King Henry II of England


Son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Empress Matilda, father of King John and King Richard I and husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Henry born on 5th March 1133 at Le Mans. . He ruled as King of England from 1154 until 1189, He was Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. He ranks as the first of the Plantagenet or Angevin Kings.

He spent his childhood with his parents in his father's land of Anjou. At the age of nine, Earl Robert of Gloucester took him to England where he received a year of education from Master Matthew at Bristol. He travelled again to England at the age of 16, to aid his mother's efforts in taking the English throne.

On 18th  May 1152, at Bordeaux Cathedral, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine. The future King was only 19 years old and the wedding was "without the pomp or ceremony that befitted their rank". This was partly due to the fact that only two months previously Eleanor had annulled her marriage to Louis VII of France. The strains of Henry's voracious empire building soured the relationship, as Eleanor disliked leaving her ancestral home. After pushing her children into a rebellion against their father in 1173, Henry had her placed under house-arrest where she remained for fifteen years

Henry and Eleanor had eight children,

William died in infancy

Henry the Young King born on 28th February 1155. Little is known of the Young Henry before the events associated with his marriage and coronation. In June 1170 the fifteen-year-old Henry was crowned king during his father's lifetime, an adoption into England of the practice current in the rival French Capetian dynasty. A Latin poem by a court official written to commemorate the coronation hints at the charisma that already then hung around this charming and handsome young royal prince. It describes him in 1170 as a youth of striking beauty, tall but well proportioned, broad-shouldered with a long and elegant neck, pale and freckled skin, bright and wide blue eyes, with a thick mop of the reddish-gold hair characteristic of his dynasty.

He was known in his own lifetime as "Henry the Young King" to distinguish him from the elder Henry his father Henry II of England. Because he predeceased his father, he is not counted in the numerical succession of kings of England. Nonetheless, he was an anointed king and his royal status was not disputed. There is a question about his knighting. According to one of Becket's correspondents Henry was knighted by his father before the coronation. But the biographer of William Marshal asserts that the king was knighted by William in the course of the rebellion of 1173.

Henry did not seem much interested in the day-to-day business of government, which distinguished him from his father and younger brothers. The majority opinion amongst historians is that of W. L. Warren (1973), "The Young Henry was the only one of his family who was popular in his own day. It was true that he was also the only one who gave no evidence of political sagacity, military skill, or even ordinary intelligence…", and elaborated in a later book, "He was gracious, benign, affable, courteous, the soul of liberality and generosity. Unfortunately he was also shallow, vain, careless, empty-headed, incompetent, improvident, and irresponsible."

However, the Young King's contemporary reputation was by no means so negative. This had much to do with his place in the enthusiastic tournament culture of his own day. We can see this from his appearances in the History of William Marshal, the biography of the knight who was assigned to him as a tutor in 1170, and who became his tournament team leader until 1182. The History depicts him as constantly moving from tournament to tournament across northern and central France between 1175 and 1182. With his first cousin Count Philip of Flanders and Baldwin V, count of Hainault and Namur, he was one of the key patrons of the sport. He is said to have spent over £200 a day on the great retinue of knights he brought to the tournament of Lagny-sur-Marne in November 1179.

If he lacked political weight, the Young King's patronage gave him celebrity status throughout western Europe. The baron and troubador, Bertran de Born, who knew him, said that he was '…the best king who ever took up a shield, the most daring and best of all tourneyers. From the time when Roland was alive, and even before, never was seen a knight so skilled, so warlike, whose fame resounded so around the world; even if Roland did come back, or if the world were searched as far as the River Nile and the setting sun.' There was a perception amongst his contemporaries and the next generation that his death in 1183 marked a decline both in the tournament and knightly endeavour. His former chaplain, Gervase of Tilbury, said that 'his death was the end of everything knightly'.

The Young Henry played an important part in the politics of his father's reign. On November 2, 1160 he was married to Marguerite of France, daughter of King Louis VII of France by his second wife Constance of Castile, when he was 5 years of age and she was 2. The marriage was an attempt to settle the long struggle between the Plantagenets and Capetians over the possession of the frontier district of the Norman Vexin, which Louis VII had acquired from Henry II's father, Geoffrey Plantagenet, around 1144. By the terms of the settlement, Marguerite would bring the castles of the Norman Vexin to her new husband. However, the marriage was pushed through by Henry II when Young Henry and Marguerite were small children, so that he could seize the castles. A bitter border war followed between the kings.

