Tag: Plantagenet

Isabella ‘the She-wolf’ of France

Isabella was renowned for her beauty, but a woman due to circumstances, was to become hard and cruel and a word of warning to any men reading, the mind of a betrayed woman shown here will make your eyes water as you will find out.

Isabella 2 Isabella 4

Isabella of France was born we believe in the year 1292 and was daughter of Philip IV. She was betrothed to Edward II in the year 1303 when she was 11 years and married to him in 1308 after Edward had taken the throne.

She was praised for her great beauty, however this was something Edward, so historical theorists have concluded, did not appreciate in quite the same way and preferred the male company of his close friend Piers Gaveston who received favoritism over Isabella. Following Gaveston’s death in 1312 the marriage improved for a period of time.

However Edward was known as a despotic and weak King and as with Gaveston where he had been highly influenced Edwards new allies the Despensers had the same influence.

When war broke out with France in 1324 the Despensers persuaded the king that she was a risk to the country’s security so they took control of her estates and reduced her allowances. Isabella visited France in 1325 and it was here Roger Mortimer and her became lovers. Isabella, (I believe anyway) purposely tricked Edward and the Despenser into sending Prince Edward (the future King Edward III) over to France in order sign agreements on behalf of the King. With Prince Edward safe in his mother’s custody Isabella and Roger Mortimer plotted to remove the Despensers and Edward himself if necessary.

In September 1326 she landed in England and within four months Edward II and been deposed and imprisoned and Prince Edward crowned as Edward III of England in January 1327.

Isabella was now a woman who wanted revenge for the years she suffered in marriage to Edward and to a man that came between them after Gaveston’s death. Her delight and enjoyment in watching Hugh Despenser gruesome execution.

Eight days after his capture on the 24th November 1326 he was executed in Hereford. He was dragged through the streets with each limb tied to a different horse where he was pulled and dragged through the streets to the castle. He was then hanged but only until he was nearly dead. All the time Isabella watched on and smiled with great satisfaction. Then lowered and tied to a ladder whilst the executioner climbed up beside him and cut off all his clothing. Hugh hung there stretched out naked. According to one chronicler he was a very well hung man, perhaps this was one of the reasons Edward had grown so fond of him. His great manhood would do him no good now as the executioner grabbed hold of his genitals and, whilst Hugh le Despenser is still living and breathing cuts off his penis and testicles and holds them out for Isabella to enjoy the site of his pain. Still breathing the executioner cuts out his entrails and heart and then decapitates him whilst Isabella looks on laughing and feasting as the crowds cheer. Isabella and Roger Mortimer celebrated into the night. But she was not finished, there was still her husband held captive to deal with. There could be no public execution of a king yet whilst imprisoned who would know what would happen to him.

Hugh Despenser 1

One thing for sure is Edward dies whilst in captivity, or pretty sure if we dismiss that he escaped and wandered the country as hermit. The question is how died, whichever way it was I am going on the theory that Isabella had an influence in what happened.

First theory  (Oblige me if you will with a little poetic licence) : Edward whilst in captivity was treated badly by his gaolers, kept in a cell with the stench of his own excrement and buckets from the latrine emptied over his head for fun. Then one night his cell door was opened and three gaolers walked in, they picked him up and threw him face down on the singular table in the cell and pulled off his trousers. It was then that Edward first felt the heat and then saw the red glowing end of the heated poker. Two of the men pulled Edwards legs wide apart as the other pushed the poker up his rectum. It is said that all those in neighboring cells had never heard such screams of pain.


Well that’s one theory but not very likely. In fact I seemed to recollect that this story never materialized until many centuries later. What I think is the most likely is he was left to starve, leaving no incrimination on the Queen or Roger Mortimer.



Henry II

Henry II was the first king of the Plantagenet dynasty that ruled England from 1154. He was born 5 March 1133 to the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Empress Matilda. In 1153 Stephen who was king of England acknowledge Henry as his successor to the throne following years of war known as The Anarchy by Matilda. Matilda was the daughter of Henry I and this was her claim to throne. The following year Stephen died and Henry became King of England.

Henry_II coronation

Henry’s empire was expanding that now included Aquitaine following his marriage to Eleanor in 1152. Eleanor bore Henry five sons, two of which would go on to become Kings, Richard and John.

Henry gained great respect for his military knowledge and his advanced government administration along with his close friend and Chancellor Thomas Becket at the time of his early reign. Thomas became Archbishop of Canterbury with Henry’s blessing initially. However after a falling out with the church, Becket excommunicated Henry’s loyal supporters. Henry in Normandy at the time enraged by Becket’s action and four knights took it upon themselves, believing this to be Henry’s wishes, to go to Canterbury and kill Becket.

Henry did penance for his old friends death he wore a sack cloth and walked bare foot through Canterbury to the cathedral where he was flogged by monks.

