Wednesday 28 February 2018

House of Plantagenet - Henry II of England

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189), also known as Henry Plantagenet, ruled as Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, King of England and Lord of Ireland. At various times, he also controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany. He became actively involved by the age of 14 in his mother's efforts to claim the throne of England, then occupied by Stephen of Blois, and was made Duke of Normandy at 17.

Château de Chinon, France

Henry inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards married Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII of France had recently been annulled.  The marriage instantly reignited Henry's tensions with Louis: the marriage was considered an insult. With his new lands, Henry now possessed a much larger proportion of France than Louis. 

Louis VII of France

Louis VII organised a coalition against Henry, including Stephen, Eustace, Henry the Count of Champagne, and Robert the Count of Perche. Louis's alliance was joined by Henry's younger brother, Geoffrey, who rose in revolt, claiming that Henry had dispossessed him of his inheritance. But soon Louis fell ill and withdrew from the campaign, and Geoffrey was forced to come to terms with Henry.

Henry II of England

Stephen(then king of England) placed Wallingford Castle, a key fortress loyal to Henry along the Thames Valley in England, under siege. In response to Stephen's siege, Henry returned to England again at the start of 1153, braving winter storms with a small army of mercenaries. Henry was supported in the north and east of England by the forces of Ranulf of Chester and Hugh Bigod, and had hopes of a military victory.

Ruins of Wallingford Castle, England

To draw Stephen's forces away from Wallingford, Henry besieged Stephen's castle at Malmesbury, and the King responded by marching west with an army to relieve it. Over the next summer, Stephen massed troops to renew the siege of Wallingford Castle in a final attempt to take the stronghold. The fall of Wallingford appeared imminent and Henry marched south to relieve the siege, arriving with a small army and placing Stephen's besieging forces under siege themselves.

Stephan of England

In November Stephan of England and Henry ratified the terms of a permanent peace. Stephen announced the Treaty of Winchester in Winchester Cathedral: he recognised Henry as his adopted son and successor, in return for Henry doing homage to him. Stephen's remaining son, William, would do homage to Henry and renounce his claim to the throne. Stephen, however, fell ill with a stomach disorder and died on 25 October 1154, allowing Henry to inherit the throne rather sooner than had been expected.

Winchester Cathedral

On landing in England on 8 December 1154, Henry quickly took oaths of loyalty from some of the barons and was then crowned alongside Eleanor at Westminster on 19 December. The royal court was gathered in April 1155, where the barons swore fealty to the King and his sons. Henry presented himself as the legitimate heir to Henry I and commenced rebuilding the kingdom in his image.

Westminster Abbey

Henry had a problematic relationship with Louis VII of France throughout the 1150s. In 1154 Henry and Louis agreed a peace treaty, under which Henry bought back the Vernon and the Neuf-Marché from Louis. In an attempt to improve relations, Henry met with Louis at Paris and Mont-Saint-Michel in 1158, agreeing to betroth Henry's eldest living son, the Young Henry, to Louis's daughter Margaret.


Long-running tensions between Henry and Louis VII continued during the 1160s, the French king slowly becoming more vigorous in opposing Henry's increasing power in Europe. In 1160 Louis strengthened his alliances in central France with the Count of Champagne and Odo II, the Duke of Burgundy. In 1164 Henry intervened to seize lands along the border of Brittany and Normandy, and in 1166 invaded Brittany to punish the local barons.

Seal of Odo II, Duke of Burgundy

The growing tensions between Henry and Louis finally spilled over into open war in 1167, triggered by a trivial argument over how money destined for the Crusader states of the Levant should be collected. Louis allied himself with the Welsh, Scots and Bretons, and the French king attacked Normandy. Henry responded by attacking Chaumont-sur-Epte, where Louis kept his main military arsenal, burning the town to the ground and forcing Louis to abandon his allies and make a private truce.

Silver Penny of Henry II

Henry's daughter Eleanor was married to Alfonso VIII of Castile in 1170, enlisting an additional ally in the south. In February 1173, Raymond finally gave in and publicly gave homage for Toulouse to Henry and his heirs.

Modern Day Toulouse

In the 1160s King Diarmait Mac Murchada was deposed as King of Leinster by the High King of Ireland, Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair. Diarmait turned to Henry for assistance in 1167. With his new supporters, he reclaimed Leinster but died shortly afterwards in 1171. Henry took this opportunity to intervene personally in Ireland. He took a large army into south Wales, forcing the rebels who had held the area since 1165 into submission before sailing from Pembroke and landing in Ireland in October 1171.