Young Henry fell out with his father in 1173. Contemporary chroniclers allege that it was due to the young man's frustration that his father had given him no realm to rule, and that he felt starved of funds. The rebellion seems however to have drawn strength from much deeper discontent with his father's rule, and a formidable party of English and Norman magnates joined him. The civil war (1173–74) came close to toppling the king, and he was narrowly saved by the loyalty of a party of English court aristocracy and the defeat and capture of the king of Scotland. Young Henry sought a reconciliation after the capture of his mother and the failure of the revolt. By the terms of the settlement his funds were much increased and he apparently devoted most of the next seven years to the amusement of the tournament.

In November 1179 he represented his father at the coronation of Philip Augustus as associate king of France at Reims. He acted as Steward of France and carried the crown in the coronation procession. Later he played a leading role in the celebratory tournament held at Lagny-sur-Marne, to which he brought a retinue of over 500 knights at huge expense.

The Young Henry's affairs took a turn for the worse in 1182. He fell out with William Marshal, his tournament team manager. The Marshal biographer suggests that Marshal's disgrace was because he had indulged in a clandestine affair with Queen Marguerite. D. Crouch, the Marshal's principal modern biographer, proves that the charge against William was actually one of lèse majesté, brought on by Marshal's own arrogance and greed. The charge of adultery was only introduced in the Life of William Marshal as a distraction from the real charges, of which he was most probably guilty. Though the Young King sent his wife early in 1183 to the French court, it was done most likely to keep her safe in the impending war with his brother Richard rather than because she was in disgrace.

The only child of Henry and Marguerite was William, born prematurely on June 19, 1177, and dying on June 22 of the same year. This difficult delivery may have rendered her sterile, as she had no further children by Henry or her second husband.

Henry the Young King died in the summer of 11th June1183, during the course of a campaign in the Limousin against his father and his brother, Richard. He had just completed a pillage of local monasteries to raise money to pay his mercenaries. He contracted dysentery at the beginning of June. Weakening fast, he was taken to the castle of Martel, near Limoges. It was clear to his household that he was dying on 7th June when he was confessed and received the last rites. As a token of his penitence for his war against his father he prostrated himself naked on the floor before a crucifix. He made a testament and since he had taken a crusader's vow, he gave his cloak to his friend William Marshal with the plea that he should take the cloak (presumably with the crusader's cross stitched to it) to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. On his deathbed he reportedly asked to be reconciled to his father, but King Henry, fearing a trick, refused to see him. He died clasping a ring his father had sent instead as a sign of his forgiveness.

The events that followed his death are worthy of comment. There was an attempt by his mother and a faction of his friends to promote his sainthood. Thomas of Earley, archdeacon of Wells, published a sermon not long afterwards which detailed miraculous events attending the cortège which took his body north to Normandy. The cortège was something of a shambles. A member of his household was seized by his mercenary captains for debts the late king had owed them. The knights accompanying his corpse were so penniless they had to be fed by charity at the monastery of Vigeois. There were large and emotional gatherings wherever his body rested. At Le Mans, the local bishop halted the procession and ordered the body buried in his cathedral, perhaps to help defuse the civil unrest Henry's death had caused. The dean of Rouen recovered the body from the chapter of Le Mans a month later by law suit so the Young Henry could be buried in Normandy as he had desired in his testament. His remains rest in Rouen Cathedral, where his tomb can be seen, appropriately, on the opposite side of the altar from the resting place of the bowels of his younger brother Richard, with whom he was perpetually quarrelling. The tomb of the archbishop of Rouen, who had married him and Margaret, lies nearby in the ambulatory. His brothers Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland both later became king

Geoffrey, Earl of Richmond, Duke of Brittany born on 23rd September 1158 was Duke of Brittany between 1181 and 1186, through his marriage with the heiress Constance.

King Henry arranged for Geoffrey to marry Constance, the heiress of Brittany. Geoffrey was invested with the duchy, and he and Constance were married in July 1181. Geoffrey and Constance would have three children, one born posthumously:

Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany born in 1184and died in 1241

Maud/Matilda of Brittany born in 1185-and died before May 1189

Arthur I, Duke of Brittany born in1187 and died in1203

Geoffrey was fifteen years old when he joined the first revolt against his father, and was later reconciled to Henry in 1174, when he participated in the truce at Gisors (when Richard was absent) and later, when Richard reconciled at a place between Tours and Amboise. Geoffrey prominently figured in the second revolt of 1183, fighting against Richard, in behalf of Henry the Young King.

