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Henry II
King of England (more...)
Reign 19 December 1154 – 6 July 1189
Coronation 19 December 1154
Predecessor Stephen of Blois
Successor Richard I
Junior king Henry the Young King
Spouse Eleanor of Aquitaine
William IX, Count of Poitiers
Henry the Young King
Richard I of England
Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany
Matilda, Duchess of Saxony
Eleanor, Queen of Castile
Joan, Queen of Sicily
John of England
House House of Plantagenet
Father Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Mother Matilda of England
Born 5 March 1133(1133-03-05)
Le Mans, France
Died 6 July 1189 (aged 56)
Chinon, France
Burial Fontevraud Abbey, France

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189), ruled as King of England (1154–1189), Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, 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. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the first of the House of Plantagenet to rule England. Henry was the first to use the title "King of England" (as opposed to "King of the English").

He is also known as Henry Curtmantle and Henry Fitz-Empress.


Early life and descent

Henry II was born in Le Mans, France, on 5 March 1133.[1] His father, Geoffrey V of Anjou (Geoffrey Plantagenet, son of Fulk of Jerusalem), was Count of Anjou and Count of Maine. His mother, Empress Matilda, was a claimant to the English throne as the daughter of Henry I (1100–1135), son of William The Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. His own claim to the throne was strengthened by his descent from both the English Saxon kings and the kings of Scotland through his maternal grandmother Matilda of Scotland, whose father was Malcolm III of Scotland and whose mother was Margaret of Wessex (Saint Margaret of Scotland), grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside.

He spent his childhood in his father's land of Anjou. At the age of nine, Robert of Gloucester took him to England, where he received education from Master Matthew at Bristol, with the assistance of Adelard of Bath and possibly Geoffrey of Monmouth. In 1144, he was returned to Normandy where his education was continued by William of Conches.[2]

Marriage and children

On 18 May 1152, at Poitiers,[3] at the age of 19, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine. The wedding was "without the pomp or ceremony that befitted their rank,"[4] partly because only two months previously Eleanor's marriage to Louis VII of France had been annulled. Their relationship, always stormy, eventually disintegrated: after Eleanor encouraged her children to rebel against their father in 1173, Henry had her placed under house arrest, where she remained for fifteen years.[5]

Henry and Eleanor had eight children, William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. William died in infancy. As a result Henry was crowned as joint king when he came of age. However, because he was never king in his own right, he is known as "Henry the Young King", not Henry III. In theory, Henry would have inherited the throne from his father, Richard his mother's possessions, Geoffrey would have Brittany, and John would be Lord of Ireland. However, fate would ultimately decide much differently.

It has been suggested by John Speed's 1611 book, History of Great Britain, that another son, Philip, was born to the couple. Speed's sources no longer exist, but Philip would presumably have died in early infancy.[6]

Henry also had illegitimate children. While they were not valid claimants, their royal blood made them potential problems for Henry's legitimate successors.[7] William Longespée was one such child. He remained largely loyal and contented with the lands and wealth afforded to him as a royal bastard. Geoffrey, Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, on the other hand, was seen as a possible thorn in the side of Richard I of England.[7] Geoffrey had been the only son to attend Henry II on his deathbed, after even the king's favourite son, John Lackland, deserted him.[8] Richard forced him into the clergy at York, thus ending his secular ambitions.[7] Another son, Morgan was elected to the Bishopric of Durham, although he was never consecrated due to opposition from Pope Innocent III.[9]


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 blisters 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.[10]

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".[11] 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 such behavior was to be expected from a descendant of the bastard son of a tanner's daughter (referring to his great-grandfather William the Conqueror being the son of Herleva, daughter of Fulbert a tanner from the Norman town of Falaise). The king rocked with laughter and even explained the joke to those who did not immediately grasp it.[12]

"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".[10]

In contrast, the king's temper has been written about. His actions against Thomas Becket are evidence of his blinding temper, along with his conflict with William I of Scotland.[13]

Construction of an empire


Henry's claims by blood and marriage

Henry II depicted in Cassell's History of England (1902).

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 Western France.[4] By maternal claim, Normandy was also to be his. From a contemporary perspective, however, the most notable inheritance Henry received from his mother was a claim to the English throne. Granddaughter of William the Conqueror, Empress Matilda was to be queen regnant of England, but her throne was usurped by her cousin, Stephen of England. Henry's efforts to restore the royal line to his own family would create a dynasty spanning three centuries and thirteen kings.

