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A Historiographical Survey: Norman and Plantagenet Kings since World War II

  • James W. Alexander

If the sacred back was not always safe from family and associates in the Anglo-Saxon period, still less was it proffered in the Norman and Angevin periods. William I endured the rebellion of one son, William II an accidental death while hunting; Henry I suppressed a baronial rebellion in favor of his feckless brother Robert Curthose; Stephen's reign was characterized by lawlessness and rebellion on behalf of Empress Matilda. Henry II found his whole family actively at war against him, Richard I met his death in a political quarrel in Aquitaine, John was constrained by a rebellion of many barons to issue Magna Carta, Henry III faced constant baronial opposition to his policies, Edward I was compelled to face magnate disquiet from 1297 to 1300, Edward II was deposed (and betrayed by his wife). Edward III alone of the kings discussed in this portion of my article reigned withal quietly (after 1341) and successfully (in terms of familial and baronial opposition, at least until 1376). This is not a happy picture, but it is one that reminds us that family relations were vital to successful kingship and that a king must, if successful, be a canny politician. Unlike Rosenthal, I have chosen to limit my discussion of royal biography for the period 1066–1377 to pointing out the sources that have appeared in print since 1945 and to book-length royal biographies; no longer is it true (in the words of Sidney Painter written in 1949 that prefaced his study of The Reign of King John) that, “when I started to write this volume, there was no adequate account of the reign of a medieval English king.

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1 Hollister, C. Warren, “The Strange Death of William Rufus,” Speculum 48 (1973): 376653.

2 Painter, Sidney, The Reign of King John (Baltimore, 1949), p. vii.

3 For these, see pt. 1 of Mullins, E. L. C., Texts and Calendars: An Analytical Guide to Serial Publications (London, 1968).

4 Graves, Edgar B., ed., A Bibliography of English History to 1485 (Oxford, 1975); Altschul, Michael, Anglo-Norman England, 1066–1154 (Cambridge, 1969); Kealey, Edward J., “Recent Writing about Anglo-Norman England,” British Studies Monitor 9 (Spring 1979): 322; Wilkinson, Bertie, The High Middle Ages in England, 1154–1377 (Cambridge, 1978); Guth, DeLloyd J., Late-medieval England, 1377–1485 (Cambridge, 1976); Mullins van Caenegem, ; Mullins, R. C., Guide to the Sources of Medieval History (Amsterdam, New York, and Oxford, 1978), vol. 2, Europe in the Middle Ages.

5 English Historical Documents, vol. 2, ed. Douglas, David C. and Greenaway, George W., 2d ed. (London, 1981), vol. 3, ed. Harry Rothwell (London, 1975), and vol. 4, ed. Alec Myers (London, 1969).

6 Vitalis, Orderic, Ecclesiastical History, ed. Chibnall, Marjorie, 3 vols. (Oxford, 19791980).

7 Malmesbury, William of, Historia novella, ed. Potter, K. R. (London, 1955); and the Gesta|Stephani, ed. Potter, K. R. (Oxford, 1976).

8 Nigel, Richard Fitz, Dialogus de Scaccario, ed. and trans. Johnson, Charles, with corrections by Carter, F. E. L. and Greenway, D. E. (London, 1984). Glanvill, , Tractalus de legibus el consuetudinibus regni Anglie, ed. Hall, G. D. G. (London, 1965).

9 Richard of, Devizes, Cronicon de tempore regis Richardi primi, ed. Appleby, John T. (London, 1963).

10 Jocelin of, Brakelond, Cronica, ed. Butler, H. E. (London, 1962).

11 Chronica Buriensis, 1212–1301, ed. Gransden, Antonia (London, 1964).

12 Treharne, R. F. and Sanders, I. J., Documents of the Baronial Movement of Re-form and Rebellion, 1258–1267 (Oxford, 1973); Thome, Samuel E., Bracton on the Laws and Customs of England (Cambridge, 19681977).

13 Wilkinson, Bertie, Constitutional History of Medieval England, 1216–1399 (London, 19481961). Denholm-Young, Noël, ed. and trans., The Life of Edward II by the So-called Monk of Malmesbury (Oxford, 1957).

