This module investigates continuity and change in English politics from the late twelfth to the early fourteenth century. In this era, government was royal government: the prime mover in politics was the king. But kings had concerns outside England. Succession could be problematic. There were limitations on royal power. What happened when a king was absent or too young to rule in person? What constrained kings’ freedom of action? What part did queens and subjects play in shaping politics? After an introductory look at broad concepts and expectations of medieval kingship (and queenship), we shall focus on the context and significance of a series of formative events. Ranging from Archbishop Thomas Becket’s murder at Canterbury (1170) at the climax of his quarrel with Henry II, to the young Edward III’s coup at Nottingham (1330) overthrowing the regime of his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, deposers of Edward II, these events offer sharp insights into the extent and limits of royal power. Directly or indirectly, their legacy can often still be traced today. Primary sources include: the extraordinary verse biography of William Marshal (regent of England 1216–19); the graphic account of the death (1265) of Simon de Montfort, ‘the first leader of a political party in English history’; the first detailed account of an English coronation, at which the king swore to ‘enact good laws’ (1189); and the contrasting revision to the coronation oath (1308), requiring the king ‘to maintain and preserve the laws and rightful customs which the community of your realm shall have chosen’.

Term(s) offered: Spring term module; 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Credit: 3.0
General Education: II B 1 or III B 2