HIST 371 Lecture Outline (Fall 2016 – Week 4)

Week 4: English Politics, 1200-1250



Medieval fiddle (vielle) music, played by Barry Hall (2:18 min.)

“Estampie real” (from the “Chansonnier du Roi,” Paris, Bibl. nat., MS fonds français 844, folios 103-4, c. 1300; 57:46 min.)
(for notes on MS, see http://www.goear.com/listen/a7db187/estampies-royales-manuscript-royal-de-paris-siecle-xiii-jordi-savall-hesperion-xxi)

“Horrible Histories: Magna Carta Rap” (2:31 min.):


Bartlett, England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 25-28 (The Loss of the Northern French Territories), 62-67 (Magna Carta)

Harding, England in the Thirteenth Century, pp. 264-275 (England, France, and the papacy, 1199-1213; the assertion of baronial liberties, 1213-27)

Gillingham, “The Anonymous of Béthune, King John and Magna Carta”


David Starkey’s Monarchy, 2: Medieval Monarchs
(54:44 min.),
(Henry II, 00:26-11:45 min.)
(John: 12:44-17:52)
(Henry III, to 1258: 17:53-22:22)

Robert Bartlett, Inside the Medieval Mind: Power (Part 4 of 6)
(9:58 minutes)
(start at 4:40- end, King John)

Robert Bartlett, Inside the Medieval Mind: Power (Part 5 of 6)
(9:58 minutes)
(00:00 – 1:48, Magna Carta)

Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) challenges King John at a feast (1938: 0:43 min.):

Bad King John (part 2 of 2: 10 minutes):


The Angevin “Empire”:

Henry III’s territories:

Medieval England and Wales:

Wales and the Marches in the Thirteenth Century:

Map of England by Matthew Paris

Family Trees

The Norman and Angevin/Plantagenet kings of England, 1066-1377:

The descendents of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine:


John’s challenges:

1203-1204 Loss to Philip Augustus (king of France) of Normandy, Brittany, Poitou, and Anjou (Pretext for King Philip’s invasion of John’s French territories: John’s sudden marriage to Isabelle of Angoulême, who had been betrothed to one of John’s chief French vassals, Hugh de Lusignon, who complained to Philip.)
1208-1213 Pope Innocent III places England under an interdict (and excommunicates John in 1209) for John’s meddling in election of new archbishop of Canterbury. Many prelates flee the country; John confiscates their revenues, but has to grant England to Pope (receiving it back to hold as a papal fief) to end Interdict.
1209-1211 Successful campaigns against Scots, Irish, and Welsh
1212-1216 Baronial unrest becomes outright rebellion
1214 Victory of Philip Augustus at battle of Bouvines against John’s Flemish and German allies (whom he had funded)
1215 June: After rebel barons seize London and threaten to topple John, he assents to Great Charter of liberties (Magna Carta), but then appeals to Pope Innocent III to annul it
1216-1217 Civil war, with rebel barons supporting invasion of England by Prince Louis of France

Henry III’s Challenges (10 1227):

1216-1217 Magna Carta re-issued twice, with revisions, together (in 1217) with a Charter of the Forests
1225 Magna Carta issued once more, with final revisions

Terms and Topics:

Prise (king’s right to seize goods such as wine for his own use, but for which he had to pay a just price; often corruptly exploited)
Disparagement (marriage of a person of gentle birth to someone of lesser rank or lower status)

Sample Primary Source:

Chronicle account by Roger of Wendover, monk of St. Albans, of King John’s loss of Normandy to King Philip Augustus of France in 1203-4. John’s queen was Isabelle, heiress of the count of Angoulême; John had married her in August 1200, when she was twelve years old. Because Isabelle had been betrothed to the vassal of an important Poitevin lord, John de Lusignon, and because de Lusignon appealed the matter to King Philip, the French king used the pretext of King John’s refusal to appear before his court in Paris to invade King John’s French possessions. A major prize was Philip’s capture of the castle on the “Rock of Andelys” — Richard the Lionheart’s gem, Château Gaillard:

How the Nobles of England Deserted King John in NOrmandy.

