Henry II of England

gigatos | February 2, 2022


Henry II Plantagenet

Henry II (March 5, 1133 – July 6, 1189) was Count of Anjou and Maine, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and King of England.

Son of Geoffrey V of Anjou and Matilda the Empress, daughter of King Henry of England, he participated in his mother”s efforts to regain the throne of England occupied by Stephen of Blois, his mother”s cousin and nephew of his grandfather Henry I. Made duke of Normandy at age 17, he inherited the county of Anjou in 1151 and shortly thereafter married the duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to King Louis VII of France had recently been annulled by the second council of Beaugency. After Henry”s expedition to England in 1153, King Stephen signed the Treaty of Wallingford, accepting Henry as his heir. Henry ascended the throne a year later.

Henry II proved to be an energetic and sometimes brutal ruler who sought to recover the lands and privileges of his grandfather, Henry. Early in his reign, he restored the royal administration devastated by civil war and re-established the authority of the crown over Wales and its continental possessions. His desire to increase royal control of the church earned him the opposition of his friend Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the dispute that lasted through much of the 1160s ended with the cleric”s assassination in 1170. On the continent, Henry II came into conflict with Louis VII, and the two rulers clashed in what has been called a “cold war” for several decades. Henry II expanded his continental holdings often at the expense of the king of France, and by 1172 he controlled England, much of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland, and the western half of France; these territories have been called the “Plantagenet Empire” by historians.

Henry II and Eleanor had eight children, which caused great tension over the succession and the division of the Empire, friction encouraged by Louis VII and his son Philip Augustus. In 1173, Henry II”s eldest son, Henry the Younger, organized an uprising to protest his removal from the government and was joined by his mother and brothers Richard and Geoffrey as well as the counts of Flanders and Boulogne. This Great Revolt was crushed but the reconciliation did not last long and Henry the Younger died after another revolt in 1183. The invasion of Ireland allowed Henry II to offer land to his youngest son John, but the king had difficulty satisfying the desires for power of all his sons. Philip Augustus managed to convince Richard that he was in danger of being ousted from the succession in favor of John, and he revolted in 1189. Henry II was defeated, and died soon after in the castle of Chinon of a digestive hemorrhage caused by an ulcer.

The Plantagenet Empire collapsed rapidly under John”s rule in the early years of the thirteenth century, but Henry II”s reforms had a lasting influence, particularly in the legal field and in the definition of English law. Eighteenth-century historians considered him to have contributed greatly to the creation of an English monarchy and, ultimately, a unified Britain. The expansion of the British Empire during the Victorian era led to a renewed interest in the creation of the Plantagenet Empire, although the king”s treatment of his sons and Becket has been the subject of debate.

Henri was born in Le Mans on March 5, 1133, the first son of Count Geoffrey V of Anjou and Matilda the Empress, named after her first union with Emperor Henry V. The county of Anjou had been created in the 10th century and the Plantagenet rulers had extended their possessions through marriages and alliances. In theory, the count was the vassal of the king of France, but the royal influence weakened in the 11th century and the county had a large autonomy.

Henry”s mother was the eldest daughter of Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy, and youngest son of William the Conqueror. Matilda was betrothed at a young age to Henry V and, after his death in 1125, she remarried to Geoffrey V. Following Henry I”s death in 1135, she hoped to ascend the English throne, in accordance with Henry I”s wishes. However, the recognition of a woman to the kingship was not assured, and it was finally his cousin Stephen of Blois who seized power, being crowned king and recognized as Duke of Normandy. The dispute soon degenerated into open conflict between the two sides; Geoffrey V took advantage of the disorder to seize the duchy of Normandy, but he left the management of the English feud to Matilda and her half-brother, Earl Robert of Gloucester. The conflict, which was called English Anarchy by Victorian historians, continued without either side gaining the upper hand.

Henry probably spent part of his childhood with his mother, whom he accompanied to Normandy in the late 1130s. At about the age of seven, he was educated by Peter of Saintes, a famous philologist from Anjou, and especially by the Earl of Gloucester, a man of “admirable wisdom” according to the Gesta Stephani. At the end of 1142, Geoffrey V decided to send the boy, aged 9, and Robert of Gloucester to Bristol, one of his strongholds against Stephen”s power. Although entrusting his children to relatives was common for the time, sending Henry to England was a political maneuver because Geoffrey V was criticized for his refusal to participate in the war on the island. For about a year, Henry lived with Roger of Worcester, one of Robert”s sons, whose retinue was known for its scholarship. The canons of St. Augustine”s Church in Bristol also participated in his education. Henry returned to Anjou in 1143 or 1144 to be taught by the grammarian William of Conches.

In 1147, at the age of 14, he recruited mercenaries and crossed the English Channel before attacking Wiltshire. Although the offensive caused great panic, the expedition was a failure and Henry, short of money, was forced to return to Normandy. Neither his mother nor his uncle supported him, which meant that he had not obtained their approval for the attack. Surprisingly, it was King Stephen who paid the mercenaries and sent them home, allowing the teenager to emerge from the affair with dignity. The king”s motives are unclear; it may have been a mark of respect to a member of his extended family, or perhaps a form of amusement, or, seeing that the outcome of the war could only be diplomatic, Stephen may have sought to get closer to Henry. In 1149, however, Henry planned a new expedition and allied himself with his great-uncle, King David I of Scotland, and with Ranulph of Chester, a powerful nobleman who controlled much of northwest England. It was decided that the offensive would be aimed at York, but it was called off after Stephen”s army arrived and Henry returned to Normandy.

According to the chroniclers, Henri was an attractive young man with red hair and freckles; he was stocky with a large head and bowed legs from riding horses. Less reserved than his mother and less charming than his father, Henri was known for his energy and enthusiasm as well as his piercing gaze and his fits of temper that sometimes caused him to refuse to speak to anyone. He understood several languages but spoke only Latin and French. In his youth, Henri enjoyed war, hunting and other adventurous pastimes, but as the years went by, he became more cautious and devoted his energy to justice and administrative matters.

He was probably the first king of England to use a heraldic symbol by having a lion or leopard engraved on his seal; later, this design was used to form the arms of Normandy and England.

