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Uniting the Kingdoms? 1066-1603

 
   

France

The Anglo-Norman Inheritance, 1087-1337

When William the Conqueror died in 1087, England and Normandy were divided between his sons. In 1106, they were reunited by Henry I. From the 1130s, during the civil war of Stephen's reign, Normandy came under the control of Henry I's daughter Matilda (Stephen's rival for the English throne) and her husband Geoffrey of Anjou. With the accession of her son, Henry II, in 1154, both areas were reunited under the English crown.

Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 gave him control over the duchy of Aquitaine, comprising much of south-western France. Further territory was added during his frequent wars with France. At the height of his success, the English king's border was just 20 miles from Paris.

Under John, English fortunes went into decline as the king's unpopular actions alienated his supporters. Sensing an opportunity, Philip II of France invaded Normandy in 1202. Within two years the French were victorious, the last English garrison at Ch√Ęteau Gaillard surrendering in March 1204.

 

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Henry II

 

Confrontation between Edward I and Philip

The loss of Normandy had far-reaching consequences. With many people holding land on both sides of the channel, the conquest created a conflict of allegiance. Only a few were able to maintain their cross-channel estates. John spent the remainder of his reign trying to recover his former territories, the financing of which fostered discontent among his nobles and was a major factor in the granting of Magna CartaGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window in 1215.

For more on Magna Carta, visit our Treasures exhibition.

Following the unsuccessful invasion of England in 1216 by Philip's son Louis, the English experienced further continental losses. In 1224, Poitou was conquered by the French. Although Henry III tried unsuccessfully to recover these lands, he eventually renounced his claim to them by the Treaty of Paris (1259). In return, the French accepted Henry as Duke of Aquitaine.

Relations between England and France remained peaceful until 1294, when Philip IV invaded and conquered AquitaineGlossary term - opens in a pop-up window. Arbitration by the Pope led to its return to Edward I in 1303. The Duchy was overrun again in 1323, but a settlement was quickly reached that allowed the re-establishment of English control in 1325.

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Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.
 
Detail from Henry VI presenting the Earl of Shrewsbury with the sword of the Constable of France, 1442. By permission of the British Library.