Henry II of England

Henry II
Church of Fontevraud Abbey Henry II effigy.jpg
Detail from Henry II's effigy in Fontevraud Abbey, Chinon
King of England
Reign19 December 1154 – 6 July 1189
Coronation19 December 1154
PredecessorStephen
SuccessorRichard I
Junior kingHenry the Young King
Born5 March 1133
Le Mans, Maine, Kingdom of France
Died6 July 1189 (aged 56)
Chinon Castle, Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, Kingdom of France
Burial
Spouse
Issue
HousePlantagenet/Angevin[nb 1]
FatherGeoffrey V, Count of Anjou
MotherEmpress Matilda

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189), also known as Henry Curtmantle (French: Court-manteau), Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as King of England, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, Maine, and Nantes, and Lord of Ireland; at various times, he also partially controlled Scotland, Wales and the Duchy of Brittany. Before he was 40 he controlled England, large parts of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland and the western half of France—an area that would later come to be called the Angevin Empire.

Henry was the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. He became actively involved by the age of 14 in his mother's efforts to claim the throne of England, then occupied by Stephen of Blois, and was made Duke of Normandy at 17. He inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards became the Duke of Aquitaine by marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII of France had recently been annulled. Stephen agreed to a peace treaty after Henry's military expedition to England in 1153, and Henry inherited the kingdom on Stephen's death a year later. Henry was an energetic and sometimes ruthless ruler, driven by a desire to restore the lands and privileges of his grandfather Henry I. During the early years of his reign the younger Henry restored the royal administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales and gained full control over his lands in Anjou, Maine and Touraine. Henry's desire to reform the relationship with the Church led to conflict with his former friend Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This controversy lasted for much of the 1160s and resulted in Becket's murder in 1170. Henry soon came into conflict with Louis VII and the two rulers fought what has been termed a "cold war" over several decades. Henry expanded his empire, often at Louis' expense, taking Brittany and pushing east into central France and south into Toulouse; despite numerous peace conferences and treaties, no lasting agreement was reached.

Henry and Eleanor had eight children—three daughters and five sons. Three of his sons would be king, though Henry the Young King was named his father's co-ruler rather than a stand-alone king. As the sons grew up, tensions over the future inheritance of the empire began to emerge, encouraged by Louis and his son King Philip II. In 1173 Henry's heir apparent, "Young Henry", rebelled in protest; he was joined by his brothers Richard (later a king) and Geoffrey and by their mother, Eleanor. France, Scotland, Brittany, Flanders, and Boulogne allied themselves with the rebels. The Great Revolt was only defeated by Henry's vigorous military action and talented local commanders, many of them "new men" appointed for their loyalty and administrative skills. Young Henry and Geoffrey revolted again in 1183, resulting in Young Henry's death. The Norman invasion of Ireland provided lands for his youngest son John (later a king), but Henry struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons' desires for land and immediate power. By 1189, Young Henry and Geoffrey were dead, and Philip successfully played on Richard's fears that Henry II would make John king, leading to a final rebellion. Decisively defeated by Philip and Richard and suffering from a bleeding ulcer, Henry retreated to Chinon castle in Anjou. He died soon afterwards and was succeeded by Richard.

Henry's empire quickly collapsed during the reign of his son John, but many of the changes Henry introduced during his long rule had long-term consequences. Henry's legal changes are generally considered to have laid the basis for the English Common Law, while his intervention in Brittany, Wales, and Scotland shaped the development of their societies and governmental systems. Historical interpretations of Henry's reign have changed considerably over time. In the 18th century, scholars argued that Henry was a driving force in the creation of a genuinely English monarchy and, ultimately, a unified Britain. During the Victorian expansion of the British Empire, historians were keenly interested in the formation of Henry's own empire, but they also expressed concern over his private life and treatment of Becket. Late-20th-century historians have combined British and French historical accounts of Henry, challenging earlier Anglocentric interpretations of his reign.

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] The war, termed the Anarchy by Victorian historians, dragged on and degenerated into stalemate.[8]

Henry probably spent some of his earliest years in his mother's household, and accompanied Matilda to Normandy in the late 1130s.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[12] The canons of St Augustine's in Bristol also helped in Henry's education, and he remembered them with affection in later years.[13] Henry returned to Anjou in either 1143 or 1144, resuming his education under William of Conches, another famous academic.[14]

Henry returned to England in 1147, when he was fourteen.[15] Taking his immediate household and a few mercenaries, he left Normandy and landed in England, striking into Wiltshire.[15] 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.[15] Neither his mother nor his uncle were prepared to support him, implying that they had not approved of the expedition in the first place.[16] 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.[17] Henry intervened once again in 1149, commencing what is often termed the Henrician phase of the civil war.[18] 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.[19] Under this alliance, Henry and Ranulf agreed to attack York, probably with help from the Scots.[20] The planned attack disintegrated after Stephen marched rapidly north to York, and Henry returned to Normandy.[21][nb 2]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: II Henri Plantagenet
Bân-lâm-gú: Henry 2-sè (Eng-lân)
български: Хенри II (Англия)
eesti: Henry II
한국어: 헨리 2세
Bahasa Indonesia: Henry II dari Inggris
ქართული: ჰენრი II
македонски: Хенри II
Bahasa Melayu: Henry II dari England
norsk nynorsk: Henrik II av England
پنجابی: ہنری II
Simple English: Henry II of England
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Henry II od Engleske
Tiếng Việt: Henry II của Anh