The Official History Website of International Bestselling Author John Paul Davis

Henry III

Early Years of Majority


The first action of the king in majority was to threaten to quash the charters of his minority, taking his lead from the outcome of a council in 1218 which had declared that all charters made during his minority were subject to confirmation when the king became of age. The Magna Carta and Forest Charter were confirmed, though at a price, and the 1/15th awarded in 1225 was finally paid over. At around this time Henry also entered into several marriage negotiations, though none were followed up. News reached Henry that any good relations with the lords in France had deteriorated after the lords had made peace with Louis, leading to further peace between England and France. A quarrel between Henry and his brother fuelled the threat of rebellion, but this was resolved when the two came to terms. In 1228 Henry marched on Wales to subdue Llewellyn’s siege of Montgomery, leading to conflict with the Welsh and the capture of Henry’s lord, William de Braose.

Henry’s secret negotiations with Honorius saw the election of Richard Grant as new archbishop of Canterbury, following which a papal envoy, Stephen, came to England to collect 1/10th of property as promised by the king. Later that year, news reached Henry from Poitou of the need for an invasion. Lack of planning by the justiciar, however, led to it being delayed for a year. Henry embarked from Portsmouth in April 1230 and reached Poitou in early May. Though the majority of the lords showed him homage, strained relations with his stepfather, Hugh de Lusignan, the count of la Marche, and the viscount of Thouars, saw him isolated. Henry left France after little progress in October 1230, leaving a small force.

Henry’s financial difficulties were for now overcome after he obtained aid from the clergy in response to his agreement to confirm the liberties granted to them by the charter. In April 1231 Henry and Grant quarrelled over the behaviour of the justiciar, following which Grant took his case to Rome but died while still abroad. The death of the eldest son of William Marshal, also named William, led to further trouble with Llewellyn. Progress of the English force was hindered by a lack of resources and poor planning, eventually leading to a retreat. At the same time, however, Henry received news that peace with France had been confirmed, largely thanks to the returned bishop of Winchester, des Roches.

Problems with Wales escalated in 1232 after the magnates refused to grant Henry an aid for war. In July he sacked Hubert and empowered des Roches and three other Poitevins. In September he obtained a grant of 1/40th all moveables, except spiritualities, in order to control debts that he had incurred to the Duke of Brittany during the previous two years. His promotion of the Poitevins to influential appointments in England led to strained relations at home, and with the Vatican. Also that year, the death of Henry’s long time ally the Earl of Chester saw the eldest surviving son of William Marshal, Richard, ascend to the head of the baronage. Civil war followed. In June Henry ordered a council, which none of the barons attended. A second saw the same result. At the third, Richard Marshal fled after receiving warning of des Roches’s intention to kidnap him. In response, Henry gathered his forces at Gloucester, joined by Poitevin mercenaries at Hereford, following which they took Marshal’s castle at Usk. After signs of progress with Marshal, Richard fled. Des Roches further infuriated the magnates at Westminster in October, leading to calls for the king’s ‘evil counsellors’ to be excommunicated by name. In November Henry continued to Gloucester and proceeded to invade Richard’s lands. Richard, meanwhile, retook Usk and regained the initiative, supported by Llewellyn and other rebel lords. As Richard continued to strengthen, Henry entered a truce with Richard in February, and agreed to the dismissal of his foreign counsellors. Unknown to the king, Richard had been killed in Ireland, the result of a deceitful plot. Henry reconciled with the lords, including Hubert. For Henry, 1234 marked a turning point. For the next 24 years year, he ruled as his own governor.