Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Christopher Steinke, Mary Beth Ailes
The reign of Henry III (1216-1272) was one of many firsts. The first reign under the Magna Carta, a watershed reign for relations with the Papacy, and demonstrated the degree to which Church and State were integrally united during his reign, to the degree that it is anachronistic to speak of them as two separate institutions. The reign of Henry III was marked by religious sensibility from the beginning of his reign in the minority, shepherded by his regents: Papal Legates and his educator Bishop Peter Des Roches. Henry’s life reflected his position in relation to the English Kingdom and the Church. Pushing for integration with the Royal Papacy, Henry at times even went against his own interests in favor for the church as a whole. The ways in which Henry III pursued his reign and moderated the integration of Church and State reveal a genuine concern for the teachings of the church, both by Henry and by the Papacy. This is in strong contrast to previous historiography on Henry III and church relations, which often reads in a modern Church/State dichotomy into the historical situation, assigns Machiavellian political motives to the Pope, or paints Henry as naïve, unable to shy away from the desires of his Papal overlords, even at the cost of the well being of his Kingdom because of his personal piety. Narratives of the First and Second Barons war often center on them being conflicts between neo-absolutists in the Church and Kingdom versus Democratic reformers. This thesis seeks to argue that Henry III was motivated primarily by a worldview that eschewed the Church/State dichotomy that we live with today, and identified the opposition with violence and chaos. By viewing his tenure through this lens the historical events of his reign become much more intelligible.
Smith, Mason Gerald, "A Most Christian King: Church and State during the Reign of Henry III of England" (2022). History Theses, Dissertations, and Student Creative Activity. 14.