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Week Five Power Poll: Medieval English Monarchs, Near Monarchs, and the Thorns in Their Sides

Were you hoping to learn about Empress Matilda today? Well you’re in luck!

BRT Ed. Note: My name is on the author byline, but aside from the nonsense captions, all brilliance contained herein is courtesy of everyone’s favorite boss of butlers, Vaudvillain. Thanks for being a superb guest author, Vaud!

After watching enough offensive futility from the Wildcats, one gets frustrated. Frustrated enough, perhaps, to want to go medieval on a certain offensive coordinator’s ass. I have swords and armor in my basement. I know how to use them. I could make this happen. But while it is tempting to suit up and march to the shiny practice facilities by the lake (our “Gamechangers”) for a little…exercise, I’ll opt for a “going medieval” tactic that is less likely to land me in prison: lecturing my fellow OTE miscreants about a little English history. Today, my dear friends, we are all filthy monarchists. (Except for Wat Tyler. But we’ll get to that.)

Edward I, Edward Longshanks, the Leopard (1272-1307): Ohio State - #1

First Place Votes: 14 High: 1 Low: 2 Last Week: 1

Deviated septums of the 13th century

Fun fact: Edward I was the first English king to receive his title automatically as soon as his father (Henry III) died. Before that, you weren’t officially king (or queen) until you went through the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey. This is why the Empress Matilda (see Penn State) never got to call herself Queen. But Henry III was getting old and his eldest son and heir, Edward, wanted to go on a Crusade. The nobility of England decided that they didn’t want a war of succession if Henry died while Edward was out of the country crusading, so they passed a new law so that the powers of the crown would automatically be passed to the heir as soon as the king died (this transfer of power, incidentally, is what is meant by the phrase, “The King is Dead, Long Live the King”). And, sure enough, Henry died while Edward was out of the country crusading. Since there was no burning need to go through the coronation ceremony, Edward I didn’t exactly rush home to England…even though he became king in 1272, his coronation wasn’t until two years later, 1274. Edward had a very long reign filled with all kinds of success on the battlefield, just like we expect from Ohio State. And while most teams in the B1G can’t call themselves the champion until they complete a coronation ceremony in Indianapolis, we pretty much always just assume the Buckeyes will be wearing the crown as soon as a new season starts, anyway. Our motto may as well be, “The B1G Champion is Dead, Long Live the Buckeyes.”

The Empress Matilda, Lady of London (d. 1167): Penn State — #2

H: 2 L: 5 LW: 4

Less awkward looking than the Nittany Lion, tbh.

After William the Aetheling died, King Henry I had no male heirs, so eventually he named his daughter, Matilda, as his heir. There were, however, a few problems getting the English nobility to accept Matilda as a ruler. First and foremost, Matilda was a girl, and the monarchy was something of a boys’ club. Secondly, as happens with royal daughters, Matilda had been married off to Emperor Henry V of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (say that ten times fast) and had spent most of her life in Germany, leading many in England to view her as a foreigner. After Henry died, both Matilda and Stephen (Henry’s nephew and a grandson of William the Conqueror — and, notably, a boy) claimed the throne, and a civil war ensued. Matilda got to London, but was unable to complete the coronation ceremony before before forced out (which is why she called herself the Lady of London, but never the Queen of England). Long story short (too late), Matilda and Stephen eventually come to an agreement of sorts: Stephen gets to be king, but has to name Matilda’s son has his heir. Matilda was on her second husband at this point — Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou — and her son would go on to become Henry II, the first Plantagenet King. She may not have gotten the throne herself, but getting to start the longest dynasty of English monarchs is a pretty cool consolation prize. Like Matilda, Penn State is often seen as a bit of an outsider here in B1G country…just a little too eastern for our midwest sensibilities. But, like Matilda, Penn State has seized the capital (Indianapolis)…and the Nittany Lions even managed to complete the coronation ceremony once.

Richard I, the Lionheart (1189-1199): Wisconsin — #3

FPV: 1 H: 1 L: 5 LW: 2

He died.

I know, I know — with a name like “Lionheart,” Richard really should go to Penn State, right? I liked the outsider angle of giving the Lions Empress Matilda, though, so live with it. Richard I is one of England’s most famous kings in part because of his military success (which was all abroad — he spent remarkably little time in England)…but I also think that the shortness of his reign played into his popularity — he wasn’t king long enough for people to start to hate him. Wisconsin hasn’t been a B1G power for long, but this season, they look like they are on a Crusade. Just one word of advice: if you lay siege to the castle that is Ohio State, watch out for the sentry with a crossbow on the walls. One shot to the shoulder and a frantic surgery by firelight was all it took for an infection to take hold. Richard was a stoic hero and kept the injury as secret as possible from his men…but the infection proved to be fatal, and the legendary king died.

Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381: Iowa — #4

H: 3 L: 6 LW: 3

That sword is a clear warning.

Like most uprisings, this one was — at least in part — about taxes. Unlike most uprisings, however, the Peasants’ Revolt was an uprising of, well, peasants. There had been uprisings in the past. King John had been forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. Edward II had been deposed and killed in 1326. But those uprisings had been led by members of the aristocracy. The Peasants’ Revolt was the first time that the ordinary folk of England took arms against their king. They were led by John Ball, a preacher, and Wat Tyler, who served as their general — the Kirk Ferentz of the rebellion. Eventually, the rebellion was put down and Wat Tyler was killed, but during the summer of 1381, the nobility of London was terrified of Tyler and his people. Who better to lead an insurrection of peasants against the nobility of the land than Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes? Sure, it rarely ends well when the nobles have better armor and weapons than you do, but every now and then, you can put a pretty solid fright into them.

Henry V (1413-1422): Michigan State — #5

H: 4 L: 6 LW: 5

Though fashionable in his youth, Henry would later gaze at the portrait in the banquet hall and reflect that the bowl cut really had been a massive mistake.

Shakespeare portrays the young Henry as “Hal,” a bit of a rebellious prince whose dad doesn’t like him all that much. I think Shakespeare’s Hal was more of a rogue than a thug, but work with me here — the Spartans don’t exactly have a reputation of being the most orderly bunch out there. Anyway, this reputation of a rebellious youth seems to mostly come from Shakespeare. The historical Henry V had a short reign, much like Richard Lionheart…but, much like his predecessor, that short reign came with significant military success. Agincourt is Henry’s most famous victory. MSU has given us some pretty famous victories in the past, though it remains to be seen if this year’s edition is up to the task. And even if they are up to the task, all indications are that their reign would, like Henry V’s, be short.

Edward the Black Prince (d. 1376): Michigan —#6

H: 5 L: 9 LW: 6

Inside the super secret ceremony of becoming a Michigan Man

Edward was the oldest son of King Edward III, heir to the throne. And, much like William the Aetheling (see Minnesota), there were great expectations around the Black Prince. Edward was very successful on the field of battle (the siege of Calais was one of his most famous battles), and for a while, it looked like he had the military chops to be a great king. (Even then, it really was all about the wins.) However, Edward pretty much bankrupted himself on a proxy war with France for the throne of Castile. Edward’s candidate, Pedro the Cruel, won the throne, but he couldn’t pay Edward back. Even worse, a bunch of Edward’s troops got sick — Black Death, dysentery, malaria. This particular campaign was the Oregon Trail of medieval Europe. Edward himself got quite ill, and was never the same again. He died a year before his father did, so when Edward III died, the crown when to the Black Prince’s son, Richard II (see Maryland). Given all the promise and early military success, only to die of illness before even getting to sit on the throne, you could say that Edward the Black Prince won the September Heisman of the Monarchy.

William the Aetheling (d. 1120): Minnesota — #7

H: 5 L: 10 LW: 7

Must have been good booze, because they all look pretty chill considering their ship is sinking.

William was the only legitimate son of King Henry I, and the grandson of William I (The Conqueror). He was popular. People liked him. There was a ton of hype around this 17-year-old who was heir to the throne of England. Henry had just turned over the title of Duke of Normandy to his son, and William dutifully went to France so that he could pay homage to King Louis VI (the Fat) of France. Life was good, he had a big party with his friends in Barfleur, and then he got on a boat to cross the English Channel and go back to England. The White Ship. Bad weather was coming in, the captain (and pretty much everyone on board) was drunk, and it was well past dark when they left the harbor. Despite all the hype and expectations around the Aetheling, and despite the fifty oarsmen on the White Ship, the young Duke of Normandy was unable to successfully row the boat home. The ship sank, William died, and suddenly Henry I was without an heir — a situation that later led to a civil war between Stephen and Matilda, the end of the Normans, and the rise of the Plantagenets. Minnesota has its pretty boy coach, the best wide receivers in the Big Ten (or so I’ve been told), and somehow hasn’t lost a game yet…but we all know the Shipwreck is coming.

