Why did English power in France collapse so

Why did English power inFranceprostration so rapidly in 1203-04?

The fact that English power in France collapsed so rapidly and stunningly in France in 1203-04 is non in uncertainty. Historians are all in understanding that the catastrophe of those old ages, climaxing in the loss of the dukedom of Normandy to the Gallic in the doomed Treaty of Le Goulet, constituted a major catastrophe in Anglo-French dealingss and a military low point in footings of the broader position of mediaeval England. At one time, the King of England was transformed from a to the full fledged spouse in the political running of France into an enemy of the King of France wholly, a move that triggered a acrimonious and long running feud that would finally take to the oncoming of the Hundred Years War in the fourteenth and 15th centuries ( which would one time more culminate in the invading English ground forcess being mostly expelled from mainland Europe ) . Therefore, before we commence our analysis into the grounds behind the prostration of English power in France we must first acknowledge that there was so a important prostration of power and prestigiousness ensuing in a lasting split between what had until that minute been a incorporate land separated in portion by the English Channel [ 1 ] .

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The duty for the prostration of English power in France in 1203-04 has at many points through history been apportioned to England’s King John who was the main determination shaper at the clip of the implemented relinquishing of the former English districts on the continent. Furthermore, it was King John’s former ally King Philip II who saw to it that England would lose a considerable and annihilating sum of district at Le Goulet, stand foring a prodigious instance of misdirection that many historiographers have deemed to be a critical factor in the Lords of England bandying the opinion sovereign ensuing in the eventual sign language of the Magna Carta by a loath King John in 1215. As John Gillingham observes:

“No one denies that in the terminal John was a failure but they believe that he was a failure above all else because he failed to retrieve Normandy and because the effort to make so, in peculiar to raise money to fund the run of the re-conquest, led him to oppressive ways and provoked the barons and clerics to rebel.” [ 2 ]

It is accordingly the declared purpose of the following essay to chart the prostration of English power in France at the really beginning of the 13th century showing a instance in the procedure both for and against the ground for the prostration being apportioned entirely to King John and his advisers. Before we begin our analysis, though, we have to get down by puting the two major supporters within the undermentioned historical history – viz. King John of England and King Phillip II of France – within their correct and fixed historical contexts. In this manner we can set up a conceptual model for the balance of the treatment.

Although it seem like a instead academic and obvious point to do, we need to be certain from the beginning that history is the narrative of the masters over the vanquished, the vanquishers over the conquered and the winning over the defeated. This is particularly true during the Middle Ages where the history of conflicts, wars and inter-state dealingss have been bequeathed merely by those authors deemed to be runing within the recognized parametric quantities of the master. Gerald of Wales, for case, became such a outstanding and successful chronicler exactly because of his undeviating attachment to the opinion Norman vanquishers of his clip ; hence, Giraldus writes in glowing footings about William the Conqueror, Henry II and, so, his ain modern-day Norman master, King John ( Henry II’s boy ) while composing in cursing footings about the Irish, Scots and even the Welsh from whom he originated. Gerald’s history of the Norman Conquest survived exactly because it was the official history deemed allowable by the opinion Norman province. Therefore, we should – from the beginning – understand that the history of the prostration of English power in France at the morning of the 13th century was originally passed down non by protagonists of King John but, instead, by enemies of King John and those who wished to gain from the unchecked success of Phillip II of France.

This is an of import point to retrieve throughout the balance because – as historiographers – we are dependent on primary beginnings foremost and first when it comes to pulling our decisions as to historical events and the actions of the persons who affected them. Therefore, we must be wary of the historical literature that sees fit to instantly picture King John in a suffering visible radiation. Like Richard III after him, King John was in many ways a doomed leader coming as he did after the extremely successful reigns of his male parent Henry II and his swashbuckling older brother Richard the Lion Heart. His topographic point in history was efficaciously sealed with the loss of the dukedom of Normandy in 1203-04. However, as is the instance throughout history, the unfurling of events would ne’er hold taken topographic point with such predictability. Furthermore, history and political relations in the Middle Ages – much like history and political relations in the 20 first century – remains a kingdom mostly of power, involvement and personalities. Therefore, no 1 adult male could be seen as being responsible for a sweeping prostration of an abroad district every bit huge as England’s pre-thirteenth century involvement in mediaeval France. For this ground, we must be wary against cursing John from primary beginnings entirely ; we must, as historiographers, sift through the rhetoric and look beyond the mediaeval exaggeration.