A.d. 1203. King John spent Christmas [25 December 1202] at Caen in Normandy, where, laying aside all thoughts of war, he feasted sumptuously with his queen daily, and prolonged his sleep in the morning till breakfast time. But after the solemnities of Easter [6 April 1203] had been observed, the French king, having collected a large army, took several castles belonging to the king of England, some of which he levelled to the ground, but the stronger ones he kept entire. At length messengers came to king John with the news, saying, the king of the French has entered your territories as an enemy, has taken such and such castles, carries off the governors of them ignominiously bound to their horses’ tails, and disposes of your property at will, without any one gainsaying him. In reply to this news, king John said, ” Let him do so; whatever he now seizes on I will one day recover;” and neither these messengers, nor others who brought him the like news, could obtain any other answer. But the earls and barons, and other nobles of the kingdom of England, who had till that time firmly adhered to him, when they heard his words and saw his incorrigible idleness, obtained his permission and returned home, pretending that they would come back to him, and so left the king with only a few soldiers in Normandy . . .

How king John came to England and exacted large sums of money from the nobles.

King John at length seeing his fault, and that he was destitute of all military supplies, took ship in all haste and on St. Nicholas’s day [6 December 1203] landed at Portsmouth. Then urging against the earls and barons as an excuse, that they had left him in the midst of his enemies on the continent, by which he had lost his castles and territories through their defection, he took from them the seventh part of all their moveable goods; and in this act he did not refrain from laying violent hands on the property of conventual or parochial churches, inasmuch as he employed Hubert [Walter] archbishop of Canterbury as the agent of this robbery in regard to the church property, and Geoffrey Fitz-Peter [Earl of Essex], justiciary of England, for the goods of the laity, and these two spared no one in the execution of their orders. The French king, when he learnt that the king of England had left his transmarine territories, went in great strength to each of the towns and castles of the district, explaining to the citizens and governors of castles that they were deserted by their lord. He also said that he was the principal lord of those provinces, and that if the English king should ignominiously abandon them, he had no intention of losing the superior authority which belonged to him; wherefore he begged of them as a friend to receive him as their lord since they had no other; but he declared with an oath, that if they did not do this willingly, and dared to contend against him, he would subdue them as enemies and hang them all on the gibbet or flay them alive. At length, after much disputing on both sides, they unanimously agreed to give hostages to the king of the French, for their keeping a truce for one year; after which time, if they did not receive assistance from the king of the English, they would thenceorward acknowledge him as their ruler, and give the cities and castles up to him; having effected this the French king returned to his own territories. . .

How Normandy with other transmarine possessions yielded to the rule of the French king.

About that time the French king’s army which for almost a year had been besieging the castle of the Rock of Andelys [i.e., Château Gaillard], had undermined and knocked down a great part of the walls. But the noble and warlike Roger, constable of Chester, still defended the entrance against the French; but at length his provisions failing him, and being reduced to such want, that no one had a single allowance of food, he preferred to die in battle to being starved: on which he and his soldiers armed themselves, flew to horse, and sallied from the castle: but after they had slain numbers opposed to them, they were at length taken prisoners, although with much difficulty. Thus the castle of the Rock of Andelys fell into the hands of the French king on the 6th of March [1204], and Roger de Lacy with all his followers were taken to France, where, on account of the bravery which he had shown in defence of his castle, he was detained prisoner on parole. On this all the holders of castles in the transmarine territories, with the citizens and other subjects of the king of England, sent messengers to England to tell him in what a precarious situation they were placed, and that the time, according to the terms of the treaty, was near, when they must either give up the cities and castles to the king of the French, or consign to destruction the hostages which they had given him. To which message king John answered; and intimated by the same messengers to all of them, that they were to expect no assistance from him, but that they each were to do what seemed best to him. And thus, all kind of defence failing in those provinces, the whole of Normandy, Tours, Anjou, and Poictou, with the cities, castles, and other possessions, except the castles of Rochelle, Thouars, and Niorz, fell to the dominion of the king of the French. When this was told to the English king, he was enjoying all the pleasures of life with his queen, in whose company he believed that he possessed everything he wanted; moreover, he felt confidence in the immensity of the wealth he had collected, as if by that he could regain the territory he had lost.

