Henry II of England

English king
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Henry II (5 March 1133 — 6 July 1189) also known as Henry of Anjou, Henry Plantagenet, Henry FitzEmpres, or Henry Curtmantle (Short Mantle) and nicknamed the Brave or the Strong was the King of England from 1154, Duke of Aquitaine (as Henry I) from 1152, and Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou from 1151 until his death in 1189. He was also the Lord of Ireland from 1171 to 1177 and also controlled Scotland, parts of Wales, and most of France. All of this would form the Angevin Empire.

Henry II
Posthumous painting, c. 1540s
King of England
Reign25 October 1154 — 6 July 1189
Coronation19 December 1154
SuccessorRichard I
Co-MonarchYoung Henry (1170–1183)
Duke of Aquitaine
Reign18 May 1152 — 6 July 1189
SuccessorRichard I
Reign7 September 1151 — 6 July 1189
PredecessorGeoffrey V and I
SuccessorRichard I
Lord of Ireland
Reign4 July 1171 — 5 May 1177
PredecessorTitle created
Born(1133-03-05)5 March 1133
Le Mans, France
Died6 July 1189(1189-07-06) (aged 56)
Chinon, France
Cause of deathDysentery
Burial6 October 1189
FatherGeoffrey V, Count of Anjou
MotherMatilda of England
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Allegiance Kingdom of England
Service/branch English Army
Years of service1143–1189
Commands heldEnglish Army (1154–1189)

Henry grew up in France. His mother was Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I of England. His father was Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, a brave knight. He would join his mother to fight against King Stephen of England, the successor of Henry I. Eventually, Stephen and Matilda would agree to make Henry Stephen's heir in 1153. Eventually on 25 October 1154, Stephen died and Henry ascended to the throne.

Henry was intelligent and was also well educated. He learned how to speak French, Latin, and English. Henry expanded England. England was very powerful during Henry's reign and that the English people would experience peace, stability, and prosperity. Henry brought many changes to England and made it more modern.

In 1173, Henry's family rebelled against him because of his bad behavior against them. France and Scotland supported them. However, in 1174, Henry put the rebellion down. Because he won the unsuccessful rebellion, Henry was given full control over Scotland, Wales, and most of France. He imprisoned his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine for supporting the rebellion for the rest of Henry's life. In 1189, Henry felt ill. He died of dysentery in Chinon, France on 6 July 1189, at the age of 56. He was succeeded by his son, Richard I.

Henry was seen as a great king for England. During his reign, England became more and more powerful. He improved health care and peoples lives there. He reformed the economy, stabilized the country, and expanded the army and navy. He also founded the English Common Law. Henry in government and law. He made use of juries and re-introduced the sending of justices (judges) on regular tours of the country to try cases for the Crown. Henry was seen as a strong and a successful king by historians.

Law and order


Henry had an impact on law and order. Henry was unhappy at the law not being applied the same way across England. His changes helped to develop the common law. Laws would be applied in the same way in all towns and villages, so everyone was treated the same and with fairness. To do this, Henry made a number of changes:

  • He created Judges who would travel the country and judge the cases of people accused of breaking the law. This meant that all crimes were judged by the King or his judges, and not by local people who might be biased or influenced.
  • Allowed judges to collect the fines from punishments of small crimes, which would be then given to the King.
  • Created trial by jury. This meant that a number of local men, usually 12, would judge the case of someone accused of a crime. If they believed he was guilty, he would be punished, and if they believed he was innocent, he would be set free.

Trial by Jury was a safer alternative to trial by ordeal, which could result in injury or death. In 1215, after Pope Innocent III banned priests from overseeing ordeals, jury trials became the most common way of judging criminals.

One of the big events that happened during his rule was the killing of Thomas Becket. Henry and Becket were old friends who found themselves in dispute once Becket became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their dispute was over the role of the Church in England. Becket was trying to increase the power of church courts that had lost power when Henry had made major changes to the legal system. Four knights killed Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Legend say that the knights had heard Henry say, "Who will rid me of this turbulent (rebellious) priest?"

Henry's first son, William, Count of Poitiers, died as a baby. In 1170, Henry and Eleanor's fifteen-year-old son, Henry, was crowned king (another reason for Henry's arguing with Thomas Becket, who did not agree with the Henry being crowned). Young Henry never ruled and is not in the list of the kings and queens of England; he became known as Henry the Young King so he was not confused with his nephew Henry III.

Henry and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, had five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. Henry tried to take Eleanor's lands from her (and from their son Richard). This led to conflict between Henry on the one side and his wife and sons on the other.

Henry also had many children outside of his marriage, including William de Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, whose mother was Ida, Countess of Norfolk; Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, son of a woman named Ykenai; Morgan, Bishop of Durham; and Matilda, Abbess of Barking.

Henry had constant struggles and battles against the French King Louis VII of France, but also many conflicts with his own wife and sons. His legitimate children were, he said, "the real bastards".[1] When they were not fighting each other, they were fighting Henry. First Richard and young Henry fought their father for possession of lands they had been promised. They were defeated, and fined heavily. Later Eleanor and young Henry led a civil war against King Henry (1173/74). This Henry also won, just. Richard finally defeated Henry in a battle for Anjou (1189). Richard had the help of Philip II, who was now King of France.

Weak, ill and deserted by all except an illegitimate son, Henry died in France in 1189 aged 56. He ruled for 35 years and was succeeded by Richard.


  1. Simon Schama's A History of Britain, Episode 3, "Dynasty"