HENRY II. 1154 -1189
Born 1133 - Married Eleanor, daughter of William, 5th duke of Aquitaine, by whom he had six sons and three daughters. Began to reign,1154. - Reigned 35 years. - Died 1189.
The lands over which Henry ruled were very extensive. Not only was he King of England, but his lands in France were many. From his parents he inherited large domains, and by his marriage to the wealthiest princess of his time Eleanor he increased them considerably.
The First Plantagenet
When Stephen died, Henry of Anjou became King as Henry II of England, and so began a new line of kings.
They were known as the Plantagenets, from the Latin words "Planta genista " being the Latin name for the broom, a sprig of which was the family's sign.
|1154.||Henry & his queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, are crowned together at Westminster Abbey by Thobald, Archbishop of Canterbury.|
|1161.||Death of Theobald,|
|1156 - 62.||War with France.|
|Thomas á Becket Primate of all England. 24th May 1162.|
|1164||Henry and his nobles passed the Constitution's of Clarendon, which recognised trial by jury.|
|Becket refused to sign.|
|1169.||Ireland invaded by Strongbow, earl of Pembroke|
|1171.||Becket murdered at Canterbury|
|1172.||Henry II. receives the Pope's absolution (September)|
|1172.||Ireland annexed to the English crown|
|1173.||Queen Eleanor imprisoned for inciting her sons to rebel against their father|
|1177.||John (a boy of ten) invested with the Lordship of Ireland.|
|1183.||Prince Henry & Prince Geoffrey rebel, Prince Henry dies, (June) from an illness.|
|1186.||Prince Geoffrey killed in a tournament in Paris (August 19th).|
|1187.||Jerusalem taken by Saladin.|
|1189.||Henry II. dies at Chinon near Saumur (6th July) in his fifty-seventh year.|
Henry II., King of England, surnamed Curtmantle first of the Plantagenet line, born in Le mans in Normandy in March 1133 the son of Geoffrey, count of Anjou, and Matilda daughter of Henry I. He was invested with the Duchy of Normandy, by the consent of his mother, in 1150; in 1151 he succeeded to Anjou and Maine, and by a marriage with Eleanor of Guienne gained Guienne and Poitou. In 1152 he invaded England, but a compromise was effected, by which Stephen was to retain the crown, and Henry to succeed at his death, which took place in 1154.
His physique was such that he would have made a good wrestler, and he had a fiery countenance, but the feature that was most noticeable was the eyes. They were normally grey but if he was enraged they were like balls of fire. Sometimes, when he was in a violent temper, he would throw himself on the floor and roll around. So furious did he get at times that there were many who said that there was no doubt but that the Devil himself must be one of the King's ancestors. It was this temper of his that was later to get him into serious trouble.Henry would tolerate no nonsense, he had the people behind him, for they had been subject to the great barons for far too long. He realised that, in those days, strength depended upon wealth, and he was determined to be strong. It was nothing, when he went on a journey, for him to out-pace his courtiers, who had the greatest difficulty to keep up with him and who tired long before he did. He was always active and always had his mind engaged on one plan or another. It is even said that when in church, if the priest were engaged at the altar, he would take out a script to read or would talk over some of his plans with his counsellors. Nor was it strange for him to change his mind quickly and expect everyone else to fall in with his plans at a moment's notice.
The commencement of his reign was marked by the dismissal of the foreign mercenaries; and although involved with his brother Geoffrey, who attempted to seize Anjou and Maine, and in a temporary dispute with France. One of the first things he did was to break down the power of the barons, and destroy many of the castles ('dens of thieves').
The art of building defensible stone castles was probably in advance of the art of attacking such fortifications, and castles and fortified towns played a great part in warfare. The square Norman keep, like Rochester or London, and the shell keep encircling an artificial earthen mound, like Lewes, were the great types of castle in England.
|The exceedingly numerous castles (the
375 or the 1115,) which Henry is said to have destroyed at his accession, for instance, were not all of masonry.
Many were earthworks crowned with palisades, or mere moated houses. The armies of the reign of Henry II were largely
composed of mercenaries, Brabanters and Flemings in particular.
However, with such large amounts of land as he had, there were bound to be difficulties. For one thing, the barons were annoyed at having lost many of their rights.
He realised, however, that he could not rely upon the old feudal idea of getting his knights and soldiers from the barons, for they could use them for their own advantage against him. Instead, he introduced the idea of an army. According to their social state, all men who were freemen had to arm themselves with the weapons prescribed by the King, so that in an emergency they could be called upon.
|Married - Eleanor of Acquitaine and Poictou, divorced wife of Louis VII. of France|
THE FIRST ASSIZE COURTS
Great changes were made in justice and government, many of which were designed to increase the amount of money that came to the King. Henry passed more laws than did any of his predecessors, most of which strengthened his position; but few people worried about this, as the barons were no longer to be feared. He partitioned England into four judiciary districts, and appointed itinerant justices to make regular excursions through them; they held an "Assize " the beginning of our Assize Courts, he revived trial by jury, discouraged that by combat, fines were imposed upon sheriffs or jurors for failing to do their duty, while taxes were levied on those who had the money.
He reigned prosperously till the contest with Archbishop Becket of Canterbury regarding the Constitutions of Clarendon. Until taking that post, he had been the chief adviser to the King, and the two had been inseparable friends, but when the King wanted all clergymen to be tried, for any offences they might have committed, in civil courts, not Church courts, Becket quarrelled with his King, because he refused to allow this. Henry banished him to France, though he allowed him to return again a few years later. When Henry heard of the welcome accorded to Becket on his return, he flew into a great rage and said " What a parcel of fools have I in my Court, that not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart priest." Four knights then went to Canterbury and murdered the Archbishop at the altar of his own cathedral .
Henry after Becket's death by way of penance and expiation, walked to Canterbury and submitted to being flogged by each of the priests. He was no longer in a position to make demands upon the Church and was submissive and on better terms with his next great adviser, Bishop Hugh of Lincoln. However Henry only gave up the article in the Constitutions of Clarendon which forbade appeals to the court of Rome in ecclesiastical cases.
Henry's wife had been kept imprisoned for many years, and intrigued with her sons and the King of France. Henrys last years were embittered by his sons, to whom he had assigned various territories. The eldest son, Henry, who had been not only declared heir to England, Normandy, Anjou, Maine, and Touraine, but actually crowned in his father's lifetime was induced by the French monarch to demand of his father the immediate resignation either of the kingdom of England or of the dukedom of Normandy. Queen Eleanor excited her other sons, Richard and Geoffrey, to make similar claims; Louis and William of Scotland gave them support; and a general invasion of Henry's dominions was begun in 1173 by an attack on the frontiers of Normandy, and an invasion of England by the Scots, attended by considerable disturbance in England. Conciliating the church by his penance, Henry took prompt action; William of Scotland was captured, and an accommodation arrived at with Henry's sons. These, however, once more became turbulent, and though the deaths of Henry and Geoffrey reduced the number of centres of disturbance, the king was forced to accept humiliating terms from Richard and Philip of France.
John had been his father's favourite and it is said that, when the King heard he had been unfaithful, he turned his face to the wall and died with the words: " Now let all things have their way; I care no more for myself nor for the world."
He died at Chinon in 1189.