As it will have been recalled in the previous volume during the 18th to the 19th October 1216 King John had died of peaches, cider, not washing his hands, Barons and taxation. But before and after that some pretty important events took place. (Dying of peaches, cider and not washing your hands would not have been pretty at all)
War with the Barons and French Nobility
John got into a war with many Barons who were angered by his tyrannical decisions to make them liable to tax. The Barons tried to gain the moral ascendancy by trying to claim this was The First Barons’ War; a casual view of English history will prove this was simply the First revolt to be given a title. To help them in their cause rather than hire lawyers and accountants they took the singular step of asking Louis, the son of King Philip (The Two and very astute) to be King of England. He and the Barons pretended that because he was grandson-in-law of Henry (The Two and very colourful) of England this was important.
Because John was generally useless at war Louis and the Barons initially did quite well seizing most of Kent (but not Dover) and also finding London. Here, he, Louis, was acclaimed but not crowned, because John still had the said crown. When John died William Marshal Earl of Pembroke having loyally and nobly served kings since Henry (The Two) rescued both by loyal and noble means John’s son Henry (who was but nine years old). Even though it was done on the wrong day and in the wrong place Good William had Henry crowned King of England with help of a papal widget, which saved vital time spent trying to find a bishop. As the crown, obviously wouldn’t fit on a nine year old, they used a necklace. So impressed by this act were some of the barons that they recognised Henry (now a Three) even though they’d never met him, so were advised to look out for the little kid wearing a necklace.
As the papacy had been involved in the crowning (see: widget), it was only correct and proper that Louis was excommunicated, which meant priests, bishops etc could ignore or be rude to him without fear of retribution. These, then became desperate times for Louis. Some Barons were in a sulk because Louis had naturally started to bring in other Frenchmen and not listening to the said Barons (sulking), so they naturally changed sides and his father (that’s Philip) was making fun of him for not subduing a constable who defended Dover. Thus, Louis sent one of his barons somewhere to find the supporters of Henry (The 3 x I) and bring them to battle. Marshal being a noble knight was only to courteous to oblige. This took place at Lincoln in May 1217, but was so poorly organised that neither side could agree on the date, and in the ensuing chaos one important commanding noble on Louis’ side was killed by a not quite as important noble on William Marshal’s side (being nine and not able to wear the crown; the king wasn’t allowed to take part). As was the convention of the day once an important commanding noble was killed, his side gave up and after an obligatory massacre or pardoning of the common soldiers the whole thing was over. By now Louis was in even more desperate circumstances and on learning that a vital supply of sandwiches had been captured by the forces of William (The Marshal) gave up and went back to France, just in time for his father to die, so that Louis could become The VIII, be horrid to the people of the South of France; and subsequently die in 1226 through not washing his hands.
At this juncture many of the nobility and subsequently their knights, lords, common folk etc realised they had nearly been taken over by France and as a resulted decided they should now all be English. This was greeted with much joy and acclimation. The Scots, Welsh and Irish also approved as it gave the Celtic nations someone to blame other than themselves for their mistakes, short-comings and especially in-fighting as one side could now be blamed as traitors, hirlings, rogues, etc.
The Years Of Henry’s Minority (without The French)
With the French, out of the way it became essential that royal authority should be resorted. Marshal (and a council) faced several problems.
Some Barons who saying they had been loyal now felt they could do as they pleased, whereas those Barons who had not been loyal and were still alive, thought they could also do as they pleased because the loyal Barons were doing that, so who was going to stop Barons in general doing as they pleased? Anyway, they all would go scuttling off for their copies of Magna Carta if anyone complained too much.
Law and Order
The judges were complaining about The Bench and after consulting with The Exchequer enough money was found to make a new one, this was of course The King’s Bench but judges could sit on it for him.
Forests and Rights
Under William (The Conquer of course) and subsequent kings any common people found in forests without the king’s permission would have bits of their bodies removed. Because of the rise of the Common People and the uncertainty of the Crown (which still wasn’t fitting Henry’s head), in 1217 a special Forest Law was enacted which allowed free men to pick up wood, grass, bits of soil, dig holes and make ponds in forests although anyone hunting anything could be fined or imprisoned, unless they could prove they were a king (or a noble with a charter to do such things). Even more controversially Common People could even say what was a forest or not and whether the law applied there or not; as a result, there was much rejoicing by lawyers who once more saw no end of gainful employment. Some nobles who fell into suspiciously obscure holes or ponds wanted that part rescinded, but the judges who were now seated comfortably on the Bench thought otherwise.
