Henry III promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1225, a later version of the 1215 Magna Carta, which limited royal power and protected the rights of the major barons. His early rule was dominated first by Hubert de Burgh and then Peter des Roches, who re-established royal authority after the war. In 1230, the King attempted to reconquer the provinces of France that had once belonged to his father, but the invasion was a debacle. A revolt led by William Marshal’s son, Richard Marshal, broke out in 1232, ending in a peace settlement negotiated by the Church.
Following the revolt, Henry ruled England personally, rather than governing through senior ministers. He travelled less than previous monarchs, investing heavily in a handful of his favourite palaces and castles.
Henry also negotiated the marriage of her sister Isabella. In November, 1234 the twice-widowed Friedrich II, Holy Roman Emperor at a friendly meeting at Rieti, received the advice of Pope Gregory IX to ask Isabella’s hand, and in February 1235 he sent an embassy to King Henry III headed by his chancellor Pietro della Vigna.
The marriage of Isabella and Emperor Friedrich II was designed to strengthen the political alliance of England and the Holy Roman Empire against France. After three days of discussion, King Henry III agreed to the marriage; Isabella was brought from her quarters in the Tower of London to the Palace of Westminster, where she met with the ambassadors, who “declared her the most worthy of the imperial brides”, put a wedding ring on her finger and greeted her as their Empress.
On February 22, 1235, an agreement was signed, according to which King Henry III provided his sister with a dowry of 30,000 marks (an amount sought by the Emperor in order to fund his wars in northern Italy), which was to be paid within two years, and as a wedding gift he gave her all the necessary utensils, jewelry, horses and rich clothes, all made according to the latest German fashion; also, the princess received patent letters from the Emperor, giving Isabella, as Queen of Sicily and Holy Roman Empress the possession of the lands due to her.
King Henry III married Eleanor of Provence, the second daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence (1198–1245) and Beatrice of Savoy (1198–1267), the daughter of Thomas I of Savoy and his wife Margaret of Geneva.
Eleanor was well educated as a child, and developed a strong love of reading. Her three sisters also married kings. After her elder sister Margaret married Louis IX of France, their uncle William corresponded with Henry III of England to persuade him to marry Eleanor.
Henry sought a dowry of up to twenty thousand silver marks to help offset the dowry he had just paid for his sister Isabella, but Eleanor’s father was able to negotiate this down to no dowry, just a promise to leave her ten thousand marks when he died.
Like her mother, grandmother, and sisters, Eleanor was renowned for her beauty. She was a dark-haired brunette with fine eyes. Piers Langtoft speaks of her as “The erle’s daughter, the fairest may of life”. On June 22, 1235, Eleanor was betrothed to King Henry III (1207–1272). Eleanor was probably born latest in 1223; Matthew Paris describes her as being “jamque duodennem” (already twelve) when she arrived in the Kingdom of England for her marriage.
Eleanor was married to King Henry III of England on January 14, 1236. At the time of her marriage Eleanor was 12/13 years of age and the King was 29. She had never seen him prior to the wedding at Canterbury Cathedral and had never set foot in his kingdom. Edmund Rich, Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated. She was dressed in a shimmering golden dress that fitted tightly at the waist and flared out to wide pleats at her feet.
The sleeves were long and lined with ermine. After riding to London the same day where a procession of citizens greeted the bridal pair, Eleanor was crowned queen consort of England in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey which was followed by a magnificent banquet with the entire nobility in full attendance. Her love for her husband grew significantly from 1236 onward. Henry and Eleanor had five children. Thier eldest child, the future King Edward I was born in 1239 when Eleanor was 15/16 years old.
Eleanor was a loyal and faithful consort to Henry, but she brought in her retinue a large number of uncles and cousins, “the Savoyards”, and her influence with the King and her unpopularity with the English barons created friction during Henry’s reign. Her uncle William of Savoy became a close advisor of her husband, displacing and displeasing English barons
Henry III was known for his piety, holding lavish religious ceremonies and giving generously to charities; the King was particularly devoted to the figure of Edward the Confessor, whom he adopted as his patron saint. He extracted huge sums of money from the Jews in England, ultimately crippling their ability to do business, and as attitudes towards the Jews hardened, he introduced the Statute of Jewry, attempting to segregate the community.
In a fresh attempt to reclaim his family’s lands in France, he invaded Poitou in 1242, leading to the disastrous Battle of Taillebourg. After this, Henry relied on diplomacy, cultivating an alliance with Friedrich II, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry supported his brother Richard of Cornwall in his bid to become King of the Romans in 1256, but was unable to place his own son Edmund Crouchback on the throne of Sicily, despite investing large amounts of money. He planned to go on crusade to the Levant, but was prevented from doing so by rebellions in Gascony.
By 1258, Henry’s rule was increasingly unpopular, the result of the failure of his expensive foreign policies and the notoriety of his Poitevin half-brothers, the Lusignans, as well as the role of his local officials in collecting taxes and debts. A coalition of his barons, initially probably backed by Eleanor, seized power in a coup d’état and expelled the Poitevins from England, reforming the royal government through a process called the Provisions of Oxford.
Henry and the baronial government enacted a peace with France in 1259, under which Henry gave up his rights to his other lands in France in return for King Louis IX recognising him as the rightful ruler of Gascony. The baronial regime collapsed but Henry was unable to reform a stable government and instability across England continued.
In 1263, one of the more radical barons, Simon de Montfort, seized power, resulting in the Second Barons’ War. Henry persuaded Louis to support his cause and mobilised an army. The Battle of Lewes occurred in 1264, where Henry was defeated and taken prisoner. Henry’s eldest son, Edward, escaped from captivity to defeat de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham the following year and freed his father.
Henry initially enacted a harsh revenge on the remaining rebels, but was persuaded by the Church to mollify his policies through the Dictum of Kenilworth. Reconstruction was slow and Henry had to acquiesce to various measures, including further suppression of the Jews, to maintain baronial and popular support. Henry died in 1272, leaving Edward as his successor.
Edward Longshanks, as he was known, was travelling during the Ninth Crusade, when he became King of England upon Henry III’s death, but he will not return to England for nearly two years to assume the throne.
Henry III was buried in Westminster Abbey, which he had rebuilt in the second half of his reign, and was moved to his current tomb in 1290. Some miracles were declared after his death; however, he was not canonised.