14 Regesta regum Anglo-Normannorum, vol. 1,1066–1100, ed. Davis, H. W. C., vol. 2, 1100–1135, ed. Johnson, Charles and Cronne, H. A., and vols. 3–4, 1135–1154, ed. Cronne, H. A. and Davis, R. H. C. (Oxford, 19131969); Landon, Lionel, The Itinerary of King Richard I, Pipe Roll Society, n.s., vol. 13 (London, 1935).

15 Pipe Roll Society (for specific pipe rolls, see Mullins [n. 3 above], pt. 2, sec. 30, to which add the pipe rolls 15 John through 3 Henry III and the Roll of Foreign Accounts Henry III); Lay Subsidy Rolls, 1225,1232, ed. Cazel, Fred A. Jr., Pipe Roll Society, n.s., vol. 44 (London, 19741975); Chaplais, Pierre, ed., Diplomatic Documents, vol. 1, 1101–1272 (London, 1964).

16 Alexander, James W., “Medieval Biography: Clio lo vult,” Historian 35 (1973): 355–62; Vale, M. G. A., Charles VII (Berkeley, 1974), pp. ixx; Hughes, K. J. and Horowitz, Peter, “Organic Biography: The Death of an Art,” Journal of British Studies 12, no. 2 (1973): 86104.

17 Poole, A. L., From Domesday Book to Magna Carta, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1955); Powicke, F. M., The Thirteenth Century, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1962); McKisack, May, The Fourteenth Century (Oxford, 1959).

18 Douglas, David C., William the Conqueror (Berkeley, 1964), pp. xi, 376.

19 Barlow, Frank, William I and the Norman Conquest (London, 1965); Brown, R. Allen, The Normans and the Norman Conquest (New York, 1968).

20 Barlow, Frank, William Rufus (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983).

21 Hollister's book is planned for publication in the English Monarchs series. Richard Southern, “King Henry I,” in Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (Oxford, 1970).

22 Davis, R. H. C., King Stephen (Berkeley, 1967); Cronne, H. A., The Reign of King Stephen (London, 1970).

23 Appleby, John T., The Troubled Reign of King Stephen (New York, 1970).

24 Christine Lauffray and Pierre Lauffray, Les Plantagenets (Lausanne, 1968). An example of the less good—to say no more—genre is Bingham, Caroline, The Crowned Lions: The Early Plantagenet Kings (London and Totowa, N.J., 1978).

25 Painter, Sidney, “Norwich's Three Geoffreys,” in Feudalism and Liberty, ed. Cazel, Fred A. Jr. (Baltimore, 1961).

26 Warren, W. L., Henry II (Berkeley, 1973).

27 For those more sympathetic to Thomas of London in the dispute, the account by Knowles, David, Thomas Becket (Stanford, Calif., 1970), will perhaps be preferred; yet it is by no means uncritical of the archbishop.

28 Barber, Richard, Henry Plantagenet (London, 1964); Appleby, John T., Henry II: The Vanquished King (London, 1962); Schlight, John, Henry II Plantagenet (New York, 1973); and see the review by Hollister, C. Warren and Keefe, Thomas K., Speculum 51 (1976): 150–53.

29 Brown, Elizabeth A. R., “Eleanor of Aquitaine: Parent, Queen, and Duchess,” in Eleanor of Aquitaine, Patron and Politician, ed. Kibler, William W. (Austin, Tex., 1976).

30 Pernoud, Régine, Eleanor of Aquitaine, trans. Peter Wiles (New York, 1968), reflects on the sculpture: “And sure enough she is reading a book” (p. 267); Kelly, Amy, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (New York, 1950): “Here Eleanor lies serene, in her hand a small volume, which one of her apologists has said need not be regarded as a missal. Tranquil, collected, engaged with her book …” (p. 494). And so drearily onward.

31 Seward, Desmond, Eleanor of Aquitaine (New York, 1979); the quotation is found on p. 256.

32 Meade, Marion, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography (New York, 1977); the quotation is on p. 355.

33 Gillingham, John, Richard the Lionheart (New York, 1978); see also his important article The Unromantic Death of Richard I,” Speculum 54, no. 1 (January 1979): 1841.

34 Brundage, James, Richard Lion Heart (New York, 1974); Appleby, John T., England without Richard (London, 1965).

35 Hollister, C. Warren, “King John and the Historians,” Journal of British Studies 1, no. 1 (1961): 119; Holt, James C., King John, Historical Association (London, 1963).

