Henry II was the first Plantagenet king of England, but he is often referred to as the first Angevin king; likewise, his descendants are known as ‘the Angevin dynasty’.
This has created understandable confusion, though the problem is quite simple. Unlike most kings, Henry is not known by one family name. His father was Geoffrey V ‘the Fair’, count of Anjou and Maine. Since his ancestral lands were in Anjou, Henry was called an ‘Angevin’. Also, his extensive lands in France made him a vassal to the French king. The French understandably referred to him as an ‘Angevin’.
So what was he – Angevin or Plantagenet? Well, obviously both names can be used for equally good reasons. I have chosen Plantagenet because it was the English surname given to Henry and his descendants. If this site were about French history, I would probably use Angevin.
But it is important to remember that both names are interchangeable. Also, historians use both names and further research on the family would be complicated if you didn’t know that Angevin and Plantagenet are one and the same.
In the course of my studies, I have found that though the surname Plantagenet is well-established, it’s historical justification is almost non-existent. It probably developed as a nickname for Henry II’s father, Count Geoffrey – perhaps referring to his practice of wearing a sprig of broom (from the Latin ‘genista’) in his hat. It was not a hereditary surname. Hence, Geoffrey’s descendants – who ruled England – lacked a surname for over 250 years. And, during this same period, surnames became universal outside the royal family. In other words, every family – from the wealthiest to the poorest – began to use surnames while the royal family did not.
Many historians refer to Henry II and his 13 successors as the House of Anjou, or Angevin Dynasty. Others label just Henry II and his two sons, Richard I and John I, as Angevins; the rest, for lack of a better name, are called Plantagenets. However, the first official use of the surname Plantagenet by any descendant of Henry II occurred in 1460, when Richard, duke of York, claimed the throne of England as ‘Richard Plantagenet’. (And keep in mind that the dynasty fell from power just 25 years later.)
So the surname was first used over three hundred years after Henry II became king of England – and has since been used by historians to refer to Henry and his descendants. (Incidentally, of the 14 Plantagenet kings, six belonged to the sub-branches of York and Lancaster – the legitimate male line died with Richard II in 1399.)
The legitimate male issue of the Plantagenet line became extinct in 1499 with the execution of Edward, earl of Warwick, grandson of Richard, duke of York
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "Angevin or Plantagenet?" https://englishhistory.net/middle-ages/angevin-or-plantagenet/, January 12, 2022