Geoffrey was a good friend of Philip Augustus of France, and the two statesmen were frequently in alliance against King Henry. Geoffrey spent much time at Philip's court in Paris, and Philip made him his seneschal. There is evidence to suggest that Geoffrey was planning another rebellion with Philip's help during his final period in Paris in the summer of 1186. As a participant in so many rebellions against his father, Geoffrey acquired a reputation for treachery. Gerald of Wales said the following of him: He has more aloes than honey in him; his tongue is smoother than oil; his sweet and persuasive eloquence has enabled him to dissolve the firmest alliances and his powers of language to throw two kingdoms into confusion...

Geoffrey also was known to attack monasteries and churches in order to raise funds for his campaigns. This lack of reverence for religion earned him the displeasure of the Church and also of the majority of chroniclers who were to write the definitive accounts of his life.

Geoffrey died on 19th August 1186, at the age of twenty-eight, in Paris. There are two versions of his death. The more common first version, is that he was trampled dead in a jousting tournament. At his funeral, a grief-stricken Philip was said to have attempted jumping into the coffin. Roger of Hoveden's chronicle is the source of this version; the detail of Philip's hysterical grief is from Gerald of Wales.

In the second version, in the chronicle of the French Royal clerk Rigord, Geoffrey died of sudden acute abdominal pain, which reportedly struck immediately after his speech to Philip, boasting his intention to lay Normandy to waste. Possibly, this version was an invention of its chronicler; sudden illness being God's judgement of and ungrateful son plotting rebellion against his father, and for his irreligiosity. Alternatively, the tournament story may be an invention, by Philip, to prevent Henry II's discovery of a plot; inventing a social reason, a tournament, for Geoffrey's being in Paris, Philip obscured their meeting's true purpose.

Geoffrey was buried at Notre Dame Cathedral

Matilda of England born in 1156 at Windsor Castle, also known as Maud.  She seems to have spent much of her early life in the company of her mother, Queen Eleanor.

In 1165 Rainald of Dassel, Archbishop of Cologne, arrived at the court of King Henry II at Rouen, to negotiate a German match for Matilda. There was conflict during the negotiations, however, when Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester refused to greet the archbishop, alleging him to be a schismatic and a supporter of the anti-pope, Victor IV. The original plan to match a daughter of Henry II with a son of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor was abandoned, and instead Matilda left England in September 1167 to marry Henry the Lion.

She married Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, on 1st February 1168 at Minden Cathedral. They had four surviving sons and one daughter:

Matilda born in 1171 and died in 1210), married Geoffrey III, Count of Perche

Richenza  born in 1172 and died in 1204

Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine  born in 1173 and died on 28th April 1227

Lothar  born in 1174 and died on 16th October 1190

Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor and Duke of Swabia  born in 1175/1176 and died on 19th May 1218

William, Duke of Lüneburg  born in 11th April 1184 and died on 12th December 1213.

At the time of their marriage, Henry the Lion was one of the most powerful allies of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda governed her husband's vast estates during his absence in the Holy Land from 1172 to 1173. In 1174, Henry the Lion became involved in a conflict with the Emperor Frederick, and Henry and Matilda were forced to flee Germany and take refuge in Normandy at her father's court in 1182. During this time at the royal court at Argentan, Matilda became acquainted with the Troubadour Bertran de Born, who, calling her "Elena" or "Lana", made her the object of his desire in two of his poems of "courtly love".

Matilda, her husband, and their family remained in Normandy under the protection and support of King Henry until 1185, when they were able to return to Saxony. When her father Henry II died in 1189, Matilda survived him by only one week dying on 13th July 1189 at Braunschweig

Queen Leonora born on 13th October 1162 n Domfront Castle, Normandy as Princess Eleanor of England and Aquitaine and became Leonora, Queen of Castile as wife of Alfonso VIII of Castile.

Her godfather was the chronicler Robert of Torigny, who had a special interest in her and recorded her life as best he could. She received her first name as a namesake of her mother, whose name "Eleanor" (or Alienor) had previously been unrecorded though may have been related to the Greek Helen or the Italian Elena. Another view holds that in the Occitan language, Eleanor simply meant "the other Aenor," since Eleanor of Aquitaine was named for her mother, called Aenor.

When she was eight years old, in 1170, she was married to Alfonso VIII. The marriage was arranged to secure the Pyrennean border, with Gascony offered as her dowry.