Succession in Normandy and Anjou

By the late 1140s, the political situation in England had calmed down and fighting had become rare. Many barons had signed peace agreements with each other to secure their gains, and the Church of England seemed ready to encourage a peaceful resolution of the civil war. When King Louis VII of France returned from the Second Crusade in 1149, he was concerned about the growing power of Geoffrey V and the threat he might pose to his possessions if he succeeded in gaining the English crown. In 1150, Henry was appointed duke of Normandy by his father, who had seized the duchy. Louis VII opposed this, siding with King Stephen and claiming that his son, Eustace, was the legitimate heir to the duchy. He then launched the offensive against Normandy. Faced with a superior power, Geoffrey V advised his son to reach an agreement: peace was signed in August 1151 thanks to the mediation of Bernard of Clairvaux. According to the treaty, Henry paid homage to Louis VII whom he accepted as his suzerain and gave him the disputed and highly strategic territory of the Vexin; in exchange, the king of France recognized him as duke of Normandy.

Geoffrey V died in September 1151 and Henry cancelled his expedition to England against King Stephen in order to secure his succession on the continent, especially in Anjou. At this time, he was probably secretly planning his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, then the wife of Louis VII. Famous for her beauty, she was the Duchess of Aquitaine, a strategic position. Not very happy, the marriage did not result in any male heir. The second crusade was the end of the couple and Eleanor asked Pope Eugene III to approve their separation. After the birth of a second daughter in 1150, the annulment of the marriage was pronounced at the Council of Beaugency, on March 21, 1152, on the grounds of consanguinity (descendants of King Robert II of France, the couple were ninth cousins – which made it a simple pretext).

Eleanor of Aquitaine fled to Poitiers and was almost kidnapped twice on the way by nobles who coveted the hand of the most beautiful party in France: Count Thibaut V of Blois and Geoffroy Plantagenet. She exchanged a few letters with Henri, seen at the French court, in August 1151, on the occasion of a conflict settlement claiming her presence and, on May 18, 1152, eight weeks after the annulment of her first marriage, she married in Poitiers this fiery young man, about ten years her junior and who had the same degree of kinship with her as Louis VII.

Understanding the threat of this alliance between the duchy of Normandy and the duchy of Aquitaine, Louis VII considered that this union was an insult that went against feudal traditions: according to him, Eleanor should have asked for his permission. Louis VII quickly formed a coalition against the Duke of Normandy with notably Stephen of England and his son Eustace, as well as his son-in-law Henry I of Champagne. The alliance was also joined by Henry”s brother Geoffrey, who claimed that he had been robbed of his inheritance. Geoffrey V”s plans for his succession were ambiguous and the legitimacy of his son”s claims are difficult to assess. Contemporary sources suggest that he had left him the main castles of Poitou, which may suggest that he intended to pass only Normandy and Anjou to Henry.

Fighting broke out immediately on the Norman borders as Louis VII”s forces attacked Aquitaine. In England, Stephen laid siege to Wallingford Castle with the goal of defeating Henry”s loyal forces while Henry was busy on the continent. Skillfully avoiding a confrontation with Louis VII in Aquitaine, Henry managed to stabilize the situation in Normandy and sacked the Vexin before seizing Montsoreau, one of Geoffrey”s main castles in Anjou. The king of France fell ill and withdrew from the war, forcing Geoffroy to negotiate with his brother.

Accession to the throne of England

In response to the siege of Wallingford Castle, Henry returned to England again in early 1153, despite severe storms. Accompanied only by a small band of mercenaries, probably paid with a loan, Henry was supported in the north and east of England by the forces of Earl Ranulph of Chester and the Earl of Norfolk, Hugh Bigot. A delegation of English clerics met with Henry and his advisors at Stockbridge shortly before Easter in April. The details of the meeting are unknown, but it seems that while the clergy affirmed their support for Stephen, they were seeking a peace agreement.

In a move designed to draw Stephen”s forces away from Wallingford, Henry laid siege to his castle at Malmesbury and the king responded by leading an army to lift the siege. The Duke of Normandy managed to avoid a confrontation along the Avon, but with winter approaching, the two men signed a truce. Henry then went north via the Midlands where the powerful Earl of Leicester Robert II of Beaumont gave him his support. At the same time, he sought to present himself as the rightful king by attending weddings and organizing a court in a royal manner.

During the following summer, Stephen massed troops around Wallingford Castle, whose fall seemed imminent. Henry went south to rescue the fortress and besieged the besiegers. Having heard this, Stephen returned at the head of a large army. At this point in the war, the barons on both sides were eager to avoid a bloody pitched battle and the clergy negotiated a truce. Henry and Stephen took the opportunity to open secret negotiations to end the conflict; fortunately for Henry, Stephen”s son, Eustace, fell ill and died soon afterwards, thus removing the main contender to the English throne, as his second son, William, did not seem to be concerned with a possible claim to the throne. Fighting continued sporadically as the Church of England attempted to secure a permanent peace.

In November, the two chiefs ratified the Treaty of Winchester, which was announced in the cathedral of the same name. According to the treaty, Stephen recognized Henry as his adopted son and successor, and in return Henry paid homage and demobilized his mercenaries; Stephen promised to listen to Henry”s advice but retained all his royal powers, while his son William relinquished the throne in exchange for secure control of his lands. The peace remained precarious, however, and William remained a potential rival to Henry. Due to rumors of a plot to assassinate him, Henry decided to return to Normandy, but Stephen”s death on October 25, 1154, from a severe stomach ailment allowed him to take the throne sooner than expected.

Restoration of the royal authority

After landing in England on December 8, 1154, Henry quickly received oaths of loyalty from several barons and was crowned alongside Eleanor at Westminster on December 19. The royal court assembled in April 1155 and the barons swore allegiance to the king and his sons. There were still several potential rivals, including Stephen”s son William, and Henry”s brothers Geoffrey and William. Fortunately for Henry, they all died within a few years, leaving him with a relatively stable throne. The situation in England was delicate, however, as the kingdom had been devastated by the civil war. Many fortifications had been built without permission by local nobles, forestry law was no longer respected in large parts of the country, and the Crown”s revenues had been severely reduced.

Presenting himself as the legitimate heir to Henry I, Henry II began to reshape the kingdom in his own image. Although Stephen had tried to emulate his predecessor”s method of government, the new king presented his 19-year reign as a chaotic and troubled time, with all the problems stemming from Stephen”s usurpation of the throne. Henry II took great care to show that, unlike his mother, he would listen to the advice and counsel of his court. Various measures were taken immediately, although since the king spent three-quarters of his first eight years in France, many administrative matters had to be conducted at a distance. Illegal castles were demolished and reforms were initiated to restore the judicial system and the royal finances. Henry II also invested heavily in the construction and renovation of new royal residences.

