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Archbishop Thomas a Becket disagreed with the King's wishes and a rash phrase spoken by Henry led to Thomas' murder at Canterbury cathedral. Henry was devastated that his knights had committed this deed and did public penance. His son, Henry the Younger, had a coronation on 14th June , in an attempt to settle the succession to the throne during the father's lifetime. But the young Henry died before his father. He died as a result of a riding accident at Chinon in France on 6th July and was buried with his family at Fontevrault.

Effigies of him and his wife can be seen there. Designed by. Henry II has acquired a reputation as one of England's greatest medieval kings developing the foundations of efficient legal and administrative systems.

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England's long history of involvement in Ireland also dates from his reign. Henry II had a long running dispute with the Church over its right to judge criminous clergy in ecclesiastical courts. Henry wanted one standard of justice for all his subjects. He had a legitimate interest in seeing that priests who committed serious crimes, such as murder, should be liable to punishment by the lay authorities just like any other of the king's subjects.

He promoted his close friend Thomas Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury but was offended when he took the side of the Church. An angry outburst by Henry prompted four of his knights to challenge Becket which resulted in his violent death. Henry regretted Becket's death but the event cast a cloud over the remainder of his reign. He spent his childhood in his father's land of Anjou. The wedding was "without the pomp or ceremony that befitted their rank," partly because only two months previously Eleanor's marriage to Louis VII of France had been annulled.

William died in infancy. As a result Henry was crowned as joint king when he came of age. In theory, Henry would have inherited the throne from his father, Richard his mother's possessions, Geoffrey would have Brittany and John would have been Lord of Ireland. However, fate would ultimately decide very differently. Henry and Eleanor's relationship was always stormy and eventually broke down.

After Eleanor encouraged her children to rebel against their father in , Henry had her placed under house-arrest, where she remained for fifteen years.

Coronation

Henry also had a number of illegitimate children by various women, and Eleanor had several of those children reared in the royal nursery with her own children; some remained members of the household in adulthood. He began an affair with Rosamund Clifford in but it was not until , at around the time of his break with Eleanor, that Henry acknowledged her 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, who was 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. While the Illegitimate children were not valid claimants, their Royal blood made them potential problems for Henry's legitimate successors. He remained largely loyal and contented with the lands and wealth afforded to him as a bastard.

Henry II of England

Geoffrey had been the only son to attend Henry II on his deathbed, after even the King's favorite, John Lackland , deserted him. Richard forced him into the clergy at York, thus ending his secular ambitions. Maine and Anjou were therefore Henry's by birthright, amongst other lands in Western France.

However, the most valuable inheritance Henry received from his mother was a claim to the English throne. 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.

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. 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 It was when Henry had accompanied Matilda on an invasion of England.

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 and Early in January , just months after his wedding, he crossed the Channel one more time. His fleet was 36 ships strong, transporting a force of 3, footmen and horses. Sources dispute whether he landed at Dorset or Hampshire, but it is known he entered a small village church. It was January 6 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. Henry moved quickly and within the year he had secured his right to the succession via the Treaty of Wallingford with King Stephen.

Henry II Biography

He was now, for all intents and purposes, in control of England. When Stephen died in October , it was only a matter of time before Henry's treaty would bear fruit, and the quest that began with his mother would be ended. Led by Bishop Arnold of Lisieux, the group of clerics requested authorisation for Henry to invade Ireland.

Most historians agree that this resulted in the papal bull Laudabiliter. It is possible Henry acted under the influence of a "Canterbury plot," in which English ecclesiastics strove to dominate the Irish church. The Pope granted Henry's request as he wished to stamp out non Catholic practices in the irish Church. William died soon after the plan was hatched and Ireland was ignored. It was not until that it came to the surface again. 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.

In exchange for his loyalty, Diarmait offered Richard his daughter Aoife in marriage and made him heir to the kingdom. William, his younger brother, was granted a rich but by no means royal estate. Geoffrey, the third brother, threatened rebellion but was bought off with a shortlived grant of the county of Nantes. Henry, however, was far more than just a fortunate or crafty elder son.

In , two years before obtaining the throne of England, he had married Eleanor, heiress to the duchy of Aquitaine and only a few weeks earlier divorced from her previous husband, the Capetian King Louis VII. By temperament she was as fiery as Henry, and as determined to stake her own claims to rule.

From onwards, Eleanor was to be held under house arrest in England, whilst Henry, to judge by the bastard children that he fathered, had long enjoyed the favours of a series of mistresses. Besides the lands acquired by inheritance or marriage, Henry made new conquests of his own. In the late s he seized back Northumberland and Cumbria from the Scots, and even persuaded the Scots king Malcolm to accompany him on an expedition against Toulouse.

In the following decade, he claimed the overlordship of Brittany and installed one of his younger sons, Geoffrey, there as duke. It is to Henry II, therefore, that England owes much of its future embroilment, not only in French, but in Irish affairs. By the late s, Henry ruled an estate that eclipsed anything that had been seen in France since the time of Charlemagne and in Britain since the fall of Rome.

Primary Sources

The Capetian kings of France, struggling to maintain their rule over the immediate vicinity of Paris, could only look on in astonished but for the most part impotent amazement. To posterity it has bequeathed a quite extraordinary wealth of records, albeit for the most part in writing rather than in stone or pictorial images. Many of the greater building projects with which the King was associated have long disappeared, although enough remains of his work at Dover castle, and in his Angevin homeland at Chinon, to give us some impression of the sheer bravura of his patronage of architecture.


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Henry himself is said to have been fluent in Latin and French, and to have understood though not to have spoken English. Certainly he commissioned works of history in French, glorifying the deeds of his Norman ancestors: among the first such vernacular histories composed for an English king, albeit a king who was as much at home in France as in England.

To begin with, we have more than 3, royal letters and charters still surviving from his reign, ranging from the tersest of administrative instructions to the most ornate of diplomatic flummery. Henry was a lawmaker as well as a conqueror and administrator. His statutes and assizes not only extended royal jurisdiction over the criminal law, but brought many civil cases, previously judged in baronial courts, into the newly reformed courts of the King.

No other court in twelfth-century Europe, not even that of the popes, could boast such a range of written memorials.

Henry II: An Assessment (Classroom Activity)

His was not an unbroken catalogue of success. Like many great men, he had few friends and inspired as much resentment as love within his own family. These personal factors were to lead to the two gravest crises of his reign.

King Henry II (1133-1189) - Pt 2/3