39 The Ruling of the Angevin Empire

Bear in mind at all times that Henry, while being a Good King, was a tyrant. Still, he was a tyrant who ran a mean administrative system for the time. This week, the nature of the Angevin empire, how it was ruled, and a bit about travel and economy.

39 Ruling the Angevin Empire

The Character of Henry II

We are blessed with many descriptions of Henry, and many excellent chroniclers for the period. Here’s just one of those descriptions, from a man called Peter of Blois. Peter himself is an interesting character; he probably wrote some of the latin seuqneces that are used in Carl Orf’s fantastic ‘Carmins Brana’. He serves as a diplomat and secretary under William Rufus, Henry II and Eleanor, and died in 1211. The description is a long one, so I have saved it as a PDF here.

Download Peter of Blois on Henry II

The Nature of the Angevin Empire

Angevin Empire Strategic entry pointsThink of it in 4 bits:

The Anglo Norman State: Normandy and England. By and large loyal to Henry, well administered. Key flash point along the river Seine, with French and Norman Vexin being ‘badlands’ between the French and Norman monarchies.

Anjou: Traditional homeland of the Angevins, and again very loyal to Henry. Three countries, Anjou, Main and Touraine. The big castles along the Loire – Tours, Chinon – are another flash point.

Brittany: Claimed by Henry as an overlord, and William the Conqueror and his sons had also. But this is not without dispute and engages Henry in frequent trouble.

Aquitaine: A vast inheritance, loyal to Eleanor but only if she leaves them alone to to their thing. Very suspicious of the Angevins in their attempt to impose some order on them. And there are plenty of internal arguments going on between the various counts and families. Key flash point is the county of Berry, which had a critical confluence of roads and which was disputed between the Franch and Angevin kings.

The Cog

Work The Cog horse of the early medieval carrying trade. The Cog replaced the existing Viking style ships during the 12th Century. It’s advantages were the stern rudder; the flat bottom which allowed easy loading at low tide; and the high sides which made it easier to defend from pirates. Plus, crucially, it had a greater carrying capacity. The Cog was used for war and trade.

10 thoughts on “39 The Ruling of the Angevin Empire

  1. David, I always look forward to each of your podcasts, and have now started going back over them all again…..so thank you:) I’d just like to ask if you could mention a little more about the governance and links between England and what is now France at the stage we are at now……as in, which side of the channel would have been considered the true center of administration? Cheers….Trev Bailey, Bulwell, Nottingham……..Keep up the great work bud! 🙂

  2. Sorry guys, I’ve been on nights and had no access to a PC! I have just read Davids breakdown of the Empire…..lol I have only really been able to listen on my phone just lately! So will be sure to have a good read up too…..:) Trev

  3. David,
    Am enjoying the detailed analysis of the reign of Henry II – surely the greatest of all the English kings? You mention that he rarely sat down – not sure about the reason for this at the start of his life but towards the end he was suffering from an anal cyst, which can’t have encouraged it. Still, like a good un, he kept on riding hither and tither.
    After listening to Episode 39, I was also struck by the series of events that led to Henry coming peaceably to the throne. There does seem to be a bit of a theme here accross English history – notably with Henry VII but also William and Mary – of regieme change following a long period of unrest whereby the new monarch is broadly accepted due to an overwhelming desire to return to a period of stability. Of course it helped Henry VII that most of the other possible claimants to the throne were dead (and he married the only other plausible candidate) but I wonder if it is an indication of the long established principle of the rule of law in the UK?
    Anyway – have almost caught up with you, have enjoyed it a great deal

  4. Hi David,
    Best episode yet. Lots of helpful and interesting insights into how medieval governance worked. Very interesting structure and topic. Thanks & keep up the good work!

  5. Hiya, David,
    Still working through the podcasts and this one is also one of my favorites yet. By the way, as was the case with Mike Duncan, the audio quality has subtly and steadily improved episode-to-episode.
    Any thoughts toward some type of Amazon Subscription scheme?
    Thanks and keep it up!

  6. Hello David,
    I thought I’d leave you a comment to let you know that someone (me) has recently found your podcast and is enjoying it. I’ve started at the beginning – and just got to this episode today. I love your writing and way of speaking. You are very engaging.
    Thanks again for all you are doing.

  7. Good Morning David of the melodic voice,

    My son is a History-o-phil, my mum knew all the kids and queens of England, I didn’t give a rats.

    Anyway, So my son forwarded the link to your casts… he knows I use them to pass flights on and to listen to in the wee hours. Now, dont take this wrong. yours are the best to fall asleep to! I really love the sound of your voice and bloody hell, you have me interested now in bloody English Kings!!!

    I listen to many of the casts 2-3 times, cos I was falling asleep! So Im actually now, finally, learning a lot because of the repetition!

    So, quick question. What “Angevin?” and the Plantagenats? Id love to know the original of these and other names as we go through the years (as a suggestion, though you do not need any!). And I get confused re which Henry I am up to now… It would be great to have a straight numerical list of all the kings/queens from start to finish, runny with the podcasts so we know where we are up to! For my laziness to avoid going to wikipedia!

    Thanks so much, love the series.

    1. Hi Chris and Yes! I need to do some merchandise ‘Voted Best Podcast to go to Sleep to”. It’s always good to be a winner…

      Actually I used to do quite a bit of overnight flying in my previous job, and told everyone who would listen that podcasts were the answer. My podcast of choice was the History of English, and like you I’d have to listen again when I woke up. There needs to be some research on the topic; maybe is a visceral, listening-to-your-mother-read-you-a-bedtime-story thing.

      On the kings & Queens list, I have done some things I personally was rather pleased with, which I called Regnal Lists..they don’t sound exciting, but have a look here https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/type/regnal-lists/. I have also downloaded on for you here.

      The use of the terms Angevin and Plantagenet are very arbitrary, especially the second. ‘Angevin’ is used for Henry II and his sons because Henry was, before and during becoming King of England, the Count of Anjou – Anjou – Angevin. Plantagenet comes from Henry II’s father, Geoffrey of Anjou, who’s symbol was the Broom plant. In Latin, the Broom is Planta Genesta, hence Plantagenet. What is totally arbitrary is a dynasty name that starts with Henry II and ends with Richard III, but there you are!

      Anyway, thanks for getting in touch, and have a great Christmas.


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