For KING & country
Hampshire Life|November 2020
Can someone be born into greatness? We share the story of one of Britain’s most underrated monarchs, Henry III
Steve Roberts

I’m a tad wary about promoting someone as ‘great’ when their greatness may have been due to birthright. I like the idea of a meritocracy after all. A case in point is King Henry III. He was born in the county, at Winchester Castle, on October 1,1207. He became known as ‘Henry of Winchester’ and also commissioned the building of the castle’s magnificent Great Hall, so Winchester looms large in this regal story.

Henry’s birthright was a poisoned chalice. He was the son of the infamous King John, the panto-villain of those Robin Hood movies. When John died on October 19, 1216, young Henry was nine years old. The kingdom he’d inherited was in the midst of civil war. His father had been obliged to seal Magna Carta the previous year, then tried to wriggle out of its provisions. The barons fought for their newly won rights.

Henry III reigned continuously from 1216 to 1272, yet he was crowned twice. The first crowning took place in Gloucester in 1216. London was off-limits at the time because of the civil war. With the war won, a second coronation occurred in 1220 in Westminster Abbey.

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