in a burning church, and molten lead dripped down his face and body, caused horrific burns. Despite the injuries, he escaped and recovered to fight again.

John became Marshal to King Henry I when his father died, in about 1130, and when King Henry himself died in 1135 AD, he became King Stephen’s Marshal in turn.  John held Hamstead Marshal as his own inheritance, and was granted the castles of Marlborough and Ludgershall nearby – all are in Berkshire and Wiltshire.

Sybilla of Salisbury – William Marshal’s Mother

Sybilla was the sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, and daughter of Walter of Salisbury. Her family and John the Marshal’s had been local enemies, and the marriage was designed to keep the peace so that both families could join together and harass others instead of themselves.

William Held as a Hostage

King Stephan of Blois, from Matthew Paris' early 13th century chronicle

King Stephan of Blois, from Matthew Paris' early 13th century chronicle

John the Marshal was on the Empress Matilda’s side, and built an adulterine castle, one which was not permitted or licensed, on his lands at Hamstead Marshal, near Newbury.

In 1152, when William was 5 or 6 years old, King Stephen and his army besieged Newbury. A truce was agreed, so that John Marshal could seek permission to surrender the castle, and his young son William was given as  a hostage for John’s good behaviour.

Instead of surrendering, John took the opportunity offered by the truce to re-fortify and re-supply the castle, so that it could continue to hold against the siege.

King Stephen threatened to hang the boy and catapult his body over the castle walls if John did not surrender, and John replied:

I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!

Fortunately for William, but to the disgust of his allies, King Stephen couldn’t bring himself to kill a small boy, and William survived.

For more about Newbury Castle, see Hamstead Marshall Castles.


Military Training

At the age of 11 or 12, William was sent to be a page, then squire (training to be a knight) in a relative’s household in Normandy, in William de Tancarville’s care. He late moved, once knighted, to his maternal uncle’s household, Patrick of Salisbury.

Later Medieval Tournament illustration (15th century)

Later Medieval Tournament illustration (15th century)

He started to fight as a Knight from about 1166, aged 20, and attended his first tournament in 1167.

He became a very successful tournament fighter: tournaments and jousts at this time were extremely dangerous events, with many competitors dying or suffering serious injuries.

Knights who were caught by another competitor lost their horse and armour, and if rich, had to pay a ransom to the captor. So a tournament fighter could both make and lose vast sums of money, and William tended to win.

See this article for more about Medieval Armour.

First contact with Royalty

In 1168, the rebellious rebels, the de Lusignans, killed William’s uncle, Patrick of Salisbury, and captured William in an ambush near Poitiers, in Aquitaine.

The group was on business for Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Duchess of Aquitaine and wife of King Henry II. Eleanor paid William’s ransome, and he entered royal service as a knight.

William Marshal and Henry the Young King

King Henry II

King Henry II

King Henry II had decided to follow the French example of crowning the heir to the throne during the King’s lifetime. Henry, the oldest surviving son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, was therefore crowned in August 1170, when he was 15 years old.

William the Marshal was appointed as the Young King’s tutor and an important part of his household.

In 1173 Henry the Young King joined his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his brothers Geoffrey and Richard, in rebelling against King Henry II.  A bitter family war ensued, with father aligned against 3 of his sons and his wife, their mother.

William Marshal supported his lord and master, Henry the Young King, although by 1174 King Henry II had triumphed, making peace with his sons and capturing and imprisoning his wife, Queen Eleanor (she remained in captivity until Henry II died in 1189).

After peace broke out in 1174, William Marshal lead the Young King’s tournament team, and they competed across France, Normandy, Anjou, Aquitaine, Picardy and Flanders from 1174 until 1182. William devised the team’s tactics, and acted as guard for Henry the Young King, as Henry’s being captured and held for ransom would have lead to serious embarrassment all round.

By 1179, William was wealthy enough to run his own team of knights in tournaments.

In 1182, William and Henry fell out, for reasons that are not entirely clear, but probably owed much to others’ jealousy of William’s influence over the Young King, and increasing wealth and prestige from martial sports. William left the Young King’s household in the summer of 1182.

