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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
Timeline of the Kings and Queens of England

The Plantagenetsimage: French flag
1154 - 1399

The Plantagenets were a huge powerful family not just in England but throughout Europe. The first Plantagenet was King Henry 2nd whose father owned vast lands in Anjou an area as big as Normandy around the modern town of Tours. Henry’s wife Eleanor ruled the even larger territory to the south called Aquitaine. Plantagenet Kings were thus the richest family in Europe and ruled England and half of France.

Their name came from planta genista, the Latin for yellow broom flower, which the Counts of Anjou wore as an emblem on their helmets.

This dynasty is normally subdivided into three parts.

  • 1154-1216 - The first Plantagenet kings were the Angevins
  • 1216-1399 - The Plantagenets
  • 1399-1485 - The Houses of Lancaster and of York.
    Normally separated from main stream Plantagenets because they are considered the first truly English rather than French Kings.

Altogether the House of Plantagents ruled for 331 years (includes The Houses of Lancaster and of York).


  • King Henry II 1154 - 1189
  • King Richard I the Lionheart 1189 - 1199
  • King John 1 1199 - 1216


King Henry II 1154 - 1189

Henry II, the first 'Plantagenet' king, accedes to the throne. He was not only king of England, but also ruled over most of Wales, Normandy, Anjou, Gascony and other parts of France (acquired through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine).

  • henry 2Age 21-56
  • Born: 5 March 1133 at Le Mans, France image: French flag
  • Parents: Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and Empress Matilda
  • Ascended to the throne: 25 October 1154 aged 21 years
  • Crowned: 19 December 1154 at Westminster Abbey
  • Married: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine
  • Children: Five sons including Richard I and John, three daughters and several illegitimate children
  • Died: 6 July 1189 at Chinon Castle, Anjou, France aged 56 years
  • Buried at: Fontevraud, France
  • Succeeded by: his son Richard

Came to the throne at just 21. He ruled for thirty-four years, but spent only fourteen of them in England.

Henry owed his Kingship of England to his Norman mother Matilda, daughter of Henry 1st and his vast lands to his father Count of Anjou and his wife Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitou.

Thomas Becket was Henry II's Chancellor before the king made him Archbishop of Canterbury, even though he had never been a priest. Henry is mostly remembered for his quarrel with Thomas Becket, and Becket's subsequent murder in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December 1170.

Becket was slaughtered in the cathedral by four knights acting on the rash words of the king, who is said to have proclaimed in a fit of temper: "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Henry was devastated and ordered himself to be lashed hundreds of times as penance. 

Henry spent at least £6,440 throughout the 1180s – more than a quarter of his average annual income – building and furnishing the impressive keep at Dover Castle in Kent. The great tower is thought to have been constructed as a show of wealth and power to 'impress' foreign pilgrims and dignitaries on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket.

Henry's eldest son, also called Henry, died before his father so in 1189 his second son, Richard, succeeded to the throne.

Henry introduced trial by Jury for the first time.

He also set up civil courts in each county shire.

Henry brought the church under the rules of the civil courts. (His arguments with Beckett.) Prior to this, backed by the Pope, the Church was literally getting away with murder.

Henry introduced the law that no man can be tried for the same offence twice.

lion King Richard I the Lionheart 1189 - 1199

Richard was later nicknamed 'Lionheart' for his bravery in battle. The crusades and the state of his French territories preoccupied Richard, such that he spent less than a year of his 10-year reign in England.

        • Age 31 - 42
        • Born: 6 September 1157 at Beaumont Place, Oxford image: English flag
        • Parents: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine
        • Ascended to the throne: 6 July 1189 aged 31 years
        • Crowned: 2/3 September 1189 at Westminster Abbey
        • Married: Berengaria, Daughter of Sancho V of Navarre
        • Children: Two illegitimate sons
        • Died: 6 April 1199 at Limousin, France, aged 41 years
        • Buried at: Fontevraud, France
        • Succeeded by: his brother John

King of England 1189–99.

Third and eldest surviving son of Henry II. In his 10 years of reign he only spent 10 months in England, with the rest of the time being spent leading the Third Crusade*. He spoke very little English.

He is usually depicted as a brave, warrior king, and was given the nickname 'Lionheart'.

Robin Hood England’s favourite outlaw lived in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, during Richard's reign.

Richard had no children, so the next king was his brother John.

*The Crusades were a series of nine religious wars waged from 1095 to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule.


King John 1 1199 - 1216

      • Age about 32-49
      • Born: 24 December 1166 at Beaumont Palace : Oxford image: English flag
      • Parents: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine
      • Ascended to the throne: 6 April 1199 aged 32 years
      • Crowned: 27 May 1199 at Westminster Abbey
      • Married: 1) Isabella of Gloucester, (annulled 1199), (2) Isabella, Daughter of Count of Angouleme (French)
      • Children: Two sons including Henry III, three daughters and several illegitimate children
      • Died: 18 October 1216 at Newark Castle, aged 49 years
      • Buried at: Worcester
      • Succeeded by: his son Henry III

Youngest brother of King Richard and the youngest son of Henry 2nd.

King of England from 1199 and acting king from 1189 during his brother Richard the Lion-Heart's absence on the Third Crusade.

John lost Normandy and almost all the other English possessions in France to Philip II of France by 1205.

Responsible for the Magna Carta (Great Charter) giving justice to all. The Magna Carter placed England on the road to a democratic state and introduced the lawyers in England to the concept of Human Rights as we know it now.

Interesting Fact
For a Christmas feast in 1206 at Winchester Castle, King John's orders to the sheriff included 1,500 chickens, 5,000 eggs, 20 oxen, 100 pigs, and 100 sheep.

(1177 - John was appointed King of Ireland aged 11.) 

Normansprevious pagenext pagePlantagnets


1066 - 1154 The Normans

1154 - 1216 The Angevins (The first Plantagenet kings)

1216 - 1399 Plantagenets

1399 - 1461 The House of Lancaster

1461 - 1485 The House of York

1485 -1603 The Tudors

1603 - 1649 and 1660 - 1714 The Stuarts

1714 -1901 The House of Hanovarians

1901 -1910 and 1910 - Today Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and The Windsors


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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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