The king of Scotland and the Welsh lords had taken advantage of the English civil war to seize disputed border territories, and Henry II set out to recover them. In 1157, English pressure forced the young king to return the conquered territories, and Henry II immediately fortified the northern border. Restoring royal authority in Wales proved more difficult, and Henry II had to wage several difficult campaigns in North and South Wales in 1157 and 1158 before Princes Owain Gwynedd and Rhys ap Gruffydd submitted and agreed to a return to the pre-war boundaries.

Continental Policy

Henry II had a difficult relationship with Louis VII of France throughout the 1150s. The two men had already clashed over Normandy and the remarriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and no reconciliation was in sight; the French king claimed to be a crusader and spread rumors about his rival”s behavior and character. Henry II, however, had more resources than the French king, especially after his conquest of England, and Louis VII had more difficulty containing the Plantagenet expansion than before. The rivalry between the two rulers involved neighboring lords, including Count Thierry of Flanders, who signed a military alliance with Henry II, with a clause allowing him not to have to fight the king of France, who remained his suzerain. The tensions and the frequent meetings between the leaders to resolve them have prompted historian Jean Dunbabin to compare the period to the Cold War in twentieth century Europe.

Henry II and Louis VII finally reached a peace agreement in 1154 by which the king of England recovered Vernon and Neuf-Marché. The treaty was fragile, however, and tensions persisted, especially since Henry II did not pay tribute to Louis VII for his French possessions. In an attempt to improve relations, Henry II met with Louis VII in Paris and at Mont-Saint-Michel in 1158 and agreed to betroth his eldest son Henry the Younger to Marguerite, the daughter of the French king. According to the agreement, the king of France would grant the disputed territory of the Vexin to Marguerite as a dowry. For a time, it seemed that a permanent peace agreement was within reach.

At the same time, Henry II turned his attention to the Duchy of Brittany, which bordered his lands and was traditionally independent from the rest of France with its own language and culture. The dukes of Brittany had little authority and power rested largely in the hands of local lords. In 1148, Duke Conan III died and a civil war broke out. Henry II claimed suzerainty over Brittany on the grounds that the duchy had sworn loyalty to Henry I, and he felt that controlling the territory would secure his French possessions as well as being a possible inheritance for one of his sons. The English king”s initial strategy was to rule indirectly and in this sense he supported the claims of Conan IV who had ties to England and could easily be influenced. The latter”s uncle, Hoël III, continued to control the county of Nantes in the east until he was overthrown by Geoffroy VI of Anjou, perhaps with the support of his brother. When the latter died in 1158, Conan IV attempted to take Nantes but was refused by Henry II, who annexed it on his behalf. Louis VII did not intervene in the dispute and Henry II increased his power in Brittany considerably.

Henry II hoped to take a similar approach to regain control of the county of Toulouse in southern France. Although part of the duchy of Aquitaine, the county had become increasingly independent and was now ruled by Raymond V, whose claims were relatively weak. Encouraged by Eleanor, Henry II allied himself with Raymond V”s rival, Raimond-Berenger IV of Barcelona, and in 1159 threatened to intervene to overthrow him. However, Louis VII had married his sister, Constance, in order to secure his southern borders; following a meeting with the king of France, Henry II considered that he had obtained his agreement to an intervention. He therefore attacked the county of Toulouse but learned that Louis VII was in the city at the time visiting his brother-in-law. Unable to attack directly, the English king plundered the region and seized Quercy. The episode proved to be a long-lasting dispute between the two sovereigns, and the chronicler William of Newburgh called the conflict with Toulouse the “Forty Years” War.

Following the Toulouse intervention, Louis VII attempted to ease tensions with Henry II with a peace treaty in 1160. The text promised the retrocession of his grandfather Henry I”s lands and rights, reaffirmed the cession of the Vexin as well as the engagement of Marguerite de France and Henry the Younger, and obliged the latter to pay homage to him; this last point reinforced the young man”s position as heir as well as Louis VII”s royal stature. The king of France, however, changed his position considerably immediately after the peace conference. His wife, Constance, had died and Louis VII had remarried Adele, the sister of the counts of Blois and Champagne. He had also betrothed his two daughters from his union with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marie and Alix, to Henry I of Champagne and Thibaut V of Blois respectively. This represented a strategy of containment of the Plantagenet expansion in opposition to the policy of conciliation initiated by the agreement of 1160. Henry II was irritated by this decision. Henry the Younger and Margaret of France were in his custody, and in November he pressured several apostolic legates to marry them, even though they were only five and three years old respectively; he also seized the Vexin. Now it was Louis VII”s turn to be furious, for the decision clearly went against the idea of the 1160 treaty.

The situation quickly degenerated and Thibaut V mobilized his forces in Touraine. Henry II responded with a surprise attack on the castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire. By early 1161, the conflict seemed poised to spread to other regions, until a new truce was signed at Fréteval in the fall and a peace treaty was signed the following year under the supervision of Pope Alexander III. In spite of this temporary lull, the annexation of the Vexin by Henri II remained a durable point of friction between the kings of France and him.


Henry II controlled more territory in France than any other ruler since the Carolingians; these lands, together with his possessions in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, formed a vast entity called the Plantagenet Empire by historians. Despite this name, however, it was largely decentralized and based on a loose network of family and feudal ties. Henry II travelled constantly throughout his empire, giving rise, according to historian John Jolliffe, to a “government of roads and roadsides. His travels coincided with local matters, although messengers kept him informed of events in the rest of his territories. In his absence, the provinces were administered by seneschals and justiciars as well as by various local officials. Despite this decentralization, many administrative matters were settled by the king, and Henry II was often surrounded by petitioners asking for decisions or favors.

From time to time, Henry II”s court became a magnum concilium or “great council”; they were sometimes used to make important decisions, but the term was used whenever a large number of barons or bishops met with the king. These assemblies were supposed to advise the king and approve his decisions, but the true extent of their power is not well known. Henry II certainly had great latitude to support his supporters and punish his opponents. He was thus very effective in recruiting competent administrators, especially among the clergy, and many of his favorite clerics ended up becoming bishops or archbishops. Conversely, he did not hesitate to use his ira et malevolentia (“anger and resentment”) to punish and financially destroy bishops or barons.