Of all Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughters, her namesake Eleanor, who was called Leonor by her Spanish subjects, best inherited her mother's political influence. She reigned alongside her husband, who specified in his will that she was to rule alongside their son in the event of his death. It was she who persuaded him to marry their daughter Berenguela to the king of Leon in the interest of peace.

When Alfonso died, his queen was reportedly so devastated with grief that she was unable to preside over the burial. Their daughter Berenguela instead performed these honors. Leonora then took sick and died only twenty-eight days after her husband on 31st October 1214, and was buried at Abbey de las Huelgas, in Burgos.

Leonora and Alfonso had the following children

Berenguela, Queen of Castile born in August 1180 - 8th  November 1246) married King Alfonso IX of Leon

Sancho of Castile born and died in 1181

Sancha of Castile born in1182 and died on 3rd February 1184

Henry of Castile born and died in 1184

Urraca, princess of Castile born in1186 and died in 1220, married King Alfonso II of Portugal

Blanca of Castile born in 4 March 1188 and died on 26 November 1252, married King Louis VIII of France

Fernando of Castile born in 29 September 1189 and died in 1211

Mafalda of Castile born in 1191 and died in 1204

Constance of Castile born in 1195 and died in 1198)

Leonor of Castile born in 1200 and died in 1244, married King James I of Aragon

Constanza, nun at Las Huelgas born in 1201a nd died in 1243)

Henry I, King of Castile born in 14 April 1204 and died in 1217

Joan was born in 1166 at Château d'Angers in Anjou, and spent her youth at her mother's courts at Winchester and Poitiers. In 1176, King William II of Sicily sent ambassadors to the English court to ask for Joan's hand in marriage. The betrothal was confirmed on 20th May  and on 27th August  Joan set sail for Sicily, escorted by John of Oxford, the Bishop of Norwich and her uncle, Hamelin de Warenne, 5th Earl of Surrey. In Saint Gilles, her entourage was met by representatives of the Kingdom of Sicily: Alfano, Archbishop of Capua, and Richard Palmer, Bishop of Syracuse.

After a hazardous voyage, Joan arrived safely, and on 13th February 1177, she married William II of Sicily and was crowned Queen of Sicily at Palermo Cathedral. They had one son, Bohemond, born in 1181 and who died in infancy. Following William's death in 1189, she was kept a prisoner by the new king, Tancred of Sicily.

Finally, her brother Richard I of England arrived in Italy in 1190, on the way to the Holy Land. He demanded her return, along with every penny of her dowry. When Tancred baulked at these demands, Richard seized a monastery and the castle of La Bagnara. He decided to spend the winter in Italy and attacked and subdued the city of Messina. Finally, Tancred agreed to the terms and sent Joan's dowry. In March 1191 Eleanor of Aquitaine arrived in Messina with Richard's bride, Berengaria of Navarre.

Eleanor returned to England, leaving Berengaria in Joan's care. Richard decided to postpone his wedding, put his sister and bride on a ship, and set sail. Two days later the fleet was hit by a fierce storm, destroying several ships and blew Joan and Berengaria's ship off course. Richard landed safely in Crete, but they were stranded near Cyprus. The self-appointed despot of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus was just about to capture them when Richard's fleet suddenly appeared. The princesses were saved, but the despot made off with Richard's treasure. Richard pursued and captured Isaac, threw him into a dungeon, and sent Joan and Berengaria on to Acre.

Joan was Richard's favourite sister, but he was not above using her as a bargaining chip in his political schemes. He even suggested marrying her to Saladin's brother, Al-Adil, and making them joint rulers of Jerusalem. This plan fell apart when Joan refused to marry a Muslim and Al-Adil refused to marry a Christian. King Philip II of France also expressed some interest in marrying her, but this scheme, too, failed, possibly on grounds of affinity, since Philip's father Louis VII had formerly been married to her mother.

Joan was married in October 1196, at Rouen, to Raymond VI of Toulouse, with Quercy and the Agenais as her dowry. She was the mother of his successor Raymond VII of Toulouse (1197-1249), and a short lived daughter born in 1198.

This new husband treated her none too gently, however, and Joan came to fear him and his knights. In 1199, while pregnant with a third child, Joan was left to face alone a rebellion in which the lords of Saint-Félix-de-Caraman were prominent. She laid siege to their castle at les Cassès but was menaced by treachery. Escaping this threat, Joan travelled northwards, hoping for her brother's protection, but found him dead at Chalus. She then fled to her mother Queen Eleanor's court at Rouen, where she was offered refuge and care.