Much the same can be said for the reign of King Phillip II who appears – in direct contrast to John – to hold been depicted in an overly simplistic and favorable visible radiation by descendants since the re-conquest of Normandy in 1203-04 [ 3 ] . Unlike King John, who came after the reign of two extremely successful English sovereign, King Philip II of France followed on from the discernibly weak reign of Louis VII who was more frequently than non the hapless relation in his relationship with his English opposite number Henry II. We must accordingly be wary of publishing statements with respects to the ‘collapse’ of English regulation in France when in many cases the term ‘fall’ might connote a more impartial decision. We should non, moreover, misinterpret the Normandy of 1203-04 as being the same as the Normandy of 1066 when it was considered to be “the most dynamic and powerful Gallic princedom of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries.” [ 4 ] Rather, as Bates notes, “it seems likely that Normandy’s function as a dominant colonizing power was over by 1144 when the dukedom was acquired by Count Geoffrey of Anjou during the war of sequence between Stephen and Matilda. It is possible besides to propose that its function as an independent princedom was besides over by that day of the month, since its destiny therefore was mostly determined by others.” [ 5 ]

Therefore, while we should non decrease the extent to which the loss of the dukedom of Normandy constituted a considerable loss of face for the English monarchy and its dealingss with the Gallic, we should halt short of conceive ofing that the loss of Normandy was unthinkable anterior to 1203-04. Rather, we should admit that there had been significant alterations in the place of Normandy and, so, within the corridors of power in London and Paris in the two centuries that separated William the Conqueror and King John. The English licking in France under John’s reign can accordingly be explained in some portion by mention to the passing of clip and the disintegration of English influence upon mainland Europe. Viewed through this prism, it is imaginable how the loss of Normandy could be seen less as a prostration and as a revolution and more as a procedure of development. This is an of import point to bear in head throughout the balance of the treatment.

In this manner, we can get down to understand how the draining of English power and influence ( and so money ) in Normandy was a policy passed down through consecutive sovereign. In this manner, King John represented a procedure of continuity instead than alteration. Furthermore, John did non lose the dukedom of Normandy in a black military run the likes of which would see Edward II lose his throne in the 14th century. Rather, John was merely outmanoeuvred on the diplomatic phase: squeezing out by his enemies on all sides. While this surely constitutes a failure of leading on John’s portion, the subsequent loss of Normandy appears alone because the district was non lost entirely on the battleground – the most of import theater of struggle in the Middle Ages as Richard Southern underscores.

“It is of import to retrieve the military and political solutions, for they were the lone one which offered much opportunity of success in the Middle Ages… there can be no uncertainty that the military method offered by far the greatest opportunity of success. Many people recognised this at the clip, and they were right.” [ 6 ]

We have, hitherto, created a sound instance for the loss of English district in France during 1203-04 non being attributable to King John. We must, nevertheless, besides consider that the reigning English sovereign was an built-in portion of the ruin of the Plantagenet’s in France exactly because he was unable to fit Philip II of France in footings of leading and – crucially – the ability this bequeathed in footings of funding military runs. This is a point underscored by Nick Barratt who notes that, “the causes for the loss of Normandy in 1204 must hence be sought elsewhere and the logical topographic point to get down is by analyzing the manner in which possible disposable war gross was really utilised in the campaign.” [ 7 ]

Therefore, while we can pardon the misdirection and hapless leading qualities displayed by King John during the Normandy crisis that took topographic point at the beginning of the 13th century, we can non look beyond his inability to raise the needed gross needed to fund a drawn-out abroad military run. Although John has in many ways been credited with giving birth to the Royal Navy after he gave the spell in front to construct a record figure of ships to transport military personnels over for the Normandy run, we must – in the concluding analysis – see his inability to utilize financess in a proactive military manner as a sweeping failure thereby imputing in some ample portion the loss of English power in France during 1203-04 upon King John’s shoulders.

We should likewise enterprise non to bury that it was John’s failure to lure the aristocracy with sufficient fiscal inducements that were required in order to do them fund any foreign expedition. The Lords, we should besides non bury, dictated who would contend and on what side during the Middle Ages ; therefore John’s direction failures extended far beyond the English aristocracy that would finally organize a powerful coterie against his authorization in 1215 embracing the Norman aristocracy who – when push came to jostle – take to stay loyal to the Gallic monarchy other than the English King who had hitherto been the fixed cultural, economic, political and societal point of mention who bound the many disparate elements of the fiefdom together. As a consequence, we must reason that the loss of English district in France in 1203-04 was in many ways inevitable and yet, on the other manus, that the misdirection of King John accelerated a procedure that might otherwise hold taken many old ages to blossom.


Bates, D. ( 1994 )The Rise and Fall of Normandy, c. 911-1204, in, Bates, D. and Curry, A. ( Eds. )England and Normandy in the Middle AgesLondon: Continuum Printing

Barratt, N. ( 1999 )The Revenues of John and Philip Augustus Revisited, in, Church, S.D. ( Ed. )King John: New InterpretationsLondon: Bowden and Brewer

Dunbabin, J. ( 2003 )The Political World of France, c.1200-c.1336, in, Potter, D. ( Ed. )France in the Later Middle Ages, 1200-1500Oxford: Oxford University Press

Gillingham, J. ( 1999 )Historians without Hindsight Coggeshall, Diceto and Howden on the Early Old ages of John’s Reign, in, Church, S.D. ( Ed. )King John: New InterpretationsLondon: Bowden and Brewer

Hallam, E.M. and Everard, J. ( 2001 )Capetian France, 987-1328Edinburgh: Pearson

Phillips, J. ( 2002 )The Gallic Overseas, in, Bull, J. ( Ed. )Francein the Middle Ages, 900-1200Oxford: Oxford University Press

Southern, R.W. ( 1990 )Western Society and the Church in the Middle AgesLondon: Penguin


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