The Angevin Empire

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The Angevin Empire was the land ruled over by England's King Henry II and passed on to his sons. The land stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees.

Henry was the son of the Empress Matilda–who would soon be engaged in a very uncivil war for succession to the throne, a period known as The Anarchy– and Count Geoffrey Plantagenet of Anjou, in France. Geoffrey had named Henry Duke of Normandy in 1150, essentially uniting Anjou and Normandy; Geoffrey was also head of the County of Maine, and this title passed to Henry when his father died. Two years later, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine. She had ruling rights over not only Aquitaine but also Poitou, the result of an agreement that she had made with her first husband, King Louis VII of France, as terms of the annulment of their marriage.

Angevin Empire

So when Henry II was crowned King of England in 1154, he ruled over England, Normandy, Anjou, Aquitaine, Maine, and Poitou. He didn't stop there.

Henry had an insatiable need to rule and a tireless drive to succeed. He was also a brilliant tactician at the head of a strong army. He soon was asserting ownership of two other parts of what is now France, Brittany and Toulouse. He eventually invaded Ireland and Wales, asserting claims to parts of both. By the 1170s, Henry was lord and master of a large amount of land. His decision to divide the lands among his sons led to strife, sometimes violent. Two of Henry's sons, Geoffrey and Richard, took up arms against their father, whose favorite was John. Eleanor, whom Henry eventually imprisoned, sided with the rebellious sons. Henry defeated his sons time and again, until, gravely ill, he surrendered, in 1189. He died a short time later.

At Henry's death, his sons decided that Richard, as the oldest surviving son, would inherit the entire Angevin Empire. (Geoffrey had died, leaving Richard and John.) Richard was king for a decade; and when John became king in 1200, he, too, ruled the Angevin Empire.

John proved none too able a ruler, and his son, Henry III, was unable to prevent a French reclamation. In 1259, Henry agreed to renounce further claims to French land.

The Angevin Empire was not an authoritarian regime in the mold of Ancient Rome; rather, it was a collection of autonomous regions ruled by the friends and (sometimes extended) family members of a powerful king, himself the ruler of the largest region. Each region effectively carried on its own customs, laws, and trade.

The word Angevin was derived from the progenitor of the Plantagenet kings, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.

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