Henry the Young King

Henry the Young King

Some 6 months later, the Young King recalled William to his service. Henry was once again rebelling against his father, King Henry II, and this time also fought against his brother Richard, heir to the Duchy of Aquitaine.

Henry the Young King died of dysentery, or the bloody flux as it was then known, in June  1183. Henry had started to raid monasteries and shrines to pay mercenaries to fight against his father and brother, and many saw his death as a sign of divine displeasure. Fearful of damnation on his deathbed, the Young King asked William Marshal to take his cloak on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to fulfil the Crusader vow he had taken and not carried out.

After Henry the Young King’s death, William Marshal, with King Henry II’s approval, made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and returned 2 years later, to join Henry II’s household.

William Marshal and King Henry II

King Richard I, also known as Richard Lionheart, or Richard Coeur de Lion

King Richard I, also known as Richard Lionheart, or Richard Coeur de Lion

William basked in royal favour from 1185 onwards. He was given estates in the north-west of England, in Cumberland (now Cumbria), and the wardship of a Cumberland heiress, Heloise.

Late in 1188, Henry II’s sons, Richard and Geoffrey, rebelled against their father again. William Marshal acted as captain of Henry II’s troops, and accompanied Henry II as he travelled to fight the revolt.

On one occasion, William became the only man ever to knock Richard off his horse, as Richard and his soldiers chased after Henry II.

By mid 1189, Henry II was unwell. He promised William the heiress Isabel de Clare, one of the greatest heiresses in any of Henry II’s domains.

But before the marriage could take place, and the transfer be formalised, Henry II died in August 1189, mourning because his youngest son John had joined the rebellion of his older brothers.

Although William Marshal had fought against him on behalf of Henry the Young King and later Henry II, Richard valued the loyalty and prowess William had shown in the service of his brother and father.

Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart, appointed William Marshal to his own household, and sent him urgently to England, to release his long-held mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Read on for part two! William the Marshal: 1st Earl of Pembroke & Regent of England


Empress Matilda v King Stephen: When Christ and His Saints Slept

By , June 29, 2010 8:58 am

Introduction to the “Nineteen Year Winter”

When King Henry I died in 1135AD  without a male heir, all hell broke loose.

The following two decades saw civil war in England, between Henry I’s daughter, the Empress Matilda (also known as Maud) and Henry’s nephew, Stephen of Blois.

As well as the battles between the opposing Claimants to the throne, local barons took the lack of firm control as an opportunity to grab land, build unlicensed castles, settle old scores, and start new feuds.

King Henry I, from one of Matthew Paris' early 13th century works

King Henry I, from one of Matthew Paris' early 13th century works


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described the period as the time “When Christ and his Saints Slept”, and it is also known as “The Nineteen Year Winter” and “The Anarchy”.

King Henry I’s Family and Children

Father and Inheritance

Henry was the fourth son of the first Norman King, William the Conqueror.

When William died, he left the Duchy of Normandy to his eldest son, Robert, and the English Crown to his third son, William II, also known as William Rufus. The second son, Richard, died before his father.

As the fourth son, Henry Beauclerc (so called because he was the best-educated of William the Conqueror’s sons, and at one time destined for the Church) inherited only money.

William the Conqueror, father of King Henry I and grandfather of King Stephan and Empress Matilda, shown in the Bayeux Tapestry

William the Conqueror, father of King Henry I and grandfather of King Stephan and Empress Matilda, shown in the Bayeux Tapestry

William Rufus died in a very suspicious hunting accident, killed apparently by a stray arrow, in 1100.

Robert, Duke of Normandy, was on crusade at the time, and Henry took the opportunity, which he may have created or helped to create, to take the throne and become King Henry I. Henry was then about 31 or 32 years old.

Marriages and Children

Henry had no problem siring children. His problem was fathering legitimate offspring, who could inherit the throne.

After he ascended to the throne in August 1100, Henry married Edith, daughter of the King of Scotland, and therefore added the Anglo-Saxon royalty to his children. She changed her name from the very Saxon “Edith” to “Matilda”, which was a much more Norman name.