Margaret of Anjou (d. 1482): Indiana—#8

H: 7 L: 12 LW: 10

I’m going to imagine that her necklace is made of donuts. She’s marrying an insane man, a necklace of sweetened carbs is kind of the least they could do for her.

Margaret was the Queen consort of Henry VI. Henry had a troubled reign — he was only 9 months old when his father, Henry V (see MSU) died, and he suffered from long bouts of mental illness. Because of that, even though Henry was the ruling monarch, Margaret was the person who was pretty much in charge for good, long chunks of time. Henry VI’s issues also led the members of the House of York to start getting feisty. They started saying that they had a better claim to the throne than Henry (who was a Lancaster). The Lancasters were descended from the third son of King Edward III (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster), while the Yorks were descended from the fourth son (Edmund of Langley, Duke of York), but one of the Yorks (Richard, Earl of Cambridge) had married Ann Mortimer, who was a descendent of Edward III’s second son (Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence). So…yeah, royal family trees are…interesting. Anyway, with Margaret more in charge than Henry, the Lancasters held the throne for a while, then they lost it to Edward IV, then Margaret and Henry VI took the throne back, only to lose it to Edward IV (again). Sort of like how Indiana plays with people by taking the lead, giving it up, and taking it again…but no matter how many times Indiana retakes the lead, we all know that by the end of the game, they will have lost.

Elizabeth I (1558-1603): Northwestern—#9

H: 7 L: 12 LW: 11

All this is missing is “Elizabeth” emblazoned across her chest in “gothic script.”

Elizabeth was the last of the Tudors. She did not have any heirs, so upon her death, the throne passed to her cousin, James VI King of the Scots, who became King James I of England, and the first king of the Stuart line. Most of the monarchs and near monarchs on this list are from the Plantagenets, which, frankly, I know better than the Tudors. But Shakespeare rose to prominence during Elizabeth’s reign. You may have heard that Northwestern likes books and culture and stuff, and we’ve got a lot of famous actors as alumni. (We also have a few not-so-famous actors as alumni, like yours truly.) And so we shall be playing the part of Elizabeth I for this power poll — even if she reigned for longer than the Wildcats have been playing football.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (d. 1204): Nebraska — #10

H: 8 L: 13 LW: 9

Lol, with an effigy like that, girlfriend should have been Northwestern, not Nebraska.

Eleanor was never a ruling monarch herself, but she was incredibly influential — the Queen consort of two kings, and the mother of two more. She was first married to King Louis VII of France, but they only had daughters, so the marriage was annulled and she married the Duke of Normandy instead, who went on to become King Henry II of England (the first Plantagenet king). Once married to Henry, it turned out that Eleanor had no problem giving birth to sons…William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, which probably made King Louis VII feel kind of foolish. Both Richard and John went on to become king themselves — Richard was a good king, and John was a bad one. Eleanor had a great deal of influence with all three of those early Plantagenet kings (who were sometimes also called Angevins because of their connection to Anjou…but John lost all the Angevin lands, so everyone after John is just called a Plantagenet). It’s been a long time since Nebraska has sat on the throne, but they have historical pedigree, and they’re always a preseason favorite to make a run. Kings may come and go, but just like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Nebraska always seems to be around somewhere.

Richard II (1377-1399): Maryland—#11

H: 7 L: 13 LW: 8

Look at that creepy little stache!

Richard’s dad was that man who was supposed to be king, but Edward the Black Prince (see Michigan) had gotten ill and died, so at the young age of nine, Richard, the grandson of King Edward III, was crowned. Richard (as is perhaps not surprising for someone crowned so young) went a little overboard on the whole “divine right of kings” thing, and viewed himself as a bit of a chosen one. That can happen when you obliterate your first few opponents of the season by approximately seven thousand points. But then reality sets in, and people start to realize that you aren’t really cut out for this kingship thing after all. You get jealous of your uncles (John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Edmund Langley, Duke of York — remember those names, as they’re kind of important), and wind up trying to seize all of Uncle John’s lands when he dies. This upsets John’s son, your cousin Henry Bolingbroke, and Henry decides he’s done with you. You get embarrassed to the count of 59-0 or some such, and sadly abdicate the throne to your cousin, who becomes King Henry IV — the first Lancaster…and the stage is set for what would later be called the Wars of the Roses.

Edward II (1307-1327): Purdue — #12

H: 10 L: 13 LW: 12

Banksy was here.

