The House of Plantagenet[nb 1] (/plænˈtædʒənɪt/) was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The name Plantagenet (see more below) is used by modern historians to identify four distinct royal houses: the Angevins, who were also Counts of Anjou; the main body of the Plantagenets following the loss of Anjou; and the Plantagenets’ two cadet branches, the Houses of Lancaster and York. The family held the English throne from 1154, with the accession of Henry II, until 1485, when Richard III died in battle.
Their name came from planta genista, the Latin for yellow broom flower, which the Counts of Anjou wore as an emblem on their helmets.
Under the Plantagenets, England was transformed – although this was only partly intentional. The Plantagenet kings were often forced to negotiate compromises such as Magna Carta. These constrained royal power in return for financial and military support. The king was no longer just the most powerful man in the nation, holding the prerogative of judgement, feudal tribute and warfare. He now had defined duties to the realm, underpinned by a sophisticated justice system. A distinct national identity was shaped by conflict with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish, and the establishment of English as the primary language.
In the 15th century, the Plantagenets were defeated in the Hundred Years’ War and beset with social, political and economic problems. Popular revolts were commonplace, triggered by the denial of numerous freedoms. English nobles raised private armies, engaged in private feuds and openly defied Henry VI.
The rivalry between the House of Plantagenet’s two cadet branches of York and Lancaster brought about the Wars of the Roses, a decades-long fight for the English succession, culminating in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, when the reign of the Plantagenets and the English Middle Ages both met their end with the death of King Richard III. Henry VII, of Lancastrian descent, became king of England; five months later, he married Elizabeth of York, thus ending the Wars of the Roses, and giving rise to the Tudor dynasty. The Tudors worked to centralise English royal power, which allowed them to avoid some of the problems that had plagued the last Plantagenet rulers. The resulting stability allowed for the English Renaissance, and the advent of early modern Britain.
Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, adopted Plantagenet as his family name in the 15th century. “Plantegenest” (or “Plante Genest”) had been a 12th-century nickname for his ancestor Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy. One of many popular theories suggests the common broom, planta genista in medieval Latin, as the source of the nickname. It is uncertain why Richard chose this specific name, although during the Wars of the Roses it emphasised Richard’s status as Geoffrey’s patrilineal descendant. The retrospective usage of the name for all of Geoffrey’s male descendants was popular during the subsequent Tudor dynasty, perhaps encouraged by the further legitimacy it gave to Richard’s great-grandson, Henry VIII. It was only in the late 17th century that it passed into common usage among historians.
Edmund was the great grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III.
Edward III to Richard III
Edward III of England, b. 25/01/1327, d. 21/06/1377
Edmund, 1st Duke of York, b. 05/06/1341 (Kings Langley), d. 01/08/1402
Richard, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, b. c20/07/1375, d. 08/08/1415
Richard, 3rd Duke of York, b. 21/09/1411 (Kings Langley), d. 30/12/1460
Richard III, of England, b 02/10/1452, d. 22/08/1485
Edmund de Langley, 1st Duke of York was born on 5 June 1341 in Kings Langley, and died there on 1 August 1402, aged 61. He is buried in All Saints church. Edmund was the son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, the fourth of the five sons who lived to adulthood, of this Royal couple. Like so many medieval princes, Edmund gained his identifying nickname from his birthplace of Langley, now Kings Langley in Hertfordshire. He was the founder of the House of York, but it was through the marriage of his younger son, Richard, that the Yorkist faction in the Wars of the Roses made its claim on the throne (the other party in the Wars of the Roses, the Lancasters, being the male descendants of his elder brother, John of Gaunt).
Edmund was married to Infanta Isabella of Castile and Joan Holland, and had the following children with Isabella:
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Constance of York, Countess of Gloucester
Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge.
In spring 1372, Isabella married Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, As a result of her marriage, she became the first of a total of eleven women who became (as a courtesy by marriage to their husbands) Duchess of York.
She was named a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter in 1378. Isabella died 23 December 1392 and on 14 January 1393 was buried in Kings Langley Manor House in Hertfordshire, England, but is now buried in the tomb of Edmund, in All Saints church.