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The Plantagenet's - Henry II


The Plantagenet's

Henry II

Henry II was the first Plantagenet king. He restored order, improved military service, the administration of justice through reforms and sent judges to hold courts in the towns. They administered the Common Law, named saw because it was used everywhere. In other parts of Europe there were Civil Law of the Roman Empire, and the Canon Law of the Ch 424f59e urch. The mixture of experience and custom were the basis of law in England. The king wanted to reduce the power of the Church and sent Thomas Becket, his friend, to controlling it. But once made Archbishop of Canterbury, he became an opponent of the king. The conflict lasted for a long time until Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. He became a martyr and a saint.

Magna Charta

When Henry II died, he was succeeded by his elder son, Richard I, called "the Lion-Hearted". His younger son John Lackland acted as King during his brother's absence on the Third Crusade. He was known as Lackland because he lost Normandy and almost all the other English possession in France. The barons forced him to sign a document, known as Magna Charta, in which the king agreed that "no taxes shall be demanded in our realm without the consent of the great council. No free man shall be arrested, lose his property or harmed in any way unless he has been judges by his equals under the law or the land". This document marks the first long step towards the constitutional monarchy of a far later day.

Model Parliament

At John Lackland's death, his son, Henry III was only nine when he became king and England was governed by a group of barons until he grew up. In his reign that Parliament began to create a structure of permanent control over the king's policy. The parliament included barons, knights and two representatives from each town. Edward I continued the experiment after he became king in 1272. The meeting of his Council known as the Model Parliament of 1295 included representatives of the barons, the clergy, two knights from each county and two citizens from each town. The system of the future two Houses of Parliament - the House of Lords and the House of Commons - was all there.

The Black Death

In 1348, during the reign of Edward III England was hit by the bubonic plague known as the 'Black Death' because the body went dark-coloured after death. It spread because in the medieval period living conditions for rich and poor alike were primitive, dirty and unhealthy. The plague killed a third of England's population. The economic and social effects were great. Labour was scarce, so wages rose, prices dropped and the condition of those peasants who survived improved since they were able to demand payment for work done on the lord's land.

John Wycliffe and Lollardy

The last years of Edward III's reign were marked by the rise of a religious movement of reform, called Lollardy, whose leader was John Wycliffe. The movement criticised the corruption in the monastic orders and the policy of the great feudal monasteries which lent money at interest; it insisted on inward religion in opposition to the formalism of the time and anticipated the spirit of the Reformation.

Trade Guilds

During the 14th century the artisans and tradesmen in the town organised themselves in groups called guilds. They were based on the payments of their members, they controlled the quality of goods, they regulated prices and wages, and laid down rules concerning apprenticeship. They held fairs where their members sold their produce.


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