Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Favorite Kings of England

(note that this includes only my favorites since the conquest and before England and Scotland shared a king)

I - King Henry II, the first to be titled “King of England” rather than “…of the English” and the founder of the so-called Angevin Empire. It was under his rule that England became the dominant power in Western Europe. Henry II ruled England, most of western France, Ireland and was overlord of Scotland. He was well acquainted with the law, studious in his duties and he made the legal system more efficient. His efforts to subdue the Church has left him with a rather bad reputation but, it must be remembered, this was far from unusual, he did not intend to have his friend Thomas Becket killed and he did do penance for it -something our supposedly humble political leaders of today would never dream of. His relationship with his family is probably what I consider the worst aspect of him but, taken altogether, I cannot but view him as a very great English monarch.

II - King Richard I, the ‘Lionhearted’, yes, I will admit, much of his fame is due to some past romanticism but I cannot resist it. Modern critics have harped on him not spending much time in England and speaking French and other such silly little details. The legendary image of him did not spring up for no reason. He was, in his own time, noted for his chivalry, his courage, military talent and abilities as a political leader as well. When setting off for the Third Crusade he vowed to reform his life to better reflect a true Christian warrior. He conquered Cyprus (which remained in Christian hands until the time of Lepanto) and even while quite sick he helped re-take Acre. He won the battle of Arsuf even after being abandoned by his allies and fought the formidable Saladin to a stalemate before returning home. Forgiving his disloyal brother John and naming him heir might not have been the best but it was prudent and he still did quite well in his war in France, showing his skill as a soldier and diplomat as well as displaying his famous chivalry. His death by a mortal wound in battle was a good enough end for such a warrior-king. He also adopted the motto still used by the Royal Family today.

III - King Edward I, another monarch who has suffered a great deal of criticism in recent years, is probably most thought of today as a villain. I, however, take the older point of view and consider him one of the greatest of English kings. True, he was no softy but he was a great statesman and another heroic warrior king. He too was a crusader but hurried home when his turn came to be King of England. He showed himself to be such an astute statesman he was known as the “English Justinian”. He conquered Wales and made his son Prince of Wales and though his war with France came to nothing it was the fault of his allies rather than Edward. His victories in Scotland won him fame in the past, not so today, but it must be remembered that his involvement in Scotland was by invitation. He was rather bad-tempered and intimidating but, in that day and age, a king often had to be.

IV - King Edward III, an awesome monarch if ever there was one. Under Edward III the Kingdom of England became the Prussia of its day, famous across Christendom for the quality and efficiency of its military. He could be harsh but also merciful. After giving the Scots a drubbing he mostly left them alone and concentrated on becoming King of France. He captured Caen, won the battle of Crécy and after a long siege captured the city of Calais as his crowning achievement. Were it not for the Black Death he might have accomplished much more and in any event his son won the great battle of Poitiers. His later years were less successful but those before more than compensate for that. If he had done absolutely nothing else Crécy and Calais would be sufficient to rank him among the greatest of English kings. He also created the Order of the Garter, one of the most prestigious orders of chivalry in the world even today. His own people revered him so much he was compared to King Arthur.

V - King Henry V, one of my absolute favorites. For myself, kings do not come much better than Henry V. He was zealous in every effort he undertook, as energetic at administration and religion as he was at war. No detail escaped his notice and on the battlefield he was as audacious as they come -and if there is one quality I admire in any leader it is audacity. He was just in upholding the law, firm in protecting the Church and astute in bringing about national unity. He is most famous, of course, for his brilliant military campaign in France where he captured Harfleur and won a stunning victory at the battle of Agincourt despite being grossly outnumbered. He showed himself a skilled diplomat, conquered Lower Normandy and captured Rouen. He died while still fighting in France after winning a number of other victories. In short, he excelled at every aspect of leadership that he set his mind to.

Honorable Mentions: King Richard II for suppressing the Peasants Revolt


  1. Very interesting post and blog. Congratulations!

    Greetings from Spain.

  2. Good choices. I agree with you on every one of them. Its distressing how many of them, have had their reputaation attacked in modern times, but sadly what monarch hasn't been.

  3. Hear! Hear! Applauds for this post, particularly since Henry V is a favourite in our household.
    I would like to believe St Crispin's speech (given by Kenneth Branagh) was much like the kind of spoken by the King himself!
    Agincourt will never be forgotten!

  4. The good King Richard was one of two Christian Monarchs (the other one of course was Vlad III the impaler) who have left a permanent mark in the heart and soul of the “pu***” lovers.
    Richard really scared the bejesus of them; hitherto mothers still warn their naughty children that if they don't behave then King Richard will get them.

  5. I am partial to the St Crispin's speech myself, though the one, before Harfleur I think, probably stirs my blood the most. "Once more, unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead..."

  6. I also like some of the good old Saxon kings like Edward the Confessor and Æthelstan. Alfred the Great was also a great English king, even though he technically was not a King of England. Melvyn Bragg is particularly fond of Alfred the Great, whom he says saved England and the English language. Apparently, according to Bragg, if it weren't for Alfred, we'd all be speaking Danish at the moment, and may be talking about our favourite Danish kings.

