Friday, 25 March 2016

A beginners' guide to the early Plantagenets (according to me)

I'm currently reading the excellent The Plantagenets: Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, by Dan Jones, mostly because I wanted to know more about Henry II and his heirs.  It's a book I would most definitely recommend but it's very long and involved, so, for those with less reading time, here is my beginners' guide to the early history of this most fascinating of royal houses.


Henry II ~ he's got wise and kingly written all over his face, hasn't he?

Henry I was the grandson of William The Conqueror, though of course he called himself just Henry, not Henry I, because he didn't know there were going to be any others.  His only surviving child was his daughter, Matilda, who he made his heir.

Henry made Matilda marry Geoffrey of Anjou.  Geoff was a stylish sort of dude who wore a little yellow flower in his hat, the Latin name of which was planta genista, from whence came the name Plantagenet.  This marriage reinforced England's control over France, although Matilda was a bit grossed out because she was twenty-nine and Geoff was only fifteen.

Geoff of Anjou: looks like he's been smoking his planta genistas,
 never mind putting them in his hat

Alas, Matilda's cousin, Stephen, thought he ought to be King, so they had a lot of battles and stuff until eventually Matilda and Geoff thought 'sod this for a lark', and went back to France.  Geoff died, but they had a son called Henry II who was brave, intelligent and wise, even going into battle to support his father when he was thirteen, ie, just the sort of fellow you want to be in charge of a country or two.  He zipped back over to England and made friends with Stephen, who agreed Henry could be king.  Partly because Stephen was pretty old by then.

King Stephen ~ an intelligent man with a dark side. 

~ All hail Henry II ~

King Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, a feisty wench previously married to Louis VII of France (who'd turned out to be a big girl's blouse)This was a good move by Henry because it guaranteed him control over loads of bits of France.  King Henry was a top bloke, and pulled lots of clever and diplomatic moves all over England and France, with lords and nobles and castles and laws and everything.

Feisty wench Eleanor of Aquitaine, who would ride about the country disguised as a chap

King Henry was big buddies with Thomas Beckett who he made Archbishop of Canterbury, but it was one of those, like, toxic friendships, right?  Thomas had issues about a whole bunch of stuff, including some way tedious self-esteem problems, so he made a lot of trouble for King Henry.  One night Henry was ranting about his high-maintenance chum, and a few soldiers mistakenly thought he meant them to kill him, so they did.  Then everyone thought King Henry had ordered it, so a lot of people were pretty pissed off with him because having the Archbishop of Canterbury murdered was not one of the best ideas a king could have.

Thomas Beckett: a psychotherapist's dream client
....being murdered...

King Henry and Eleanor had four sons:
  • Henry The Young King (henceforth to be known as Henry TYK)
  • Richard (soon to be The Lionheart)
  • Geoffrey (a two-faced snake)
  • John (later of Magna Carta fame).
  
Henry The Young King ~ the face that inspired a thousand doubts

Henry TYK was a total douchebag, posturing and vain.  There were lots of arguments about bits of land in England and France and who owned what territory.  Then King Henry started giving bits of France to his daughters for dowrys, and Henry TYK, Richard and Geoffrey got pissed off about it, and so did their mother Eleanor.  She was dead possessive about Aquitaine, probably because it was part of her name.  So Eleanor and the three boys teamed up with Eleanor's ex, Louis VII (who had never forgiven Henry for copping off with Eleanor), and started having battles against King Henry.  Peace was restored but he put Eleanor under palace arrest for the rest of her days.  This is like being under house arrest but much better because you get more rooms and servants.

Richard The Lionheart ~ much sexier than Henry The Young King, as you can see.

King Henry tried to make Richard and Geoffrey kneel to Henry TYK as his heir, but Richard wouldn't because he was an awesome soldier (if a tad obsessed with a guy called Saladin) and Henry TYK was a douche.  Then Henry TYK chucked all his toys out of his pram and tried to rebel, but got dysentery and died, and everyone secretly said, "thank Christ for that".

