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Henry II of Anglia (The Kalmar Union)

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Henry II
Henry II Anglia (The Kalmar Union).png
Henry II
King of Anglia
Reign 3rd March, 1347 - 26th May, 1390
Predecessor Henry I
Successor Charles IV
Spouse Jeanne of France
Issue Christopher of Ghent

Richeza of Mons
Isabella of Lincoln
Charles IV
Joanna of Durham
Henry of Lincoln

Full name
Henry Henrysson
House Estridsson
Father Henry I
Mother Joanna of Brabant
Born 13th June, 1322
Ipswich, Anglia
Died 26th May, 1390
Bishopswearmouth, Anglia

Henry II ruled over Anglia through much of the latter 14th century. He was the youngest son of Henry I and Joanna of Brabant but would be the only one to outlive his father.

Henry's reign began in high spirits. Louis XI of France had been captured the year before and France was being sued for a massive ransom. Though Henry continued the war with Luxembourg it soon petered out due to a loss of momentum. Peace was sought with Charles I of Luxembourg and another large ransom for his brother Wenceslaus added to the Anglian coffers. Then toward the end of the year his maternal grandfather, John II of Brabant died. As the only direct male heir Henry was now Count of Brabant-Limburg as well. This all combined to restore some balance to the Anglian treasury which had been severely run-down by Henry I's profligacy.

When Louis IX's ransom was finally settled it served to make Henry II on paper one of the greatest monarchs in Europe; 2 million crowns, recognition as sovereign in all of the Anglia's nominally French territories and finally the hand Louis's widowed daughter Jeanne in marriage. As Louis had no male heir, and as Jeanne was his oldest daughter, it even, for a short period, looked as though Henry might have added France to his realms as well. Louis would finally get the heir he wanted in 1356 however.

Though rich, Anglia would soon be visited by the Black Death, ravaging its lands and killing without any respect to wealth, status, age or piety. Anglia's population is thought to have plunged by a third, in Flanders-Brabant it was more like a half. Those that had money piled it into a new wave of church building with private chapels ready to pray for the relatives of the rich. The massive death-rate had knock-on effects on the enserfed peasantry too. With harvests still to bring in and the minutiae of medieval life still to function smoothly the survivors found their labour worth much more. Henry was quick to shore up the laws protecting lords against the potential wage increases. Caps were written into law expressly spelling out what labourers in every conceivable trade could expect, with increased punishments for dissenters. Whatever the real success of these laws were, and many proved unenforceable, the plague had effectively eroded feudalism's base.

In 1352 Henry arranged an alliance with Olaf III of Viken, a new challenger to the Imperial throne. By threatening Charles I of Luxembourg's holdings in the Low Countries while Austria and Bavaria held southern Germany and Olaf's own army the north, Charles's options slowly shrank until he capitulated. Olaf would be elected Emperor and made sure to reward his allies. In this respect Henry was rewarded with recognition of Anglia's rule over the whole of Zeeland, not just the southern section which they had ruled for some time. This gave Anglia a controlling influence over the mouths of the Scheldt, Maas and Rhine rivers further entrenching their economic grip over the area.

In 1363 a further gift was made: the County of Flanders was raised to a Duchy and more importantly made an electorate. From henceforth Flanders would have a vote in the Imperial College, a considerable title and source of immense pride. Olaf's gifts were not without strings however, Henry was expected to support, fight and occasionally fund Olaf's wars, especially against France which he wanted to bring 'back in' to the Imperial fold. In part this was taking advantage of Hugh II, and John II's minorities but Henry used the opportunity to further his own ambitions over France, perhaps wanting to reduce it to vassal, a very lucrative vassal.

Casting aspersions on Hugh II's early death in 1364, Henry (or at least his propagandists) spread rumours about John's legitimacy, re-raising the prospect that Jeanne or one of their own children should be the rightful ruler of France. This would backfire however; Henry had an elder brother, Karl, who had been effectively disowned by Henry I when he married Joanna of Brabant. France, Wessex and the Papacy (Anglia supported Olaf's Pisan Pope John XXIII rather than the Touraine pope Innocent VI or the anti-pope Anastasius V in Rome) conspired to promote Karl (or Charles the Pretender) as the rightful King of Anglia. When Karl crossed the Trent from Wessex into Anglia in April 1365 he was proclaimed by a worryingly large crowd in Leicester.