Joan asked to be admitted to Fontevrault Abbey, an unusual request for a married, pregnant woman, but this request was granted. She died in childbirth and was veiled a nun on her deathbed. Her son lived just long enough to be baptised; he was named Richard. Joan was thirty-three years old. She was buried at Fontevrault Abbey, and fifty years later her son Raymond VII would be interred next to her.

King John of England

Henry's illegitimate children were:

Geoffrey, Archbishop of York born c. 1152 .He was distinguished from his legitimate half-brothers by his consistent attachment and fidelity to his father. His mother was Ykenai, whom Walter Map described as 'a base-born, common harlot who stooped to all uncleanness. He was probably born before his father married Eleanor of Aquitaine.

He was made Bishop of Lincoln at the age of twenty-one in 1173; but though he enjoyed the temporalities he was never consecrated and resigned the see in January 1182. He then became his father's chancellor in 1181 and 1182, holding a large number of lucrative benefices in plurality. Richard nominated him archbishop of York in 1189, but he was not consecrated until 18th August 1191, or enthroned until 1194.

After Richard took the throne of England, Geoffrey was made to become a full priest, to eliminate a potential rival to the throne. In 1191, Geoffrey, who had been told to stay out of England by King Richard, attempted to go to York. He was met at Dover by agents of the chancellor, Longchamp, and even though he took refuge in the priory of St. Martin in Dover, was dragged from sanctuary and imprisoned in the Castle.

Geoffrey, though of high character, was a man of uneven temper; his history is chiefly one of quarrels, with the see of Canterbury, with the chancellor William Longchamp, with his half-brothers Richard and John, and especially with his canons at York. This last dispute kept him in litigation before Richard and Pope Celestine III for many years. He led the clergy in their refusal to be taxed by John and was forced to flee the kingdom in 1207. He died in Normandy on the 12th December 1212

William de Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury  born c..1176.  He was an English noble, primarily remembered for his command of the English forces at the Battle of Damme and for remaining loyal to King John.

His mother was unknown for many years, until the discovery of a charter of William mentioning "Comitissa Ida, mater mea"  This Ida was further identified as the wife of Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk[.

King Henry acknowledged William as his son and gave him the Honour of Appleby, Lincolnshire in 1188. Ten years later, his half-brother, King Richard I, married him to a great heiress, Ela, countess of Salisbury in her own right, and daughter of William of Salisbury, 2nd Earl of Salisbury.

During the reign of King John, Salisbury was at court on several important ceremonial occasions, and held various offices: sheriff of Wiltshire, lieutenant of Gascony, constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque Ports, and later warden of the Welsh Marches. He was a commander in the king's Welsh and Irish expeditions of 1210 and 1212. The king also granted him the honor of Eye.

In 1213, Salisbury led a large fleet to Flanders, where he seized or destroyed a good part of a French invasion fleet anchored at or near Damme. This ended the invasion threat but not the conflicts between England and France. In 1214, Salisbury was sent to help Otto IV of Germany, an English ally, who was invading France. Salisbury commanded the right wing of the army at their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Bouvines, where he was captured.

By the time he returned to England, revolt was brewing amongst the barons. Salisbury was one of the few who remained loyal to John. In the civil war that took place the year after the signing of the Magna Carta, Salisbury was one of the leaders of the king's army in the south. However, after the French prince Louis, later Louis VIII,  landed as an ally of the rebels, Salisbury went over to his side. Presumably, he thought John's cause was lost.

After John's death and the departure of Louis, Salisbury, along with many other barons, joined the cause of John's young son, now Henry III of England. He held an influential place in the government during the king's minority and fought in Gascony to help secure the remaining part of the English continental possessions. Salisbury's ship was nearly lost in a storm while returning to England in 1225, and he spent some months in refuge at a monastery on the French island of Ré. He died not long after his return to England on 7th March1226.. Roger of Wendover alleged that he was poisoned by Hubert de Burgh. He was buried at Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.

William de Longespee's tomb was opened in 1791. Bizarrely, the well-preserved corpse of a rat which carried traces of arsenic, was found inside his skull. The rat is now on display in a case at the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum.