Henry's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine placed him firmly in the ascendancy.[4] 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 powerful vassal in France.

Taking the English Throne

Realising Henry's royal ambition was far from easily fulfilled, 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. It soon failed due to lack of preparation,[4] 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 22 May 1149 he was knighted by King David I of Scotland, his great uncle, at Carlisle.[14]

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.[15] Sources dispute whether he landed at Dorset or Hampshire, but it is known he entered a small village church. It was 6 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."[14]

Henry moved quickly and within the year he had secured his right to succession via the Treaty of Wallingford with Stephen 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 bear fruit, and the quest that began with his mother would be ended. On 19 December 1154 he was crowned in Westminster Abbey, "By The Grace Of God, Henry II, King Of England".[14] Henry Plantagenet, vassal of Louis VII, was now more powerful than the French king himself. Henry used the title, Rex Angliae, Dux Normaniae et Aquitaniae et Comes Andigaviae (king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, count of Anjou).[16] He was thus the first to be crowned "king of England", as opposed to "king of the English."[17]

Lordship over Ireland

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. Some historians suggest that this resulted in the papal bull Laudabiliter. Whether this donation is genuine or not, Edmund Curtis says, is one of "the great questions of history."[18] It is possible Henry acted under the influence of a "Canterbury plot," in which English ecclesiastics strove to dominate the Irish church.[19] However, Henry may have simply intended to secure Ireland as a lordship for his younger brother William.

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, King Diarmait Mac Murchada, of Leinster, was driven from his land of Leinster by the High King of Ireland. Diarmait 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, Diarmait offered Earl Richard his daughter Aoife in marriage and made him heir to the kingdom.

The Normans restored Diarmait 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.

Diarmait's appeal for outside help had made Henry Ireland's Lord, starting 800 years of English overlordship on the island. The change was so profound that Diarmait is still remembered as a traitor of the highest order. In 1172, at the Synod of Cashel, County Tipperary, Roman Catholicism was proclaimed as the only permitted religious practice in Ireland.

Consolidation in Scotland

In 1174, a rebellion spearheaded by his own sons was not Henry's biggest problem. An 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.[1]

Henry 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[1] 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 Flemish invasion, but Scottish invaders 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. Southern 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".[8]

Domestic policy

Dominating nobles

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, which Henry's barons paid in lieu of military service, allowed the king to hire mercenaries. These hired troops were used to devastating effect by both Henry and his son Richard, and by 1159 the tax was central to the king's army and his authority over vassals.

Legal reform

Henry II's reign saw the establishment of Royal Magistrate courts.[citation needed] This allowed court officials under authority of the Crown to adjudicate local disputes, reducing the workload on Royal courts proper and delivering justice with greater efficiency.

Henry also worked to make the legal system fairer. Trial by ordeal and trial by combat were still common in the 12th century. By the Assize of Clarendon, in 1166, a precursor to trial by jury became the standard. However, this group of "twelve lawful men," as the Assize commonly refers to it, provided a service more similar to a grand jury, alerting court officials to matters suitable for prosecution. 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.

Religious policy

Artist's impression of Henry II, circa 1620

Strengthening royal control over the church

In the tradition of Norman kings, Henry II was keen to have secular law predominate over the law of the church. The clergy had a free hand, and were not required to obey laws of the land that conflicted with the governance of the church. Henry wanted the laws of the land to be obeyed by all, clergy and laity alike. At Clarendon Palace on 30 January 1164, the king set out sixteen constitutions, aimed at decreasing ecclesiastical interference from Rome. Secular courts 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 8 October 1164, he called archbishop Thomas Becket before the Royal Council. Becket, however, 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. 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. So the separation of England and the Church of Rome was forestalled until Henry VIII.

Murder of Thomas Becket

"What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!"  were the words which sparked the darkest event in Henry's religious wranglings. This speech has translated into legend in the form of "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"—a provocative statement which would perhaps have been just as riling to the knights and barons of his household at whom it was aimed as his actual words. Bitter at Becket, his old friend, constantly thwarting his clerical constitutions, the king shouted in anger but possibly not with intent. However, four of Henry's knights, Reginald Fitzurse, Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton overheard their king's cries and decided to act on his words.

