March Anniversaries

March 1176
Henry the Young King, after having spent almost two years on English soil solely in his father’s company, missing his former life on the tournament field, asked the latter’s permission to go on pilgrimage to the shrine of St James at Compostella. With all probability it was meant to serve as a cover to escape his father’s influence. Henry II must have seen through his son, for he flatly refused to provide for so extended an expedition. Still he gave him leave to cross to the continent, where, as Ralph of Diceto wrote in his Images, ‘he passed three years in tournaments, spending a lot of money. While he was rushing around all over France he put aside the royal majesty and was transformed from a king into a knight, carrying off victory in various meetings. His popularity made him famous…’ (p.152).

2 March 1127
The murder of Count Charles of Flanders, who was assassinated while kneeling at morning prayer in the church of St Donatien in Bruges. Charles died childless and his death affected the lives of the Young King’s paternal ancestors: Henry I, his daughter Matilda and the young Geoffrey of Anjou. How? The turmoil that followed Charles’s death and the struggle over the succession to his county led one of the candidates to obtain an advantage over his rivals. The man was William Clito, Henry I’s nephew, who had already given his uncle many a sleepless night. He had been the main threat to Henry’s secure hold on both England and Normandy. To prevent William from employing the great wealth of Flanders and forming a coalition of France, Flanders and Anjou (that Henry had been forced to face in 1119), Henry I sought alliance with count Fulk of Anjou. The two men came to terms and agreed that their children: the widowed Empress Matilda and fourteen-year-old Geoffrey would be married. For the son of a count it was an excellent match, moreover it was agreed that if Henry I died without a legitimate heir then his son-in-law would succeed Taking into account Clito’s constant threat Henry could not have offered less. That is how, due to seemingly unrelated event, the foundations of the Plantagenet dynasty were laid (without which there would have been no Henry the Young King :-)).

2 March 1170
Henry II, after settling matters in Brittany, crossed to England in a violent storm. One of the ships, with four hundred men on board, sank and the others were dispersed, reaching various ports along the south coast. The king, safe and sound, landed at Portsmouth the following day.

3 March 1170
Henry the Young King’s younger brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, crossed to England from Normandy. During his father’s Christmas court of 1169 held at Nantes eleven-year-old Geoffrey received the oaths of fealty from the Breton barons. 

5 March 1133
Henry’s father Henry II, King of England was born at Le Mans, the eldest of three sons of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey le Bel of Anjou. He was the first of the Plantagenet monarchs and one of the greatest medieval rulers. His vast domains stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. He also added Ireland to his kingdom. He successfully undertook the difficult task of restoring law and order that had been lost during the civil war of King Stephen’s reign. He not only reestablished but also revolutionized the legal system, and regained control over the unruly barons, which Stephen had lost. Unfortunately, Henry made two cardinal blunders during his reign. Firstly he appointed his Chancellor Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the action taken to curb the power of the Church, but which lead to repeated clashes, Becket’s martyrdom (in 1170) and consequently to Henry’s tarnished reputation. Secondly, he had his eldest surviving son, Henry (our Henry) crowned the associate king of England in order to avoid future disputes over the succession. In this he chose to follow the continental tradition which had proved to work successfully in case of the Capetian rulers, but which turned out to be disastrous for Henry’s own reign. Henry divided much of the empire among his sons while retaining administrative power for himself, but the ambitious youngsters, especially Henry the Young King, resented their powerlessness. Supported by their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, by discontented barons, and by much more powerful allies rebelled against their father. Henry II managed to crush the alliance but trouble flared again in 1183, and for the same reason. This time Henry’s sons fought against each other, with Henry the Young King and Geoffrey of Brittany against Richard [future Richard I]. In this conflict Henry II supported Richard, and again emerged victorious after Henry the Young King’s unexpected death in June 1183. His eldest son and heir’s untimely passing did not solve Henry’s problems. His reluctance to appoint Richard as his heir lead to another armed conflict, this time with Richard supported by the young King of France. That very friction took its toll on the ageing Henry and he died a broken man in the course of the campaign in the castle of Chinion, on 6 July 1189. He was succeeded by two of his sons, Richard I (reigned from 1189-1199) and John (reigned from 1199-1216).