In England, Henry II initially relied on his father”s former advisers, on Henry I”s administrators, and on some of the nobles who had joined his side against Stephen in 1153. Later, like his grandfather, he encouraged the emergence of “new men” from the less fortunate nobility and placed them in high office; by the 1180s, this new class of administrators was the largest in England. In Normandy, the ties between the English and Norman aristocracy continued to weaken throughout his reign. As in England, his advisers often came from the ranks of the bishops, and the great landowners were excluded from the ranks of the administration. Henry II frequently used his status as king of England and duke to intervene in the affairs of the Norman nobility by arranging marriages or organizing successions. In the rest of France, local administration was less developed. Anjou was governed by provosts and seneschals established along the Loire and in western Touraine, but the rest of the province was rather poorly administered. In Aquitaine, ducal authority remained very limited, although it was greatly increased under Richard in the late 1170s.

Court and family

Henry II”s wealth enabled him to maintain what was probably the largest curia regis or royal court in Europe, composed of barons, bishops, knights, servants and administrators. The king was surrounded by an informal circle called familiares regis, made up of confidants, friends and relatives who played an important role in the management of the administration and served as intermediaries between the official structures and the sovereign.

Henry II strove to create a sophisticated court that supported literature in particular. However, it was for hunting, the sovereign”s passion, that the court became famous. Henry II had many hunting lodges throughout his kingdom and invested heavily in the renovation and extension of his castles, both for military reasons and to demonstrate the power of his rule. Court life was quite formal, which may have had something to do with the king”s desire to forget his quick accession to the throne and his relatively humble status as the son of a count.

The historian John Gillingham described the Plantagenet Empire as a “family business. Henry II”s mother, Matilda, played an important role in his youth and continued to exert a strong influence on her son during his reign. The king”s relationship with his wife Eleanor was more complex. Henry II entrusted her with the administration of England for several years after 1154 and let her rule Aquitaine thereafter. Their relationship deteriorated in the 1160s, however, and chroniclers and historians have questioned what prompted Eleanor to support her sons against her husband in the revolt of 1173-1174. Henry II”s numerous interventions in Aquitaine, his recognition of Raymond V of Toulouse as his vassal in 1173, or his rough personality are among the most likely explanations.

Henry II had eight legitimate children with Eleanor: William, Henry the Younger, Richard, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan and John. He also had several mistresses, including Annabelle de Balliol and Rosamund Clifford, with whom he had illegitimate children; the best known are Geoffrey (later Archbishop of York) and William (later Earl of Salisbury). Henry II”s family was divided by deep rivalries, more so than most other royal families of the time, and in particular much more so than the rival French house of the Capetians. Various reasons have been advanced to explain these tensions, such as genetic predisposition, irascible personalities, or failure to raise children. Historians such as Matthew Strickland have argued that Henry II made sensible choices to ease the friction in his family and that the succession might have been less difficult if he had died earlier.


The reign of Henry II saw important legal changes, particularly in England and Normandy. In the middle of the twelfth century, England had many civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions whose roles and powers were poorly defined, giving rise to various quarrels. Henry II greatly expanded the prerogatives of the royal judiciary to create a more coherent whole; this gave rise at the end of his reign to the tractatus of Glanvill, one of the first legal treatises. Despite these reforms, it is not clear that the king had a grand vision for his new legal system and it seems that he acted more out of pragmatism than idealism. Indeed, in most cases he probably played only a limited role in defining the new jurisdictions, but he considered the dispensation of justice to be one of the principal prerogatives of the sovereign, and he carefully selected those who would carry out the reforms.

Because of the disorder caused by the civil war, many legal issues had to be resolved, as many monasteries or individuals had been dispossessed of their lands by the barons who had sometimes sold their properties. Henry II relied on local tribunals such as the shires, hundreds and feudal courts to adjudicate most disputes, and he took a personal interest in only a few. This process was far from perfect, and in many cases the plaintiffs were not successful. Although he was interested in justice, Henry II was preoccupied with other political matters at the beginning of his reign, and getting the king”s advice meant crossing the Channel and locating his travelling court. Despite this, he did not hesitate to intervene in judgments that seemed unjust or to legislate to improve the judicial process. In Normandy, courts presided over by representatives of the Crown dispensed justice and sometimes referred cases to the sovereign. There was also an Exchequer of Normandy in Caen to deal with matters concerning taxes and fees, as well as itinerant judges. Between 1159 and 1163, Henry II reformed the ecclesiastical and civil courts, and some of these developments were later implemented in England.

Henry II returned to England in 1163 and began reforming the royal courts. In 1176, he probably created “eyres”, groups of itinerant royal judges whose jurisdiction covered civil and criminal matters. Local juries had sometimes been organized during the reigns of his predecessors, but Henry II increased their use. Other methods of judging persisted, such as the trial by ordeal and the duel. After the Assize of Clarendon in 1166, the prerogatives of royal justice were extended to cover matters of inheritance and property rights. With these reforms, Henry II opposed the traditional rights of the barons to administer justice, and they greatly increased royal power in England.

Relations with the Church

Henry II”s relationship with the Church varied considerably depending on the time and place of his reign; as with other aspects of his reign, he did not really define a religious policy, although much of his actions were intended to increase his authority at the expense of the pope. The twelfth century saw the emergence of a reform movement within the Church calling for a greater separation between the temporal power of the rulers and the spiritual power of the Church; this desire for greater autonomy from royal authority caused much friction in Europe, such as the Investiture Quarrel between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. In England, this resulted in the condemnation to exile of the archbishop of Canterbury, Thibaut du Bec, by Stephen in 1152.

Unlike the situation in England, Henry II maintained excellent relations with the Norman clergy. In Brittany, he had the support of the local bishops, and he rarely intervened in religious matters except when it would enable him to put his rival Louis VII in difficulty. Further south, the authority of the dukes of Aquitaine over the clergy was relatively weak, and Henry II”s attempts to influence ecclesiastical appointments created tensions. During the disputed election of 1159, Henry II, like Louis VII, supported Alexander III against his rival Victor IV.

Henry II was not a particularly pious ruler by the standards of the time. In England, he gave substantial financial support to monasteries but did not encourage the creation of new congregations and gave most of the donations to those with family connections, as in the case of Reading Abbey. In this sense, he seems to have been influenced by his mother and several charters bore their joint signature. After Becket”s death, he built and donated to various monasteries in France mainly to improve his image. Because shipping was dangerous, he made a full confession before setting sail and used augurs to determine the best time to travel. It is also possible that his travels were planned according to religious holidays.

