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Henry III of Winchester
Oil painting of Henry III by unknown artist, c. 1620. Unfortunately, it is titled Edward.
King of England (more...)
Reign 18 October 1216 – 16 November 1272 (&0000000000000056.00000056 years, &0000000000000029.00000029 days)
Coronation 28 October 1216, Gloucester
17 May 1220, Westminster Abbey
Predecessor John Lackland
Successor Edward I Longshanks
Regent William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1216–1219)
Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent (1219–1227)
Consort Eleanor of Provence
Edward I Longshanks
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Beatrice, Duchess of Brittany
Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Leicester and Lancaster
House House of Plantagenet
Father John Lackland
Mother Isabella of Angoulême
Born 1 October 1207(1207-10-01)
Winchester Castle, Hampshire
Died 16 November 1272 (aged 65)
Westminster, London
Burial Westminster Abbey, London

Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272) was the son and successor of John as King of England, reigning for fifty-six years from 1216 to his death. His contemporaries knew him as Henry of Winchester. He was the first child king in England since the reign of Æthelred the Unready. England prospered during his reign and his greatest monument is Westminster, which he made the seat of his government and where he expanded the abbey as a shrine to Edward the Confessor.

He assumed the crown under the regency of the popular William Marshal, but the England he inherited had undergone several drastic changes in the reign of his father. He spent much of his reign fighting the barons over the Magna Carta[citation needed] and the royal rights, and was eventually forced to call the first "parliament" in 1264. He was also unsuccessful on the Continent, where he endeavoured to re-establish English control over Normandy, Anjou, and Aquitaine.



Henry III was born in 1207 at Winchester Castle. He was the son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême. The coronation was a simple affair, attended by only a handful of noblemen and three bishops. In the absence of a crown (the crown had recently been lost with all the rest of his father's treasure in a wreck in East Anglia[1]) a simple golden band was placed on the young boy's head, not by the Archbishop of Canterbury (who was at this time supporting Prince Louis of France, the newly-proclaimed king of France) but by another clergyman—either Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, or Cardinal Guala Bicchieri, the Papal legate. In 1220, a second coronation was ordered by Pope Honorius III who did not consider that the first had been carried out in accordance with church rites. This occurred on 17 May 1220 in Westminster Abbey.[2]

Under John's rule, the barons had supported an invasion by Prince Louis because they disliked the way that John had ruled the country. However, they quickly saw that the young prince was a safer option. Henry's regents immediately declared their intention to rule by Magna Carta, which they proceeded to do during Henry's minority.

Wars and rebellions

In 1244, when the Scots threatened to invade England, King Henry III visited York Castle and ordered it rebuilt in stone. The work commenced in 1245, and took some 20 to 25 years to complete. The builders crowned the existing moat with a stone keep, known as the King's Tower.

Henry's reign came to be marked by civil strife as the English barons, led by Simon de Montfort, demanded more say in the running of the kingdom. French-born de Montfort had originally been one of the foreign upstarts so loathed by many as Henry's foreign counsellors. Henry, in an outburst of anger, accused Simon of seducing his sister and forcing him to give her to Simon to avoid a scandal. When confronted by the Barons about the secret marriage that Henry had allowed to happen, a feud developed between the two. Their relationship reached a crisis in the 1250s when de Montfort was brought up on spurious charges for actions he took as lieutenant of Gascony, the last remaining Plantagenet land across the English Channel. He was acquitted by the Peers of the realm, much to the King's displeasure.

Henry also became embroiled in funding a war in Sicily on behalf of the Pope in return for a title for his second son Edmund, a state of affairs that made many barons fearful that Henry was following in the footsteps of his father, King John, and needed to be kept in check, too. De Montfort became leader of those who wanted to reassert Magna Carta and force the king to surrender more power to the baronial council. In 1258, seven leading barons forced Henry to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, which effectively abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy, giving power to a council of fifteen barons to deal with the business of government and providing for a thrice-yearly meeting of parliament to monitor their performance. Henry was forced to take part in the swearing of a collective oath to the Provisions of Oxford.

In the following years, those supporting de Montfort and those supporting the king grew more and more polarised. Henry obtained a papal bull in 1262 exempting him from his oath and both sides began to raise armies. The Royalists were led by Prince Edward, Henry's eldest son. Civil war, known as the Second Barons' War, followed.

