Henry III (1207-1272) was king of England from 1216 to 1272. His reign saw the rise of English nationalism and the development of a strong baronial claim to participate in government.
The eldest son of King John and Isabella of Angoulême, Henry III was born on Oct. 1, 1207. At the death of his father, he ascended the throne on Oct. 19, 1216, and was crowned at Gloucester. Ten days later William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, was appointed regent. On Pembroke's death in 1219, Hubert de Burgh, who served as justiciar, became the most powerful man in government. In the first years of the regency, England was under papal influence due to Henry's father, John. Efforts were made to maintain peace through negotiating with Louis of France in 1217, reconfirming the Great Charter in 1223 and making peace with Wales.
In 1223 Pope Honorius III allowed Henry to be declared of age for certain limited purposes. In January 1227 Henry declared himself of full age and commenced to attempt to regain the overseas French possessions that had been lost. In the preceding years he had lost most of his French possessions but by 1225 had recovered Gascony, and in 1228, for baronial support, he agreed to restore the forest liberties. By 1230 he was invading Poitou and Gascony, and the following year to obtain scutage (a form of revenue) he reaffirmed the liberties of the Church.
Henry, by 1232, hoped to act as his own minister and caused the dismissal of Hubert de Burgh. He then alienated the English barons by replacing English officers with Poitevin friends and was forced to back down in 1234 due to pressure from Hubert de Burgh and the barons. In 1235 to gain foreign support he married his sister Isabella to the emperor Frederick II, and on January 20 the following year he married Eleanor of Provence. This marriage, which resulted in two sons and three daughters who survived infancy, caused England to be flooded with his wife's worthless relations, and the period is marked by the rise of English nationalism as the barons saw the government passing into the control of foreigners.
By 1239 Henry's behavior was such that even his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort and his brother Richard, Earl of Cornwall, joined the opposition. Henry, while making minor concessions, continued to fill state and Church offices with foreigners. Baronial opposition to the misgovernment of the King continued to grow. In 1242 they refused a grant for the French war, and 2 years later both barons and the Church protested, but these efforts failed due to lack of leadership as Henry detached his brother Richard from the opposition through the marriage arranged with Sanchia, daughter of Raymond Berenger IV, Count of Provence.
In 1252 Henry alienated Simon de Montfort, who had been governor of Gascony, and a crisis developed when Henry agreed to finance Pope Alexander II's struggle with Manfred in return for the grant of the crown of Sicily to Prince Edmund, Henry's son. This "Sicilian Venture" would be of no value to England, and so the barons came to Parliament at Westminster, clad in armor and ready for a confrontation. With Montfort as their leader, in 1258 the barons met at the "Mad" Parliament and drew up the "Provisions," which gave the barons control of the executive and the right to nominate half of the Council as well as establishing a committee of 24 to institute reforms.
The barons soon quarreled as Montfort aimed at a more popular government, and the Earl of Gloucester became the leader of the more autocratic-minded barons. As a result, in 1261 Henry was able to regain power and obtained a papal bull absolving him from the terms of the "Provisions." In 1264 the conflict with the barons was referred to Louis IX of France for arbitration, and by the Mise of Amiens a favorable decision was given for the King. Although the decision was upheld by Pope Urban IV, the barons refused to accept the award, and civil conflict developed. After capturing Leicester and other areas, the baronial forces marched into the south for provisions. At the Battle of Lewes on May 14, 1264, Montfort defeated the King and forced a calling of Parliament.
Montfort's position now being too powerful, some of the barons deserted to the side of the King, whose forces led by Prince Edward defeated and killed Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. With the death of the opposition leader, Henry revoked all his recent acts, confiscated the lands of the rebels, and in the Battle of Kenilworth ensured peace for the rest of his reign. By now power had slipped from the hands of the King to his son Edward, and the last years of the reign saw the passage of some reforms at the 1267 Parliament of Marlborough.
Perhaps one of Henry's greatest achievements was the completion of Westminster Abbey in 1269. On Nov. 16, 1272, Henry died at Westminster, and his body was buried in the abbey 4 days later before the high altar, his heart being buried at Fontevrault.
There is much literature on Henry III's long and important reign. F. M. Powicke, King Henry III and the Lord Edward (2 vols., 1947), is the best biography. Kate Norgate, The Minority of Henry the Third (1912), surveys the early years. The baronial system and Henry's relationship to it are examined in E. F. Jacobs, Studies in the Period of Baronial Reform and Rebellion, 1258-1267 (1925), and R. F. Treharne, The Baronial Plan of Reform (1932). An excellent narrative is Tufton Beamish, Battle Royal: A New Account of Simon de Montfort's Struggle against King Henry III (1966). For general background on the period see F. M. Powicke, The Thirteenth Century, 1216-1307 (1953; 2d ed. 1962).
Bennetts, Pamela., The de Montfort legac, New York, St. Martin's Press 1973.
Carpenter, David., The minority of Henry III, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.
Carpenter, David., The minority of Henry III, London: Methuen London, 1990.
Carpenter, David., The reign of Henry III, London; Rio Grande, Ohio: The Hambledon Press, 1996.
Colvin, Howard Montagu., Building accounts of King Henry II, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1971.
