At A Glance:
  • Upcoming departures:
    July 7 — 14, 2024
    July 6 — 13, 2025

    Sojourn begins:
    Poitiers, France

    Sojourn concludes:
    Runnymede, England

    Price from:
    $3,895/person (DO)
    $4,390/person (SO)

    Combines with:
    South African Rhapsody

  • The Plantagenet dynasty ruled England from 1152 until 1485 and witnessed dramatic events and changes of fortune while producing some of the kingdom’s most celebrated monarchs. From the castle intrigues of Henry II thwarting the calculating machinations of his wife and rebellious heirs to the watershed moment of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, and on to the ultimate defeat of the treacherous Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, one can understand why the renowned English statesmen and philosopher Francis Bacon mused of the Plantagenets “. . . it was a race much dipped in their own blood.” There is no doubt that the Plantagenet line was an ambitious and determined lot and therefore their legacy is a far-reaching one.

    But while many recall the famous call to arms penned by William Shakespeare in Henry V, “Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”, it is often overlooked that the Plantagenets actually originated in Anjou, in the beautiful Loire region of western France, and the maternal forebears came from Normandy. Therefore, we begin this tour by taking you back to the heartlands of the Plantagenets – the French regions that firmly remained in the psyche of the founders of the dynasty – Henry of Anjou and his beautiful Wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Together, we shall quite literally walk in the footsteps of this flamboyant couple, their ancestors and their offspring as we visit the magnificent buildings and landscapes that they themselves knew.

    We convene in Tours, the capital of Touraine, a city fought for and dominated by Henry II’s ancestors. From here, we make our way through the verdant Loire Valley visiting a number of magnificent sites that were key to the Plantagenet legacy. Among these are the opulent Château of Langeais, which contains one of the earliest castles built in stone in all of Europe; Fontevraud, a town that was built around an abbey containing the poignant burial effigies of Henry II and Queen Eleanor as well as other members of the royal family; Poitiers, the hometown of Eleanor and where she and Henry II were married in 1152; and Angers, which was the capital of the Plantagenets’ ancestral county of Anjou. Exploration of these stunning landmarks will provide an excellent foundation on the background and ancestry of the Plantagenets that will prove invaluable as we move on from the Loire region and move northward into other areas with noteworthy connections to this dynasty.

    We stop at the city of Loches, which formed the eastern capital of the Plantagenet’s’ territories in Anjou, to see the formidable fortified castle here. Built by the counts of Anjou in 1013, the edifice includes one of the most dramatic stone towers in all of Europe. In Chartres, we see an awe-inspiring gem of Gothic architecture at the Cathedral of Chartres before heading north to Normandy where we visit the Chateau Gaillard – a favored project of King Richard I that represented the cutting edge of fortress design in its day.

    From Normandy we sail the English Channel–as the Plantagenets so often did–to explore some of the key sites associated with Plantagenet history in England, their adopted country and the seat of their monarchy. Our first stop is Dover Castle – the “Key to England” – which was the most costly and pre-eminent Plantagenet fortress. A short trek from Dover takes us at Canterbury Cathedral, the famous scene of the murder of the revered Thomas Beckett and, subsequently, Henry II’s penance for his part in it. Next, we make our way up the charming English countryside to Lincoln, one of the foremost cities in England during the Middle Ages and the site of two major Plantagenet battles. Perhaps there is no more fitting way to wind down our tour than to ponder the inestimable impact that King John’s signing of the Magna Carta has had on the relationship between kings and men, and how the enormous ripple effect of that document would pave the way for future developments in rights and liberties we cherish today, in our visit to the Magna Carta Exhibit at Lincoln Castle. The document on display here is one of only four originals sealed by King John after his meeting with the barons at Runnymede.

    At the conclusion of this sojourn, we will have gained a richer and more profound understanding of the origins and the legacy of this monumental dynasty whose far-reaching impact still reverberates into the modern world. Tracing the footsteps of the Plantagenets takes us not only through some of the most breathtaking natural scenery of western Europe, but also to towns and cities that house gems of medieval architecture that rekindle visions strongly redolent of the glorious era in which they reigned.

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