By his wife Ela, countess of Salisbury, he had four sons and four daughters

William II Longespée born in 1212?-1250), who was sometimes called Earl of Salisbury but was never formally given the title, for reasons that remain unclear;

Richard, a canon of Salisbury;

Stephen died in1260, who was seneschal of Gascony;

Nicholas died in 1297, bishop of Salisbury

Isabella, who married William de Vesey

Petronilla, died unmarried

Ella de Longespée, who first married Thomas de Beaumont, 6th Earl of Warwick, and then married Philip Basset

Ida, who first married Ralph de Somery, and then William de Beauchamp

Several sources record Henry's appearance. They all agree that he was very strong, energetic and surpassed his peers athletically.

"...he was strongly built, with a large, leonine head, freckle fiery face and red hair cut short. His eyes were grey and we are told that his voice was harsh and cracked, possibly because of the amount of open-air exercise he took. He would walk or ride until his attendants and courtiers were worn out and his feet and legs were covered with blistered and sores...He would perform all athletic feats." John Harvey (Modern)

"...the lord king has been red-haired so far, except that the coming of old age and grey hair has altered that colour somewhat. His height is medium, so that neither does he appear great among the small, nor yet does he seem small among the great... curved legs, a horseman's shins, broad chest, and a boxer's arms all announce him as a man strong, agile and bold... he never sits, unless riding a horse or eating... In a single day, if necessary, he can run through four or five day-marches and, thus foiling the plots of his enemies, frequently mocks their plots with surprise sudden arrivals... Always are in his hands bow, sword, spear and arrow, unless he be in council or in books." - Peter of Blois (Contemporary)

"A man of reddish, freckled complexion, with a large, round head, grey eyes that glowed fiercely and grew bloodshot in anger, a fiery countenance and a harsh, cracked voice. His neck was poked forward slightly from his shoulders, his chest was broad and square, his arms strong and powerful. His body was stocky, with a pronounced tendency toward fatness, due to nature rather than self-indulgence - which he tempered with exercise. Gerald of Wales (Contemporary)

Like his grandfather, Henry I of England, Henry II had an outstanding knowledge of the law. A talented linguist and excellent Latin speaker, he would sit on councils in person whenever possible.. His interest in the economy was reflected in his own frugal lifestyle. He dressed casually except when tradition dictated otherwise and ate a sparing diet

He was modest and mixed with all classes easily. "He does not take upon himself to think high thoughts, his tongue never swells with elated language; he does not magnify himself as more than man" . His generosity was well-known and he employed a Templar to distribute one tenth of all the food bought to the royal court amongst his poorest subjects.

Henry also had a good sense of humour and was never upset at being the butt of the joke. Once while he sat sulking and occupying himself with needlework, a courtier suggested that he looked like a tanner's daughter. The King rocked with laughter and even explained the joke to those who didn't grasp it straight away .

"His memory was exceptional: he never failed to recognize a man he had once seen, nor to remember anything which might be of use. More deeply learned than any King of his time in the western world".

Henry's father, Geoffrey Plantagenet, held rich lands as a vassal from Louis VII of France. Maine and Anjou were therefore Henry's by birthright, amongst other lands in Eastern France.  By maternal claim, Normandy was also to be his. However, the most valuable inheritance Henry received from his mother was a claim to the English throne. Grand-daughter of William I of England, Empress Matilda's line was most entitled to the crown, but because she was female her cousin became Stephen I of England. Henry's efforts to restore the royalty line to his own family line would create a dynasty spanning three centuries and thirteen Kings.

Henry's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine placed him firmly in the ascendancy.. His plentiful lands were added to his new wife's possessions, giving him control of Aquitaine and Gascony. The riches of the markets and vineyards in these regions, combined with Henry's already plentiful holdings, made Henry the most power vassal in France.

Realising his royal ambitions was far from straightforward for Henry. His mother had been pushing her claim for the crown for several years to no avail, finally retiring in 1147.  It was 1147 when Henry had accompanied Matilda on an invasion of England, his first and her last. It soon failed due to lack of preparation, but it made him determined that England was his mother's right, and so his own. He returned to England again between 1149 and 1150. On 22nd May 1149 he was knighted by King David I of Scotland, his great uncle, at Carlisle.. Early in January 1153, just months after his wedding, he crossed the Channel one more time. His fleet was 36 ships strong, transporting a force of 3,000 footmen and 140 horses [19]. Sources dispute whether he landed at Dorset or Hampshire, but it is known he entered a small village church. It was 6th January and the locals were observing the Festival of the Three Kings. The correlation between the festivities and Henry's arrival was not lost on them. "Ecce advenit dominator Dominus, et regnum in manu ejus", they exclaimed as the introit for their feast, "Behold the Lord the ruler cometh, and the Kingdom in his hand" .