Turner, Ralph V., The king and his courts; the role of John and Henry III in the administration of justice, 1199-12, Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press 1968. □
Henry's conception of monarchy looked back to the period before Magna Carta when kingship was untrammelled and unlimited, in theory if not in practice, and he may well have sought to counter the dramatic growth in constitutional ideas by deliberately emphasizing the aura of kingship. The traumatic experiences of his early years—the bringing down of his father, king John, French invasion and civil war, tutelage by baronial regency council—probably propelled him in this direction as well. He certainly had consistently a definite set of views which held as axiomatic that a king is free in his sovereignty to do as he will, be it appointment or removal of ministers and officials, or conduct of foreign policy. In so doing, Henry was ignoring the new realities following Magna Carta and this contributed to that series of crises which characterize his reign after his personal rule began in 1232. It culminated in the demand for radical reform in 1258 and the imposition of the provisions of Oxford, the prelude to the so-called Barons' War that tore the country apart until the defeat of Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham (1265). But it was by no means only, even chiefly, constitutional issues that were at stake, in 1258 or before. Recent research has shown how much friction was generated by very real political issues, of patronage, for example, and Henry's protection of his kinsmen and favourites from justice. Protest against his hated half-brothers, the Lusignans, who came to England after 1247, lay at the heart of the sworn baronial confederacy of 1258.
Henry was particularly vulnerable in 1258 because he faced imminent excommunication if he did not meet the gigantic debt he owed to the papacy, incurred when he accepted the grant of the kingdom of Sicily to his son Edmund in 1254. This was the culmination of a foreign policy that became ever more grandiose. At first, Henry's chief goal was the recovery of those parts of the Angevin empire lost under John. This was entirely reasonable. It was not inevitable that they would never be recovered, and as an Angevin Henry was dynastically impelled to seek to regain his inheritance and restore the honour of his lineage. But for a variety of reasons none of the expeditions dispatched to France succeeded, and the odds stacked against Henry steadily rose as the power of Louis IX of France and his brothers, installed in the former Angevin territories, increased. His failure led him into a wider European strategy that involved a network of foreign allies, including Emperor Frederick II, who married Henry's sister Isabella in 1236, and the Savoyards, the powerful kinsmen of Eleanor of Provence, whom Henry himself married in 1236. When Frederick was deposed by Pope Innocent IV in 1245, Henry was drawn into an attempt to secure the different parts of the imperial inheritance. He accepted the crown of Sicily for Edmund, he encouraged his brother Richard of Cornwall to accept the kingdom of Germany in 1257, and there are signs that he briefly toyed with the idea of extending his influence to the east Mediterranean through a marriage alliance involving Edmund and the Lusignan rulers of Cyprus, who also had claims to Jerusalem.
None of these schemes came to anything, and the huge costs incurred in the pursuit of Sicily, by stimulating the events of 1258, forced him to abandon them. In 1259, too, he finally accepted reality and agreed to the treaty of Paris, whereby he renounced his French claims as well. Henry's capacity to play for very high stakes, and yet lose, is truly remarkable.
S. D. Lloyd
Carpenter, D. A. , The Reign of Henry III (1996);
Clanchy, M. T. , England and its Rulers 1066–1272 (Glasgow, 1983);
Powicke, F. M. , King Henry III and the Lord Edward (2 vols., Oxford, 1947).
Henry III (1017-1056) was Holy Roman emperor and king of Germany from 1039 to 1056. The medieval empire is generally considered to have attained its greatest power and solidity during his reign.
The only son of Conrad II, the first Salian emperor, Henry was designated by his father to be co-king of Germany in 1028. He was made Duke of Swabia in 1038, and on the death of his father the following year he succeeded as emperor. Within Germany itself Henry III weakened the power of the great nobles by ruling most of the great tribal duchies directly—with Lorraine as the only major exception. He also won effective overlordship of Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary, and in Hungary he actually had his own candidate, Peter, placed on the throne. He intervened in Italy as well, where he not only controlled the north and the region around Rome but in 1046 recognized the Norman Guiscards as dukes of Apulia. Concerned with keeping the peace within his empire, he personally proclaimed the Peace of God from the pulpit of the Cathedral of Constance in 1043.
Henry's most controversial actions involved his dealings with the Church and especially the papacy. He was well educated and pious like his namesake, the emperor Henry II, and a patron of the arts as well. Unlike his father, Conrad II, however, he was actively involved in Church reform, especially in reorganizing monasteries and removing unworthy clerics. It was this interest which led to his intervention in papal affairs.
The papacy had fallen upon evil days, with three popes, each claiming the office and all tainted with scandal. Angered at this, Henry in 1046 entered Italy and at a synod held in Sutri deposed all three popes—Sylvester III, Gregory VI, and Benedict IX—and selected a pope of his own, Clement II. After the death of Clement, Henry appointed still another pope, Leo IX, who was his friend and cousin Bishop Bruno of Toul, a Lorrainer. It was this pope who surrounded himself with northern and Tuscan reformers and started freeing the papacy from secular control and thus began to establish the popes as leaders of the entire Western Church. It was Henry III, therefore, who unwittingly laid the foundations of a papal reform with which his successors had to cope. He also failed to build up in Germany itself any institutions of government or an imperial domain upon which later German emperors could rely for strength.
During his reign Henry III dominated much of eastern Europe, kept Germany peaceful, controlled much of Italy, and intervened almost as head of the Church in papal affairs. Yet his power was more superficial than it appeared, and his policies within both the empire and the Church were to lead to a crisis for his son and successor, Henry IV.
For the era of Henry III see Gerd Tellenbach, Church, State and Christian Society at the Time of the Investiture Contest (trans. 1940); Geoffrey Barraclough, Origins of Modern Germany (1946; 2d rev. ed. 1966); Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (1955; 2d ed. 1962); and Jeffrey Russell, Dissent and Reform in the Early Middle Ages (1965). □