Henry II established the House of Plantagenet. Born to Matilda during a turbulent period, his mother was swept aside while Stephen seized the throne. It was only after he married the most powerful woman in Europe, Eleanor -- Duchess of Aquitaine and ex-consort of Louis XII -- that he was able to take the crown.
A man of war, he spent his life on campaigns and stayed on the move. At first, Eleanour shared in the monarch's administrative power and often acted as regent. But with Thomas Becket's rise to power, she was over-shadowed. Becket was not a religious man. Neither was he of noble blood. But with the king's favor, he was able to spend lavishly. Then... in a disastrous political move, Henry forced Becket into the clergy. Suddenly... Beckett became pious, and blew Henry's plan. Once the king realized that he could not control the man he made, he threw a fit the world never forgot. A few of his knights were in ear-shot. Took the king's temper tantrum at face value... and murdered Beckett in his own church.
Europe went into an uproar. Henry got bad press. And voila -- the man of the cloth, who once stunned the French with gaudy displays of wealth... became canonized. They say that Beckett's memory haunted Henry for the rest of his life, but it never stopped him from enjoying power. Although he showered titles on his sons, and even named some of them King ... he refused to let them rule. This led to a series of mutinies within his own family, and he even incarcerated the Queen for years on end. But Eleanor outlived him, and even helped her youngest son John, to ascend the throne.
(5 March) Birth of Henry in Le Mans, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire, France
Henry II has no coat of arms directly attested for him. Based on the bearings of his immediate family ... he most likely bore a coat with two lions passant (tinctures unknown).
Henry II of England (called "Curtmantle"; 5 March 1133 - 6 July 1189) ruled as King of England (1154-1189), 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. 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").
Henry was born at Le Mans, Anjou on 5th March, 1133 to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. His claim to the throne was strengthened by descent from both English Saxon kings and kings of Scotland through his maternal grandmother Matilda. Her father was Malcolm III of Scotland and his mother was Margaret of Wessex (Saint Margaret of Scotland), grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside.
The nickname "Plantagnet," came about because Henry's father wore a sprig of Planta Genista in his helmet. It coined the surname of one of England's greatest dynasties that ruled the country throughout medieval times. But it didn't become a surname until the mid 15th century.
Henry's inheritance from his father included Anjou and Maine. His mother gave him the Duchy of Normandy and a claim to be king of England. But his holdings paled in comparison to Europe's most coveted duchess, Eleanor of Aquitaine. By marrying her the legendary heiress, he effectively became a powerful man, able to threaten the French. With Touraine, Aquitaine, and Gascony, he was also able to take the English throne.
According to Alison Weir's research, Henry was stocky and bowl-legged, but Eleanor apparently liked the "freckled ... face and red haired" kid from Anjou. She first laid eyes on him in France when she was married to Louis. At the time, Henry was about 10 years her junior and a stark contrast to her boring husband. The French king was pious, timid, wore a plain church frock, and felt guilty over sex. Along with court intrigues against the Duchess, Louis' over-all demeanor certainly aided her decision to ditch him for the young and verile Henry.
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 obsession with administration and war campaigns showed. He didn't care for fashion and was always on the move. Unlike Eleanor, he wasn't refined.
"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".
In contrast, the king's temper has been written about. His actions against Thomas Becket along with his conflict with William I of Scotland are partial evidence of this. But he was also noted for rolling on the floor and chewing reeds while in other fiery rages..
On 18 May 1152, at Bordeaux Cathedral, at the age of 19, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, was the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatellerault. She had previously been the wife of Louis VII, King of France, but they divorced.
Henry's first son, William, Count of Poitiers, died in infancy. In 1170, Henry and Eleanor's fifteen-year-old son, Henry, was crowned king (another reason for rupture with Thomas Becket, whose other bishops acquiesced to this during Becket's exile), but he never actually ruled and does not figure in the list of the monarchs of England; he became known as Henry the Young King to distinguish him from his nephew Henry III of England.
Henry II depicted in Cassell's History of England (1902)Henry and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. John Speed, in his 1611 work History of Great Britain, mentions the possibility that Henry and Eleanor had a son named Philip, who died young. His sources no longer exist and he alone mentions this birth. Henry's attempts to wrest control of her lands from Eleanor (and from her heir Richard) led to confrontations between Henry on the one side and his wife and legitimate sons on the other.