Henry and Matilda had two children who died as infants, and two who lived past childhood, one son, William, and a daughter, Matilda, Maude or Maud.

William Adelin died in the infamous sinking of the White Ship in November 1120, when he was 17 years old. That left Henry I without a legitimate male heir.

Queen Matilda had died in 1118, and Henry re-married, to Adeliza, a German Duke’s daughter, but had no more children.

Henry I also had between 20 and 30 acknowledged bastard children, including Robert, Earl of Gloucester.

Empress Matilda / Maude / Maud

The Empress Matilda, also known as the Lady of the English

The Empress Matilda, also known as the Lady of the English

Matilda was born in 1102, probably in Winchester. At the age of 7, she was betrothed to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, and was sent to live at her future husband’s court the following year.

Henry and Matilda married in 1114, when he was 28 and she was 12 years old. They had no children, and Henry V died in 1125; Matilda returned to England.

The 23 year old Matilda was, after 1120, King Henry’s only surviving legitimate child. Henry  arranged a second marriage for his daughter, in 1128, to the 15 year old Geoffrey, Count of Maine and Count of Anjou.

In status terms, a Duke was a comedown after an Emperor, and Matilda continued to be known as the Empress Matilda, or Lady of the English.

The marriage was marked by frequent arguments, separations and dislike, but the couple nevertheless had three sons, Henry, Geoffrey, and William.

Stephen of Blois was one of ten children. His parents were Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, and Stephen, Count of Blois.  He held the title of Count of Mortain, and also later Count of Boulogne, by right of his wife, Matilda.

Stephen was brought up at the court of his uncle, King Henry I. He was the first of the barons to swear allegiance to Matilda as the heir of Henry I.

The Succession Crisis

King Stephan of Blois, from Matthew Paris' early 13th century chronicle

King Stephen of Blois, from Matthew Paris' early 13th century chronicle

King Henry I named his daughter, Matilda, as his heir. He demanded that all his barons swore allegiance to Matilda, and that they accepted her as his heir.

Henry died in Normandy in December 1135, from a surfeit of lampreys (a type of eel). Matilda had two sons by then, but they were very young: Henry was 2 years old, and Geoffrey was a baby.

Three people appeared to have a potential claim to the throne, all with certain difficulties. Matilda had the best claim, by blood and by the oaths sworn to her, but she was a woman.

Stephen of Blois was the nephew of King Henry, and grandson of William the Conqueror, but was not a direct heir to Henry, and had an older brother, Theobald Count of Blois (who did not claim the throne).

Robert of Gloucester, an efficient and popular Earl, was the son of King Henry I, but was illegitimate.

When Henry I died, Stephen sprang into action. He rushed from Normandy to England, gathered support from the barons, had himself crowned, and grabbed the treasury. He was given strong support by his younger brother, Henry Bishop of Winchester.

Once King Stephen was crowned, the Pope decided to absolve the English and Norman barons of their oaths to Matilda, and Stephen became the de facto King of England and Duke of Normandy.

Matilda herself was in Anjou, and was overtaken by events. Stephen made his claim to the throne a fait accompli, helped by the fact that the English and Norman barons strongly disliked the idea of a woman on the throne.


Civil War

King Henry II, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou

King Henry II, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou

Matilda’s cause was championed by her illegitimate half-brother, Robert Earl of Gloucester.  King David of Scotland, Matilda’s uncle, also invaded from the north in her support, but was beaten back.

By 1139, King Stephen had alienated many barons and bishops, and did not focus on the administrative detail of actual running the government.

Matilda and her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, invaded Normandy and managed to take much the Duchy between 1135 and 1138. Fighting continued thereafter, but in 1144 Geoffrey captured Rouen, and Geoffrey and Matilda were proclaimed as the Duke and Duchess of Normandy.

Matilda arrived in England in 1139, and took Arundel Castle, and later joined Robert of Gloucester at his main castle in Bristol. Fighting continued across the country, and in 1141, Matilda’s cause took a significant step forward when her armies captured Lincoln Castle. Trying to reclaim it, King Stephen was captured and imprisoned.