The charismatic de Montfort and his forces had captured most of southeastern England by 1263, and at the Battle of Lewes on 14 May 1264, Henry was defeated and taken prisoner by de Montfort's army. While Henry was reduced to being a figurehead king, de Montfort broadened representation to include each county of England and many important towns—that is, to groups beyond the nobility. Henry and Edward continued under house arrest. The short period that followed was the closest England was to come to complete abolition of the monarchy until the Commonwealth period of 1649–1660 and many of the barons who had initially supported de Montfort began to suspect that he had gone too far with his reforming zeal.

The tomb of King Henry III in Westminster Abbey, London

But only fifteen months later Prince Edward had escaped captivity (having been freed by his cousin Roger Mortimer) to lead the royalists into battle again and he turned the tables on de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Following this victory, savage retribution was exacted on the rebels.


Henry's reign ended when he died in 1272, after which he was succeeded by his son, Edward I. His body was laid, temporarily, in the tomb of Edward the Confessor while his own sarcophagus was constructed in Westminster Abbey.

Attitudes and beliefs during his reign

As Henry reached maturity he was keen to restore royal authority, looking towards the autocratic model of the French monarchy.[citation needed] Henry married Eleanor of Provence and he promoted many of his French relatives to higher positions of power and wealth. For instance, one Poitevin, Peter des Riveaux, held the offices of Treasurer of the Household, Keeper of the King's Wardrobe, Lord Privy Seal, and the sheriffdoms of twenty-one English counties simultaneously. Henry's tendency to govern for long periods with no publicly-appointed ministers who could be held accountable for their actions and decisions did not make matters any easier. Many English barons came to see his method of governing as foreign.

Henry was much taken with the cult of the Anglo-Saxon saint king Edward the Confessor who had been canonised in 1161. After learning that St Edward dressed in an austere manner, Henry took to doing the same and wearing only the simplest of robes. He had a mural of the saint painted in his bedchamber for inspiration before and after sleep and even named his eldest son Edward. Henry designated Westminster, where St Edward had founded the abbey, as the fixed seat of power in England and Westminster Hall duly became the greatest ceremonial space of the kingdom, where the council of nobles also met. Henry appointed French architects from Rheims to renovate Westminster Abbey in the Gothic style. Work began, at great expense, in 1245. The centrepiece of Henry's renovated abbey was a shrine to Edward the Confessor. It was finished in 1269 and the saint's relics were then installed. Henry suffered a bout of insanity in 1266 than led to him converting to Germanic polytheism. This new-found belief lasted several days, before he reverted back to Christianity. According to legend, he was "brought to" by the smell of roasted peacock.

Henry was known for his anti-Jewish decrees, such as a decree compelling Jews to wear a special "badge of shame" in the form of the Two Tablets. Henry was extremely pious and his journeys were often delayed by his insistence on hearing Mass several times a day. He took so long to arrive for a visit to the French court that his brother-in-law, King Louis IX of France, banned priests from Henry's route. On one occasion, as related by Roger of Wendover, when King Henry met with papal prelates, he said, "If [the prelates] knew how much I, in my reverence of God, am afraid of them and how unwilling I am to offend them, they would trample on me as on an old and worn-out shoe."


Henry's advancement of foreign favourites, notably his wife's Savoyard uncles and his own Lusignan half-siblings, was unpopular with his subjects and barons. He was also extravagant and avaricious; when his first child, Prince Edward, was born, Henry demanded that Londoners bring him rich gifts to celebrate. He even sent back gifts that did not please him. Matthew Paris reports that some said, "God gave us this child, but the king sells him to us."

Henry III lands in Aquitaine, from a later (15th century) illumination. (Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 2829, folio 18)


According to Proulx et al., Henry was a thickset man of great stature who was often revered for his smooth skin. (His son, Edward I suffered from a droopy eyelid.)

Marriage and children

Married on 14 January 1236, Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent, to Eleanor of Provence, with at least five children born:

  1. Edward I (b. 17 June 1239 - d. 8 July 1307)
  2. Margaret (b. 29 September 1240 - d. 26 February 1275), married King Alexander III of Scotland
  3. Beatrice (b. 25 June 1242 - d. 24 March 1275), married to John II, Duke of Brittany
  4. Edmund (16 January 1245 - d. 5 June 1296)
  5. Katie (b. 25 November 1253 - d. 3 May 1257), deafness was discovered at age 2. [1]

There is reason to doubt the existence of several attributed children of Henry and Eleanor.