I’m so sorry, Purdue. I wanted to give you somebody better than this. People hated Edward II. He faced all sorts of uprisings throughout his reign. He lost the Battle of Bannockburn to Robert the Bruce. The Marcher Lords hated him. His main allies, the Despensers, were largely seen as thugs and frauds. His own wife, Queen Isabella, left him to team up with one of his rivals, Roger Mortimer and invade England. Eventually, the people of London rose in revolt and Edward’s allies were killed, mostly in horrific fashion (beheading, mutilation, disembowelment, castration…it was not a good time to be on the King’s side). Eventually, Edward himself was forced to abdicate. Now, the thing is, I like Purdue. I’m not insinuating that they are nearly so evil as Edward II’s regime. But with all the injuries piling up in West Lafayette, it’s beginning to look an awful lot like the final days of Edward’s reign. Hopefully this won’t force Brohm to abdicate.

Thomas Becket, Chancellor of England and later Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1170): Illinois—#13

Last Place Votes: 1 H: 11 L: 14 LW: 13

Yeah, that’s definitely Illinois

The whole “later” in those titles was a bit of a problem, it turned out, for Becket’s close friend, King Henry II (the first Plantagenet king). You see, Becket was Henry’s friend and ally, and was already Chancellor of England. Through some political machinations, Henry arranged for Becket to be appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury, with the intent that Becket hold both posts. The thing is, Becket was a man of integrity and refused to have anything nice even when it was offered to him. He felt that he didn’t have the religious training necessary to be an archbishop, so he resigned his role as chancellor and focused on proving himself worthy to the Church. Henry saw this as a bit of a slap in the face. It became even worse when, in his efforts to be a good Church man, Becket started distancing himself from royal policy. The conflict between the king and his archbishop grew, the pope got involved (if you think the Church is political now, you should have seen it in medieval Europe), Becket went into exile for a while, then he came back, but Henry got mad and asked whether anyone could rid him of this troublesome priest, and that was the end of Thomas Becket. Becket’s death turned out to be pretty bad for Henry II, too — it turned him into a pariah, the pope refused to speak to anyone from England for a while. Where I’m going with this is that you can’t have anything nice. Becoming Archbishop of Canterbury winds up ruining your relationship with your best friend and you wind up dead. And killing you wasn’t even a nice thing for your friend. It’s like things go badly for anyone even vaguely close to you. But hey, eventually you wound up getting sainted for your suffering, so I suppose that’s something to look forward to.

John, also called Lackland and Softsword (1199-1216): Rutgers—#14

LPV: 14 H: 13 L: 14 LW: 14

Is it possible to be too on the nose? Good.

Look, Rutgers, I’m giving you a king. I feel a little weird about this, but I comfort myself in the thought that John was pretty much a shitshow of a king. John was the fifth son of King Henry II (the first Plantagenet), so when it came to doling out land, John pretty much got nothing (which is why he was called “Lackland”). He had three older sisters, too, but in those days, kings didn’t give their daughters land — they gave their daughters husbands. Point is, John was a youngest kid in a very big family. He lived under the shadow of his dad, and also his older brother Richard I (the Lionheart), both of whom were kings before John got his chance. John tried, he really did. But the thing is, John had a tendency to lose battles. A lot. (That’s where the nickname “Softsword” comes from.) He lost vast amounts of territory in France, and then taxed the crap out of his people to fund ill-fated military campaigns to try to win that land back. People accept taxes when you’re winning battles…but when you lose battles, especially battles for land in France (important to your family history, sure, but irrelevant to most English nobles), people kinda get ticked off. So ticked off, in fact, that the nobles rose up against John and forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. (Technically, he sealed it — people didn’t sign documents back then.) And no sooner did John agree to the Magna Carta than he turned around and violated its terms. So suffice it to say that his reign didn’t end very well. And it’s noteworthy that there’s no numeral after his name…because he was such a bad king that no future monarch of England wanted to be called John. The Scarlet Knights have as soft a sword as anyone in this conference, and I don’t think anyone wants to share the name “Rutgers,” so they get to be King John.


What has been our nerdiest Power Poll?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    This one
    (149 votes)
  • 27%
    Tornado Sirens
    (98 votes)
  • 9%
    Dinosaurs or Dinosaur-Adjacent Topics
    (33 votes)
  • 12%
    Pride and Prejudice
    (46 votes)
  • 3%
    Literary Last Lines
    (13 votes)
  • 3%
    Investment Vehicles
    (14 votes)
  • 0%
    Another one I’d like to mention in the comments
    (3 votes)
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