On 29 December 1170, they entered Canterbury Cathedral, finding Becket near the stairs to the crypt. They beat down the Archbishop, killing him with several blows. Becket's brains were scattered upon the ground with the words; "Let us go, this fellow will not be getting up again". 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".[20]

Just three years later, Becket was canonised and revered as a martyr against secular interference in God's church; Pope Alexander III had declared Thomas Becket a saint. 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".[20] Wherever the true intent and blame lie, it was yet another sacrifice to the ongoing war between church and state.

The Angevin Curse

Civil war and rebellion

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.[21]

The "Angevin Curse" is infamous amongst the Plantagenet rulers. Trying to divide his 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.[7]

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 offspring, which turned to aggression. 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.[7]

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 situation was exacerbated by French rebels and the king of France, Philip Augustus. This was the most serious threat to come from within the family yet, and the king faced the dynastic tragedy of civil war. However, on 11 June 1183, Henry the Young King died. The uprising, which had been built around the Prince, promptly collapsed and the remaining brothers returned to their individual lands. Henry quickly occupied the rebel region of Angoulême to keep the peace.[7]

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.[7] 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.

Death and succession

Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey

The final thorn in Henry's side would be an alliance between his eldest surviving 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.[7] In summer 1189, Richard and Philip invaded Henry's heartland of power, Anjou. The unlikely allies took northwest Touraine, attacked Le Mans and overran 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 6 July 1189. His legitimate children, chroniclers record him saying, were "the real bastards".[22] The victorious Prince Richard later paid his respects to Henry's corpse as it travelled to Fontevraud Abbey, upon which, according to Roger of Wendover, 'blood flowed from the nostrils of the deceased, as if...indignant at the presence of the one who was believed to have caused his death'. The Prince, Henry's eldest surviving son and conqueror, was crowned "by the grace of God, King Richard I of England" at Westminster on 1 September 1189.



For a list of Henry's direct male-line descendants, see List of members of the House of Plantagenet.

Fictional portrayals

Henry is a central character in the plays Becket by Jean Anouilh and The Lion in Winter by James Goldman. Peter O'Toole portrayed him in the film adaptations of both of these plays - Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968) - for both of which he received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best British Actor for Becket and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama for both films. Patrick Stewart portrayed Henry in the 2003 TV film adaptation of The Lion in Winter, for which he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Curtmantle, a 1961 play by Christopher Fry, also tells the story of Henry II's life, as remembered by William Marshall.

Brian Cox portrayed him in the 1978 BBC TV series The Devil's Crown, which dramatised his reign and those of his sons. He has also been portrayed on screen by William Shea in the 1910 silent short Becket, A. V. Bramble in the 1923 silent film Becket, based on a play by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Alexander Gauge in the 1952 film adaptation of the T. S. Eliot play Murder in the Cathedral, and Dominic Roche in the 1962 British children's TV series Richard the Lionheart.

Henry is a significant character in the historical fiction/medieval murder mysteries Mistress of the Art of Death, The Serpent's Tale and Grave Goods by Diana Norman, writing under the pseudonym Ariana Franklin. He also plays a part in Ken Follett's most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth, which in its final chapter portrays a fictional account of the king's penance at Canterbury Cathedral for his unknowing role in the murder of Thomas Becket. He is a major character in three of the novels of Sharon Kay Penman known as the Plantagenet Trilogy: When Christ and His Saints Slept, Time and Chance, and The Devil's Brood. The novels tell his life story from before his birth to his death.

Henry is played by David Warner in Mike Walker's BBC Radio 4 series Plantagenet (2010).