Henry's illegitimate son Geoffrey, was born in the early days of his marriage to Eleanor. Geoffrey's mother, Hikenai or Ykenai, was said to be a prostitute.
Henry's liaison with Rosamund Clifford, the "fair Rosamund" of legend, probably began in 1165 during a Welsh campaign. It continued until her death in 1176. However, it was not until 1174, at around the time of his break with Eleanor, that Henry acknowledged Rosamund as his mistress. Almost simultaneously he began negotiating the annulment of his marriage in order to marry Alys, daughter of King Louis VII of France and already betrothed to Henry's son Richard. Henry's affair with Alys continued for some years, and, unlike Rosamund Clifford, Alys allegedly gave birth to one of Henry's illegitimate children.
Henry had a number of illegitimate children by various women, and several were reared in the royal nursery. Some remained members of the household in adulthood. Among them were:
William de Longespee, 3rd Earl of Salisbury, whose mother was Ida, Countess of Norfolk;
Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, son of Ykenai;
Morgan, Bishop of Durham; and Matilda, Abbess of Barking.
On the death of King Stephen in 1154, Henry came to the English throne at the age of 21 in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Wallingford
Henry's quarrels with Thomas à Beckett cast a long shadow. The son of a wealthy London merchant of Norman extraction, Beckett was appointed Chancellor.
Beckett dressed extravagantly. Sent on a mission to the court of France to negotiate marriage for Young Henry and Margaret, daughter of the French King by his second wife, his lavish style made a vivid impression on the French.
On the death of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry II decided to appoint Beckett to control of the churches legal system. But Beckett, now in a very powerful position, suddenly became outwardly pious. In effect, Henry's plans were destroyed.
A council was held at Westminster in October 1163, Beckett was not a man to compromise, neither, however, was Henry. Eventually Beckett agreed to adhere to the 'ancient customs of the realm'. Adamant to win in the matter, Henry proceeded to clearly define those ancient customs in a document referred to as the Constitutions of Clarendon. Beckett did eventually back down, but their quarrel continued and became more embittered, culminating in Beckett fleeing the country.
Four years later, Henry was anxious to have his eldest son, the young Henry, crowned to avoid a disputed succession. In January 1169, Henry and Beckett met at a conference at Momtmirail in Normandy, but they got into an argument. Beckett angrily excommunicated some of Henry's followers. Henry retaliated by letting the Archbishop of York coronate his son. But they reached a compromise at a later meeting, and Thomas returned to England.
It didn't help. The fighting continued and Henry flew into a rage over Beckett's stubborn ways, (perfect match). That's when he said those fatal words -- "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" -- within earshot of four of his knights. They took it at face value and went to slay Beckett, standing in his cathedral.
Ironically, it was the moment that made the outlandish Becket. Suddenly, Europe cared about him, and England was threatened with excommunication. The King resorted to public penance, walking barefoot into Canterbury Cathedral, where he had the monks scourge him to prove it.
The Rebellion of Henry's Sons
The power-hungry king was faced with a new threat from his own family. His inability to share responsibility with his sons became deeply resented. His namesake and heir -- Henry, the newly crowned but powerless Young King -- was dissatisfied. So was John 'Lack Land.' When Henry II tried to negotiate his marriage, the prospective father-in-law asked that John be given some property. The King gave his youngest son three castles in Anjou but Young Henry didn't like it. He demanded the right to rule England, Normandy or Anjou, but wound up fleeing to the French court. The King of France had his own axe to grind and soon ... Young Henry rebelled against his father. He was joined at the court of France by his equally annoyed brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, now Duke of Brittany since his marriage to the heiress Constance of Brittany.
Meanwhile, Eleanor wasn't happy either, and was arrested trying to join her rebellious sons in France ... dressed as a man. Meanwhile, Normandy was attacked, but the King of France -- as usual -- retreated. But Henry, always the forgiving father, made peace with his sons while he conveniently, put Eleanor under house-arrest for the next ten years as he continued to womanize in public.