Source: Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History, Comprising the History of England from the Descent of the Saxons to A.D. 1235, trans. J. A. Giles, 2 vols. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1849), vol. II, pp. 206-209, 213-14, available online at
http://books.google.com/books?printsec=frontcover&pg=PA333&id=hjVVdz57dR0C#v=onepage&q&f=false [accessed 22 August 2011].

Money Quiz

  1. How many pennies in a shilling?
  2. How many shilling in a pound?
  3. How many shillings and pennies in one mark?

Practice Assignment 1 (due this Thursday):

Put the following Neville letter into your own words. Be careful to convey the precise meaning of the original. This is a formal letter, from a senior assistant to a powerful employer, so write in formal English. What clues are there to the date of this letter?

To his Reverend Lord Ralph, by the grace of God Bishop of Chichester, Chancellor of our Lord the King, his devoted Simon de Senliz greeting, and with the greatest reverence due, and devoted service (famulatum) in all things. –

As I have otherwise informed you, the time for auditing the accounts of your reeves (prepositis) in your diocese is at hand, and it behooves you that they should be audited quickly; so that, if you please, most dear lord, be pleased to send into your diocese some one of your household (de familia vestra) to audit the account.

You have moreover directed me to come to you in London within 15 days after the feast of St. Michael [Michaelmas: Sept. 29]. Wherefore I should wish most freely to audit the account first with some one of your household, so that, on my arrival, I might be able reasonably to answer about the proceeds of your diocese.

Deign to let me know your good will, if you please, about the aforesaid.

Know, moreover, lord, that on the Saturday next after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross [Sept. 14], there came to me a certain monk from Bordele [Bordesley Abbey, Worcestershire], telling me that 40 lambs and two sheep (xl. agni et duo multones) had been sent to you from the abbot of Bordele, and were at a certain grange of the house of Waverle; in consequence of which I asked the said monk to lend you his shepherd (bercarium suum), until I could procure another suitable, and this he willingly granted me.

May your holiness always prosper in the Lord.

[Source: W. H. Blaauw, “Letters to Ralph de Neville, Bishop of Chichester (1222-24) [recte 1222-44], and Chancellor to King Henry III,” Sussex Archaeological Collections, 3 (1850), p. 70, no. 686.]


Robert Bartlett, Inside the Medieval Mind: Power (Part 5 of 6)
(9:58 minutes)
(00:00 – 1:48, Magna Carta; 1:49- 3:55, Westminster Hall and Parliament)


Harding, England in the Thirteenth Century, pp. 275-283 (the ambitions of a king, 1227-1258), 321-323 (conclusion: the making of a state)

Rebellion, 1233-4, from Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History

Carlin and Crouch, Lost Letters of Medieval Life, pp. 124-136 (Documents 34-38)

Discussion Topics:

What overall theme does Alan Harding say shaped his narrative in England in the Thirteenth Century?
According to Roger of Wendover, what was the great crisis of 1233-34, and how did it end?
According to Documents 34-38 in Lost Letters of Medieval Life, what were two recurring sore points between Henry III and the lords, prelates, and knights?

Glossary for Magna Carta (useful generally for legal terminology of early 13th-century England)


Eyre (Latin iter: journey): Traveling court convened periodically by itinerant royal justices to hear local cases reserved to the Crown
Tenant-in-chief: Landowner holding one or more estates directly from the king
Knight’s fee: Fief (estate) sufficient to support one knight, and which owed its lord the services — mostly military — of one knight
Disparagement: Marriage of a person of gentle birth to someone of lesser rank or lower status
Aid (Latin auxilium): Tax payable by a lord’s vassals and free tenants for ransoming the lord himself, knighting of his eldest son, or marriage of his eldest daughter
Scutage: “Shield-money” (from Latin scutum, shield): fee payable by a knight in lieu of performing military service