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French city wants British Crown jewels for centuries-old ‘state crime’

Exhibition curator Caroline de Guitaut poses with Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace, London, in this file photograph dated May 15, 2012.

A French city that produced generations of English kings is demanding the British Crown jewels as compensation for a 15-century execution that ended the Plantagenet line.

In a petition that the mayor of Angers, in the Loire Valley, intends to send to Queen Elizabeth II, the killing of Edward Plantagenet is called a "state crime" that ended three and a half centuries of reign.

"The legacy of the Plantagenets must return to his heirs and the Crown Jewels of England must return to the Angevins," reads the petition, which is hoping to garner 800,000 signatures.

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The House of Plantagenet produced such famous monarchs as Richard the Lionheart and Henry V. The line ended with Edward Plantagenet, whose death came during a murky and brutal time in English royal history.

Edward Plantagenet's father was the brother of King Richard III and his cousin, Edward of Middleham, was the royal heir. But after his father was executed for treason and his cousin died, making Edward the last legitimate male of the line, the 10-year-old was named heir. That designation was revoked upon the death of his aunt, Queen Anne.

Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, died in the Battle of Bosworth Field and was succeeded by the Tudor monarch Henry VII, who had the young Edward imprisoned in the Tower of London. Years later, standing accused of plotting with a pretender to the throne, the 24-year-old Edward was executed.

The French petition ignores the fact that many of the current Crown jewels post-date the time in question. During Oliver Cromwell's era in the 17th century, amid financial difficulty, a great number of royal jewels were sold. The collection was rebuilt over the centuries, with some crowns worn by successive monarchs and other created for a specific person.

The petition, which calls the residents of Angers the "moral heirs" of the Plantagenets, was begun to little notice in the spring. Its Facebook page had attracted few visitors. But news of the petition appearing in the British press on the weekend brought a dose of publicity, causing a minor furore and much snickering.

"Happily stick the Crown Jewels in Angers," wrote blogger Tim Worstall, but only on one condition:

"Immediately after the union of the Angevin Empire with the United Kingdom. We'll have the Duchy of Normandy back too if you don't mind. And Brittany (they are Bretons after all). Francois Hollande can keep the [Paris area] Ile de France, the bit we didn't have back then. This time around let's do European integration properly, eh?"

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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