Matilda travelled to London, taking the title “Lady of the English” and ruled for some months. She was not particularly popular, however, and the struggle continued, directed by Queen Matilda (another one!), wife of King Stephen.

When Robert of Gloucester was captured in September 1141, an exchange was arranged, and both Robert and Stephen were released.

In December 1142, Matilda was trapped in Oxford Castle, and besieged. She made a daring and renowned escape across ice and snow at night, and evaded Stephen’s army. A year later, she also had to escape from Devizes Castle, this time disguised as a body being taken for burial.

Oxford Castle, from where Empress Matilda made a daring night-time escape

Oxford Castle, from where Empress Matilda made a daring night-time escape

Unrest and battles continued, until Robert of Gloucester died in 1147, and Matilda left England and returned to Normandy in 1148. Geoffrey of Anjou then returned to Anjou and Maine, leaving their eldest son, Henry, as acting Duke of Normandy.

Henry invaded England several times, in 1147, 1149 and 1150. He was precocious and ruthless, a great military commander, as can be seen by his leading invasions from the age of 14.

Matilda’s superior claim to the throne came to be embodied in her son Henry, who was not only gifted, intelligent and successful, but was (crucially) male.

In 1153, King Stephen agreed a treaty with Matilda and Henry, agreeing that after his death, the throne would pass not to his own children, but to Henry. Stephen died the following year, in 1154, and Henry became King Henry II, at the age of 21.

The Country during the Anarchy

King Stephen was often said to be a good man, and a bad King. He was derided as being soft and too forgiving, and he certainly appears to have paid insufficient attention to running the country.

The Anglo-Saxon chronicle says of his taking the throne:

Meanwhile was his nephew come to England, Stephen de Blois. He came to London, and the people of London received him, and sent after the Archbishop William Curboil, and hallowed him to king on midwinter day. In this king’s time was all dissention, and evil, and rapine

Among King Stephen’s failings as a King were his inability to execute child hostages, such as William, son of John the Marshall, and his forgiveness, often more than once, of those who rebelled against him.

When the young Henry first invaded, at the age of 14, and then ran out of money, King Stephen paid for him to return to Normandy.

The First Page of the Peterborough version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The First Page of the Peterborough version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The Chronicle says:

When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and soft, and good, and no justice executed, then did they all wonder.

All the armies and groups of armed men wandering the country from 1135 to 1153 did no good at all, plundering, looting after winning battles, taking what they wanted.

But the problems were greater than this. The barons became over-mighty subjects, building castles without permission, taking land from other barons, smaller landholders, and the church, and there was a lack of law and order that was universal.

When in control of an area, King Stephen was not able to impose the rule of law, one of the reasons subjects rebelled against his rule.

The Chronicle paints a grim picture of King Stephen’s reign:

Never yet was there more wretchedness in the land; nor ever did heathen men worse than they did: for, after a time, they spared neither church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein, and then burned the church and all together. Neither did they spare a bishop’s land, or an abbot’s, or a priest’s, but plundered both monks and clerks; and every man robbed another who could.

To till the ground was to plough the sea: the earth bare no corn, for the land was all laid waste by such deeds; and they said openly, that Christ slept, and his saints. Such things, and more than we can say, suffered we nineteen winters for our sins.

The 5 Longest Reigning Kings & Queens – Elizabeth II, Second Place

By , June 17, 2010 3:20 pm

.
.

Queen Elizabeth II – 60 years 4 months 11 days (and counting)

.
Some English (and British, after the accession of King James I of England & VI of Scotland in 1603) managed to keep their backsides firmly on the throne for longer than the average birth to death life expectancy of their subjects.

This post is one of a series about the 5 longest reigns – all of which were (or are, in the case of Elizabeth II) over 50 years.

For obvious reasons, they were all young when they came to the throne, but not all were children.

Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, just after her accession to the throne. 	© Estate of Dorothy Wilding

Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, just after her accession to the throne. © Estate of Dorothy Wilding

For the fifth-longest English reign, see King Edward III in the 14th century, and for the fourth-longest reign, see King Henry III in the 13th century.

