Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Monarch Moment

Henry III (1216-1272)

Well, I tried to get interested in Henry III, I really did. (I even checked out this hilariously old fashioned and terrible biography of him--seriously, it was written in the 1950s, but with all the melodrama and bias, I would easily have believed it was from the 1890s.)

But it's tough. He came to the throne at nine years old, which is sort of interesting--but then that means for the first 11 or so years of his reign, he was just some kid in a crown while the real work was done by grown-ups. And when his reign started, there was a civil war/French invasion (I forgot to mention that some of John's barons got so fed up with him, post Magna Carta, that they invited the French king's son to come over and rule England. Yeah. King John, ladies and gentlemen). And then there was another civil war later, where Henry and his son got captured by a rebellious earl. But it was Prince Edward, not Henry, who escaped and saved the day. And the first parliament was called during his reign, but it was forced on him by barons who were aggravated by his poor decision-making (like father, like son).

Henry is mostly known for his piety--although he is outshined (outshone? I really can't decide) in that area by Edward the Confessor, Henry VI, and his own contemporary King of France, St. Louis. And then he really liked architecture. He was responsible for building a bunch of cathedrals. Oh, and he was cultured and fostered learning and such; the first colleges of Oxford University were founded in his reign.

But none of that really lights a fire under me, you know? So let's talk about his zoo:

As premier zoo-keeper of Western Europe, Henry kept in his royal menagerie at the Tower a camel, buffaloes, the first elephant in England, a [polar] bear for the King of Norway, three leopards from the Emperor Frederick II, and a lion from Louis IX.
Elizabeth Longford, The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes

About this time, too, an elephant was sent to England by the French king as a present to the king of England. We believe that this was the only elephant ever seen in England or even in the countries on this side of the Alps; wherefore the people flocked together to see the novel sight.
contemporary chronicler Matthew Paris, via ibid.

And this has been your Monday Monarch Moment.

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