Middle Age Royals of England and France

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  • 0:06 The Royals
  • 0:46 Saxon to Norman Control
  • 1:37 The Capetians
  • 3:08 Politics During the Crusades
  • 4:41 Effects
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

The life of a High Middle Ages's king was filled with conflict. This lesson explores some of the major kings of England and France and their relations with each other and their powerful nobles.

Who Were All These Royals?

Centralization of government has long been an issue in history. Governing an empire comes with many problems. The lands ruled by Middle Age kings were vast and required constant attention to maintain control and hold onto power.

The Middle Ages saw many changes in leadership, with kings fighting each other for land and claiming each other's right to the throne. Many of the royals were related in some way, and many had the same name with exception of a suffix. This can lead to a lot of confusion when reading about the Middle Ages. In this lesson we are going to look at some of the major leaders from some of England and France in medieval times, particularly the High Middle Ages, which spanned from about the 11th to the 13th centuries.

England From Saxon to Norman Control

In 1042, a man named Edward became the king of England. When Edward died without an heir, his cousin, William - then the duke of Normandy, which was located in Northern France - seized control of the throne. William would come to be known as William the Conqueror.

William had previously subdued rebellious nobles and took steps to establish a feudal government in Normandy. He sought to do the same in England, where powerful earls were challenging the king's authority on a regular basis. He took full control of the throne by winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066. At this battle, William and the Normans (people of Normandy) defeated English forces fighting for control of the kingship. In addition to establishing a feudal government in England, he also required the decrees of popes and church councils to be approved by him before they were circulated in England.

France and England: The Capetians

Prior to the 10th century, France had come under centralized feudal control of a powerful family known as the Carolingians. When the last Carolingian king died, Hugh Capet was chosen to lead France because it was thought he would not be strong enough to stop the spread of feudalism, giving the nobles who chose him as king more power. During his reign, Hugh faced harsh restrictions to his authority by powerful nobles and the church. Several of his successors saw an even stronger decline in their power as more lands came under the control of nobles.

Philip I, who ruled from 1060 to 1108, was able to regain control of small amounts of land but still held little supreme power over France. His son, Louis VI, ruled from 1108 to 1137 and was far more aggressive. Louis punished nobles who were accused of abusing their power. He also gained loyalty from the church by entrusting them with civil offices, taking positions away from nobles. By the end of his reign, Louis had the protection of the church and the obedience of powerful nobles.

Louis' son, Louis VII, ruled from 1137 to 1180 and continued to increase the king's authority. Louis married a woman named Eleanor, but the marriage was annulled after she wasn't able to produce an heir. However, Louis married his daughters to powerful French leaders to gain allegiances. Louis eventually did have a son, Philip II, by his third wife. Philip was able to succeed his father to rule France.

Politics During the Crusades

Philip ruled France from 1180 to 1223. During this time, England's royals were part of the powerful Angevin empire, which held territory covering much of France, all of England and some of Ireland. To reclaim this territory, Louis had hoped to manipulate King Henry's sons for his advantage, but the two sons he was closest to died before they held much power. However, Henry had two other sons - Richard and John - that Philip could try with.

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