The second-longest reign is that of the present Queen, Elizabeth II. She recently overtook King George III to take second place, and has become only the second monarch in our history to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the thone this year (2012).
.

Family and Childhood

.
Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on 21st April 1926, and is now 84 years old. She was named after her mother, great-grandmother, and grandmother (in that order). Her title at birth was Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of York.

At the time Elizabeth was born, she was not expected to inherit the throne herself. She was the elder of two daughters born to Prince Albert, Duke of York, and his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Father

King George VI, Elizabeth II's father, in 1940

King George VI, Elizabeth II's father, in 1940


.
Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, Queen Elizabeth’s father, was born on 14th December 1895, the second son of the future King George V and his wife, Queen Mary of Teck.

Albert was named after his grandfather, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Little Prince Albert had one older brother, one younger sister, and three younger brothers, all with long strings of Christian names.

1. Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David (later Edward VIII, later still the Duke of Windsor)

2. Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary (known as Mary)

3. Henry William Frederick Albert

4. George Edward Alexander Edmund

5. John Charles Francis
.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Mother

.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was born on 4th August 1900, the 9th of the 10 children born to Claude Bowes-Lyon,14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and his wife, Cecilia.  Lady Elizabeth had 3 older sisters, 5 older brothers, and one younger brother. One of her brothers, Fergus, was killed in the First World War.
.

Elizabeth’s Parents’ Marriage and Children

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duchess of York, in 1925, aged 25

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Duchess of York, in 1925, aged 25


.
The marriage was unusual because it was between a member of the Royal Family and a commoner. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was not the normal choice for a Prince – they mostly married foreign princesses, in arranged or semi-arranged marriages.

“Bertie”, as Elizabeth II’s father was known to his intimates, first proposed marriage in 1921. It took Lady Elizabeth two years to agree, as she was reluctant to join the Royal Family.

In the end, she accepted the proposal and the couple were married in 1923.

The Duke and Duchess of York, as they then were, had two children, Elizabeth in 1926, and Princess Margaret Rose, born on 21st  August 1930.
.

Elizabeth II’s upbringing

.
Elizabeth and Margaret spent most of their childhood at their parents’ London home. They did not go to school, but instead were educated by their mother and governess, Marion Crawford.

Elizabeth had other lessons, such as French, from private tutors, and a special Girl Guides company was formed so that Elizabeth and Margaret could join it.
.

The Abdication Crisis

Edward and Wallis Simpson, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, on their wedding day

Edward and Wallis Simpson, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, on their wedding day


.
Until 1936, when Elizabeth was 10 years old, she was not expected to inherit the throne.  In January 1936, Elizabeth’s grandfather, George V, died, and the throne was inherited by her uncle, proclaimed Edward VIII.

Although unmarried, he was fully expected to choose a suitable bride and produce heirs of his own.

Edward, however, met and proposed marriage to the American Wallis Simpson. Wallis had been Edward’s mistress since about 1933, but was still married to her second husband, whom she divorced in 1936.

The Church of England did not allow divorced people who still living ex-spouses to marry in church, and Wallis had two living ex-husbands.

A constitutional crisis occurred, and King Edward VIII abdicated on 11th December 1936, so that he could marry.

Edward and Wallis were later created Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The couple had no children.

Elizabeth’s father therefore became King George VI, and Elizabeth herself was next in line to the throne.

Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth of York, as a toddler

Queen Elizabeth II, then Princess Elizabeth of York, as a toddler

Albert, soon to be King George VI, was horrified.

He hated the idea of becoming King, and was a shy, reserved man. He had had a bad stammer as a child, and had never wanted a very public role.

When he visited his mother, Queen Mary, on the day before the abdication, he said “When I told her what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child.”

But accept the throne he did, as he felt was his duty.

The couple, now King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, abandoned their quieter, more private life, and moved into Buckingham Palace with their daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret.
.

Queen Elizabeth’s Later Childhood and Adolescence

Princess Elizabeth changing a tyre during the Second World War

Princess Elizabeth changing a tyre during the Second World War


.
Elizabeth was now heir to the throne, and her education changed to take account of that.