Further disputes arose between young Henry and his equally fiery tempered brother, Richard. The Young King objected to a castle Richard had built on what he claimed to be his territory. Henry, aided by his brother Geoffrey, attempted to subdue Richard and the affair provided a further excuse to rebel against their father. Richard allied himself with their father. The Young King began to ravage Aquitaine. The Death of Henry, 'the Young King'
The Young King plundered the rich shrine of Rocamadour, after which he fell mortally ill. When he knew death was inevitable, he asked his followers to lay him on a bed of ashes spread on the floor as a sign of repentance and begged his father to forgive and visit him. The King, suspecting a trap, refused to visit his son, but sent a sapphire ring, once owned by his grandfather Henry I, to the young Henry as a sign of his forgiveness. A few days later the Young King was dead, Henry and Eleanor mourned the loss of their errant son sincerely.
Henry planned to re-divide the Angevin Empire -- giving Anjou, Maine, Normandy and England to Richard and asking him to relinquish his mother's province of Aquitaine to John. Richard refused. John and Geoffrey were dispatched to Aquitaine to take the duchy by force but lost. So the King ordered all of his sons to England. Richard and Geoffrey now thoroughly detested each other and arguments ruled the family. Geoffrey, a treacherous and untrustworthy youth, was killed at a Paris tournament in 1186.
Death of Henry II
Phillip Augustus of France was eager to increase the power of the French crown by regaining Plantagenet lands. To Richard, he suggested that Henry II wanted to disinherit him in favor John. Richard, who now totally distrusted his father, demanded full recognition of his position as heir to the Angevin Empire. Henry refused to comply. Further rebellion was the inevitable result.
The aging King fell sick at Le Mans. Richard believed him to be creating delays. He and his ally Phillip attacked the town, Henry ordered the southern suburbs of Le Mans to be set on fire to impede their advance, but the wind changed, spreading the fire and setting alight his birthplace. Henry fled.
A conference was arranged between the warring parties, near Tours, at which King Henry was forced to accept all of Richard's terms. Phillip of France, shocked at the King's gaunt appearance, offered his cloak to enable him to sit on the ground. Henry refused. Compelled to give his son the kiss of peace, Henry whispered in his ear "God grant that I die not until I have avenged myself on thee". Henry's only request was to be provided with a list of those who had rebelled against him.
Grievously sick, the ailing lion retreated to Chinon. The requested list arrived, the first name on it was that of his beloved John, the son he had trusted and fought for had deserted him to join the victors. Utterly crushed, he wished to hear no more. The faithful William Marshall and his illegitimate son Geoffrey remained by him to the end. "You are my true son," he told Geoffrey bitterly, "the others, they are the bastards" As his condition continued to deteriorate he was heard to utter "now let everything go as it will, I care no longer for myself or anything else in this world".
He lingered semi-conscious, breathing his last on 6th July, 1189. His last words were "Shame, shame on a conquered King". King Henry II, defeated at last, turned his face to the wall and died. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Richard I
The king's body was laid in the chapel of Chinon Castle, where the corpse was stripped by servants. William Marshall and Geoffrey found a crown, sceptre and ring, probably taken from a religious statue. It was then taken to the Abbey of Fontevrault in Anjou for burial.
The new King Richard I was summoned by William Marshall and gazed at his father's corpse without emotion. After lying in state the body of the great Henry II was buried, according to his wishes, at the Abbey of Fontevrault, which was to become the mausoleum of the Angevin Kings.
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."
He was also Duke of Normandy, and first monarch of the house of Anjou, or Plantagenet, an important administrative reformer, whowas one of the most powerful European rulers of his time. Henry became duke of Normandy in 1151. The following year, on the death of his father, he inherited the Angevin territories in France. By his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry added vast territories in southwestern France to his possessions. Henry claimed the English kingship through his mother. She had been designated the heiress of Henry I but had been deprived of the succession by her cousin, Stephen of Blois, who made himself king. In 1153 Henry defeated Stephen's armies in England and compelled the king to choose him as his successor; on Stephen's death, the following year, Henry became king.
During the first few years of his reign Henry quelled disorders that developed during Stephen's reign, regained northern counties of England, previously ceded to Scotland, and conquered North Wales. In 1171-72 he began the Norman conquest of Ireland and in 1174 forced William the Lion, king of the Scots, to recognize him as overlord.
