Background and childhood
's lands in France, c. 1200
Henry was born in
Winchester Castle on 1 October 1207.
 He was the eldest son of
King John and
Isabella of Angoulême.
 Little is known of Henry's early life.
 He was initially looked after by a
wet nurse called Ellen in the south of England, away from John's itinerant court, and probably had close ties to his mother.
 Henry had four legitimate younger brothers and sisters –
Eleanor – and various older illegitimate siblings.
 In 1212 his education was entrusted to
Peter des Roches, the
Bishop of Winchester; under his direction, Henry was given military training by Philip D'Aubigny and taught to ride, probably by Ralph of St Samson.
Little is known about Henry's appearance; he was probably around 1.68 metres (5 ft 6 in) tall, and accounts recorded after his death suggested that he had a strong build, with a drooping eyelid.
[a] Henry grew up to occasionally show flashes of a fierce temper, but mostly, as historian
David Carpenter describes, he had an "amiable, easy-going, and sympathetic" personality.
 He was unaffected and honest, and showed his emotions readily, easily being moved to tears by religious sermons.
At the start of the 13th century, the
Kingdom of England formed part of the
Angevin Empire spreading across Western Europe. Henry was named after his grandfather,
Henry II, who had built up this vast network of lands stretching from Scotland and Wales, through England, across the
English Channel to the territories of
Anjou in north-west France, onto
Gascony in the south-west.
 For many years the French Crown was relatively weak, enabling first Henry II, and then his sons
Richard and John, to dominate France.
In 1204, John lost Normandy, Brittany, Maine and Anjou to
Philip II of France, leaving English power on the continent limited to Gascony and Poitou.
 John raised taxes to pay for military campaigns to regain his lands, but unrest grew among many of the English barons; John sought new allies by declaring England a
fiefdom, owing allegiance to the Pope.
[b] In 1215, John and the rebel barons negotiated a potential peace treaty, the
Magna Carta. The treaty would have limited potential abuses of royal power, demobilised the rebel armies and set up a power-sharing arrangement, but in practice neither side complied with its conditions.
 John and the loyalist barons firmly repudiated the Magna Carta and the
First Barons' War erupted, with the rebel barons aided by Philip's son, the future
Louis VIII, who claimed the English throne for himself.
 The war soon settled into a stalemate, with neither side able to claim victory. The King became ill and died on the night of 18 October, leaving the nine-year-old Henry as his heir.