Plantagenets, English or French ?

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,598
Italy, Lago Maggiore
This is an amusing question, since it's simple to change the answer changing the perspective [even without changing the historical context]: let's think to the Plantaganet [so called] ... "Geoffroy V d'Anjou dit le Bel ou Plantagenêt ", he became Duke of Normandy. Even if son of the Cont of Angiò, his main title was connected with Normandy. So we could sustain, that the Plantaganets were Norman ... [from Normandy]. And the Dukedom of Normandy depended on Regnum Francorum and then on England [from 1066CE on], like it was a third separate entity and actually it was ...
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,787
UK
The early kings were French in culture. Henry II and John had a more direct interest in England, and Ireland as they were amongst the first Lords of Ireland.
Richard Lionheart notedly didn't.
Henry III had an interest and had no choice since his father lost many of the lands his grandfather (Henry II) inherited.
Edward Longshanks had obvious interest in England, Wales and Scotland, and whilst he may have spoken French habitually and not English so much, by his time there was more of a direct English identity. He did still hold Gascony, but then I think there was an evident re-emergence of an Englishness by the 14th century.
This accelerated by the time of Edward III, with the Hundred Years War an apparent factor.
And by Henry V, and the Wars of the Roses, royalty and the nobility spoke English, and there was a distinct Englishness.

Having said this, the early Angevin kings did respect many English saints, such as Dunstan, King Edward thee Confessor, King Edmund the Martyr, and St. Alphege. St. Thomas Becket wasn't Norman, and he was good friends with Henry II until they fell out and he was murdered. So they did respect some aspects of English culture, and aspects that predated the Norman Conquest.
 

Haesten

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,930
The early kings were French in culture. Henry II and John had a more direct interest in England, and Ireland as they were amongst the first Lords of Ireland.
Richard Lionheart notedly didn't.
Henry III had an interest and had no choice since his father lost many of the lands his grandfather (Henry II) inherited.
Edward Longshanks had obvious interest in England, Wales and Scotland, and whilst he may have spoken French habitually and not English so much, by his time there was more of a direct English identity. He did still hold Gascony, but then I think there was an evident re-emergence of an Englishness by the 14th century.
This accelerated by the time of Edward III, with the Hundred Years War an apparent factor.
And by Henry V, and the Wars of the Roses, royalty and the nobility spoke English, and there was a distinct Englishness.

Having said this, the early Angevin kings did respect many English saints, such as Dunstan, King Edward thee Confessor, King Edmund the Martyr, and St. Alphege. St. Thomas Becket wasn't Norman, and he was good friends with Henry II until they fell out and he was murdered. So they did respect some aspects of English culture, and aspects that predated the Norman Conquest.
Thomas Becket's grandparents were Normans according to Wiki. Source Frank Barlow.
 
Apr 2017
758
Lemuria
It's strange that it is always the same few people that discuss this phase of history. I reckon this period of French and English history is mandatory for anyone to truly understand the development of the modern world. It's amazing how seemingly insignificant tribes at onset could have such an impact on history a thousand years or so in the future. History as an example of Chaos theory. A bit off topic.
 
May 2017
1,272
France
They were "francs",with a german origine.
-baron Rorgonide during the VIIIth century.
-vicomte of Châteaudun,during the IXth and Xth centuries.
-comte du Mans (Maine) later.
-king of Jérusalem:1131.
 
Jan 2009
1,285
They were neither French nor English, they were in fact the descendants of Danish Vikings. Norman, literally means Northmen.
While I agree that the modern nationalities didn't exist yet, it just occurred to me that it is funny that the Plantagenets are equated with Normans, or worse, Vikings. :) Even attributing the Dukes of Normandy Danish blood becomes a bit iffy after a few generations.

Let's examine this...

Normans
1st: Rollo + Poppa of Bayeux (alledgedly the daughter of the Count of Bayeux)
2nd: William Longsword (half-Danish) + concubine Sprota (Breton)
3rd: Richard I (quarter-Danish) + Gunnor (Danish blood, a sister of a forester)
4th: Richard II (5/8 Danish, 1/8 Frank, 1/4 Breton) + Judith (daughter of Conan I of Brittany, Breton-Angevin heritage)
5th: Robert (5/16 Danish, 5/16 Frank, 6/16 Breton) + Herleva (tanner's daughter, a bit uncertain heritage, but probably a Frank?)
6th: William the Conqueror (5/32 Danish, 21/32 Frank, 6/32 Breton) + Matilda of Flanders (her descent from Wessex royal family is several generations back, so I am calling her a Frank)
7th: Henry I (5/64 Danish, 53/64 Frank, 6/64 Breton) + Matilda of Scotland (let's call her half-Saxon, half-Scottish)
8th: Empress Matilda (5/128 Danish, 53/128 Frank, 10/128 Breton, 1/4 Saxon, 1/4 Scottish) + Geoffrey V of Anjou (Frank, at least mostly, I didn't check all grandparents)

Plantagenets:
1st: Henry II (5/256 Danish, 181/256 Frank, 6/256 Breton, 1/8 Saxon, 1/8 Scottish) + Eleanor of Aquitaine (full Frank/Aquitanian)
2nd: John (5/512 Danish, 437/512 Frank, 6/512 Breton, 1/16 Saxon, 1/16 Scottish) + Isabelle of Angouleme (full Frank/Aquitanian)

So by this time, we have about 1% Danish heritage in the Plantagenet kings of England, and almost full Frankish heritage. Now, of course blood heritage doesn't mean the same as cultural identity, but even then, a much better argument can be made for Frankish majority: taking Matilda as full Norman, Geoffrey as a full Frank, you get Henry II as half-and-half, and John as quarter-Norman, quarter-Angevin, half-Aquitanian, with the latter two being Franks. Also, the Plantagenet kings, up to John, spent most of their time on the Continent and valued those possessions more than England.

Now, when you get to Kings of England after John, having lost their continental holdings (mostly), they naturally pay more attention to their English possessions. But as they are no longer Dukes of Normandy and have not been for generations soon enough, attributing Danish or even Norman identity to them becomes very very shaky, IMHO.