Angevin and Plantagenet Empire
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The Angevin Empire referred to the dominions of the family of the Counts of Anjou, also known as the Plantagenets during the years when they ruled Anjou, England, Normandy,Aquitaine Maine and Touraine.

The line was started by Henry II who was ruler of Aquitaine Normandy and England, Aquitaine by virtue of his marriage to Eleanor. He was an aggressive and acquisitive monarch, asserting his rights over Toulouse, Brittany and Wales and leading to the invasion or Ireland as well.

Angevin and Plantagenets
Illuminated manuscript depicting Eleanor and Henry

Henry II and Richard I gave important financial and military to the Kingdom of Jerusalem which was held by a lesser branch of the family of Anjou. With their Anglo-Norman inheritance the Plantagenets were the most powerful dynasty in Europe at this time. Whilst England was their prize, the centre of their dominions and empire lay in France.

  • Henry II was born at Le Mans, died in Chinon and was buried at Fontrevault
  • Henry II, Richard I and John all spent most of their reigns in France not England
  • Angevin France was a producer of two vital commodities Wine and Salt, it’s great ports of Rouen, Nantes, la Rochelle, Bordeaux and Bayonne traded frequently with London, Southampton, Bristol and Dublin, in purely economic terms this was a seaborne empire backed-up by culturally creative communities of the Seine, Loire and Garonne. The territories from both a political and commercial perspective were linked together and increasingly interdependent regional  economies.
Angevin Plantagenets
Fontevraud Abbey France

Here is a summary of the major events and personalities that led to the rise and fall of the Angevins:

  • 1128 Geoffrey PLANTAGENET (Count of Anjou, father of Henry II) marries Empress Matilda at Le Mans.
  • 1136-44 Geoffrey conquers Normandy
  • 1152 Henry II (son of Geoffrey) married Eleanor of Acquitaine.
  • 1153 following the Anarchy and discord about the line of succession in England the Treaty of Winchester is negotiated with input by Henry de Blois, who was the Grandson of Norman the Conqueror, Henry II finally recognises Stephen de BLOIS , the brother of Henry de Blois as his heir.
  • 1156 Henry II’s brother Geoffrey (namesake of his father Geoffrey Plantagenent) resigns his claims to Anjou.
  • 1157 Henry II recovers Northumbria from the King of the Scots.
  • 1157-1165 Henry II invades Wales four times.
  • 1159 Henry II captures Cahors during his Toulouse expedition.
  • 1166-1168 Henry II invades Brittany and install his son Geoffrey as Count of Brittany.
  • 1171-1172 Henry II invades Ireland.
  • 1173-1174 Eleanor of Acquitaine and her sons (Henry the Young King, Geoffrey and future Richard I of Coeur de Lion fame, ) rebel against Henry II their father.
  • 1177 Henry creates John as Lord of Ireland.
  • 1183 Further rebellion ensues followed by death of Henry II’s son Henry the Young King.
  • 1189 Henry II is defeated by Richard I and Philip II Augustus  and Henry dies soon afterwards.
  • 1193-4 Philip II Augustus invades Normandy and Anjou.
  • 1199 Richard killed at Chalus; John and Arthur of Brittany dispute succession. John has Arthur murdered and inherits the Crown.
  • 1200 Treaty of Le Goulet; Philip recognised John as heir to the Angevin Empire.
  • 1201 Revolt of the Lusignans (the leading aristocratic family of Poitou in the 12th century, they played an important part in the politics of the Angevin Empire. It is this revolt following John’s marriage to Hugh of Lusignan’s fiancée Iasbella that precipitated the collapse of accord and the cohesion of the Angevin Empire.
  • 1202 Philip declares the confiscation of all fiefs held of the crown of France.
  • 1202-1205 Philip conquers Normandy and Anjou from the Plantagents.
  • 1204 Eleanor dies, Poitou recognised Philip and Alfonso of Castille invades Gascony.
  • 1206 John recovers Gascony and the Saintonge.
  • 1214 John and his allies defeated at Rocheau-Moine and Bouvines.
  • 1216-1217 Louis of France invades England (later becomes Louis VIII.)
  • 1224 Louis VIII captures La Rochelle.
  • 1242 Taillebourg campaign: Louis IX defeats Henry III.
  • 1259 Treat of Paris signed, Henry III resigns all claims to Normandy, Anjou and Poitou.
This effectively ends the Angevin Empire’s control of England and it’s french dominions.  The pivotal point has been much debated in the Angevin decline, partly due to the dubious homage owed to a French King whilst also Monarch of England but later historical debate argues that it was more as a result of the incompetence of John in the face of the successful and very shrewd Philip II Augustus.
Fontevraud Abbey
Queen Eleanor with book in hand. King Hery lies beside her. Fontevraud Abbey

The importance of the Angevin/Plantagenet era should not be understated.

An understanding of this period can enlighten the French-English love-hate relationship and source of continuing disputes and wars for the centuries that were to follow. Little is mentioned of Louis VIII’s invasion of England but this was the last occupation of note since 1066, not the Norman Conquest!

Where did the Plantagenet name come from?

The traditional name of the Royal Family descended from Henry II, it was however in the 12th century most probably just a nickname given to Henry II’s father Geoffrey le Bel, Count of Anjou. It seems to have been adopted  as a dynastic name in the 15th century possibly by supporters of Richard of York. It’s meaning may have come from the ‘sprig of Broom; (Planta Genista) that Geoffrey may have worn habitually in his cap. This explanation has been widely accepted but actual evidence is sparse.
This chronology will be linked from and to in further posts as we trace the connections to the roots of British History across time to help map our history and hopefully gain some new insights.