Tag: Henry II

Young King Henry

Henry was the second eldest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and was born on 28 February 1155. He married Margaret the daughter of Louis VII in 1160. William who was Henry’s older brother who should have been King died of a seizure whilst at Wallingford Castle in 1156 and was buried in Reading Abbey at the feet of his great grandfather Henry I.

Crowning of Henry in 1170 by Roger, Archbishop of York. At the celebration banquet afterwards, the Prince is waited on by his father the King.
Crowning of Henry in 1170 by Roger, Archbishop of York. At the celebration banquet afterwards, the Prince is waited on by his father the King.

Henry II arranged for the Young King to be crowned in 1170.

He spent a lot of his early adult life traveling to tournaments throughout the country where he became renowned for his skill which may have been attributed to his training from William Marshal.

Henry was getting frustrated with his lack of power and land and in 1173 the young king, with his brothers Geoffrey and Richard, encouraged by their mother Eleanor to rebel against his father.  The rebellion failed and Henry and his father reconciled the differences the following year.

Tomb and effigy of Henry in the Rouen cathedral
Tomb and effigy of Henry in the Rouen cathedral

In 1182 he took up arms against his brother Richard and later against his father again. The following year at the age of 28 whilst in France he suddenly died of dysentery in 1183.

Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born circa 1119 the son of a middle ranking London citizen. He was educated in London and Paris. He joined young Henry II in 1154 as his chancellor after serving ten years in the household of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald Bec. He became close friends with Henry and supported him on taxing the church to raise funds for campaigns in Toulouse in 1159.

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In 1162 Henry secured Becket in the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. This he thought would be advantageous having such a close ally heading up the church of England. Henry expected Becket to continue his support for the King however Becket resigned his position as chancellor and took on the church’s values and defended its position vigorously.

Becket denied demands from the king that convicted felons in the ecclesiastical courts be handed over for punishments by the lay authorities. Thomas also prohibited the marriage of Henry’s brother William to the countess of Warenne on ground of consanguinity.

The relationship between Thomas and Henry broke down with Becket forced into exile after a trial for misappropriation of funds whilst he was chancellor.

Henry confiscated Becket’s property and exiled his supporters. Thomas returned after six years abroad. He threatened England with interdict following the archbishop of York crowning Henry’s son, Henry the Young , as king of England in 1170. Becket excommunicated the bishops who had carried out the coronation.

Henry was furious when he heard the news and uttered the infamous words:

‘Will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest?’ Four knights overheard and took it upon themselves to assassinate Becket.

On 29th December 1170 at Canterbury cathedral Becket was murdered by the four knights. An account of the attack by Edward Grim a monk who was visiting Canterbury at the time is as follows:

The murderers followed him; ‘Absolve’, they cried, ‘and restore to communion those whom you have excommunicated, and restore their powers to those whom you have suspended.’

He answered, ‘There has been no satisfaction, and I will not absolve them.’

‘Then you shall die,’ they cried, ‘and receive what you deserve.’

‘I am ready,’ he replied, ‘to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. But in the name of Almighty God, I forbid you to hurt my people whether clerk or lay.’

Then they lay sacrilegious hands on him, pulling and dragging him that they may kill him outside the church, or carry him away a prisoner, as they afterwards confessed. But when he could not be forced away from the pillar, one of them pressed on him and clung to him more closely. Him he pushed off calling him ‘pander’, and saying, ‘Touch me not, Reginald; you owe me fealty and subjection; you and your accomplices act like madmen.’

The knight, fired with a terrible rage at this severe repulse, waved his sword over the sacred head. ‘No faith’, he cried, ‘nor subjection do I owe you against my fealty to my lord the King.’


Then the unconquered martyr seeing the hour at hand which should put an end to this miserable life and give him straightway the crown of immortality promised by the Lord, inclined his neck as one who prays and joining his hands he lifted them up, and commended his cause and that of the Church to God, to St. Mary, and to the blessed martry Denys. Scarce had he said the words than the wicked knight, fearing lest he should be rescued by the people and escape alive, leapt upon him suddenly and wounded this lamb who was sacrificed to God on the head, cutting off the top of the crown which the sacred unction of the chrism had dedicated to God; and by the same blow he wounded the arm of him who tells this. For he, when the others, both monks and clerks, fled, stuck close to the sainted Archbishop and held him in his arms till the one he interposed was almost severed.