Henry worked fast and within the year he had secured his right to succession via the Treaty of Wallingford with Stephen I of England. He was now, for all intents and purposes, in control of England.. When Stephen died in October 1154, it was only a matter of time until Henry's treaty would come to fruition, and the quest that began with his mother would be over. On 19th December 1154 he was crowned in Westminster Abbey, "By The Grace Of God, Henry II, King Of England". Henry Plantagenet, vassal of Louis VII, was now more powerful than the French King himself.

Shortly after his coronation, Henry sent an embassy to the newly elected Pope Adrian IV. Led by Bishop Arnold of Lisieux, the group of clerics requested authorisation for Henry to invade Ireland. Most historians agree that this was the papal bull Laudabiliter. It is possible Henry acted under the influence of a "Canterbury plot"; where English eccelicasts were set on dominating the Irish system as well. However, Henry may have simply intended to secure Ireland as a lordship for his younger brother William.

Unfortunately William died soon after the plan was hatched and Ireland was ignored. It was not until 1166 that it came to the surface again. In that year, Dermot MacMurrough, a minor Irish Prince, was driven from his land of Leinster by the High King of Ireland. Dermot followed Henry to Aquitaine, seeking an audience. He asked the English king to help him reassert control; Henry agreed and made footmen, knights and nobles available for the cause. The most prominent of these was a Welsh Norman, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, nicknamed "Strongbow". In exchange for his loyalty, Dermot offered Earl Richard his daughter Aoife (Eve) in marriage and made him heir to the kingdom.

The Normans quickly restored Dermot to his traditional holdings, but it quickly became apparent that Henry had not offered aid purely out of kindness. In 1171, Henry arrived from France, declaring himself Lord of Ireland. All of the Normans, along with many Irish princes, took oaths of homage to Henry, and he left after six months. He never returned, but he later named his young son, the future King John of England, Lord of Ireland.

Dermot's appeal for outside help had made Henry Ireland's Lord, starting 800 years of English interference on the island. The change was so profound that Dermot is still remembered as a traitor of the highest order. In 1172, at the Synod of Cashel, Roman Catholicism was proclaimed as the only permitted religious practice in Ireland. Henry's ruthless expansion was showing no boundaries.

In 1174, a rebellion spearheaded by his own sons was not Henry's biggest problem. A invasion force from Scotland, led by their King, William the Lion, was advancing from the North. To make matters worse, a Flemish armada was sailing for England, just days from landing. It seemed likely that the King's rapid growth was to be checked He saw his predicament as a sign from God, that his treatment of Thomas Becket would be rewarded with defeat. He immediately did penance at Canterbury [25] for the Archbishop's fate and events took a turn for the better.

The hostile armada dispersed in the English Channel and headed back for the continent. Henry had avoided a foreign invasion, but Scottish rebels were still raiding in the North. Henry sent his troops to meet the Scots at Alnwick, where the English scored a devastating victory. William was captured in the chaos, removing the figurehead for rebellion, and within months all the problem fortresses had been torn down. Scotland was now completely dominated by Henry, another fief in his Angevin Empire, that now stretched from the Solway Firth almost to the Mediterranean and from the Somme to the Pyrenees. By the end of this crisis, and his sons' revolt, the King was "left stronger than ever before" .

During Stephen's reign, the barons in England had undermined Royal authority. Rebel castles were one problem, nobles avoiding military service was another. The new King immediately moved against the illegal fortresses that had sprung up during Stephen's reign, having them torn down.

To counter the problem of avoiding military service, Scutage became common. This tax, paid by Henry's barons instead of serving in his army, allowed the King to hire mercenaries. These hired troops were used to devastating affect by both Henry and his son Richard, and by 1159 the tax was central to the King's army and his authority over vassals.

Henry II's reign saw the establishment of Royal Magistrate courts. This allowed court officials to adjudicate on dispute with authority to the crown. This reduced the workload on Royal courts proper and allowed justice to be delivered with greater efficiency.

Henry also worked to make the legal system fairer. Trial by ordeal and Trial by combat were still common, even in the 12th century these methods were outdated. By the Assize of Clarendon, in 1166, Trial by Jury became the standard. Trial by Combat was still legal in England until 1819, but Henry's support of juries was a great contribution to the country's social history. The Assize of Northampton, in 1176, cemented the earlier agreements at Clarendon.

