The Angevin Empire

Normandy and the Angevin Empire

The keep of Falaise, one of the royal residences of the Plantagenets during their stay in NormandyHenry II Plantagenet was King of England and the most powerful vassal of the King of France holding half of his kingdom. Although it had a certain territorial continuity from the north of England down to the south of France, the Plantagenet state was made up of disparate parts, each retaining its own original character, traditions and culture.

Initial from the "Chronique des Ducs de Normandie", written by Benoit, in the reign of Henri II Plantagenet. Bibliothèque Municipale Caen.The Normandy where Henry frequently stayed was the pivot of the feudal state created by the Plantagenets. This situation was in particular to the advantage of the city of Caen, which was well-situated for his journeys, and whose castle was the seat of the Court of the Exchequer and the Royal Treasury. Henry took back from the Dukes of Normandy the habit of dealing with the affairs of Brittany upon which he imposed his tutelage. He did not hesitate long, however, before employing the forces of the Duchy in the furthest flung adventures. In 1159 Henry required the feudal service of his powerful barons in an attempt to have the County of Toulouse submit to his authority.

Robert Wace giving the manuscript of the "Roman de Rou" to Henri II, print by C.E. Lambert, from c. 1830.Henry also inherited the conflict with the King of France over the division of Vexin. He had had to abandon Norman Vexin at the time when he gave homage to Louis VII for the Duchy of Normandy, but he managed to take it back in 1160 in the dowry of Margaret of France who married his son Young Henry. In 1169, when Henry II concluded a new peace with King Louis VII, he drafted a plan for the sharing of his domain. He retained the English crown, and gave his son Young Henry Normandy, Maine and Anjou. He gave Aquitaine to Richard and Brittany to his other son, Geoffrey. Henry II then fell gravely ill and confirmed the distribution in his will of 1170. By associating his elder son with the English crown pending succession, he managed, however, to change the entire state of Anglo-Norman affairs to his advantage. Having recovered from his illness, Henry II retained the reality of power.

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