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Then he received a second blow on the head but still stood firm. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living victim, and saying in a low voice, ‘For the Name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I am ready to embrace death.’

Then the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay, by which the sword was broken against the pavement, and the crown which was large was separated from the head. The fourth knight prevented any from interfering so that the others might freely perpetrate the murder.

As to the fifth, no knight but that clerk who had entered with the knights, that a fifth blow might not be wanting to the martyr who was in other things like to Christ, he put his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to say, scattered his brain and blood over the pavement, calling out to the others, ‘Let us away, knights; he will rise no more.’

Stephen – King Stephen of England

Stephen was the final king of England before the start of the Plantagenet dynasty. He was king  from 1135 and during his reign there was a civil war known as The Anarchy. The war came about over an argument on who should succeed Henry I on his death as the King had no living son and for his daughter Empress Matilda to take the throne, as he had wanted, would be unprecedented and there was widespread opposition to her husband Geoffrey Plantagenet.

King Stephen
King Stephen

On Henry’s death Stephen, the grandson of William I (William the Conqueror), had himself made King. Matilda invaded England arriving in Arundel in 1139. Stephen was eventually defeated and captured at Lincoln in 1141. Matilda now had control of the country however due to opposition she was never crowned. She returned to France and her son Henry took up the fight.

In 1153 Eustace, the only legitimate son of Stephen, died whilst pillaging church possessions. It was claimed his death was from the wrath of God. Stephen then agreed in order to keep the peace that Henry would be the recognised heir to the throne.

Stephen fell ill with a bowel disorder and died in Dover on the 25 October 1154. Henry II was crowned the king of England on the 19 December 1154 in Westminster Abbey. And from that day on was the start of the amazing Plantagenet dynasty.

Henry II - The first king of the The Plantagenet dynasty
Henry II – The first king of the The Plantagenet dynasty

Henry II

Henry II was the first king of the Plantagenet dynasty that ruled England from 1154. He was born 5 March 1133 to the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Empress Matilda. In 1153 Stephen who was king of England acknowledge Henry as his successor to the throne following years of war known as The Anarchy by Matilda. Matilda was the daughter of Henry I and this was her claim to throne. The following year Stephen died and Henry became King of England.

Henry_II coronation

Henry’s empire was expanding that now included Aquitaine following his marriage to Eleanor in 1152. Eleanor bore Henry five sons, two of which would go on to become Kings, Richard and John.

Henry gained great respect for his military knowledge and his advanced government administration along with his close friend and Chancellor Thomas Becket at the time of his early reign. Thomas became Archbishop of Canterbury with Henry’s blessing initially. However after a falling out with the church, Becket excommunicated Henry’s loyal supporters. Henry in Normandy at the time enraged by Becket’s action and four knights took it upon themselves, believing this to be Henry’s wishes, to go to Canterbury and kill Becket.

Henry did penance for his old friends death he wore a sack cloth and walked bare foot through Canterbury to the cathedral where he was flogged by monks.

Henry II penance

In 1173 Henry’s three eldest sons, Henry the Young King, Richard and Geoffrey and his wife Eleanor rebelled. The main reason for the rebellion was due to Henry’s will and the divisions of land. Henry saw off the rebellion that led to Eleanor being put under house arrest for the rest of Henry’s life.

The son continued the disputes until, Henry the Young King died of a fever in 1183, Geoffrey died in 1186 whilst conspiring against Henry with Phillip II of France.

Richard and Phillip attacked Henry in 1189 imposing humiliation after seizing the city of Tours. The final blow was that John had now sided with Richard.

Henry retired to Chinon where he died on 6 June 1189, he was buried in the Plantagenet mausoleum at the abbey of Fontevrault.

Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey
Tombs of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Fontevraud Abbey