In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Angevin Dynasty

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  • Richard I, the Lionhearted

Medieval Studies Angevin Dynasty
Ralph V. Turner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0273


The Angevin dynasty in England followed the Anglo-Norman kings, who had ruled since the Norman Conquest in 1066. Henry II, the first Angevin king (r. 1154–1189), was the son of Matilda, daughter and heir of Henry I, and her second husband, Geoffrey le Bel or Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. Henry II was the first Plantagenet king of England, although he and his two sons, Richard I, the Lionhearted (r. 1189–1199), and John (r. 1199–1216) are often termed the Angevin dynasty. The term Plantagenet is usually limited to Edward I (r. 1272–1307) and his successors down to 1485. Henry II assumed the English crown after a civil war that followed the 1135 death of Henry I, who left his daughter, Matilda, as heir. Stephen of Blois, Henry I’s nephew, challenged her right and seized power. In 1139 she came to England to fight for her inheritance until her son Henry was old enough to take charge; and her husband, Geoffrey le Bel, Count of Anjou, invaded Normandy. Henry reached agreement in 1153 with King Stephen, who recognized him as his heir; and on Stephen’s death, Henry was crowned king. He was already Count of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine, and Duke of Normandy, conquered by his father. On Henry’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, he became Duke of Aquitaine, extending Angevin control over all southwestern France. Henry’s collection of lands on both sides of the English Channel had no name, but they are often termed the “Angevin Empire.” His and his sons’ rule over their French lands was complicated by the French monarch’s position as their lord. French efforts to weaken and divide the Angevins’ continental lands dominated politics, and by the time of Philip II, France was a greater threat, as his power rose to equal Angevin power. Henry’s “empire” was in many ways simply an expansion of the Anglo-Norman realm. England continued to experience close ties to the continent, and to French culture and a strengthening of its central government. England and Normandy were the most strongly governed and the richest of all the Angevin rulers’ territories, and they needed its revenues for wars to maintain control their other possessions, resulting in innovations to strengthen royal money-raising. Fiscal demands on the baronage reached a high point with Richard Lionheart’s crusade and wars with the French king that continued under King John, when such policies led to rebellion and Magna Carta in 1215.


Anglo-Norman and Angevin England surpassed other medieval kingdoms in written records. Record Commissioners worked to secure the safety and accessibility of this legacy, and they undertook the publication of historical records, among them a series of medieval documents, Publications of the Record Commissioners, 1805–1844, from King John’s reign and early Henry III. These include royal chancery documents first copied onto rolls in 1200 (Hardy 1833–1834), and the pipe rolls from Henry II’s early years (Hunter 1844). All employ “record type,” a typeface designed to reproduce the text as closely as possible to the manuscript originals with their abbreviations and symbols. Round 1899 presents summaries in English of charters from the Anglo-Norman and Angevin kings’ French possessions. The pipe rolls, recording the Exchequer’s annual audits of sheriff’s accounts, began in Henry I’s reign (Hunter 1844). Publication revived in 1884 (Pipe Roll Society 1884–1925). The Rolls Series was an effort to edit and publish all major British medieval sources—99 works in 253 volumes (Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores 1858–1911). It includes major historical writings from the Angevin period.

  • Hardy, T. Duffus, ed. Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum. 2 vols. London: Record Commission, 1833–1834.

    Litterae Clausae were folded and sealed, indicating that they were private communications of the king to his officials and intimates. An essential source for analyzing King John’s style of governance and his motivations.

  • Hardy, T. Duffus, ed. Rotuli Litterarum Patentium. London: Record Commission, 1835.

    Litterae Patentiae were sent open, indicating their public nature; they are known also as writs, many of them initiating actions in the royal courts.

  • Hardy, T. Duffus, ed. Rotuli Chartarum, 1199–1216. London: Record Commission, 1837.

    King John’s reign saw the first formal enrolment and preservation of royal charters, collected and printed in this volume, most including witness lists. It has an adequate index.

  • Hunter, Joseph, ed. Great Rolls of the Pipe for the Second, Third, and Fourth Years of the Reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1155, 1156, 1157, 1158. London: Record Commission, 1844.

    This is the first set of pipe rolls to survive from the years after the civil war of King Stephen’s reign. The earliest previous surviving pipe roll dates from 1130 in Henry I’s time, and it is likely that recording pipe rolls ceased sometime during Stephen’s reign.

  • Pipe Roll Society. Publications of the Pipe Roll Society: The Great Roll of the Pipe for Five King Henry II . . . Thirty-four Henry II. Original series. 38 vols. London: Pipe Roll Society, 1884–1925.

    The Pipe Roll Society was founded in 1883 to revive publication of the rolls, and its first volume appeared in 1884, the rolls of 5 Henry II. Volumes down to 1903 were published in the record type of Record Commission publications. A new series began in 1925; its most recent volume is no. 60 for 2016.

  • Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores, or Chronicles and Memorials of Great Britain and Ireland during the Middle Ages. London, 1858–1911.

    Usually cited as the Rolls Series. This series represents a 19th-century effort undertaken by the office of the Master of the Rolls to edit and publish all major British medieval sources, including Irish and Scottish matter, 99 works in 253 volumes, hence the popular title Rolls Series. It includes chronicles, archival records and legal treatises, and folkloric and hagiographical writings. It includes all major historical writings from the Angevin period, not only chronicles but also treatises on government.

  • Round, J. H., ed. Calendar of Documents Preserved in France. Vol. 1, 918–1206. London: Public Record Office, 1899.

    Presents English summaries of royal charters, chiefly of Anglo-Norman and Angevin monarchs granted while in their French domains. Round collected them from cartularies of religious houses and cathedrals that came to be housed in archives départementals the after the French Revolution.

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