Henry II (1154-1189) had inherited the throne at an early age and ruled a kingdom that stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees, setting up a system of common law still used in the UK and US. By the time of Henry III most of the ancestral French lands had been lost and allegiances divided between the two countries. Henry III (1207– 1272) ruled from 1216 until his death as King of England, Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine. Most of the ancestral French lands were now lost and allegiances became divided between the two countries and he assumed the throne age 9 while there was a Baron’s rebellion, his knight-protector William Marshal defeating the rebels at the battles of Lincoln and Sandwich in 1217. Later he promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons.
In 1230 the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but was repulsed. He married Eleanor of Provence who had five children. Henry was pious, rebuilding Westminster Abbey and spending prodigiously on castles much of the money obtained from English Jews. In a fresh attempt to reclaim lands in France, he invaded Poitou in 1242 but was defeated at the Battle of Taillebourg.
Henry’s rule became increasingly unpopular for his profligacy, tax collecting, and failed military campaigns. In 1258 fifteen barons seized power, reforming government through the Provisions of Oxford and sharing government through this ‘parliament’. Henry and the barons made peace with France in 1259, Henry abandoning his desire for French land in return for King Louis IX of France acknowledging him as legitimate ruler of Gascony. The baronial rule was disbanded but there was continued instability. Eventually in 1263 the baron Simon de Montfort, seized power prompting the Second Barons’ War. Henry called on Louis for support but was defeated at the Battle of Lewes in 1264 and taken prisoner. However, Henry’s eldest son, Edward, escaped and defeated de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham, liberating his father and succeeding him as king in 1272. Edward 1s rule would last until 1307 during which he captured Wales where he built impressive Medieval castles but was halted, in his attempt to take Scotland, by William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge and dying during a subsequent clash with Robert the Bruce. Edward II, who ruled from 1307 to 1327 had a quieter disposition, preferring to spend time in his garden and with his friend Piers Galveston resulting in conflict with his barons. Ground was also lost in Scotland where Edward’s army was decisively defeated by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The barons, managed to engineer Galveston’s death, Edward befriending Hugh Despenser as an advisor, but in 1321 Lancaster and some barons subsequently seized the Despensers’ lands Edward retaliating by capturing and executing Lancaster. Reaching a stalemate in the conflict with Scotland, Edward signed a truce with Robert the Great but Edwards popularity was low. His wife Isabella, when sent in 1325 to negotiate a treaty with France, turned against him and, with her exiled lover Roger Mortimer, she invaded England in 1326, Edward retreating to Wales but soon captured, relinquishing the crown to his fourteen-year-old son, Edward III (the Black Prince), in 1327.
Edward III ruled for 50 years restored respect for the monarchy by re-establishing his military power, the Kingdom of England undergoing important changes in legislation and government including the maturing of parliament, in spite of the huge toll wrought by the Black Death. When only aged 17 he defeated Mortimer, England’s ruler by default. Then winning ground in Scotland in 1337 he claimed the French throne (from the time of William the Conqueror, French had remained the language of the ruling class) from his cousin King Phillip but was resisted, a slur that launched the One Hundred Year’s War which began with English victories at Crécy and Poitiers forcing the Treaty of Brétigny. However, his later years were arred by international disgrace and civil strife in England itself.
Richard II (1377-1399) in squandering state money had clashed with his nobles notably Henry Boligbroke who, with the assistance of the nobles, deposed Richard. Perceived as a usurper and Lancastrian Henry IV launched 14 years of conflict. On on his death in 1413 was replaced by his son as King Henry V. Determined to regain power in France Henry V crossed the Channel in 1417 with 1500 ships, 8000 archers and 2000 men-at-arms on a rampage from city to city but gradually weakening he gained a surprising victory over the French army in 1415 at Agincourt. He had recaptured much of Normandy and having secured a marriage to Catherine of Valois was close to securing the French throne as well as most of France.
Royal bickering between two Plantagenet dynasties resulted in the Wars of the Roses (1455 and 1487), a conflict symbolised by the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster, ?ending with the triumphal enthronment of Lancastrian Henry IV (1366-1413) in 1399.