36 Gillingham, , “The Unromantic Death of Richard I,” p. 18; Galbraith, V. H., “Good Kings and Bad Kings in Medieval English History,” in Kings and Chroniclers (London, 1982), 2:128.

37 Painter, The Reign of King John (n. 2 above); Painter intended to write a companion volume dealing with “military and naval institutions, and the development of the common law” (p. vii). Alas, this fine scholar and gentle man never lived to complete the study. Warren, W. L., King John (Berkeley, 1961, 1978). Clanchy, M. T., England and Its Rulers, 1066–1272 (Totowa, N.J., 1983), does not recommend Painter's King John as a “best work” on the reign (p. 193); this is inexcusable and inexplicable. Noteworthy among the nonscholarly histories of John's reign, and typical of them, is Alan Lloyd, King John (Newton Abbot, 1973); while this book is generally sympathetic to John, its bibliography omits studies central to the reign (Holt's The Northerners and Magna Carta, Charles Young and C. R. Cheney on Hubert Walter), it is hideously overwritten, and it abounds in vagueness (“one historian,” “one chronicler”).

38 Lewis, Peter, Later Medieval France: The Polity (New York, 1968).

39 For the canonical view, see Jolliffe, J. E. A., Angevin Kingship, 2d ed. (London, 1963); Keefe, Thomas K., Feudal Assessments and the Political Community under Henry II and His Sons (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983).

40 Powicke, F. M., Henry III and the Lord Edward, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1947). A new biography of Henry III has been advertised for California's English Monarchs series; David Carpenter is the announced author.

41 Clanchy, Michael T., “Did Henry III Have a Policy?History 53 (1968): 203–16; Clanchy shows that he did. See also Studd, J. R., “The Lord Edward and Henry III,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 50 (1977): 419.

42 Costain, Thomas, The Three Edwards (Garden City, N.Y., 1958). Costain finds a bishop [sic] of Canterbury (p. 156) and refers throughout to Earl Thomas of Lancaster as “Cousin Lancaster” and to Philip IV of France as “Philip the Unfair.”

43 Prestwich, Michael, The Three Edwards: War and State in England, 1272-1377 (New York, 1980).

44 Ibid., p. 146.

45 Chancellor, John, The Life and Times of Edward I, with an introduction by Antonia Fraser (London, 1981).

46 Galbraith (n. 36 above), 2:130.

47 Hutchinson, Harold, Edward II: The Pliant King (London, 1971). See as well the interesting article by Cuttino, G. P. and Lyman, Thomas W.Where Is Edward II?Speculum 53, no. 3 (July 1978): 522–44, which queries both the traditional story of the means of his murder and the final resting-place of Edward's remains. Compare Fryde, Natalie, The Tyranny and Fall of Edward II (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 201–6.

48 Prestwich, p. 325. Packe, Michael, King Edward III, ed. Seaman, L. C. B. (London, 1983).

49 Jordan, William Chester, Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade (Princeton, N.J., 1979). Richard, Jean, St. Louis (Paris, 1983); Sivéry, Gérard, Saint Louis et son siécle (Paris, 1983). Strayer, Joseph R., The Reign of Philip the Fair (Princeton, N.J., 1980); Strayer, the dean of American historians of medieval France, devoted forty years to the preparation of his study (p. xvi), Sivéry fifteen (p. 11).

50 See n. 41 above; McFarlane, K. B., “Had Edward I a ‘Policy’ towards the Earls?” in The Nobility of Later Medieval England (Oxford, 1973). But see chap. 5 of Prestwich (n. 43 above).

51 Lewis, Andrew W., Royal Succession in Capetian France (Cambridge, 1981).

52 Ibid.; and Wood, Charles T., The French Apanages and the Capetian Monarchy, 1224-1328 (Cambridge, 1966).

53 Mathew, Gervase, The Court of Richard II (London, 1968).

54 Lyon, Bryce D., “What Made a Medieval King Constitutional?” in Essays in Medieval History Presented to Bertie Wilkinson, ed. Sandquist, T. A. and Powicke, M. R. (Toronto, 1969); Wood, Charles T., “Celestine V, Boniface VIII and the Authority of Parliament,” Journal of Medieval History 8 (1982): 4562.

55 Alexander, James W., “The English Palatinates and Edward I,” Journal of British Studies 22, no. 2 (Spring 1983): 5983.

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Journal of British Studies
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