Henri II, goes in 1166 in company of Conan IV of Brittany, duke of Brittany; of Geoffroi Ier bishop of Saint-Brieuc, and of Guillaume Ier, abbot of Saint-Aubin des Bois; Guillaume, abbot of Saint-Serge, Hugues, abbot of Saint-Nicolas d”Angers, Guillaume, abbot of Saint-Maur; Guillaume, abbot of Toussaint d”Angers, to assist to the translation of the body of saint Brieuc in the abbey Saint-Serge-lès-Angers

Economy and Finance

Henry II restored many of the financial institutions created by his grandfather Henry I, and his reforms had a lasting impact on the English economy. Medieval rulers like Henry I had several sources of revenue: from their estates, legal fines, arbitrary amercements, and taxes, which were only intermittently levied at the time. Kings could also borrow money; Henry II made much more use of this possibility than his predecessors, initially from moneylenders in Rouen and later from Jewish and Flemish merchants. Money reserves became increasingly important during the twelfth century to finance mercenaries and the construction of stone castles, an essential element of medieval warfare.

Upon coming to power, Henry II gave priority to improving the financial situation of the Crown. Demense revenues accounted for the majority of royal receipts, although heavy taxation was applied in the early years of his reign. With the help of the able Richard fitz Nigel, he reformed the coinage and greatly reduced the number of mints licensed to produce coins. These measures improved the economic situation, but they were accentuated by the king after his return to England in the 1160”s. In 1180, the mints, which were increased to ten for the whole country, were put under the control of officials and the profits made were sent directly to the Treasury. As a result of these reforms, the revenue of the Crown increased from about £18,000 at the beginning of Henry II”s reign to over £22,000 after 1166. One of the consequences of these changes was a significant increase in the money supply in England, which allowed for a long-term increase in inflation and trade.

Developments in France

Tensions between Henry II and Louis VII persisted throughout the 1160s, and the French king”s efforts to combat Plantagenet expansion became increasingly vigorous. In 1160, he strengthened his alliances in central France with Henry I of Champagne and Duke Eudes II of Burgundy. Three years later, the new count of Flanders, Philip, worried about the growing power of Henry II, openly approached the king of France. Moreover, the birth of a son, Philip Augustus, in 1165 strengthened the position of Louis VII. These developments led to renewed tensions in the mid-1160s.

At the same time, Henry II began to become more and more involved in Breton affairs; in 1164 he confiscated the lands along the border between Brittany and Normandy and two years later led a punitive expedition against the local nobility. Henry II then forced Conan IV to abdicate in favor of his daughter Constance; the latter passed into the custody of the English king who immediately betrothed her to his son Geoffrey. His attempts to annex the Auvergne provoked the anger of Louis VII, and further south he continued his pressure against Raymond V of Toulouse. Henry II personally led a campaign against him in 1161 and encouraged King Alfonso II of Aragon to attack him. In 1165, the Count of Toulouse divorced Louis VII”s sister and sought an alliance with Henry II.

The situation finally degenerated into open conflict in 1167 over a trivial dispute about how money for the Latin states of the Levant should be collected. Having allied himself with the Welsh, Scots and Bretons, Louis VII attacked Normandy. Henry II responded by attacking Chaumont-sur-Epte, where the main French arsenal was located; the destruction of the town and its stores forced the French king to abandon his allies and sign a separate truce. Henry II was thus free to turn against the rebels in Brittany, which he intended to control personally.

By the end of the decade, Henry II began to consider his succession and decided that his empire would be divided among his sons after his death. Henry the Younger would get England and Normandy, Richard would become duke of Aquitaine and Brittany would pass to Geoffrey. The agreement of the king of France was necessary for such a division and new peace negotiations were held in 1169 at Montmirail. The discussions covered many points and ended with Henry II”s sons paying homage to Louis VII for their future possessions and Richard”s betrothal to Adele, the daughter of the king of France. Adele went to England but as soon as she reached puberty Henry took her as his mistress and never made her marry Richard despite political and religious pressure. That same year Henry II fortified the southern border of Normandy: on the banks of the Avre River, he built forts at Verneuil, Courteilles, Tillières and Nonancourt.

If the Montmirail agreements had been implemented, the tributes would have strengthened Louis VII”s royal position while reducing the legitimacy of any revolt in the Plantagenet territories; they also foreshadowed a potential alliance between the two sovereigns. In practice, Louis VII felt that he had temporarily gained the upper hand and encouraged tensions between Henry II and his sons immediately after the conference ended. At the same time, Henry II”s position in southern France continued to improve, and in 1173 he formed an alliance with Count Humbert III of Savoy, who betrothed his daughter Alix to John. The marriage of Eleanor, the daughter of the ruler of England, to King Alfonso VIII of Castile in 1170 gave him a new ally in the south. Raymond V of Toulouse finally yielded to pressure in February 1173 and recognized the suzerainty of Henry II and his heirs over his county.

Quarrel with Thomas Becket

One of the main events of Henry II”s reign in the 1160s was his quarrel with Thomas Becket. On the death of the archbishop of Canterbury, Thibaut de Bec, in 1161, the king wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to reassert his rights over the Church in England. He appointed his chancellor Thomas Becket to this position, probably considering that Becket, in addition to being an old friend, would be weakened within the clergy because of his expensive lifestyle and would need the support of the king. Matilda and Eleanor seem to have had doubts about the advisability of this appointment but Henry II persisted. His plan did not have the desired effect, however, for Becket radically changed his lifestyle, severed his ties with the king, and presented himself as a strong advocate of church independence.

The two men clashed on many issues, including the king”s taxation policy and Becket”s desire to reclaim land belonging to the archdiocese. The main source of conflict, however, was over the treatment of clerics who committed crimes; Henry II believed that English legal traditions allowed the king to try such cases, while the archbishop argued that only religious courts had jurisdiction. The dispute gave rise to the Constitutions of Clarendon, which the king forced upon Becket in January 1164; Becket accepted the text but soon afterwards retracted it. The meaning of the text was ambiguous and continues to be the subject of debate among historians.

The feud became more and more personal between the two men and neither was ready to give in. The dispute also became international as both sought the support of Pope Alexander III and other rulers. After Becket left for France in 1164, where he found refuge with Louis VII, Henry II began to harass the clergy, and the archbishop excommunicated all those, religious and lay, who sided with the king. The pope supported Becket in principle, but he needed the support of the king of England in his fight against the emperor Frederick I. He therefore tried to obtain a negotiated solution to the crisis.

