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British history

Medieval England

A medieval illustration of Geoffrey of AnjouA medieval illustration of Geoffrey of Anjou During the medieval period, England faced the death and destruction of the Black Death and the Wars of the Roses, but it also saw the birth of parliament and the groundbreaking Magna Carta. The 14 Plantagenet kings (including the later Lancastrian and Yorkist kings) ruled England from 1154 to 1485. They took their family name from the nickname of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and father of the first Plantagenet king, Henry II. Geoffrey used to wear a sprig of flowering broom—Planta genista is its Latin name—as a badge after he scooped up a handful of the yellow flowers while picking up his hat from the ground. 

Henry II with his courtHenry II with his court

The Angevin Empire

The first Plantagenet king, Henry II, ruled England from 1154 to 1189. When he became king, he already owned much of northern and western France and so now ruled an empire that stretched from the border with Scotland in the north to the Pyrenees in southwest France. This empire was known as the Angevin Empire because the French county of Anjou lay at its centre. Henry II and his sons Richard I (ruled 1189–1199) and John (ruled 1199–1216) had to fight to keep this empire from falling into French hands, but almost all of it was eventually lost in 1204.

The tallest British king so far was Edward IV (1442–1483), whose skeleton has been measured at 1.94 m (6 ft 4½ inches). The average height for a man in medieval England was 1.7 m (5 ft 7 inches).

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