See also


  1. ^ a b c Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.47
  2. ^ Barber, Richard (2003). Henry Plantagenet. Boydell Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780851159935. 
  3. ^ Thelma Anna Leese, Blood royal, 1996, p.189
  4. ^ a b c d Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.49
  5. ^ Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.51
  6. ^ Weir, Alison, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, pp.154-155, Ballantine Books, 1999
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Turner & Heiser, The Reign of Richard Lionheart
  8. ^ a b Harvey, The Plantagenets
  9. ^ British History Online Bishops of Durham. Retrieved 25 October 2007.
  10. ^ a b Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.40
  11. ^ Walter Map, Contemporary
  12. ^ Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.43
  13. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.173. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  14. ^ a b c Harvey. The Plantagenets. pp. 50. 
  15. ^ Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.48
  16. ^ "King Henry II". 
  17. ^ "Henry II - the 'First' King of England".  Canute (r. 1016 - 1035) was "king of all England" (ealles Engla landes cyning).
  18. ^ Curtis, Edmund (2002). A History of Ireland from Earliest Times to 1922. New York: Routledge. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0415279496. 
  19. ^ Warren, Henry II
  20. ^ a b John Harvey, The Plantagenets, p.45
  21. ^ Harvey, Richard I, p.58
  22. ^ Simon Schama's A History of Britain, Episode 3, "Dynasty"

References and further reading

  • Richard Barber, The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons (Conshohocken, PA, 1996)
  • Robert Bartlett, England Under The Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 (2000)
  • J. Boussard, Le government d'Henry II Plantagênêt (Paris, 1956)
  • John D. Hosler Henry II: A Medieval Soldier at War, 1147–1189 (History of Warfare; 44) Brill Academic Publishers, 2007 ISBN 9004157247
  • John Harvey, The Plantagenets
  • John Harvey, Richard I
  • Ralph Turner & Richard Heiser, The Reign of Richard Lionheart
  • W.L. Warren, Henry II (London, 1973)

External links

Henry II of England
Cadet branch of the 1189
Born: 5 March 1133 Died: 6 July
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of England
with Henry the Young King
Succeeded by
Richard I
English royalty
Preceded by
Eustace IV,
Count of Boulogne
Heir to the English Throne
as heir apparent
by the Treaty of Wallingford
November, 1153 – 25 October 1154
Succeeded by
William IX, Count of Poitiers
French nobility
Preceded by
Geoffrey V of Anjou
Count of Mortain
Succeeded by
William of Blois
Duke of Normandy
with Henry the Young King
Succeeded by
Richard I of England
Count of Anjou
with Henry the Young King
Count of Maine
with Henry the Young King
Preceded by
Louis VII of France and
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Duke of Aquitaine
with Eleanor of Aquitaine
Succeeded by
Eleanor of Aquitaine and
Richard I of England
Count of Poitiers
with Eleanor of Aquitaine
Succeeded by
William IX, Count of Poitiers


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Henry II, King of England 
Birth March 5, 1133 in Le Mans
Death: July 6, 1189 in Chinon
Father: Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou and Maine (1113-1151)
Mother: Matilda of Normandy (1102-1167)
Wife: Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine (1122-1204)
Wedding: 9999 in "[[May 18, 1152
Bordeaux|May 18]]"
Companion (2): Ida de Tosny (?-?)
Companion (3): Ykenai (?-?)
Edit facts

Henry II, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou and Maine also known as Henry FitzEmpress and Henry Plantagenet.

Henry II, born in 1133, was invested as Duke of Normandy in 1150. The next year, he succeeded his father as Count of Anjou and Maine. His marriage in 1152 gave him control of the Duchy of Aquitaine. In 1154 he succeeded Stephen as King of England, and in 1171 took the additional title of Lord (Dominus) of Ireland.

Henry II, first of the Angevin kings, was one of the most effective of all England's monarchs. He came to the throne amid the anarchy of Stephen's reign and promptly collared his errant barons. He refined Norman government and created a capable, self-standing bureaucracy. His energy was equaled only by his ambition and intelligence. Henry survived wars, rebellion, and controversy to successfully rule one of the Middle Ages' most powerful kingdoms.

Henry was raised in the French province of Anjou and first visited England in 1142 to defend his mother's claim to the disputed throne of Stephen. His continental possessions were already vast before his coronation: He acquired Normandy and Anjou upon the death of his father in September 1151, and his French holdings more than doubled with his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitane (ex-wife of King Louis VII of France). In accordance with the Treaty of Wallingford, a succession agreement signed by Stephen and Matilda in 1153, Henry was crowned in October 1154. The continental empire ruled by Henry and his sons included the French counties of Brittany, Maine, Poitou, Touraine, Gascony, Anjou, Aquitane, and Normandy. Henry was technically a feudal vassal of the king of France but, in reality, owned more territory and was more powerful than his French lord. Although King John (Henry's son) lost most of the English holdings in France, English kings laid claim to the French throne until the fifteenth century. Henry also extended his territory in the British Isles in two significant ways. First, he retrieved Cumbria and Northumbria form Malcom IV of Scotland and settled the Anglo-Scot border in the North. Secondly, although his success with Welsh campaigns was limited, Henry invaded Ireland and secured an English presence on the island.