She was taught constitutional law and procedure by Henry Marten, the Vice-Provost of Eton (a famous public school) and taught religious matters and canon law by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in preparation for becoming head of the Church of England.

Elizabeth and Margaret also learned to ride, swim, draw, paint, and dance.

In 1940, the Blitz was at its height, and the 14 year old Princess Elizabeth and her sister moved to Windsor to avoid the bombs.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed in London, in Buckingham Palace, touring bomb sites, being generally visible, and trying to raise morale. They did stay at Windsor Castle on many nights, however.

In February 1945, Elizabeth joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She learned to drive and maintain army lorries, and served in uniform for 8 months, until the end of the War.
.

Queen Elizabeth’s Marriage and Children

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh


.
Princess Elizabeth met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark as a child, in 1934 and 1937. After they met again in 1939, the couple began to exchange letters.  The couple are related as both second and third cousins through various descents from Queen Victoria.
.

Prince Philip

.
Philip was born on 10th June 1921  in Corfu, Greece, and was the fifth child (and only son) of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

In 1922, when Philip was still a baby, his uncle, the King of Greece, was forced to abdicate and the whole family went into exile.

Philip was educated in France until he was 7, then in England, then in Germany, and from 1933, in Scotland. Philip’s mother was placed in a lunatic asylum, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, in 1930, and saw her son very rarely for the next 8 years.

Philip joined the Royal Navy when he was 18 years old, and served in the Navy through the Second World War, until 1952. He saw active (and dangerous) service throughout the War.
.

Engagement and Marriage

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Queen's Coronation, 1953

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, at the Queen's Coronation, 1953


.
Philip proposed marriage to Elizabeth early in 1946. George VI gave his permission, on condition that the engagement was not made public until Elizabeth’s 21st birthday.

Before the public announcement in July 1947, Philip renounced all his Greek, Danish and other royal titles, adopting the surname of his uncle, Earl Louis Mountbatten.

Philip Mountbatten also became a British Subject, ceased to be Greek Orthodox, and converted to be a member of the Church of England.

Shortly before the marriage, George VI bestowed the title His Royal Highness on Philip,and Philip was also created  Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich of Greenwich.

Philip and Elizabeth married on 20th November 1947. As the War still loomed large in the public mind, many of Philip’s relatives were not invited to attend: Philip’s sisters had all married Germans.
.

Queen Elizabeth’s Children and Grandchildren

Queen Elizabeth II and her eldest son, Prince Charles

Queen Elizabeth II and her eldest son, Prince Charles


.
Elizabeth and Philip have four children:

1. Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, born 14th November 1948

Charles has two children, Prince William and Prince Harry, born in 1982 and 1984.

2. Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise, the Princess Royal, born 15th  August 1950

Anne has two children, Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips, born in 1977 and 1981

3. Andrew Albert Christian Edward, Duke of York, born 19th February 1960

Andrew has two children, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, born in 1988 and 1990

4. Edward Antony Richard Louis, Earl of Wessex, born 10 March 1964

Edward has two children, Lady Louise Wessex, and James, Viscount Severn, born in 2003 and 2007
.

Accession to the Throne

Queen Mary of Teck, King George V's wife, and Queen Elizabeth II's grandmother

Queen Mary of Teck, King George V's wife, and Queen Elizabeth II's grandmother

From 1948, King George VI was increasingly unwell, and Elizabeth replaced him on most overseas visits and tours. George was a heavy smoker, and developed lung cancer.

On 31st January 1952, Princess Elizabeth flew to Kenya on a royal visit, with Prince Philip. On 6th February, King George VI died in his sleep, and his daughter became Queen Elizabeth II.  She was proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth II throughout the British Empire and British Commonwealth.

The tour had originally been intended to extend to Australia and New Zealand after Kenya, but it was cut short and the new Queen arrived home.

At the time of her accession to the throne, there were three queens alive in the country. Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI, and Queen Mary, wife of King George V (Elizabeth’s grandmother).

To avoid confusion, Elizabeth’s mother gained a new title, “Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother”, often abbreviated by tabloid newspapers to “the Queen Mum”.