Assassinat louis orleans

The killing of Karl 'the Pretender', Leicester, September 1365

Three large taxations to pay for European projects had pressed the peasantry and lords alike, especially considering the straightened times following the Black Death and, as these funds were frittered away on bribes or German armies which did little to advance Anglia's own interests, resentment slowly built. It appeared that Henry took this threat to his rule extremely seriously, instantly shelving his continental plans, even if Karl's own forces had yet to capture a major fortress. In July 1365 he transported a Flemish army over to Anglia at immense personal cost. Karl would not be a pushover however, especially as several northern Anglian lords had pledged their allegiances to him. Battle was joined at Nottingham in early September and Henry's more battle hardened forces were victorious. Karl fled the scene, only to be captured and killed by a mob in Leicester. Several of the treasonous Anglian lords were captured, but in stark contrast to his father's behaviour Henry pardoned them, though kept them close to his court. His problems were not over however.

He next turned to Wessex and seeing as it had supported Karl in the first place seemed a fair target for Henry's ire. William I protested his innocence however saying he had only given Karl men to assist the suppression of a Welsh rebellion. If anything Wessex had been laid lower by the Black Death than Anglia and had no intention of falling into a direct war, especially when its interests lay more with Wales and Ireland and a large army lay on its doorstep. Eventually the story was believed and William's daughter Princess Philippa was betrothed to Prince Charles and a renewal of the peace formalised.

It was somehow typical that the Flemish army, now it had secured Henry's rule, did more to undermine it than provide stability and its slow passage back to the coastal ports was marred by violence against the Anglian peasantry. Providing Winter lodgings for it was another bone of contention and as soon as it was safely transported back to the continent in the spring the peasantry rose in revolt protesting their poor treatment, the replacement of popular mayors with crown appointments, onerous taxes and the passage of the Flemish. At least this united the lords and Witenage. Having just moved his army out of Anglia Henry was first pushed into a position of reconciliation, meeting with the huge peasant force drawn from East Anglia and Lincolnshire as it camped outside Lincoln on West Common. The lords hoped the 'army' could be dispersed before another large contingent arrived from Jorvikshire.

Henry and two of his trusted knights entered the peasant leaders' tent unarmed on 3rd May 1366 against his lords' advice and negotiated directly with the rebellion's leader Eric Holland, a Norfolk lay preacher. While Henry could be intimidating in person Holland showed 'no signs of frightening' indeed repeatedly voiced his allegiance to the king and wish to save him from the ill-advice of his counsellors, and the party discussed matters for several hours. Henry agreed that certain crown-appointed mayors should be recalled, that the laws of Conrad should be restated and serfdom should be abolished for all. He however refused to hand over certain officials to the mob. Their demands partially met the army spent two days arguing its terms while royal messengers proliferated the agreement to the regions. Meanwhile the armed forces of Anglia were gathering.

Jacquerie meaux

The routing of the Peasant army, Lincoln, May 1366

The peasant army continued to refuse to disperse until the list of officials had been handed over and on 15th May stormed the city, looting it thoroughly, capturing several nobles and summarily executing any Flemish or Dutch person they could lay their hands on. Henry and his family had fled meanwhile to Burton to await Durham's army. Now happy with their achievements the peasant army began to disperse leaving them fatally weakened as the forces of the shires began to converge. Now at the head of an army Henry once again entered into talks with Holland reiterating his desire for peace. Nerves got the better of his forces however and the meeting soon turned to violence. Holland was run through several of his deputies captured and the peasant army defeated. Over the next few years, despite the Witenage's calls for clemency, the lords carried out reprisals. Eventually in 1370 Henry managed to enforce a peace on his nobles. Refusing to reinstall serfdom he enforced an amnesty on the entire peasantry for their actions during the revolt, meting out minor punishments to the over-zealous lords. While his reign stabilised his ability to raise money for foreign ventures effectively collapsed.

Henry would reign for another twenty years, however his ability to make war on France as urged by Olaf would be severely constrained. The Witenage would permit no further general tax on the peasants, just in case of further unrest, and his lords increasingly urged him to make a 'long' peace with France so that they could concentrate on tending to their estates again. Olaf died in 1383 anyway leaving the Empire in civil war between Wenceslaus of Luxembourg and Rupert of Wittelsbach and relieving the pressure on Henry. Henry naturally supported Rupert but his reduced expenditure could not alter Wenceslaus' dominance on the battlefield and would eventually switch his electoral vote to the Luxembourger, if only to guarantee his continental lands.

By the late 1380s Henry was infirm and rarely left his Suffolk estate at Bury St Edmunds. Government had largely been run by the Witenage now slowly becoming a institution for the wealthy merchant classes rather than the nobility (much to their general annoyance). He would die in 1390 and was succeeded by his second son Charles whose reign would be much more peaceful than his father's.

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