English and Norman barons in Stephen's reign manipulated feudal law to undermine royal authority; Henry instituted many reforms to weaken traditional feudal ties and strengthen his position. Unauthorized castles built during the previous reign were razed. Monetary payments replaced military service as the primary duty of vassals. The Exchequer was revitalized to enforce accurate record keeping and tax collection. Incompetent sheriffs were replaced and the authority of royal courts was expanded. Henry empowered a new social class of government clerks that stabilized procedure - the government could operate effectively in the king's absence and would subsequently prove sufficiently tenacious to survive the reign of incompetent kings. Henry's reforms allowed the emergence of a body of common law to replace the disparate customs of feudal and county courts. Jury trials were initiated to end the old Germanic trials by ordeal or battle. Henry's systematic approach to law provided a common basis for development of royal institutions throughout the entire realm.

The process of strengthening the royal courts, however, yielded an unexpected controversy. The church courts instituted by William the Conqueror became a safe haven for criminals of varying degree and ability, for one in fifty of the English population qualified as clerics. Henry wished to transfer sentencing in such cases to the royal courts, as church courts merely demoted clerics to laymen. Thomas Beckett, Henry's close friend and chancellor since 1155, was named Archbishop of Canterbury in June 1162 but distanced himself from Henry and vehemently opposed the weakening of church courts. Beckett fled England in 1164, but through the intervention of Pope Adrian IV (the lone English pope), returned in 1170.He greatly angered Henry by opposing to the coronation of Prince Henry. Exasperated, Henry hastily and publicly conveyed his desire to be rid of the contentious Archbishop - four ambitious knights took the king at his word and murdered Beckett in his own cathedral on December 29, 1170. Henry endured a rather limited storm of protest over the incident and the controversy passed.

Henry's plans of dividing his myriad lands and titles evoked treachery from his sons. At the encouragement - and sometimes because of the treatment - of their mother, they rebelled against their father several times, often with Louis VII of France as their accomplice. The deaths of Henry the Young King in 1183 and Geoffrey in 1186 gave no respite from his children's rebellious nature; Richard, with the assistance of Philip II Augustus of France, attacked and defeated Henry on July 4, 1189 and forced him to accept a humiliating peace. Henry II died two days later, on July 6, 1189.

A few quotes from historic manuscripts shed a unique light on Henry, Eleanor, and their sons.

From Sir Winston Churchill Kt, 1675: "Henry II Plantagenet, the very first of that name and race, and the very greatest King that England ever knew, but withal the most unfortunate . . . his death being imputed to those only to whom himself had given life, his ungracious sons. . ."

From Sir Richard Baker, A Chronicle of the Kings of England: Concerning endowments of mind, he was of a spirit in the highest degree generous . . . His custom was to be always in action; for which cause, if he had no real wars, he would have feigned . . . To his children he was both indulgent and hard; for out of indulgence he caused his son henry to be crowned King in his own time; and out of hardness he caused his younger sons to rebel against him . . . He married Eleanor, daughter of William Duke of Guienne, late wife of Lewis the Seventh of France. Some say King Lewis carried her into the Holy Land, where she carried herself not very holily, but led a licentious life; and, which is the worst kind of licentiousness, in carnal familiarity with a Turk."


Henry II is a double descendant of Charlemagne (747-814), 13th generation via his father and 14th via his mother.