There had always been problems with the Welsh. They did not invade quite so much as the Scots so it was always a surprise and when they did it was only to seize Chester or Shrewsbury or make some careless Marcher lord look ridiculous. Then there was the geography, although only a very small country the Welsh had contrived to huddle up in the north or the south; the latter entering into alliances with English kings whenever it suited them and former being more inclined to seize Chester etc whenever it suited them. This was very confusing for an English king as he never knew who was who and anyway, unlike Scotland which was conveniently in the north, Wales is side on so you never knew where they’d come incursioning or seizing from.
Providentially for those looking after the kingdom for young Henry (and his necklace) at this stage had arisen one Llewelyn ap Iorwerth of the powerful family which ruled the northern kingdom of Gwenydd. For a while he was on good terms with John (The Bad King) and married Joan who was naturally John’s daughter. With this sorted out Llewelyn then proceeded to conquer all the bits of Wales which didn’t see things his way, even in the South. This entitled him to added on ‘The Great’ to his name or to be correct in welsh Fawr. He fell out with John but because of Barons and Frenchmen, John couldn’t do much about it. During post-John, Marshal and some less treacherous fellow nobles entered into an alliance and treaty with Llewelyn. This allowed Llewelyn to keep whatever bits of England he had, do as he fancied in Wales and fight any English nobles on his border (the latter clause was mischievously put in by the council as pay-back for the Barons not obeying the council).
This left Llewelyn looking more impressive than Henry III who was still too young and stuck with a necklace. Sadly for Llewelyn who was watching eastwards (England) this would all end when some English (cleverly if you were English; treacherously if you were Welsh) invaded across the Irish Sea (from the West) with a lot of Irish Mercenaries.
Annoyed that the English kept calling him Alexander and a ‘II’ at that and not correctly ,Alaxandair mac Uilliam; he son of William (The Lion- as opposed to the Lionheart) claimed he wanted some thiefes back who were in England and marched all the way to Dover to tell Louis (The French) he would make a better king that John. When things didn’t work out he marched back and finding out some of his scots clans were naturally, revolting embarked on the far easier task of fighting and massacring them, so England didn’t have much of a problem with him.
Henry II and waves of Anglo, Cambro and High-bernian Normans had rushed into Ireland and the Irish had been obliged to accept the King of England as their Lord. Because the Kings of England as well as Anglo, Cambro and Hi-bernian Normans couldn’t agree on anything they all slaughtered or deposed each other, until there were only Irish Lords and a few Cambro-Normans (who knew the rules) left. As the Normans on the mainland were busy converting to being English, the Irish Lord were able to take over, but instead claiming to be High Kings they hired themselves and their retinues to any English who were fighting each other, the Scots, Welsh or the French. This would prove to be a bit of a mistake.
The Usual Business
After William Marshal died in 1219 of age and being loyally noble (or nobly loyal- the medical records are not complete), the rest of the council settled down to accusing each other of treason, etc. Fortunately, in 1220 when it was found the crown would fit on Henry’s head The Pope arranged for him to him to have a proper coronation. The Pope then said it was just and right for Henry to be The III and it was a sin not to pay taxes to him AND give him castles.
The End of the Minority
By 1223 and being a typical surly teenage, Henry took back the bits of England which Llewellyn had and then went around besieging English Barons who had been excommunicated by the Pope on the grounds of not paying their taxes and insisting on keeping their castles. In this he was aided by a loyal noble, Hubert who was famed for modestly accepting the job of being ‘just a clerk’.
With papal backing Henry was also allowed to massacre those who wouldn’t obey him as they were obviously heretics. Some evaded this by hiding in forests and pretending to be common, a few didn’t have to try very hard.
By the time Henry (III) was 16, truly fitted into a crown, he had begun to develop a reputation as being pious on the grounds of killing excommunicants, enabling everyone to be relieved he would not take after his father. Thus, he began to reign in his own shed.
In the next chapter, we shall look at the Reign of Henry III as an adult and what everyone thought about it.