By Ian Stone
King Henry III was king of England from 1216 to 1272. He came to throne as a nine-year-old boy in the midst of a civil war with half the country occupied by an army led by a French prince. His father, King John, had rejected Magna Carta. Henry and his allies embraced it, helping them to victory in the civil war. But Henry, who was kind and pious, but also naïve and imprudent, struggled to govern the country according to the terms of the Charter. In the end, in 1258, he was forced to accept a revolutionary programme of reform that went far beyond anything seen in Magna Carta.
Henry’s greatest legacy to London is Westminster Abbey, a beautiful building which Henry dedicated to Edward the Confessor, his patron saint, and presented as a gift to the political nation of England. Henry also clashed bitterly and repeatedly with many of London’s leading citizens, at a time when the Londoners were growing increasingly rich and self-confident.
Professor David Carpenter is a professor of medieval history at King’s College London. The first volume of his brilliant new biography of Henry has just been published in the Yale English Monarchs series. He joined me to discuss his book, Henry’s action-packed rule, his magnificent abbey and his relations with the citizens of London.
Top Image: Henry III depicted in British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A. XIII