  • Richard (b. after 1247 - d. before 1256),
  • John (b. after 1250 - d. before 1256), and
  • Henry (b. after 1253 - d. young)

are known only from a 14th century addition made to a manuscript of Flores historiarum, and are nowhere contemporaneously recorded.

  • William (b. and d. ca. 1258) is an error for the nephew of Henry's half-brother, William de Valence.

Another daughter, Matilda, is found only in the Hayles abbey chronicle, alongside such other fictitious children as a son named William for King John, and a bastard son named John for King Edward I. Matilda's existence is doubtful, at best. For further details, see Margaret Howell, The Children of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence (1992).

Personal details

  • His Royal Motto was qui non dat quod habet non accipit ille quod optat (He who does not give what he has, does not receive what he wants).
  • His favourite wine was made with the Loire Valley red wine grape Pineau d'Aunis which Henry first introduced to England in the thirteenth century.[3]
  • He built a Royal Palace in the town of Cippenham, Slough, Buckinghamshire named "Cippenham Moat".
  • In 1266, Henry III of England granted the Lübeck and Hamburg Hansa a charter for operations in England, which contributed to the emergence of the Hanseatic League.

Fictional portrayals

In The Divine Comedy Dante sees Henry ("the king of simple life") sitting outside the gates of Purgatory with other contemporary European rulers.

Henry is a prominent character in Sharon Penman's historical novel Falls the Shadow; his portrayal is very close to most historical descriptions of him as weak and vacillating.

Henry has been portrayed on screen only rarely. As a child he has been portrayed by Dora Senior in the 1899 silent short King John (1899), a version of John's death scene from Shakespeare's King John, and by Rusty Livingstone in the 1984 BBC Shakespeare version of the play.


See also


  1. ^ Given-Wilson, Chris (1996). An Illustrated History of Late Medieval England. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0-7190-4152-X.
  2. ^ "Henry III,". Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  3. ^ J. Robinson Vines Grapes & Wines pg 199 Mitchell Beazley 1986 ISBN 1-85732-999-6

External links

Henry III of England
Born: 1 October 1207 Died: 16 November 1272
Regnal titles
Preceded by
John of England
King of England
Lord of Ireland

1216 – 1272
Succeeded by
Edward I
English royalty
Preceded by
Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine
Heir to the English Throne
as heir apparent

1 October 1207 - 19 October 1216
Succeeded by
Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall
French nobility
Preceded by
John of England
Duke of Aquitaine
1216 – 1272
Succeeded by
Edward I

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HENRY III. (1207-1272), king of England, was the eldest son of King John by Isabella of Angouleme. Born on the 1st of October 1207, the prince was but nine years old at the time of his father's death. The greater part of eastern England being in the hands of the French pretender, Prince Louis, afterwards King Louis VIII., and the rebel barons, Henry was crowned by his supporters at Gloucester, the western capital. John had committed his son to the protection of the Holy See; and a share in the government was accordingly allowed to the papal legates, Gualo and Pandulf, both during the civil war and for some time afterwards. But the title of regent was given by the loyal barons to William Marshal, the aged earl of Pembroke; and Peter des Roches, the Poitevin bishop of Winchester, received the charge of the king's person. The cause of the young Henry was fully vindicated by the close of the year 1217. Defeated both by land and sea, the French prince renounced his pretensions and evacuated England, leaving the regency to deal with the more difficult questions raised by the lawless insolence of the royal partisans. Henry remained a passive spectator of the measures by which William Marshal (d. 1219), and his successor, the justiciar Hubert de Burgh, asserted the royal prerogative against native barons and foreign mercenaries. In 1223 Honorius III. declared the king of age, but this was a mere formality, intended to justify the resumption of the royal castles and demesnes which had passed into private hands during the commotions of the civil war.