In 1169, Henry II decided to crown his son Henry the Younger, but this ceremony traditionally required the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Moreover, the dispute was affecting the prestige of the Crown abroad and the king began to adopt a more conciliatory policy. This failed and Henry the Younger was finally crowned by the archbishop of York in 1170. The pope allowed Becket to issue an interdict and threatened to excommunicate Henry II personally, forcing the latter to comply. An agreement was finally signed in July 1170 and the archbishop returned to England in December. Just as the dispute seemed settled, Becket excommunicated three more of the king”s supporters; furious, Henry II declared, “What wretched parasites and traitors have I fostered and promoted in my house, that they should allow their lord to be treated with such shameful disdain by a petty cleric?”

Having apparently heard this statement, four knights went secretly to Canterbury on December 29, 1170 with the intention of forcing Becket to respect the agreement with the king and, if not, to arrest him. When he refused, Becket was stabbed several times with a sword and died soon after. This murder in a church across from the altar horrified Europe, and while the archbishop had never been very popular during his lifetime, he was declared a martyr by the monks of the cathedral. Focusing on the Irish question, Henry II did nothing to stop Becket”s killers. International pressure nevertheless forced him to negotiate a compromise with the pope in May 1172. According to the document, he was absolved of any guilt in Becket”s murder and agreed to go on crusade and abrogate the Constitutions of Clarendon; he did not, however, keep his first commitment.

Invasion of Ireland

In the middle of the 12th century, Ireland was governed by many local lords whose authority was relatively limited compared to the rest of Europe. The island was considered a barbaric and backward region by most contemporaries. In the 1160s, the High King of Ireland Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair removed the title of King of Leinster from Diarmait Mac Murchada. Diarmait Mac Murchada sought the support of Henry II who allowed him to recruit mercenaries from within his empire. At the head of an army of Anglo-Norman and Flemish soldiers from the Welsh marches, Mac Murchada recovered Leinster in 1171 but died soon after. One of the main mercenary leaders, Richard de Clare, claimed the territory for himself.

Henry II seized this opportunity to intervene personally in Ireland. He gathered a large army in South Wales and after crushing the rebels who had controlled the region since 1165, he landed on the island in October 1171. Some Irish lords asked Henry II to protect them from Anglo-Norman invaders, while de Clare offered to recognize him as overlord if he was allowed to keep his new possessions. Pope Alexander III encouraged this initiative, which would allow him to increase papal authority over the Irish church. The determining factor in the royal expedition, however, was the fear that the lords of the Marches would acquire territories beyond Henry II”s authority. His intervention was successful because his authority was accepted by the Irish and Anglo-Normans in the south and east of the island.

Henry II undertook a massive castle-building program during his 1171 visit to protect the Anglo-Norman conquests. However, he hoped for a long-term political solution and in 1175 he signed the Treaty of Windsor, which recognized Rory O”Connor as High King, paid tribute to him and guaranteed the stability of the island. O”Connor was unable to enforce his authority in some areas such as Munster, however, and Henry II intervened more directly by creating local fiefs.

Great Revolt of 1173-1174

In 1173, Henry II had to face an uprising of the nobility supported by his eldest sons, France, Scotland and Flanders which was called the Great Revolt. The causes of this insurrection were multiple. Although he had been crowned and had the title of king, Henry the Younger had no influence on his father”s decisions, who frequently limited his income. He had also been very attached to Becket, who had been his guardian, and he may have blamed his father for his death. Geoffrey was in a similar situation; Conan IV of Brittany had died in 1171, but he still had not married Constance and therefore had no legitimacy to rule the duchy. Richard was encouraged to participate in the revolt by Eleanor, whose relations with Henry II had deteriorated considerably. At the same time, the barons saw in these tensions a way to weaken the royal authority and to recover their traditional powers by allying themselves with the king”s sons.

The trigger for the revolt was Henry II”s decision to give his son John three castles belonging to Henry the Younger. Henry the Younger protested and went to Paris where he was joined by Richard and Geoffrey; Eleanor wanted to do the same but was stopped by Henry II”s soldiers in November. Louis VII gave his support to the aggrieved son and war was inevitable. Henry the Younger wrote to the pope to complain about his father”s attitude and began to gather allies, including King William of Scotland and the counts of Boulogne, Flanders and Blois, to whom he promised lands in the event of victory. Simultaneously, nobles rose up in England, Brittany, Maine and Poitou. Some barons on the Norman borders also revolted, but on the whole the duchy remained loyal to the king despite growing discontent. Only Anjou remained relatively calm. Despite the magnitude of the crisis, Henry II had several advantages, including control of a large number of strategic fortresses and English ports, as well as a certain popularity among the urban population of his empire.

In May 1173, Louis VII and Henry the Younger tested the defenses of the Vexin toward the Norman capital, Rouen; at the same time, their allies attacked from Brittany and Blois to pincer the defenders. Henry II secretly returned to England to launch an offensive against the rebels on the island before returning to Normandy and crushing the coalition forces. An army was detached to repel the Breton rebels, who were then captured. The English king then offered to negotiate with his sons, but the discussions held at Gisors failed to produce an agreement. Henry II nevertheless took advantage of this respite to reduce the rebel pockets in Touraine, thus securing the communication lines of his empire. Meanwhile, fighting in England continued throughout the summer with neither side able to gain the upper hand; the arrival of Flemish reinforcements, however, enabled loyalist troops to defeat the rebel army at the Battle of Fornham (en) in East Anglia in October 1173. After the failure of a new offensive by Henry the Younger and Louis VII in Normandy in January 1174, the fighting ceased during the winter.

In early 1174, Henry II”s opponents seem to have tried to push him back to England, in order to take advantage of his absence to invade Normandy. With the support of rebel barons in the north of England, William of Scotland attacked the south of the island and Scottish troops advanced rapidly into the Midlands. The English king ignored this maneuver and concentrated on his opponents in France; at the same time, William”s offensive was hampered by his inability to take the strategic fortresses that remained loyal to Henry II, whose illegitimate son, Geoffrey, led an effective defense. In a new attempt to push the king off the continent, Count Philip of Flanders announced his intention to invade England and sent a vanguard to East Anglia. This prospect of a Flemish invasion had the desired effect and Henry II left France in early July. Taking advantage of this departure, Louis VII and Philip advanced into eastern Normandy and reached Rouen. As the situation got out of hand, Henry II visited Becket”s tomb in Canterbury and announced that the revolt was a divine punishment; his penance did much to restore royal authority at this decisive moment in the conflict. He soon learned that William of Scotland had been defeated and captured at Alnwick, which led to the collapse of the rebellion in England. Henry II returned to Normandy in August and crushed French forces preparing to launch a final assault on Rouen; pushed back to France, Louis VII asked for peace talks.