Queen Mary survived her son George VI for over a year, but died in March 1953, before her granddaughter’s coronation.
.

The Coronation

Queen Elizabeth II in 2007

Queen Elizabeth II in 2007

Elizabeth’s coronation represented both centuries of tradition and innovation. The essentials of the Coronation Service have been the same for about a thousand years.

Queen Elizabeth II was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June 1953.

The innovation arose from the entire service, except for the anointing, being broadcast on television, and also on radio. The initial plan was to broadcast only the first part of the service live, but the Queen’s private intervention lead to almost all of it being televised.

An estimated 20 million people in the UK watched the service on television, and another 12 million listened to it on the radio.

The event established television in British life: many families acquired their first television sets specifically for the occasion.

My parents were both small children in 1953, aged 5 and 6. They both remember watching the coronation on television, in each case, on a set in a neighbour’s house bought especially for the event. Both my parents’ families acquired their own televisions within a year of the coronation.

You can see a video clip of the 1953 event here: The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Titles

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, on her 100th birthday in 2000

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, on her 100th birthday in 2000

Elizabeth is Queen of 16 countries:

United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, and Saint Kitts & Nevis.

She is also Head of the Commonwealth, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

For a fantastic article on Elizabeth’s hats and style throughout her reign, click on this article:  The Hats of Elizabeth II
.
.

.
.

The Queen and the Prime Minister – Calling a General Election

By , April 12, 2010 2:24 am

General Elections for the House of Commons

The House of Commons Chamber

The House of Commons Chamber

The main United Kingdom legislature, the House of Commons, is made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) who each represent one parliamentary constituency, or geographical area.

In the General Election held in 2005, there were 646 constituencies, and in the forthcoming 2010 election, there will be 650.

Since coming to the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has had (so far) 11 Prime Minsters, starting with Winston Churchill.

This post is about the calling of a General Election, who does it and how it is done, and how often they are held.

How often are General Elections called?

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at the State Opening of Parliament

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip at the State Opening of Parliament

There is no minimum term for a Parliament.

A General Election can be called at any time, the Queen then dissolves Parliament and a date is set.

The absolute maximum is 5 years, except if everyone agrees it should be longer (during the First World War and the Second World War, coalition Governments held power for longer than 5 years, but short of a serious national emergency, it’s 5 years max). The law is set out in the Parliament Act 1911.

In 1974, for example, there were two General Elections – in February and October.

Since I was born, the period between General Elections has been 4-5 years, tending to be 4 when the Government felt confident, and 5 when it did not. So there were General Elections in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2005, and one must be held in 2010.

Who decides when to hold a General Election

It is the Queen who is responsible for both summoning a Parliament and dissolving it. She acts on the advice of her Prime Minister, so in effect, it’s the Prime Minister and his party who decide when to hold an election.  So the Government can choose a time it feels is advantageous to hold the election, or if no such time presents itself, hold on until the bitter end of the 5 year period. The Official Site of the British Monarchy is here.

What happens once the Prime Minister decides to hold a General Election

Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown

Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown

Once the PM has decided to name the day, he pushes off to Buckingham Palace and asks the Queen to dissolve Parliament, and to summon a new Parliament to advise her.

The date for the General Election is 3-5 weeks after this – in 2010, for example, the Prime Minster (Gordon Brown)  went to Buckingham Palace on 6th April to request the dissolution, and the General Election date was set for 6th May.

The BBC’s article on Gordon Brown’s visit to Buckingham Palace can be found here.

The Royal Proclamation

The Queen issues a Royal Proclamation, which sets out the most significant laws passed by her Government since the last General Election, dissolves Parliament, and summons a new Parliament, which will meet after at least 20 days have passed since the Proclamation (Representation of the People Act 1918).  She then sends a Royal Messenger, suitably clad in scarlet, to the Houses of Parliament, and he reads the Proclamation to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Armed with a copy of the Royal Proclamation, the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery sends out Election Writs to the Returning Officer in each constituency, telling him to organise the election for that Member of Parliament. (A busy chap, with 650 of them to get out quickly).

And thus the General Election campaigns begin!



Panorama theme by Themocracy