Monday, February 27, 2012

British History: From William Rufus to the Magna Carta

So the political intrigue of royal life in England continue after the death of William the Conqueror. Our notebooking pages and resources on William and The Battle of Hastings can be found in this post. Below is a quick overview of the highlights up to King John and the Magna Carta with some resources. I highly recommend An Island Story by HE Marshall and The Story of Britain by Patrick Dillon as an appealing way to introduce the various twists and turns of succession.

The Norman Kings:

William Rufus
Click on the image to listen to a Librivox recording of his story from Our Island Story by HE Marshall.
Upon the death of William the conqueror, William Rufus becomes ruler of England while his older brother Robert ruled Normandy after rebelling against his father. However, Rufus eventually re-asserted control over Normandy. He was deeply unpopular with the church as he would raid the monasteries to fund his wars. Death comes in the form of a stray arrow that kills Rufus in a hunting accident in the New Forest, undoubtedly there were suspicions of foul play and many thought his younger brother Henry had planned it all. While many expected Robert to take control of England, Henry outmaneuvered jis brother by acting swiftly and gaining control of the treasury. He eventually made a deal with Robert and with the support of the Clare family - he was crowned king on August 5th 1100.

William Rufus Resources:
  • You can download a powerpoint focusing on the question "Was William Rufus Murdered?" from here.
  • Notebooking and colouring pages can be found at Activity Village.
Henry I

Click on the picture to hear the story of The White Ship from the Librivox recording of HE Marshall's Our Island Story
Henry I is crowned King and sets about expanding his political power and establishing laws for the more efficient administration of Englad. He made peace with the church and with his marriage to an Anglo-Saxon princess (a descendant of Edmund Ironside), he began to heal the divisions between the Normans and Anglo-Saxons and break down the differences. It was a period of peace and prosperity for England. He had two legitimate children in William and Matilda. William drowns in The White Ship, leaving Matilda (married to Geoffrey Plantagenet) as his only legitimate child.

Henry I Resources:
Empress Matilda and King Stephen

Click on the picture to hear the story of King Stephen from the Librivox  recording of  Our Island Story by HE Marshall

Henry I extracts promises from the nobles that they will recognise Matilda as Queen of England upon his death but unsurprisingly, they balked at the idea of a woman ruling and turned to her cousin, Stephen of Blois and crowned him king. Thus starting a vicious 18 year civil war often called the Anarchy. Matilda ruled for a few months before the throne was seized from her but was never crowned and hence is rarely included in the list of Kings and Queens of England. Exhausted by years of war, they eventually made an agreement that Henry II would inherit the throne upon Stephen's death.

Empress Matilda and King Stephen Resources:
The Plantagenet Kings:

Henry II

Click on this picture to hear the story of Thomas Beckett from the Librivox recording of Our Island Story by HE Marshall
Henry II turned out to be a strong ruler with a temperament for war and a fiery temper. He expanded and conquered almost all the French lands, laid the foundation for the English jury system and raised taxes to pay for a personal militia force. He was ruthless with the nobles but said to be kind to his defeated enemies. Immensely intelligent and hardworking, he made sure he undermined the power base of his noble enemies by tearing down their castles and deported their 'foreign mercenaries'. He famously quarreled with Thomas Beckett (his closest companion whom he had appointed Archbishop of Canterbury as a way of controlling the church) and was blamed for Becket's murder. There was no peace in his old age as his son's turned against him and rebelled in an attempt to de-throne him. His sons included Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland.

Henry II resources:
Richard I
Click on the picture to hear the story of Richard I  from the Librivox recording  of Our Island Story by HE Marshall
The third son of Henry II, he was crowned upon his father's death. He spent no more than six months in England, preferring to be out  leading his armies out in battle.  He was the leader of the third crusade to Jerusalem. After many years of war, on his journey back to England, he was captured, imprisoned and held for ransom. A massive burden of taxation was placed on the people of England to pay for his ransom. Although often depicted as a hero of England, he actually had very little affection for England and the people, using the kingdom to finance his military exploits and in fact, he had spent very little time in England and did not speak the language. His brother John came close to seizing the throne from Richard but he was eventually forgiven and even named as his heir.

Richard I Resources:

click on the picture to hear the story of the Magna Carta from the Librivox  recording of  Our Island Story by HE Marshall.
Vilified in film and in folktales -  evidence seems to show that John Lackland was a better king than he is given credit - he was an able general and administrator but unfortunately was hindered by a cruel, spiteful and petty personality. He lost much of his French lands and subsequent battles against France and the Pope were expensive losses for him. The barons grew tired and rebellious and they marched on London forcing him to sign what became known as the Magna Carta. This document laid out the responsibilities of the King (limiting his power to obedience to the law) and protected the rights of the barons and the common people as well as the liberty of the church. John signed this under duress and immediately tried to rescind the document. However, the die was cast, and the signing of the Magna Carta paved the way for the eventual formation of parliament and the idea of representation by the people.

Podcast video about King John and the Magna Carta

King John and Magna Carta resources:
Our approach as we learned about these kings was to read about them in our books, watch the documentaries and I made use of some of the posted resources. I then assigned them time to make notebook pages on the Kings or make a PowerPoint presentation on them. I will post them at a later date when they are complete.

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