5 March 1173
Henry the Young King, under cover of darkness, escaped from Chinon castle, ipso facto triggering the Great Revolt of 1173-74. For further details click here.

11 March 1198
Henry the Young King’s half-sister Marie, Countess of Champagne for over thirty years, died. Today she is best remembered for being Eleanor of Aquitaine’s eldest daughter and because of her associations with Chretien de Troyes. Under her and her husband, Henry the Liberal’s (1152-81) patronage the court of Champagne and its literature flowered. In the count’s eighteen-month absence (June 1179- February 1181) Marie ruled the county in his name, the role she was later to assume again upon her husband’s death in 1181, this time as a regent (from March 1181 to May 1187) for her eldest son Henry and again in 1190 upon Henry’s departure for the Holy Land . She proved to be skilled administrator and politician. There is evidence she was close to her half-brothers, Richard and Geoffrey. With the former she shared Adam of  Perseigne as confessor, for the latter- after his untimely death in 1186- she dedicated an altar in Paris. She also entertained her half-sister, Marguerite at the Christmas court of 1184. As for her relationship with Henry the Young King, we can only guess. The two certainly met on 11 April 1182 at La Grange St Arnoult, between Senlis and Crepy, at the conference held to discuss the Vermandois succession, so we can safely assume that they must have met also on different occasions.

16 March 1181
Henry I ‘the Liberal’ of Champagne, Marie’s husband died, having returned from the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Upon his death Marie became a regent for their eldest son, also Henry (future king of Jerusalem) and ruled in his name for six years until he reached maturity.
Henry the Liberal, who at twenty-five succeeded his father as count of Troyes and Meaux, constructed a territorial state from his father’s disparate lands and made Champagne one of the major states of northern France.

19 March 1148
Henry the Young King’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine and her first husband, Louis VII of France, ‘ragged and seasick’, sailed into the port of St Simeon near Antioch. They were on their way to free Jerusalem in the course of the second crusade, the expedition that proved to be disastrous for them, not only in the matters of politics, but also their royal marriage

21 March 1152
After fifteen years Eleanor’s marriage to Louis VII of France came to an end. Louis had the marriage declared null on grounds of consanguinity, but it was only a cover. He yearned for a male heir and Eleanor, apparently, was unable to provide him with one. In the fifteen years she bore him only two daughters, Marie (b. 1145) and Alix (b.1151). Scarcely two months passed since the divorce when she married Henry of Anjou, whom she later gave five sons (Henry the Young King among them) and three daughters.

22 March 1159
Henry II issued summons to his vassals in both England and his continental domains to assemble at Poitiers on 24 June in order to set off to regain what he considered his wife’s rightful inheritance, Tolouse.

26 March 1182
Henry the Young King’s first cousin, Elisabeth/Isabelle, the elder daughter of Petronilla (Eleanor of Aquitaine’s sisiter) and Raoul of Vermandois and the wife of Philip of Flanders died. Her passing gave rise to dispute over her dowry and its succession between her husband, her younger sister Eleanor of Beaumont-sur-Oise and the French king, Philip Augustus. In 1175 Elisabeth had become object of  a scandal when she had allegedly been caught in adultery with Walter de Fontaines. The knight denied fervently and wanted to prove his innocence, but Philip had him tied hand and foot and put to death in most humiliating manner. The wretch was wounded with swords and clubs, and later suspended by his feet in a latrine hole until he was dead. Roger de Haveden in his Annals called Walter’s death “shocking”. Philip was to paid for this act of cruelty. Walter’s family allied with the lord of Guise and ravaged the count’s lands in retaliation. To stop them, Philip was forced to pay them compensation. Elisabeth was punished as well. Philip took over all her titles and lands. I have also come across the information that he had her placed in a convent, where she lived out her days.