Consequences of the Great Revolt

Shortly after the fighting ended, Henry II held negotiations at Montlouis and presented relatively lenient terms corresponding to a return to the status quo. Henry the Younger and his father promised not to take revenge on each other”s supporters; he agreed to transfer the castles to John but in exchange for two Norman fortresses and 15,000 Angevin pounds. For their part, Richard and Geoffrey obtained half of the revenues from Aquitaine and Brittany respectively. As for Eleanor, she was placed under house arrest until the 1180s. Rebellious barons were briefly imprisoned and sometimes fined, but they got their titles and properties back. Henry II, on the other hand, was less generous with William of Scotland, who was released only after accepting the Treaty of Falaise of December 1174, by which he recognized the suzerainty of the English king and ceded five strategic fortresses on the border. Philip of Flanders proclaimed his neutrality towards the English king in exchange for regular financial support from the latter.

To his contemporaries, Henry II seemed more powerful than ever; many European rulers sought to ally themselves with him and he was invited to arbitrate disputes in Spain and Germany. Despite this apparent power, he tried to resolve the elements that had provoked the revolt; he undertook to increase royal justice in England to reassert his authority, and he spent time in Normandy to improve his relations with the local barons. He also appealed to the growing cult of Becket to bolster his prestige by invoking the saint to explain his victory in 1174 and the capture of William of Scotland.

The peace of 1174 did nothing, however, to resolve the lingering tensions between Henry II and Louis VII, and these resurfaced at the end of the decade as the two clashed over control of the rich province of Berry. Henry II had a claim to the western part of the territory, but he announced in 1176 that he had agreed in 1169 to cede the entire province to Richard”s fiancée Adele. If Louis VII recognized this agreement, it meant that Berry actually belonged to Henry II and that Henry II had the right to occupy it on behalf of his son. To put pressure on his rival, the English king mobilized his army. The Pope intervened and, as Henry II had probably anticipated, encouraged the two kings to sign a non-aggression pact in September 1177 and to go on crusade together. Control of the Auvergne and parts of Berry was decided by arbitration in favor of the English king, who exploited this success by buying La Marche from a local count. This new expansion of the Plantagenet Empire again threatened the security of the king of France, and the new peace once again seemed very precarious.

Unhappy with this lack of influence and power, Henry the Younger repeated his earlier demands in 1182: he wanted to be granted lands such as the duchy of Normandy, the income from which would allow him to finance his court. Henry II refused but agreed to increase his son”s pension. This was not enough for Henry II and the king tried to ease tensions by insisting that Richard and Geoffrey pay tribute to their brother for their lands. Richard felt that Henry the Younger had no rights to Aquitaine and initially refused to acknowledge his vassalage; when he did so under pressure from his father, his brother refused to accept it. Henry the Younger formed an alliance with disgruntled Aquitanian barons and with Geoffrey, who raised an army of mercenaries to attack Poitou. War broke out in 1183 and Henry II and Richard campaigned in Aquitaine. However, the revolt suddenly disappeared when Henry the Younger died of dysentery in 1183.

With his eldest son dead, Henry II changed the terms of his succession: Richard would become king of England but he would have no power until his father”s death; Geoffrey would retain Brittany, which he had obtained by marriage, and John, his favorite son, would obtain the duchy of Aquitaine. Richard nevertheless refused to give up the duchy to which he had become attached because he had no desire to become a subordinate king of England without power. Furious, Henry II ordered Geoffrey and John to march south to retake the duchy by force. The war was short-lived and ended with a difficult family reconciliation at Westminster in late 1184. The following year, Henry II brought Eleanor to Normandy to force Richard to obey him, while threatening to cede Normandy and possibly England to Geoffrey. Richard capitulated to this threat and ceded the ducal castles in Aquitaine to his father.

At the same time, John undertook an expedition to Ireland in 1185, the outcome of which was not very glorious. The island had only recently been conquered by Anglo-Norman forces, and tensions were high between representatives of the Crown, the colonists and the local population. John offended the local lords, failed to gain allies among the Anglo-Norman settlers and suffered several military setbacks against the Irish; he finally returned to England less than a year after his arrival. In 1186, Henry II was about to send him back to the island when he learned that Geoffrey had been killed in a tournament in Paris, leaving behind two young children. This incident changed the balance of power between the king and his sons once again.

Philip II of France

If Henry II had great affection for his youngest son John, his relationship with Richard was difficult and these tensions were exploited by the new king Philip II of France. Philip II had come to power in 1180 and had quickly shown himself to be a calculating and manipulative ruler. Henry II and Philip had initially enjoyed a good relationship, to the extent that it cost the French king the support of the counts of Flanders and Champagne. The death of Geoffrey, whom Philip II considered as a close friend and would have seen well in successor of Henri II, caused nevertheless a rupture between the two sovereigns. In 1183, Henri feeling threatened by Philippe Auguste separated the Norman Vexin from the French Vexin by a line of works in the south of Gisors, along the Epte: Neaufles, Dangu, Châteauneuf-sur-Epte.

In 1186, Philip II demanded custody of Geoffrey”s children and thus Brittany, and he insisted that Henry II order Richard to withdraw from the county of Toulouse where he had intervened to put pressure on Raymond V, the uncle of the king of France. If he refused, he threatened to invade Normandy. He raised again the question of Vexin which formed the old dowry of Marguerite; Henri II still occupied the area and Philip II required that the English king finalizes the marriage between Richard and Alix or returns this dowry. Philip II invaded Berry and Henry II assembled a large army to confront him at Châteauroux, but the pope negotiated a truce. During the negotiations, the king of France suggested that Richard join forces with him against Henry II in a maneuver to pit the son against the father.

