Early years (1133–1149)
Henry was born in France at Le Mans on 5 March 1133, the eldest child of the Empress Matilda and her second husband, Geoffrey the Fair, Count of Anjou. The French county of Anjou was formed in the 10th century and the Angevin rulers attempted for several centuries to extend their influence and power across France through careful marriages and political alliances. In theory, the county answered to the French king, but royal power over Anjou weakened during the 11th century and the county became largely autonomous.
Henry's mother was the eldest daughter of Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy. She was born into a powerful ruling class of Normans, who traditionally owned extensive estates in both England and Normandy, and her first husband had been the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. After her father's death in 1135, Matilda hoped to claim the English throne, but instead her cousin Stephen of Blois was crowned king and recognised as the Duke of Normandy, resulting in civil war between their rival supporters. Geoffrey took advantage of the confusion to attack the Duchy of Normandy but played no direct role in the English conflict, leaving this to Matilda and her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester. The war, termed the Anarchy by Victorian historians, dragged on and degenerated into stalemate.
Henry probably spent some of his earliest years in his mother's household, and accompanied Matilda to Normandy in the late 1130s. Henry's later childhood, probably from the age of seven, was spent in Anjou, where he was educated by Peter of Saintes, a noted grammarian of the day. In late 1142, Geoffrey decided to send the nine-year-old to Bristol, the centre of Angevin opposition to Stephen in the south-west of England, accompanied by Robert of Gloucester. Although having children educated in relatives' households was common among noblemen of the period, sending Henry to England also had political benefits, as Geoffrey was coming under criticism for refusing to join the war in England. For about a year, Henry lived alongside Roger of Worcester, one of Robert's sons, and was instructed by a magister, Master Matthew; Robert's household was known for its education and learning. The canons of St Augustine's in Bristol also helped in Henry's education, and he remembered them with affection in later years. Henry returned to Anjou in either 1143 or 1144, resuming his education under William of Conches, another famous academic.
Henry returned to England in 1147, when he was fourteen. Taking his immediate household and a few mercenaries, he left Normandy and landed in England, striking into Wiltshire. Despite initially causing considerable panic, the expedition had little success, and Henry found himself unable to pay his forces and therefore unable to return to Normandy. Neither his mother nor his uncle were prepared to support him, implying that they had not approved of the expedition in the first place. Surprisingly, Henry instead turned to King Stephen, who paid the outstanding wages and thereby allowed Henry to retire gracefully. Stephen's reasons for doing so are unclear. One potential explanation is his general courtesy to a member of his extended family; another is that he was starting to consider how to end the war peacefully, and saw this as a way of building a relationship with Henry. Henry intervened once again in 1149, commencing what is often termed the Henrician phase of the civil war. This time, Henry planned to form a northern alliance with King David I of Scotland, Henry's great-uncle, and Ranulf of Chester, a powerful regional leader who controlled most of the north-west of England. Under this alliance, Henry and Ranulf agreed to attack York, probably with help from the Scots. The planned attack disintegrated after Stephen marched rapidly north to York, and Henry returned to Normandy.[nb 2]