Henry II penance

In 1173 Henry’s three eldest sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and Geoffrey and his wife Eleanor rebelled. The main reason for the rebellion was due to Henry’s will and the divisions of land. Henry saw off the rebellion that led to Eleanor being put under house arrest for the rest of Henry’s life.

The son continued the disputes until, Henry the Young King died of a fever in 1183, Geoffrey died in 1186 whilst conspiring against Henry with Phillip II of France.

Richard and Phillip attacked Henry in 1189 imposing humiliation after seizing the city of Tours. The final blow was that John had now sided with Richard.

Henry retired to Chinon where he died on 6 June 1189, he was buried in the Plantagenet mausoleum at the abbey of Fontevrault.

Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey
Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey

Battle of Evesham

The battle of Evesham, Worcestershire took place on 4th August 1265 and was between the rebels led by Simon de Montfort and those troops loyal to the King.

Henry III and his son the then Prince Edward were held prisoner by rebels. Prince Edward managed to escape after tricking his guards, he rallied troops to attack the rebels. De Montfords support was starting to diminish following failed attempts at parliament to reach a long term solution.

Death_of_de_Montfort Evesham

The terrain favoured Edwards men on the high ground and they far outnumbered De Montforts by at least two to one. De Montfort, having been in battle with the odds against before and winning decided to attacked immediately leading his men into what would be a slaughtered. Edward had selected men to make sure they found and killed the rebel leader. Finally tracked down where he was surrounded and slain by the group with the final death blow coming from Roger de Mortimer. Simon de Montforts body was mutilated with his testicles cut off and hung over his nose. His body then dismembered with his head and arms sent to lords throughout the country as a warning never to cross the king and his hand sent to his wife Eleanor the King’s sister.

The king Henry was wounded but escaped any serious injury.

To find out more about The Second Barons’ War: Simon De Montfort and the Battles of Lewes and Evesham click here

Simon de Montfort

Today and tomorrow is dedicated to Simon de Montfort. Today is about how powerful and influential he became and tomorrow see’s his gruesome downfall at the Battle of Evesham. D for de Montford and E for Evesham. I think I can get away with that.

Simon de Montfort was born in Normandy in or around 1208 and came to England in 1229 to claim the earldom of Leicester that was linked through his mother. He became a close of friend of the Young King Henry III and this lead to the marriage to the King’s sister Eleanor in 1238. He finally gained his title of the 6th earl of Leicester the following year.

Simon de Montfort

In 1240 he went on crusade and returned two years later and supported Henry in campaigns in Gascon against Louis IX of France. He then became Governor of Gascony taking full control of Gascony region where he crushed the feuding barons. This caused friction in the area and following the King receiving relentless complaints from the Gascon barons Simon resigned as Governor. Relationship after were strained from then on between Simon and Henry.

Simon in 1258 led the barons seeking reforms on the king and helped draw up the Provision of Oxford that were an extension to and more empowering documents than the previous Magna Carta. The Provision put restriction on Henry, as King of England, and introduced a new form of government. Henry after agreeing the Provisions violated the terms of the agreement that led to the barons declaring war against the King. Simon led the barons in their revolt.

On the 14 May 1264 Simon and the barons were victors at the Battle of Lewes capturing the King and his son Prince Edward, who was to become Edward I in future years. A government was formed, ‘Mise of Lewes’, where Henry was forced to sign removing his powers and Simon de Montfort became ruler of England.

At this point things were looking good for Simon but how long can it last. Find out tomorrow with the Battle of Evesham blog.


To find out more about The Second Barons’ War: Simon De Montfort and the Battles of Lewes and Evesham click here

Crusades – Richard The Lionheart

I have so many favorites within the Plantagenet dynasty and Richard The Lionheart of course has to be one. Richard I the third son of Henry II was born in September 1157 and was the younger brother of Henry The Young King and William who died at the age of two before Richard was born. It was never expected that Richard was to become King until his older brother Henry died in 1183 making Richard heir to the English throne.

Richard is made out to be a hero in modern history with Robin Hood and big bad King John well there is another side to the story and some of things I have included in this article.


Richard spent less than six months in England during his reign as King. Richard lived for the Crusades and to free Jerusalem of the infidel.To fund the Crusades he used up large reserves of the treasury, increased taxes and mortgaged anything he could to raise funds, leaving England in a financial mess.

The third crusade was launched in 1189 due to Saladin capturing Jerusalem and Acre two years earlier. Following a long and eventful journey they eventually arrived by sea in Acre in 1191. Here Richard claimed success by recapturing the city with Guy of Lusignan who had been fighting against the Saracens for the last two years.


