British culture and civilisation

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The Plantagenets (The Angevins)

Henry II (1154-89) :

The first of the Plantagenets, he reigned over quite an empire stretching from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees.

His controversy with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1162), ended in 1170 with the latter’s murder in the Canterbury Cathedral, apparently by order of the former. Thomas Becket was sanctified and his shrine in Canterbury attracted thousands of pilgrims (see Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales).

The Plantagenets (The Angevins)

Richard I (Coeur de Lion - the Lionheart) (1189-99):

one of England’s most popular kings, although he actually spent very little time in England, since he participated in the third Crusade for the recovery of the Holy Land from the Muslims. - a chivalry romance knight errant figure turned into a full blooded Englishman

Captured by the Duke of Austria with whom he had quarrelled in Jerusalem, he was ransomed after two years by the English, but he was killed, five years later, in France.

The Plantagenets (The Angevins)

King John (Lackaland) (1199-1216):

He misused the machinery of state he had inherited in order to extort money from his subjects, which he spent in unsuccessful wars to defend his French possessions against the rising power of the Capet kings in France. - 1204: he lost Normandy to Philip Augustus of France.

He also quarrelled with the Pope over who should be Archbishop of Canterbury (1209-14), which caused him to become unpopular with the Church too.

The Plantagenets (The Angevins)

1215: Magna Carta - signed at Runnymede (outside London): The main purpose of the charter was to restrict the king’s power and to protect others, especially the barons and the church, from misuses of royal power. Key provisions:

No free man would be punished or imprisoned without prior judgement and all free men should have the right to judgement by their peers. (“No freeman shall be seized or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or in any way brought to ruin; we will not go against any man nor send against him; save by legal judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.”)

Justice would not be denied, delayed, or sold.

Certain taxes should be levied only with the common consent of the country.

The freedom of the church was to be upheld.

A committee of 25 barons should monitor the king’s actions and bring him to book if he broke any of the provisions of the charter.

This Great Charter became a symbol of political freedom. It marked the transition from the age of traditional rights to the age of written legislation and a clear stage in the collapse of English feudalism.

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