Father of Richard the Lionheart
Born in Le Mans, Maine, France. March 5, 1133.
Parents: Count Geoffrey the Fifth of Anjou and Empress Matilda.
Grand-Parents: Henry the First, King of England, Count Fulk the Fifth of Anjou, King of Jerusalem. Princess Matilda of Scotland, and Countess Ermengarde of Maine.
Married : Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, annulled Queen of France on May 18, 1152. at Bordeaux Cathedral.
Invested: Count of Anjou & Maine
Succeeded to the throne of England: October 25,1154.
Crowned: at Westminster Abbey December 19, 1154.
Authority: King of England, overlord of Wales, Scotland, eastern Ireland and western France.
Rule: 35 years.
Died: Chinon Castle, Touraine, France. July 6, 1189.
Buried: Fontevraud Abbey, Pays de la Loire, France.
In The Name of the Father
Ailing from the death of his only son William Adelin in the White Ship disaster the death of the last Norman King of England, Henry Beauclerc, in 1135 propelled the kingdom into a cycle of war of succession between his daughter Matilda and his nephew Stephen of Blois. Thus began The Anarchy.
Even though both were grandchildren of William the Conqueror – by the statutes of Salic Law – Stephen had legal precedence over Matilda by being male. Stephen’s older brother had first claim but preferred the calm civility of Blois over prospects of subduing unruly Saxons. Stephen bent himself to task but soon realized he would have to fight to earn his crown. The king was jostled into concessions he could barely keep and it was to the Barons advantage to keep him off balance. These were nineteen long years when the angels slept and civil war devastated the English countryside.
The widowed Matilda was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry the Fifth, who passed away in 1125 without issue. It was but a few years after she was betrothed to Count Geoffrey le Bel of Anjou, who, because of his habit of wearing a sprig of broomflower (Planta Genista) in his bonnet, would lend the nickname to generations of kings of England forever to be known as The Plantagenets.
Matilda’s marriage to the handsome Count Geoffrey was beneath her dignity – both as princess and empress – but in spite of this she did bear three children by him. Although Matilda was not officially crowned Queen of England she did enjoy the title for a few months ultimately being rejected by the powers that be in London. She may not reign but she could be the power behind the throne through her son, Henry fitzEmpress. To that end she devoted all her energy. She would sit in triumph over London.
Henry the Second would whip England into shape. Dragging it kicking and screaming into the Twelfth Century. It was said by the end of his grandfather’s reign a man could walk the width and breadth of England with a full purse without being accosted. By the time Henry the Second was through with the justice system, a maiden could do likewise with her arms full of gold.
At the age of sixteen Henry’s bid for the throne began with a foray across the English channel to claim his inheritance. A noble attempt which was easily rebuffed by King Stephen’s men.
But this was just the beginning of the indomitable Henry fitzEmpress.
King Henry II
Biography of King Henry II 1154 – 1189
King Henry II of England was one of the most significant monarchs in English history, who ruled from 1154 to 1189. He was a visionary king who brought about numerous changes in England that shaped the country’s future.
Henry was born in 1133 in Le Mans, France, to Geoﬀrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, and Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England. Henry’s father died when he was only nine years old, and his mother was involved in a long and bitter struggle for the English throne, known as the Anarchy. This experience undoubtedly shaped Henry’s character and his determination to establish a strong and stable monarchy in England.
Henry’s mother finally gained the throne in 1141, but her rule was challenged by her cousin Stephen of Blois. After years of conflict, Matilda was forced to relinquish the throne to Stephen in 1153, but the two sides agreed to a compromise. Stephen would remain king until his death, but he would recognize Matilda’s son, Henry, as his heir.
In 1154, Stephen died, and Henry ascended to the throne as King Henry II. He was just 21 years old, but he was already a seasoned ruler, having spent several years as the Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy. He was also a brilliant military strategist and a shrewd politician.
One of Henry’s first acts as king was to marry Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former queen of France. Eleanor was a powerful and intelligent woman who had been imprisoned by her first husband, King Louis VII of France, for her failure to produce a male heir. Henry and Eleanor had eight children together, including two sons who would later become kings, Richard the Lionheart and John.
Henry’s reign was marked by numerous conflicts, both with his own family and with other European powers. He fought a long and bitter war with his former friend and ally, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket had originally been appointed by Henry and had served as his chancellor, but he became increasingly critical of the king’s policies and began to champion the interests of the Church.
In 1164, Henry issued a series of laws known as the Constitutions of Clarendon, which sought to limit the power of the Church and increase the authority of the Crown. Becket refused to accept these laws, and he was eventually exiled from England. He returned in 1170, but tensions between him and the king soon boiled over, and Becket was murdered by four of Henry’s knights in Canterbury Cathedral.
Henry was horrified by Becket’s death and went on a penitential pilgrimage to the saint’s shrine. He also submitted to a public flogging by the monks of Canterbury Cathedral. Despite these gestures, Henry was widely blamed for Becket’s murder and faced significant opposition from the Church and the nobility.
Henry’s conflicts with his own family were no less contentious. He had several sons who were ambitious and quarrelsome, and they frequently challenged their father’s authority. In 1173, Henry’s sons Richard, Geoﬀrey, and Henry the Young King rebelled against him, with the support of their mother, Eleanor. The rebellion was ultimately unsuccessful, but it weakened Henry’s grip on the kingdom and increased the power of his sons.
Despite these challenges, Henry was a highly eﬀective ruler who brought about numerous reforms and improvements in England. He established a system of common law that would eventually become the foundation of the English legal system. He also introduced the concept of trial by jury, which ensured that justice was delivered more fairly and impartially.