Next: Richard is made King but turns out to be a mega-selfish asshole, plundering England's wealth on his quest for personal glory en CrusadePoor old H2.  That such a sound geezer got such a crap family makes me want to weep.

And that's as far as I've got.

34 comments:

  1. Another historical re-telling in the pipelines?? Please say yes! :-)

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    1. Indeed, Emma - the one after next! Currently writing a psych thriller but have wanted to do one about H2 and his horrible offspring (and feisty wench of a wife) for a while. I'm just glad you want to read it :)x

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  2. You missed your vocation as an alternative History teacher of wit and humour.

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    1. Liz, thank goodness someone 'got' it - I just rattled it off the other day because it amused me to do so, then suddenly realised that people might just think I was a bit thick!! x

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  4. I loved this, and I love history - did a degree in it. Though I'm sure my academic tomes never included the word douchebag!

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    1. You're lucky it didn't include the word 'twat', Jo - it nearly did!!! :)

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  5. Terry's Terrible Histories...yep, might have legs....

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    1. I feel there is much scope for all sorts with them Plantagenets. I love 'em, me ;)

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  6. History with humour!! Wish I'd had you as a history teacher, Terry. Might have learned a bit more.

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    1. Yes, if only to remember who was a douchebag and who wasn't!!!

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  7. What a marvellous history teacher you would make!! Loved this - bit by bit you are tempting me over to historical fiction haha ;-)

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    1. It's funny, Shelley, but it's only been in later life that I've really got to adore the subject. School made it so boring! x

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    2. They do say that youth is wasted on the young! I love history and even geography is more interesting now I'm older. I was lucky enough to have an epic English teacher at school but the other subjects - *snore* ;-)

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    3. I used that phrase in an interview only the other day, it's so true! I LOVE all hist & geog now - endless appetite for it - hope I have enough time left to read/write all I want to.

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  8. Hi Terry - they were certainly a mixed bag of characters, with a mighty fine Kingdom to attempt to keep ... it's a real muddle of history ... finally I might be getting to work it out - this will be a great read ... and the post/s enlightening .. cheers Hilary

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  9. Very funny - I laughed and also learned something!

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    1. I suppose it's a bit like Les Dawson and his bad piano playing - you can only do it funny if you do actually know about it!

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  10. Love it! It's such a complicated story and so full of manipulation and scheming, it makes American soaps like Dynasty look tame. You, TT, have told it brilliantly. Poor H2. Oh no. Such a good geezer (and why am I now thinking of water heaters? Haha)

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    1. I know! And people ask where the inspiration for my books comes from...! Glad you like, V xx

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  11. Brilliant! This had me giggling all the way through. I'll forever think of him as Henry TYK now!

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  12. This made me smile so very, very, much :D

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  13. Really enjoyed this post, Terry. Hope you're going to tell the story of more of our historical dynasties :)

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    1. Actually, Lynne, I think I might - look out for Edwards I and II when I get there!

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  14. Brilliant whistlestop tour! I think so many people get hung up on the Tudors, they forget about the Plantagenets.

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    1. I couldn't agree more! I was looking for books about Henry II, and the one I mentioned was the only one I found - I am sure there must be more, but not in comparison with the books about Anne Boleyn et al! Love the Planta Genistas, they're my favourite royal house. And as for the first two Edwards... ! :)

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  15. You have an interesting theory that it was the murder victim, Becket, who was insane rather than the murderer, King Henry. And yes, when you tell your henchmen you want them to kill someone that makes you a murderer. That's why he did penance for it. The Plantagenets were all in all an entitled, murderous & greedy bunch.

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    1. They were, indeed, but I don't think they're different from the rulers in any other time in history.

      What I've read about Henry gives me the impression that he was a relatively decent and reasonable sort of chap. Becket sounds like a total P inthe A, though. ;)

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  16. Actually, it's an up-to-date version of '1066 and All That'!

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