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

In 1175 Henry agreed to the Treaty of Windsor, under which Rory O'Connor would be recognised as the high king of Ireland, giving homage to Henry and maintaining stability on the ground on his behalf. This policy proved unsuccessful, as O'Connor was unable to exert sufficient influence and force in areas such as Munster: Henry instead intervened more directly, establishing a system of local fiefs of his own through a conference held in Oxford in 1177.

Kingdoms of Ireland in 1171, and arrow showing Henry's invasion

In 1173 Henry faced the Great Revolt, an uprising by his eldest sons and rebellious barons, supported by France, Scotland and Flanders. Young Henry was unhappy that, despite the title of king, in practice he made no real decisions and was kept chronically short of money by Henry of England. Meanwhile, local barons unhappy with Henry's rule saw opportunities to recover traditional powers and influence by allying themselves with his sons.

Henry the Young

In the aftermath of the Great Revolt, Henry held negotiations at Montlouis, offering a lenient peace on the basis of the pre-war status quo. Young Henry agreed to the transfer of the disputed castles to John, but in exchange the elder Henry agreed to give the younger Henry two castles in Normandy and 15,000 Angevin pounds; Henry's other sons Richard(later Richard I of England) and Geoffrey were granted half the revenues from Aquitaine and Brittany respectively.

13th-century representation of Richard and Philip Augustus

Young Henry formed an alliance with some of the disgruntled barons of the Aquitaine who were unhappy with Richard's rule, and Geoffrey sided with him, raising a mercenary army in Brittany to threaten Poitou. Open war broke out in 1183 and Henry and Richard led a joint campaign into Aquitaine: before they could conclude it, however, Young Henry caught a fever and died, bringing a sudden end to the rebellion.

Tomb and effigy of Henry in Rouen Cathedral

The relationship between Henry and Richard finally dissolved into violence shortly before Henry's death. The papacy intervened once again to try to produce a last-minute peace deal, resulting in a fresh conference at La Ferté-Bernard in 1189. By now Henry was suffering from a bleeding ulcer that would ultimately prove fatal.

La Ferté-Bernard

In the dispute between Henry and Richard, Henry evaded the enemy forces on his way south and collapsed in his castle at Chinon. Henry was carried back to Chinon on a litter, where he was informed that his son John had publicly sided with Richard in the conflict. Henry died on 6 July 1189, aged 56; the King had wished to be interred at Grandmont Abbey in the Limousin, but the hot weather made transporting his body impractical and he was instead buried at the nearby Fontevraud Abbey.

Fontevraud Abbey

In the immediate aftermath of Henry's death, Richard successfully claimed his father's lands; he later left on the Third Crusade, but never married Alice as he had agreed with Philip Augustus. His mother, Eleanor was released from house arrest and regained control of Aquitaine, where she ruled on Richard's behalf.

Tomb of Henry and Eleanor in Fontevraud Abbey

Thursday 15 February 2018

Almohad Caliphate of Morocco

The Almohad Caliphate was a Moroccan Berber Muslim movement founded in the 12th century. Around 1120, the Almohads first established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains. They succeeded in overthrowing the ruling Almoravid dynasty governing Morocco by 1147, when Abd al-Mu'min al-Gumi (r. 1130–1163) conquered Marrakesh and declared himself Caliph. 

A mosque at Tinmel, Morocco

For the first eight years, the Almohad rebellion was limited to a guerilla war along the peaks and ravines of the High Atlas. Their principal damage was in rendering insecure (or altogether impassable) the roads and mountain passes south of Marrakesh – threatening the route to all-important Sijilmassa, the gateway of the trans-Saharan trade.

A mosque in Marrakesh, Morocco

Abd al-Mu'min,  a prominent member of the Almohad movement came forward as the lieutenant of the Mahdi Ibn Tumart. Between 1130 and his death in 1163, Abd al-Mu'min not only rooted out the Murabits (Almoravids), but extended his power over all northern Africa as far as Egypt, becoming amir of Marrakesh in 1149.

Modern Day Marrakesh, Morocco

Between 1146 and 1173, the Almohads gradually wrested control from the Murabits over the Moorish principalities in Iberia. The Almohads transferred the capital of Moslem Iberia from Córdoba to Seville. They founded a great mosque there; its tower, the Giralda, was erected in 1184. The Almohads also built a palace there called Al-Muwarak on the site of the modern day Alcázar of Seville.