    Hmm, personally I would not celebrate Richard II for suppressing the Peasant Revolt. It was good that the revolt didn't succeed, and Richard acted astutely to prevent its success, but the revolt itself represented the genuine plight and desperate misery of the peasants and serfs and lower classes. These weren't political radicals who wanted to establish a socialist revolutionary republic, but a famished congregation of farmers and labourers pleaing for the king's sympathy. Their resentment was against an overindulgent and callous feudal aristocracy rather than the monarchy. The leaders of the revolt wanted to "save" the king from the poisonous influence of certain aristocrats, but they had no real qualms with the king himself, just the institution of serfdom and the feudal order that inflicted it upon them.

  7. I like William I the Conqueror -his wife was a Belgian ;-)

  8. Another thing about Henry V was that he did seem to repent on how his father seized the throne and upon his accession gave Richard II a new state funeral and a fitting royal tomb, had memorial masses said in his honor, and had new monasteries built as a form of penance - something his father, Henry IV, never dared/thought to do.

  9. Like the Crusades, the whoel middle ages are villanised. I mean come on, CHristian Warrior, who fought int he Crusades?

    This mean smurderous Christain tryign to kill mor epeaceful and gentle Muslism in their own Land. At leats in Modern Mythology.

    But for that reaosn I will salute them all!

  10. You know I am a big fan of the Middle Ages and I take a rather different view of the Crusades. You know I am also a big fan of the Roman Empire and the Holy Land and Egypt were originally part of the (Eastern) Roman Empire so I view the Crusades as a defensive war to take back what had first been taken away. It didn't ultimately work out, the Muslims won, that's war. The Christians were simply too divided to hold the area. I find it rather interesting that the Muslims (temporarily at least) lost the Middle East during World War I also for being too divided.

  11. As Aesops Fable taught us, United we stand, Divided we fall.

    That said, I am a Big fan of the Middle Ages too, I was commenting on why these Kings would be seen as they are today, not offering my own opinion, naturally. If I had been why salute them at the end? After all, I am a Neo-Feudalist.

    My only point is one I make too often that people are Historically illiterate and the outline of History they know is deeply flawed.

    Heck, thanks to Glenn Beck and his promotion of Skousens “5000 Year Leap” I tell people I am a Monarchist and they call e a left Wing radical, for that book defines the Left and Right Spectrum to the opposite of History. To the Far Right is Anarchy, and to the Far Left is Totalitarian Oppression imposed by a Monarchy. Given that the terms actually described the positions in the French Revolution and the Right supported the Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Church and the Left was for abolition of these things, Skousen is simply Dishonest. But he wrote a book so it must be True. Just like Hislop told the Truth!

    The History Skousen presents is that after the American and French Revolution, Monarchy began to die, so those who believed in Totalitarianism and Statism created the new Ideology of Communism. To them, Socialism and Communism developed in an attempt to adapt Monarchy to new trends, and grew out of Monarchy.

    This is basically the Narrative of many Americans. Granted Liberals don’t buy it, but hat why America is divided. They see the Right Wing as basically founded to crate Fascism, and how it lead to Hitler. You did a post on why Hitler was not Right Wing I recall, but its still the myth.

    This is no different from modern Westerners, such as Protestants who hate Catholics, Self Loathing Catholics who feel they must show how advanced and evolved they are by admitting past sins, Atheist and ardent Secularists, and Neo-Pagans have sided with Muslims to generate the Mythic Crusades which see Muslims in their own Lands harming no one till evil Christian Warriors came along and conquered by Force the Holy Land because they were Intolerant, and wanted power and treasure.

    It’s a modern and inaccurate retelling of History initially created to support a cause and now accepted as proven fact, and hat guides the perception of far too many.

    That’s why many still think that in the Middle Ages people thought the world was Flat, or that they never bathed.

    But, that too will change. Our interpretation of History always does. Just 100 Years ago it was the great man Theory, and people proudly declaring a Legacy from Anglo-Saxon culture. Today its all about peoples struggle for Equality and Liberty and the Common man. 100 years form now, who knows? The only thing I do know is, it won’t be the same as how its interpreted now.

    But the Legacy of these Great Kings won’t be erased no matter how they are remembered by the Public at Large.

    I also agree with Pink Panther, Edward the Confessor was always a Favourite of mine. So was Alfred.

    I also love the History of Richard the Lionheart.

    But then, I read real History, not Propaganda.

  12. I would agree with all of these except Edward I. But then, I am biased towards Scotland, as my ancestors came from there. I am a Missourian, though.

  13. Well, obviously, if you're Scottish you shouldn't like Edward I, in the same way that if you're French you shouldn't like -well, any of them I suppose. However, Edward I was a very successful monarch and very good for England. Not so much for Scotland of course but then, that's the job of the Scots' King, not the English one. And, as I said, it should be kept in mind that Edward's involvement in Scotland originally came at the invitation of the Scots -not a smart move. It is best to never get into the situation where one must even consider bringing in "help" from the outside.


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