26 March 1199
Henry the Young King’s younger brother, Richard I, the great crusader king was struck in the shoulder by a crossbow bolt while he was besieging the castle of the Viscount of Limoges, who had rebelled against Richard and made the treaty with Philip Augustus. This is how Bernard Itier, who at the time of Richard’s death was a monk in the abbey of St Martial in Limoges (where he later became librarian), described the event:
‘… most warlike King of the English, was struck in the shoulder by an arrow while besieging a keep at a place in Limousin called Chalus-Chabrol. In the castle there were two knights with about thirty-eight others, both men and women. One of the knights was called Peter Bru, the other Peter Basil, of whom it is said that he fired the arrow which struck the King…’
The wound proved mortal and Richard died within eleven days, ‘on the Tuesday before Palm Sunday, on 6 April, in the first hour of the night’.  

27 March 1168
According to Eyton, on this day Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, the uncle of William Marshal was killed in an ambush in Poitou. Together with his then twenty-one-year-old nephew and a small force he was escorting Queen Eleanor from castle to castle when they were surprised by the Lusignan brothers. Shortly before Henry II had quelled the rebellion of which they had been chief instigators and took the Castle of  Lusignan. He went to confer with Louis VII leaving his queen and the earl in charge of the province. Geoffrey and Guy, two of the brothers, ambushed the party, and whereas the queen managed to reach the safety of a nearby castle, the unarmed earl Patrick was struck from behind and died on the spot under his nephew’s eyes. Enraged William fought bravely, but after receiving wound into his thigh he was captured and held for ransom. To William, being a landless knight, the situation must have seemed hopeless. Fortunately the Queen, having learned of his predicament, came to his aid. She paid the ransom and ‘to recompense him for his sufferings, gave him money, horses, arms, and rich vestments’ (Painter, p.27). We can safely assume that the origins of William’s close relationship with the House of Plantagenet ( that was to last until his death in 1219) and his rise to power and fame lay in the aforementioned events. Shortly afterward, in 1170 , he was appointed tutor-in-arms of the newly crowned Henry the Young King, the first step in his stunning career.

29 March 1187
Henry the Young King’s nephew, Arthur of Brittany, son of Geoffrey and Constance, was born at Nantes, eight months after his father’s untimely death at Paris.


Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive.

The Charters of Countess Constance of Brittany and her Family, 1171-1221, ed. by Judith Everard and Michael Jones. Google Books.

Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth Hallam.Greenwich Edition, 2002.

The Annals of Roger of Howden. Vol I. Trans. by Henry T. Riley. Internet Archive of Northeastern University Libraries

The Angevin Empire by John Gillingham. Edward Arnold, 1984.

Henry Plantagenet by Richard Barber. The Boydell Press, 2001.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade. Pheonix Press Paperback, 2002.

Aristocratic Women in Medieval France ed. by Theodore Evergates. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne 1100-1300 by Theodore Evergates. Google Books.

Richard the Lionheart by John Gillingham. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

William Marshal. Court, Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219 by David Crouch.Longman, 1990

William Marshal. Knight-Errant, Baron, and Regent of England by Sidney Painter. University of Toronto Press, 1982.


  1. What a busy month! Thanks for these interesting peeks into the month of March!

  2. Really busy for the Plantagenets :-) Thanks for dropping by Stephanie!

  3. Gosh, March was a very busy time for the Plantagenets! Just returned from visiting Oxford, and found out King John was born there - oh, and his brother Richard;> Didn't know that before.

  4. Hi, Anerje! Good to have you back:-) Yes, both Richard and John were born there, presumably in the royal palace of Beaumont. On 6 April I will be posting about Richard and the circumstances surrounding his untimely death- my friend Richard has just finished a brilliant text about Chalus-Chabrol. Do feel invited :-)


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