Philip”s offer coincided with a crisis in the Levant as Sultan Saladin seized Jerusalem in 1187, prompting calls for a crusade throughout Europe. Richard was enthusiastic and announced his intention to join the expedition; Philip II and Henry II did the same in early 1188. Richard wanted to leave immediately but was forced to wait for his father to prepare for his absence. In the meantime, he set out to crush his opponents in Aquitaine before attacking the count of Toulouse again in 1188. His campaign undermined the fragile truce between Henry II and Philip II, and both began to mobilize large forces in preparation for the coming war. The former rejected the French king”s requests for a truce in the hope of securing a lasting peace agreement. Philip refused and Richard, furious, considered that his father simply wanted to delay the departure of the crusade.


The rupture between Henry II and Richard was finally consummated at a peace conference organized in November 1188 by Philip II. The latter publicly offered a generous peace proposal by which he ceded various territories, in exchange for which the English king accepted the marriage of Richard and Alix and recognized his son as heir. Henry II”s refusal prompted his son to stand up and ask him to recognize him as his heir. The king remaining silent, Richard ostensibly joined the French side and paid homage to Philip in front of all the assembled nobles.

The pope intervened again and obtained a last-minute agreement that led to the beginning of a new conference at La Ferté-Bernard in 1189. Henry II was then suffering from a digestive hemorrhage caused by an ulcer. Discussions quickly stalled, although Henry II had reportedly proposed to Philip II that Alix marry John instead of Richard, reflecting rumors that the king was openly considering disinheriting his son. The breakdown of negotiations meant that war was inevitable, but Richard and Philip II launched a surprise attack immediately after the end of the conference when this was traditionally a period of truce.

Henri II was surprised at Le Mans but managed to reach Alençon from where he could gain the safety of Normandy. Against the advice of his advisors, however, he decided to turn back and return to Anjou. The weather was particularly hot and the king, increasingly unwell, seems to have wanted to die peacefully in his native province rather than wage a new campaign. Henry II avoided the opposing forces on his way and collapsed in his castle at Chinon. Philip II and Richard progressed all the more rapidly as it was obvious that the king was dying and that he would become king. They offered to negotiate and met Henry II, barely able to stand on his horse, at Ballan. The latter accepted a total surrender: he paid homage to Philip II; he entrusted Alix to a guarantor before her marriage to Richard on his return from the crusade; he recognized the latter as his heir and he accepted the payment of indemnities to Philip II and the transfer of strategic fortresses as a guarantee.

Henry II was taken back in a palanquin to Chinon where he learned that John had publicly joined his brother against him. This information was a fatal blow to him and he developed a high fever that caused him to become delirious; he recovered his senses only long enough to confess and he died on July 6, 1189 at the age of 56, in the Saint-Melaine chapel of the fortress, of which a plaque on the ground, north of the Château du Milieu, marks the location and commemorates the event. He had wished to be buried in the abbey of Grandmont in the Limousin, but the hot weather made it impossible to transport his remains, which were buried in the abbey of Fontevraud not far from Chinon.

After the death of Henry II, Richard obtained his father”s lands; he then participated in the third crusade but did not keep his promise to marry Alix. Eleanor was freed and ruled Aquitaine on behalf of her son. The Plantagenet Empire did not survive long after the death of its creator, however, and in 1204 John lost all the continental provinces except Guyenne to Philip II. This collapse had various causes including economic changes, the growing cultural differences between England and Normandy, and especially the fragile family nature of Henry II”s Empire.

Henry II was not a very popular king and few mourned his death. Writing in the 1190s, William of Newburgh noted that “in his time he was hated by almost everyone”; he was frequently criticized by his contemporaries, even those in his court. Nevertheless, many of the reforms Henry II adopted during his reign had important long-term consequences. The legal developments are generally regarded as the basis of English law, and the Court of Exchequer as the forerunner of the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster. Its system of itinerant judges influenced his contemporaries, and the bailiffs created by Philip II were directly inspired by it.


Henry II has been the subject of many historical studies. In the eighteenth century, the historian and philosopher David Hume wrote that his reign played a major role in the creation of a truly English monarchy and ultimately a unified Britain. His role in the controversy with Becket was praised by Protestant historians of the period, while his clashes with the French king were appreciated by nationalists. The Victorian era saw a revival of interest in the personalities of historical figures, and historians of the time were highly critical of Henry II”s behavior as a king but also as a husband and father. His role in Becket”s death was the subject of particularly strong accusations. Despite this, and based on the documents of the time, they emphasized his contributions to the development of important English institutions such as the Court of Exchequer. William Stubbs described him as a “king legislator” responsible for profound and lasting reforms. Influenced by the growth of the British Empire, historians such as Kate Norgate conducted detailed research on Henry II”s continental possessions and created the concept of the “Plantagenet Empire.

Twentieth-century historians revised many of these conclusions. In the 1950s, Jacques Bousard and John Jolliffe, among others, focused on the nature of this “Empire”; French historians were particularly interested in the functioning of royal power during this period. The Anglocentric aspects of many studies were amended from the 1980s onwards in an attempt to unify French and British analyses of the period. In-depth research on twelfth-century archives also invalidated certain earlier analyses. Although many royal charters have been identified, the interpretation of these documents, of the financial information present in the pipe rolls, and of the economic data of the period has proved more difficult than previously thought. Thus, the nature of Henry II”s government in Anjou and southern France remains largely unknown.

Popular culture

Henry II is the central character in James Goldman”s 1966 play The Lion in Winter, which depicts an imaginary meeting in Chinon between the king”s family and Philip II at Christmas 1183. The 1968 adaptation starring Peter O”Toole helped define the popular image of a sacrilegious, impetuous and determined ruler, even though these personality traits are, by Goldman”s own admission, an invention. The play was adapted for television in 2003 with Patrick Stewart as the English king.

Henry II also appears in the plays Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot in 1935 and Becket or the Honor of God by Jean Anouilh in 1959. The latter was adapted for the cinema in 1964 in which Peter O”Toole took over the role of Henry II.

In 1978, the BBC created, in co-production with TF1, TELECIP, Time Life Films (en), TV2 (it), and the SSR, The Devil”s Crown (en), a 13-episode television series narrating the life of Henry II and then of his heirs Richard the Lionhearted and John without Land.

The ruler appears in the comic book Eleanor the Black Legend by Arnaud Delalande, Simona Mogavino and Carlos Gomez, published in the collection Reines de sang at Delcourt Publishing (2012-2017).


  1. Henri II (roi d”Angleterre)
  2. Henry II of England
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