In the great tradition of Norman Kings, Henry II was keen to dominate the Church like the state. At Clarendon Palace on January 30 1164, the King set out sixteen constitutions, aimed at reducing clerical independence and interference from Rome. Secular courts, increasingly under the King's influence, would also have jurisdiction over clerical trials and disputes. Henry's authority guaranteed him majority support, but the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury refused to ratify the proposals.

Henry was characteristically stubborn and on October 8 1164, he called the Archbishop, Thomas Becket, before the Royal Council. However, Becket had fled to France and was under the protection of Henry's rival, Louis VII of France.

The King continued doggedly in his pursuit of control over his clerics, to the point where his religious policy became detrimental to his subjects. By 1170, the Pope was considering excommunicating all of Britain. Only Henry's agreement that Becket could return to England without penalty prevented this fate.

"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?", or words to that effect, are ones that sparked the darkest event in Henry's religious wranglings. Bitter at Becket, his old friend, constantly thwarting his clerical constitutions, the King shouted in anger but most likely not with intent. However, four of Henry's knights, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Moreville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton overheard their Kings cries and decided to act.

On 29th December 1170, they entered Canterbury Cathedral, finding Becket near the stairs to the crypt. They beat down the Archbishop, killing him with several blows. Whatever the rights and wrongs, it certainly tainted Henry's later reign. For the remaining 20 years of his rule, he would personally regret the death of a man who "in happier times...had been a friend"

Just three years later, Becket had been canonized and was revered as a martyr against secular interference in God's church. Plantagenet historian John Harvey believes "The martyrdom of Thomas Becket was a martyrdom which he had repeatedly gone out of his way to cannot but feel sympathy towards Henry" . Wherever the true intent and blame lies, it was yet another failure in Henry's religious policy, an arena which he seemed to lack adequate subtlety.

"It is the common fate of sons to be misunderstood by their fathers, and of fathers to be unloved of their sons, but it has been the particular bane of the English throne"

The "Angevin Curse" is infamous amongst the Plantagenet rulers. Trying to divide numerous lands amongst numerous ambitious children resulted in many problems for Henry. The King's plan for an orderly transfer of power relied on Young Henry ruling and his younger brothers doing homage to him for land. However, Richard refused to be subordinate to his brother, because they had the same mother and father, and the same Royal blood in their veins .

In 1173, Young Henry and Richard moved against their father and his succession plans, trying to secure the lands they were promised. The King's changing and revising of his inheritance nurtured jealousy in his off-spring, resulting in the aggression [31]. While both Young Henry and Richard were relatively strong in France, they still lacked the manpower and experience to trouble their father unduly. The King crushed this first rebellion and was fair in his punishment, Richard for example, lost half of the revenue allowed to him as Count of Poitou[32].

In 1182, the Plantagenet children's aggression turned inward. Young Henry, Richard and their brother Geoffrey all began fighting each other for their father's possessions on the continent. The aggression was exacerbated by French rebels and the French King, Philip Augustus]. This was the most serious threat to come from within the family yet, and the King faced the monastic tragedy of civil war. However, on 11th June 1183, Henry the Young King died. The uprising, which had been built around the Prince, quickly collapsed and the remaining brothers returned to the their individual lands. Henry quickly occupied the rebel region of Angouleme to keep the peace

The final battle between Henry's Princes came in 1184. Geoffrey of Brittany and John of Ireland, the youngest brothers, had been promised Aquitaine, which belonged to elder brother Richard.. Geoffrey and John invaded, but Richard had been controlling an army for almost 10 years and was an accomplished military commander. Richard expelled his fickle brothers and they would never again face each other in combat, largely because Geoffrey died two years later, leaving only Richard and John.

The final thorn in Henry's side would be an alliance between his eldest son, Richard, and his greatest rival, Philip Augustus. John had become Henry's favourite son and Richard had begun to fear he was being written out of the King's inheritance. In summer 1189, Richard and Philip invaded Henry's heartland of power, Anjou. The unlikely allies took northwest Touraine, attacked Le Mans and over-ran Maine and Tours. Defeated, Henry II met his opponents and agreed to all their demands, including paying homage to Philip for all his French possessions.

Weak, ill, and deserted by all but an illegitimate son, Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, Henry died at Chinon on 6th July 1189. His eldest remaining son, and conqueror, was crowned Richard I of England on 1st September 1189.


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