Alcázar of Seville, Spain

The successors of Abd al-Mumin, Abu Yaqub Yusuf(ruled 1163–1184) and Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur(ruled 1184–1199), were both able men. Initially their government drove many Jewish and Christian subjects to take refuge in the growing Christian states of Portugal, Castile, and Aragon. His title of "al-Mansur" ("the Victorious") was earned by his victory over Alfonso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Alarcos (1195).

Astorga Cathedral, Spain

In 1212, the Almohad Caliph Muhammad 'al-Nasir' (1199–1214), the successor of al-Mansur, after an initially successful advance north, was defeated by an alliance of the four Christian kings of Castile, Aragón, Navarre, and Portugal, at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in the Sierra Morena. The battle broke the Almohad advance, but the Christian powers remained too disorganized to profit from it immediately.

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

Before his death in 1213, al-Nasir appointed his young ten-year-old son as the next caliph Yusuf II "al-Mustansir". The Almohads passed through a period of effective regency for the young caliph, with power exercised by an oligarchy of elder family members, palace bureaucrats and leading nobles. In early 1224, the youthful caliph died in accident, without any heirs. The palace bureaucrats in Marrakesh, held the election of his elderly grand-uncle, Abd al-Wahid I 'al-Makhlu', as the new Almohad caliph. 

Marrakesh, Morocco

But the rapid appointment upset other branches of the family, notably the brothers of the late al-Nasir, who governed in al-Andalus. The challenge was immediately raised by one of them, then governor in Murcia, who declared himself Caliph Abdallah al-Adil. With the help of his brothers, he quickly seized control of al-Andalus.

A church at Murcia, Spain

In 1225, Abdallah al-Bayyasi's band of rebels, accompanied by a large Castilian army, besieged cities such as Jaén and Andújar. They raided throughout the regions of Jaén, Cordova and vega de Granada and, before the end of the year, al-Bayyasi had established himself in the city of Cordova. Sensing the vacuity, both Alfonso IX of León and Sancho II of Portugal opportunistically ordered their own raids into Andalusian territory that same year. 

Sancho II of Portugal

In payment for Castilian assistance, al-Bayyasi had given Ferdinand III three strategic frontier fortresses: Baños de la Encina, Salvatierra and Capilla. An uprising broke out in Cordova – al-Bayyasi was killed and his head dispatched as a trophy to Marrakesh. But Caliph al-Adil did not relish this victory for long – he was assassinated in Marrakesh in October 1227, who was promptly acclaimed as the new Almohad caliph Yahya "al-Mu'tasim".

Baños de la Encina Castle, Spain

The Andalusian branch of the Almohads in Morocco refused to accept Yahya as the new caliph. Al-Adil's brother, then in Seville, proclaimed himself the new Almohad caliph Abd al-Ala Idris I 'al-Ma'mun'. He promptly purchased a truce from Ferdinand III in return for 300,000 maravedis, allowing him to organize and dispatch the bulk of the Almohad army in Spain across the straits in 1228 to confront Yahya.

Ferdinand III of Castile

In October 1228, with Spain practically all lost, al-Ma'mun abandoned Seville, taking what little remained of the Almohad army with him to Morocco.The departure of al-Ma'mun in 1228 marked the end of the Almohad era in Spain. But Ibn Hud and the other local Andalusian strongmen were unable to stem the rising flood of Christian attacks, launched almost yearly by Sancho II of Portugal, Alfonso IX of León, Ferdinand III of Castile and James I of Aragon.

James I of Aragon

After 1228, the old great Andalusian citadels fell in a grand sweep: Mérida and Badajoz in 1230 (to Leon), Majorca in 1230 (to Aragon), Beja in 1234 (to Portugal), Cordova in 1236 (to Castile), Valencia in 1238 (to Aragon), Niebla-Huelva in 1238 (to Leon), Silves in 1242 (to Portugal), Murcia in 1243 (to Castile), Jaén in 1246 (to Castile), Alicante in 1248 (to Castile). Ferdinand III of Castile entered Seville as a conqueror on December 22, 1248.

Badajoz, Spain

With the departure of the Almohads, the Nasrid dynasty rose to power in Granada. After the great Christian advance of 1228–1248, the Emirate of Granada was practically all that remained of old al-Andalus. Granada alone would remain independent for an additional 250 years, flourishing as the new center of al-Andalus.
Granada, Spain
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