47 Generations of Family History
Henry of Winchester
King of England
Duke of Aquitaine
Lord of Ireland
Name: Henry III of England
Birth: 1 October 1207
Place of Birth: Winchester Castle, Hampshire, England
Father: John, King of England
Mother: Isabella, Countess of Angoulême
Spouse: Eleanor of Provence
Children: Edward I, Margaret, Beatrice, Edmund, Katherine
28 October 1216, Gloucester
17 May 1220, Westminster Abbey
Reign: 28 October 1216 – 16 November 1272
King of England
Duke of Aquitaine
Lord of Ireland
Heraldry: Arms of Plantagenet: Gules, three lions passant guardant Or
My Family Connection: 24th great-grandfather
History views the reign of Henry III with mixed feelings. A pious monarch who oversaw a period of prosperity, Henry was a lenient king who sought to appease the English barons and restore peace to the country. But, the unending revolts which marred his reign mean Henry is sometimes viewed as a weak ruler, unable to control his kingdom.
However, Henry’s achievements are notable, and their legacy continues today. The king rebuilt Westminster Abbey, he embedded the Magna Carta into English civilisation and he established the first parliament. Much of the pageantry we see today in British royalty is attributable to Henry and he was very much a pioneer of the concept of a royal family.
Henry as a man and a king
Henry was born in Winchester Castle on 1st October 1207. As a baby, he was looked after by a wet nurse named Ellen and he grew up away from court. Close to his mother, he was staying with her when his father, King John, died in 1216 .
The king was just nine years old when he ascended to the throne. His early years, ruling in minority, were marked by civil war and this is said to have affected Henry deeply.
Henry III believed monarchs must rule with dignity and their position be underpinned by ceremony and religious tradition. Historians suggest that Henry believed his predecessors had allowed the status of the crown to decline and he set about restoring the pomp surrounding the monarchy .
Henry married at the age of 29. He had spent some years browsing the “who’s who” of European nobility searching for a suitable political match. His chosen bride was Eleanor of Provence, and despite there being no record of her birth date, it’s thought she was just 12 years old when she married the King.
The queen is credited as becoming a vociferous political maneuverer in her own right and it is said Henry was devoted to her. This was neatly demonstrated by a lack of evidence that the king ever took a mistress. A true compliment in those times!
The concept of royal family is something of a modern one, today’s version being a construct of Victorian values which has evolved in the century and a half since, but Henry and Eleanor were notable for their medieval variant.
The couple involved their children in their religious and charitable pursuits and Henry is said to have been attached to his offspring .
As with all of the medieval kings, Henry’s reign was notable for the civil unrest at home and for constant tension flaring with the other houses of Europe.
Henry came to the throne as a child in the middle of the First Baron’s War. The rebellion was quashed a year later but by his 18th year, the King had promised to abide by the Great Charter of 1215 (the Magna Carta) which limited the power of the crown and handed rights to England’s barons.
An attempt to reconquer the French lands his father, King John, had lost followed next, but soon ended in disaster, and another attempt in 1242 was equally unsuccessful.
After another uprising in England in 1232, Henry began to take a much greater interest in ruling his country personally and he proved to be a monarch who valued peace and diplomacy despite the efforts of his many enemies to do quite the opposite.
That said, by 1258, Henry’s rule was in crisis with the king increasingly unpopular amidst failed foreign pursuits, defeats in Wales and uprisings in England. Parliament was reformed as a result but trouble brewed again a couple of years later and it fell to Henry’s son Prince Edward to defeat the ambitious Simon de Montfort to end the revolt.
The latter days of Henry’s reign became dogged by addressing the fallout from the rebellion years. Then with peace finally threatening to descend, the King died on 16 November 1272. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, in a shrine befitting a saint – an honour it is said Eleanor hoped would be bestowed on her husband .
It was a fate that was never realised and despite history supposing Henry III was a weak king due to the relentless spate of English uprisings which marred the period, modern-day historians have begun to reappraise the advances he led in politics, architecture, justice and the arts.
 Carpenter 1990, p. 13; McGlynn 2013, p. 189; Ridgeway, Huw W. (2004), “Henry III (1207–1272)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.
 Davis 2013, p. 46; Ridgeway, Huw W. (2004), “Henry III (1207–1272)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, Oxford University Press.
 Jobson, Adrian (2012). The First English Revolution: Simon de Montfort, Henry III and the Barons’ War. London, UK: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-84725-226-5.
 Howell, Margaret (1992). “The children of King Henry III and Eleanor of Provence”. In Coss, Peter R.; Lloyd, Simon D. Thirteenth Century England: Proceedings of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Conference, 1991. 4 Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. pp 57-72. ISBN 0-851 15-325-9.
Stephen Robert Kuta