Offspring of  Henry II, King of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine (1122-1204)
Name Birth Death
William Plantagenet, Count of Poitiers (1153-1156) August 17, 1153 in Normandy April 1156 in Wallingford Castle, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
Henry, Duke of Normandy (1155-1183) February 28, 1155 in "Bermondsey" June 11, 1183 in "Martel"
Matilda of England (1156-1189) 1156 July 13, 1189 in Braunschweig
Richard I, King of England (1157-1199) September 8, 1157 in "Beaumont Palace Oxford" April 6, 1199 in "Châlus Limoges, Limosin, France"
Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186) September 23, 1158 August 19, 1186 in Paris
Eleanor of England (1162-1214) October 13, 1162 in Le Mans October 31, 1214
Joan of England (1165-1199)
John, King of England (1167-1216) December 24, 1166 in "Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England" October 1216 in "Newark Castle, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England"
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Offspring of  Henry II, King of England and Ida de Tosny (?-?)
Name Birth Death
William Longespee, 3rd Earl of Salisbury (c1176-1226) 1176 in England March 7, 1226 in England
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Offspring of  Henry II, King of England and Ykenai (?-?)
Name Birth Death
Geoffrey Longespee, Archbishop of York (?-1212)
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Citations and remarks

‡ General


 John Kenney

This article uses material from the "Henry II, King of England (1133-1189)" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Henry II Curtmantle
File:Henry II of
King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine; Count of Angevin and Lord of Ireland.
Reign 25 October 1154 – 6 July 1189
Coronation 19 December 1154
Predecessor Stephen of Blois
Junior king Henry the Young King
Successor Richard I the Lionheart
Spouse Eleanor of Aquitaine
William IX, Count of Poitiers
Henry the Young King
Richard I the Lionheart
Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany
Matilda, Duchess of Saxony
Leonora, Queen of Castile
Joan, Queen of Sicily
John Lackland
House House of Plantagenet
Father Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Mother Matilda of England
Born 5 March 1133(1133-03-05)
Le Mans, France
Died 6 July 1189 (aged 56)
Chinon, France
Burial Fontevraud Abbey, France
[[File:|thumb|Henry II, King of England]]

Henry II of England (Le Mans, France, 5 March 1133 – Chinon, France, 6 July 1189) was also Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, 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 was as much concerned with his empire in France as he was with England.

Henry was the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Empress Matilda. He married Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 and was crowned king in 1154. His children included the future kings Richard, who would later lead many battles, and John. Although he was King of England, he never learnt the English language because his family had come over from Normandy in 1066. They spoke Norman French. Henry was intelligent and well educated. He spoke Latin fluently, which was the language of educated people in Europe at that time. All documents and laws were written in Latin.

Henry II's succession to the English throne was agreed in 1153. He finally came to the throne in 1154 upon Stephen I's death. He reduced the power of the barons who had become very powerful in Stephen's reign, and in 1166 introduced trial by jury.

One of the big events that happened while Henry ruled was the killing of Thomas Becket. Henry and Becket were old friends who found themselves in dispute once Becket became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their dispute was over the role of the Church in England. Becket was trying to increase the power of church courts that had lost power when Henry had made major changes to the legal system. Four knights killed Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Legend say that the knights had heard Henry say, "Who will rid me of this turbulent (rebellious) priest?"

Henry's first son, William, Count of Poitiers, died in as a baby. In 1170, Henry and Eleanor's fifteen-year-old son, Henry, was crowned king (another reason for Henry's arguing with Thomas Becket, who did not agree with the Henry being crowned). Young Henry never ruled and is not in the list of the kings and queens of England; he became known as Henry the Young King so he was not confused with his nephew Henry III.

Henry and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. Henry tried to take Eleanor's lands from her (and from their son Richard). This led to conflict between Henry on the one side and his wife and sons on the other.

Henry also had many children outside of his marriage, including William de Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, whose mother was Ida, Countess of Norfolk; Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, son of a woman named Ykenai; Morgan, Bishop of Durham; and Matilda, Abbess of Barking.

Henry had constant struggles and battles against the French King Louis VII of France, but also many conflicts with his own wife and sons. His legitimate children were, he said, "the real bastards".[1] When they were not fighting each other, they were fighting Henry. First Richard and young Henry fought their father for possession of lands they had been promised. They were defeated, and fined heavily. Later Eleanor and young Henry led a civil war against King Henry (1873/74). This Henry also won, just. Richard finally defeated Henry in a battle for Anjou (1189). Richard had the help of Philip II, who was now King of France.

Weak, ill and deserted by all except an illegitimate son, Henry died in France in 1189 aged 56. He ruled for 35 years and was succeeded by Richard.


  1. Simon Schama's A History of Britain, Episode 3, "Dynasty"


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