Reigned 1154-1189. He ruled an empire that stretched from the Tweed to the Pyrenees. In spite of frequent hostilities with the French King his own family and rebellious Barons (culminating in the great revolt of 1173-74) and his quarrel with Thomas Becket, Henry maintained control over his possessions until shortly before his death. His judicial and administrative reforms which increased Royal control and influence at the expense of the Barons were of great constitutional importance. Introduced trial by Jury. Duke of Normandy.
Although a Plantgenet, the kings from Henry II to John, who lost Normandy and much of France are known as the Angevins from Anjou.
Henry was successful in gaining the homage of both Scotland under Malcolm IV and that part of Wales ruled by Owain Gwynedd. In 1166 he conquered Brittany, and in 1171 began the conquest of Ireland. Unfortunately the premature "crowning" of Henry's son the younger Henry, then fifteen, inflamed his ambitions which were encouraged by Louis VII of France to whose daughter the young Henry had been wed at the age of five. IN 1173, the young Henry and his brothers Richard and Geoffrey (fifteen and fourteen) fled to Louis' court. Eleanor fled too but was apprehended.
Louis VII fostered the implication that Henry II had abdicated in favor of his son. This sent a signal to Henry's enemies to take advantage of the situation. William "the Lion" of Scotland attempted to recover Northumberland, Louis in France, aided by the counts of Flanders, Boulonge, and Blois, began to move on Henry's holding there, and in England a revolt began lead by the Robert, earl of Leicester. Henry led an army to France where a victory at Verneuil in August of 1173 ended Louis' ambitions. Loyalist forces in England headed by Richard de Lucy defeated and captured Robert of Leicester, and William "the Lion" was found sunning himself outside Alnwick castel by forces loyal to the king and was captured. William was released from captivity after he had sworn homage to the king.
Richard Barber, The Devil's Crown: A History of Henry II and His Sons (Conshohocken, PA, 1996)
Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England, Metro Books, NY, 2006, pgs 66-69
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)
Nicholas Vincent, "King Henry II and the Monks of Battle: The Battle Chronicle Unmasked," in Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting. Eds. Henry Mayr-Harting, Henrietta Leyser and Richard Gameson (Oxford, OUP, 2001), pp.
Ancestral Roots; Fredrick Weis; 7th ed., 1992.
Barbara Bair, 8409 Mulberry Ave., Buena Park, Ca. 90620 (1995)
Daughter of Clement Elvalandingham & Gertrude Murray Marang.
Mr. Henry is reported to be a direct descendant of Patrick Henry.
Title: Peerage of Scotland and Ireland
Title: Royal Line, The
Author: Albert F Schmuhl
Publication: Orig. March, 1929 NYC, NY - Rev. March 1980
Title: Royal and Noble Genealogical Data
Author: Brian Tompsett
Publication: Copyright 1994-2001, Version March 25, 2001
Born: March 5, 1133 at Le Mans, France
Parents: Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and Empress Matilda
Relation to Elizabeth II: 22nd great-grandfather
House of: Angevin
Ascended to the throne: October 25, 1154 aged 21 years
Crowned: December 19, 1154 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine
Children: Five sons including Richard I and John, three daughters and several illegitimate children
Died: July 6, 1189 at Chinon Castle, Anjou, aged 56 years, 4 months, and 1 day
Buried at: Fontevraud, France
Reigned for: 34 years, 8 months, and 11 days
Succeeded by: his son Richard
King of England 1154–89. The son of Matilda and Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, he succeeded King Stephen (c. 1097–1154). He curbed the power of the barons, but his attempt to bring the church courts under control was abandoned after the murder of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The English conquest of Ireland began during Henry's reign. On several occasions his sons rebelled, notably 1173–74. Henry was succeeded by his son Richard (I) the Lionheart.
Henry was lord of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and Count of Anjou, Brittany, Poitou, Normandy, Maine, and Gascony. He claimed Aquitaine through marriage to the heiress Eleanor in 1152. Henry's many French possessions caused him to live for more than half his reign outside England. This made it essential for him to establish a judicial and administrative system which would work during his absence. His chancellor and friend, Becket, was persuaded to become archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 in the hope that he would help the king curb the power of the ecclesiastical courts. However, once consecrated, Becket felt bound to defend church privileges, and he was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral 1170 by four knights of the king's household.
In 1171 Henry invaded Ireland and received homage from the King of Leinster. In 1174 his three sons Henry, Richard and Geoffrey led an unsuccessful rebellion against their father.
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