The personal rule of Henry III. began in 1227, when he was again proclaimed of age. Even then he remained for some time under the influence of Hubert de Burgh, whose chief rival, Peter des Roches, found it expedient to quit the kingdom for four years. But Henry was ambitions to recover the continental possessions which his father had lost. Against the wishes of the justiciar he planned and carried out an expedition to the west of France (1230); when it failed he laid the blame upon his minister. Other differences arose soon afterwards. Hubert was accused, with some reason, of enriching himself at the expense of the crown, and of encouraging popular riots against the alien clerks for whom the papacy was providing at the expense of the English Church. He was disgraced in 1232; and power passed for a time into the hands of Peter des Roches, who filled the administration with Poitevins. So began the period of misrule by which Henry III. is chiefly remembered in history. The Poitevins fell in 1234; they were removed at the demand of the barons and the primate Edmund Rich, who held them responsible for the tragic fate of the rebellious Richard Marshal. But the king replaced them with a new clique of servile and rapacious favourites. Disregarding the wishes of the Great Council, and excluding all the more important of the barons and bishops from office, he acted as his own chief minister and never condescended to justify his policy except when he stood in need of subsidies. When these were refused, he extorted aids from the towns, the Jews or the clergy, the three most defenceless interests in the kingdom. Always in pecuniary straits through his extravagance, he pursued a foreign policy which would have been expensive under the most careful management. He hoped not only to regain the French possessions but to establish members of his own family as sovereigns in Italy and the Empire. These plans were artfully fostered by the Savoyard kinsmen of Eleanor, daughter of Raymond Berenger, count of Provence, whom he married at Canterbury in January 1236, and by his half-brothers, the sons of Queen Isabella and Hugo, count of la Marche. These favourites, not content with pushing their fortunes in the English court, encouraged the king in the wildest designs. In 1242 he led an expedition to Gascony which terminated disastrously with the defeat of Taillebourg; and hostilities with France were intermittently continued for seventeen years. The Savoyards encouraged his natural tendency to support the Papacy against the Empire; at an early date in the period of misrule he entered into a close alliance with Rome, which resulted in heavy taxation of the clergy and gave great umbrage to the barons. A cardinal-legate was sent to England at Henry's request, and during four years (1237-1241) administered the English Church in a manner equally profitable to the king and to the pope. After the recall of the legate Otho the alliance was less open and less cordial. Still the pope continued to share the spoils of the English clergy with the king, and the king to enforce the demands of Roman tax-collectors.

Circumstances favoured Henry's schemes. Archbishop Edmund Rich was timid and inexperienced; his successor, Boniface of Savoy, was a kinsman of the queen; Grosseteste, the most eminent of the bishops, died in 1253, when he was on the point of becoming a popular hero. Among the lay barons, the first place naturally belonged to Richard of Cornwall who, as the king's brother, was unwilling to take any steps which might impair the royal prerogative; while Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, the ablest man of his order, was regarded with suspicion as a foreigner, and linked to Henry's cause by his marriage with the princess Eleanor. Although the Great Council repeatedly protested against the king's misrule and extravagance, their remonstrances came to nothing for want of leaders and a clear-cut policy. But between 1248 and 1252 Henry alienated Montfort from his cause by taking the side of the Gascons, whom the earl had provoked to rebellion through his rigorous administration of their duchy. A little later, when Montfort was committed to opposition, Henry foolishly accepted from Innocent IV. the crown of Sicily for his second son Edmund Crouchback (1255). Sicily was to be conquered from the Hohenstaufen at the expense of England; and Henry pledged his credit to the papacy for enormous subsidies, although years of comparative inactivity had already overwhelmed him with debts. On the publication of the ill-considered bargain the baronage at length took vigorous action. They forced upon the king the Provisions of Oxford (1258), which placed the govern ment in the hands of a feudal oligarchy; they reduced expenditure, expelled the alien favourites from the kingdom, and insisted upon a final renunciation of the French claims. The king submitted for the moment, but at the first opportunity endeavoured to cancel his concessions. He obtained a papal absolution from his promises; and he tricked the opposition into accepting the arbitration of the French king, Louis IX., whose verdict was a foregone conclusion. But Henry was incapable of protecting with the strong hand the rights which he had recovered by his double-dealing. Ignominiously defeated by Montfort at Lewes (1264) he fell into the position of a cipher, equally despised by his opponents and supporters. He acquiesced in the earl's dictatorship; left to his eldest son, Edward, the difficult task of reorganizing the royal party; marched with the Montfortians to Evesham; and narrowly escaped sharing the fate of his gaoler. After Evesham he is hardly mentioned by the chroniclers. The compromise with the surviving rebels was arranged by his son in concert with Richard of Cornwall and the legate Ottobuono; the statute of Marlborough (1267), which purchased a lasting peace by judicious concessions, was similarly arranged between Edward and the earl of Gloucester. Edward was king in all but name for some years before the death of his father, by whom he was alternately suspected and adored.

