Arthur I of England, second monarch of the House of Dreux, was born in 1261 and died in 1312, reigning from 1305 but ruling in place of his father from a much earlier date due to John I's frequent absences on the Continent and further afield.

As Heir Apparent

The Situation in England

The Dukes of Brittany had been Earls of Richmond, in Northern England, since the Norman Conquest, and because the Kings of England were frequently distracted by troubles in their lands in France and, during the thirteenth century, Navarre, they had become quite powerful in the Border region with Scotland. There had been little warfare between the Kings of the two countries, but endemic raiding and the like occurred between magnates within striking distance, and occasionally a Scottish King, eager for prestige, would lead an expedition which would invariably be put down by a member of the Percy, Neville, or, indeed the House of Dreux. Even an Archbishop of York would do this from time to time. Thus it came to pass that the large landowners of the North became increasingly self-reliant and dismissive of Royal power, and it was said that the King's writ did not run in the Northern March, Wales being utterly peaceful since 1193. 

Another result of the absences of the Kings was that, in the South, large towns and the emerging bourgeoisie became arbiters of policy in reaction to feuding and rapacious aristocrats. Thus, close trading links with other ports on the North Sea emerged, with the wool trade predominating. In 1274, King Henry IV died and Arthur's father, then, to all intents and purposes, missing, became King de jure. His mother, Princess Blanche, became Regent in law but not effectively, and for the next decade it was a case of 'every man for himself'.

Anglo-Scottish War 1283 - 1284

Taking advantage of the situation at length, Alexander III of Scotland sent his son, also named Alexander, to conquer Cumbria and Northumbria in 1283, having a reasonable claim to those lands. Fortunately for England, young Prince Arthur was visiting the Dreux lands around Richmond at the time and assembled a makeshift force to combat this threat. Other local magnates joined his banner and defeated the Scots at North Sunderland and then outside Haggerston, forcing them to retreat within the walls of Berwick. Berwick being on the coast, the siege of that place was derisory and ineffectual, and Prince Arthur's army lifted it. A second Scottish offensive from Coldstream lost momentum after a skirmish near Wooler and Prince Alexander wintered at Norham Castle, besieged ably by Prince Arthur. In early February 1284, Prince Alexander, never particularly healthy, died of malnutrition and his father, suddenly facing the prospect of being succeeded by his infant Norwegian grand-daughter, immediately made peace, surrendering Cumbria and any claim to land South of the Tweed. Prince Arthur had made his name, just as his father returned from his misbegotten Crusade.

Lieutenant of England

John I quickly became bored with the vagaries of over-mighty subjects and administration, and appointed Arthur 'Lieutenant of England'. His first task was to pay off his father's debts (incurred by his Crusades and generosity) and, to raise tax for this purpose, called Parliament for the first time in 15 years. Naturally, many grievances were aired and Arthur became exasperated over the course of the first year. He gained a reputation for short-temperedness and even cruelty, inspiring his nickname "Arthur the Severe". A major issue in this period was that London, the major economic powerhouse of the Kingdom, was demanding ever more autonomy, citing the examples of the numerous city-states on the Italian Peninsula. Arthur became rather pro-noble over the next twenty years due to this constant irritance, and his rule is regarded as the high point of Late Feudalism in England. 


As soon as he was crowned, Arthur I was prevailed upon by Scottish magnates to adjudicate their succession dispute, Alexander III's granddaughter having died on the way to Holyrood and the Scottish Civil War having broken out between John Balliol, supported by the famous William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce. Other potential heirs had made power grabs in the early years but by 1306 everyone was thoroughly tired of war and only William III of Holland complicated the decision by claiming to have a waiver signed by the ancestor of both claimants in which he renounced his rights to the throne, making him the rightful heir. This document was not produced and widely ridiculed. Despite the prospect of a united and rejuvenated Scotland, Arthur accepted the task of choosing a King on condition that the prospective monarchs swear fealty to him, and their descendants in perpetuity, effectively making Scotland an English vassal. All three did so in various states of reluctance. Arthur found that Balliol, albeit an English Lord, had been influenced by Wallace to become a rabid advocate of Scottish independence, so he decided to appoint Bruce. However, on the day of judgment, the document whose existence had been presumed to be a fever dream of William III of Holland, was found in a draghty attic in Stirling Castle and was immediately rushed to Ednburgh, where Arthur I proclaimed the Count of Holland as King William II of Scotland.

In his will, John I had commanded his sons to lead another Crusade, and Arthur procrastinated for seven years, citing ill health. Finally, the Pope became exasperated and excommunicated the King. With a due sense of dread, Arthur I nominated his son, Prince John as Regent of England in his absence, and made his brother, another John, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in an attempt to finally organise the conquest of that country and neuter baronial power on the periphery of his realm. In 1312 he set out for the Holy Land, eschewing the outflanking maneuvers popular in previous generations. Unfortunately, he died soon after getting to France with the few volunteers he had managed to persuade to join him. All 35 of them brought his body back to London, where it was put on display for several months. A placard by the corpse read: "I told you I was ill" ("Quia male locutus sum vobis")

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