Richard continued his campaign from his base in Jaffa and after numerous battles reached a stalemate and accepted he would not recapture Jerusalem he agreed a truce with Saladin the leader of the Saracens in 1192. The truce included free access for Christians to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

If you would like to read more about The Crusades or Richard The Lionheart I strongly recommend Sharon Kay Penman book ‘Lionheart’ a truly brilliant read.

(Lionheart) By Sharon Kay Penman (Author) Hardcover on (Oct , 2011)



Aquitaine – Eleanor of Aquitaine

Fortunately on my A-Z on The Plantagenet’s we conveniently start with A for Aquitaine, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The most influential women and one that is synonymous with the Plantagenet dynasty. She was born the daughter of William X, duke of Aquitaine; the exact date of her birth is unknown although believed to be circa 1122. During this period female records such as registering births were not considered an importance and a lot of Eleanor’s early life is based on speculation.  It has been suggested that her doting father provided her with an education that covered history and arithmetic that would equal an educated of a nobleman so that she would not be a submissive queen but one that would influence and rule.

500px-Aquitaine-84-1 Eleanor 1

Eleanor only brother died in 1130 leaving her as heir presumptive of one of the largest domains in France. She succeeded to the duchy of Aquitaine in 1137, and the same year married Louis VII of France.

She travelled with Louis on the second crusade, in 1147 to 1149, and it was here that her marriage broke down and in 1152 the marriage was annulled.

She then married Henry Plantagenet the duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou. In 1154 Henry became King of England. Now under Plantagenet leadership were England, Normandy and the West of France. The marriage between the two was a fiery one, both were every headstrong, and with Henry’s infidelities made the relationship a strained one. She bore Henry five sons and three daughters. There was strife within the family when in 1173 she supported her sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and Geoffrey when they rebelled against King Henry. Henry defeated the rebellion and Eleanor was imprisoned for sixteen years until Henry’s death in 1189.

Richard I now became King of England and the relationship between Richard and Eleanor had always been a close and special one. In Richard’s absence from the country whilst on the Third Crusade, Eleanor ruled England as regent.

Eleanor was an able and intelligent queen was received approval and popularity from her citizens. On Richards’s death in 1199 she supported John’s claim to the throne against his nephew Arthur, duke of Brittany.

She died on 31 March 1204 and was buried in the Plantagenet funerary church at Fontevrault next to Henry II.

If you would like to find out more about Eleanor of Aquitaine I strongly recommend the books of Elizabeth Chadwick. One of my favourite authors for historical fiction.

Click here The Winter Crown (Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy)


A to Z of The Plantagenets

For each day in April 2016 I will be writing about The Plantagenets. A family that ruled over England from the 12th to the 15th century. A family powerful and feared, a English history of violence, power, betrayal and greed. This is a family like no other so be sure to join me on my quest as I research and write up the story of The Plantagenets.

The planned schedule is listed below:

A 01/04/16 Aquitaine – Eleanor of Aquitaine
B 02/04/16 Battle of Bannockburn
C 04/04/16 Crusades – Richard The Lionheart
D 05/04/16 Simon de Montfort
E 06/04/16  Evesham – Battle of Evesham
F 07/04/16 Falconry
G 08/04/16 Gory Medieval Tortures
H 09/04/16 Henry II
I 11/04/16 Isabella ‘the She-wolf’ of France
J 12/04/16 John Lackland – King John of England
K 13/04/16 Knights Templar
L 14/04/16 Longshanks – Edward I
M 15/04/16 The Marshal – William Marshal
N 16/04/16 Nuns and Infamous Military Campaign of 1379
O 18/04/16 Oxford – Provisions of Oxford
P 19/04/16 Plague – The Black Death or Bubonic Plague 1348 – 1350
Q 20/04/16  Quercy – Treaty of Paris 1259
R 21/04/16 Richard II
S 22/04/16  Stephen – King Stephen of England
T 23/04/16 Thomas Becket
U 25/04/16  Usury – Moneylending in Medieval England
V 26/04/16  Villages in Medieval England
W 27/04/16 William Wallace
X 28/04/16 X for Cross – Eleanor Cross
Y 29/04/16 Young King Henry
Z 30/04/16  Z the end of the Alphabet and the end of my story of The Plantagenets

A-Z Challenge of The Plantagenets

For this Fridays blog I have decided to reveal my A-Z Challenge subject. The question was should I choose random subjects each day or stick to a specific topic. Obviously random would have been far easier but where is the fun in that, so I have opted to do an A-Z of The Plantagenets.

The Plantagenets my favourite dynasty that ruled England for 400 year in medieval times. A family ruled by greed and power, hate and love. And, if that is not enough there is deceit and some of the bloodiest and cruelest battles in history. I am currently working on my list for each letter and will publish that soon. Subscribe so you don’t miss any and get updates when each publication is issued on this fascinating trip across medieval England.


The A-Z Challenge runs throughout April 2016 and on each day excluding Sunday I will write about a  different subject working through A to Z.