Henry had in him some of the elements of a fine character. His mind was cultivated; he was a discriminating patron of literature, and Westminster Abbey is an abiding memorial of his artistic taste. His personal morality was irreproachable, except that he inherited the Plantagenet taste for crooked courses and dissimulation in political affairs; even in this respect the king's reputation has suffered unduly at the hands of Matthew Paris, whose literary skill is only equalled by his malice. The ambitions which Henry cherished, if extravagant, were never sordid; his patriotism, though seldom attested by practical measures, was thoroughly sincere. Some of his worst actions as a politician were due to a sincere, though exaggerated, gratitude for the support which the Papacy had given him during his minority. But he had neither the training nor the temper of a statesman. His dreams of autocracy at home and farreaching dominion abroad were anachronisms in a century of constitutional ideas and national differentiation. Above all he earned the contempt of Englishmen and foreigners alike by the instability of his purpose. Matthew Paris said that he had a heart of wax; Dante relegated him to the limbo of ineffectual souls; and later generations have endorsed these scathing judgments.

Henry died at Westminster on the 16th of November 1272; his widow, Eleanor, took the veil in 1276 and died at Amesbury on the 25th of June 1291. Their children were: the future king Edward I.; Edmund, earl of Lancaster; Margaret (1240-1275), the wife of Alexander III., king of Scotland; Beatrice; and Katherine.

Original Authorities. - Roger of Wendover, Flores historiarum (ed. H. O. Coxe, 4 vols., 1841-1844); and Matthew of Paris, Chronica majora (ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series, 7 vols., 1872-1883) are the chief narrative sources. See also the Annales monastici (ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series, 5 vols., 1864-1869); the collection of Royal and other Historical Letters edited by W. Shirley (Rolls Series, 2 vols., 1862-1866); the Close and Patent Rolls edited for the Record Commission and the Master of the Rolls; the Epistolae Roberti Grosseteste (ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series, 1861); the Monumenta Franciscana, vol. i. (ed. J. S. Brewer, Rolls Series, 1858); the documents in the new Foedera, vol. i. (Record Commission, 1816).

MODERN WORKS. - G. J. Turner's article on the king's minority in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, New Series, vol. xviii.; Dom Gasquet's Henry III. and the Church (1905); the lives of Simon de Montfort by G. W. Prothero (1871), R. Pauli (Eng. ed., 1876) and C. Bemont (Paris, 1884); W. Stubbs's Constitutional History of England, vol. ii. (1887); R. Pauli's Geschichte von England, vol. iii. (Hamburg, 1853); T. F. Tout in the Political History of England, vol. iii. (1905), and H. W. C. Davis in England under the Normans and Angevins (1905). (H. W. C. D.)

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Simple English

Henry III
King of England; Lord of Ireland (more...)
File:Henry III of England - Illustration from Cassell's History of England - Century Edition - published circa
Henry III - Illustration from Cassell's History of England'
Reign 18/19 October 1216 – 16 November 1272
Coronation 28 October 1216, Gloucester
17 May 1220, Westminster Abbey
Predecessor John
Regent William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1216–1219)
Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent (1219–1227)
Successor Edward I
Consort Eleanor of Provence
Edward I
Margaret, Queen of Scots
Beatrice, Duchess of Brittany
Edmund "Crouchback", Earl of Leicester and Lancaster
Titles and styles
The King
Henry Plantagenet
Royal house House of Plantagenet
Father John
Mother Isabella of Angouleme
Born 1 October 1207(1207-10-01)
Winchester Castle, Hampshire
Died 16 November 1272 (aged 65)
Westminster, London
Burial Westminster Abbey, London

Henry III (1 October 120716 November 1272) became King of England in 1216 when he was less than ten years old. He continued to be king for 56 years until he died in 1272. He was married to Eleanor of Provence.


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