House of Plantagenet. First of the Angevin kings.
His father was Geoffrey of Anjou and his mother Matilda, daughter of Henry I. Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the divorced wife of Louis VII of France. He was a powerful thickset, red-haired, freckled man. He was the first of the Plantagenets. The name is derived from his emblem, the broom shrub, which bears the botanical name Planta Genesta later corrupted to Plantagenet. He spent much of his reign in France but did not neglect matters at home, carrying out important improvements in the legal system including widespread use of juries, and he did his best to ensure that justice was fair to all. He appointed his close friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury but once installed, Becket continually opposed him, particularly regarding the necessary reformation of the ecclesiastical courts. The King had the Pope's backing and he called a meeting of the Great Council at Clarendon after which the Constitutions of Clarendon were issued. Shortly after, Becket fled the Country. He returned in 1170 but promptly fell out with King. Henry was furious and cried out "Who will avenge me of this turbulent priest!". Four nights who heard him mistook Henry's meaning and straightway rode off to anterbury and on Tuesday 29th Dec 1170 murdered Becket in the Cathedral. On hursday 6 July 1189, Henry, a great king, died of a fever in France.
Henry II. Plantaganet, first Plantaganet King of England (1154-1189), known as Curt Mantel, was born at Le Mans, France, on March 15, 1133. At eighteen in 1151 he was invested with the Duchy of Normandy, his mother's heritage, and within a year became also, by his father's death, Count of Anjou; while in 1152 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and divorced wife of King Louis VII. of France, added Poitou and Guienne to his dominions.
In January 1153 he landed in England, and in November a treaty was agreed to whereby Henry was declared successor to King Stephen; he was crowned in 1154 and ruled until his death in 1189.
He confirmed the laws of his grandfather, King Henry I, reestablished the exchequer, banished the foreign mercenaries, demolished the hundreds of castles erected in Stephen's reign, and recovered the royal estates.
The whole of 1156 he spent in France, reducing his brother, Geoffrey of Nantes, who died in 1158, and having secured his territories, he spent the next five years warring and organizing his possessions on the Continent.
Henry's objective was that of all Norman kings, to build up the royal power at the expense of the barons and the church. From the barons his reforms met with little serious opposition; with the clergy he was less successful. To aid him in reducing the church to subjection, he appointed his chancellor, Thomas a Becket to the see of Canterbury. Henry compelled him and the other prelates to agree to the 'Constitution of Clarendon', but Bechet proved a sturdy churchman, and the struggle between him and the monarch terminated only by his murder.
In 1174 Henry did penance at Bechet's tomb, but he ended by bringing the church to subordination in civil matters.
Meanwhile he organized an expedition to Ireland. The English Pope, Adrian IV, had in 1155 given Henry authority over the entire island of Ireland; and a number of Norman-Welsh knights had gained a footing in the country, among them Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, styled Strongbow, who in 1155 married the heiress of Leinster and assumed rule as the Earl of Leinster.
Henry was jealous at the rise of a powerful feudal baronage in Ireland, and during his stay there (1171-1172) he broke the power of Richard Strongbow and the other nobles.
Henry also had a natural son by Rosamund Clifford (?), William Longsword (Longespee), who became Earl of Salisbury by marrying the Countess Ela, then aged twelve (1198). He was a councilor of John and commanded the English part of the army which Philip Augustus of France defeated at Bouvines (1214). He supported King John at Runnymede (1215), fought for Henry III. at Lincoln and Sandwich (1217), and served with Hubert de Burgh as "ruler of the King and kingdom" (1222). He [Longespee] died in March, 1226.
In 1188, while Henry II. was engaged in a war with Philip of France, Richard joined the French King; and in 1189, Henry having lost Le Mans and the chief castles of Maine, agreed to a treaty of peace granting an indemnity to the followers of Richard. The sight of his favorite son John in the list broke his heart; and he died at Chinon, on July 6, 1189.
On the whole, Henry was an able and enlightened sovereign, a clear-headed, unprincipled politician, and an able general; his reign was one of great legal reforms. At its height, Henry's power had been greater than that of any other European ruler and his position was comparable to that of such Holy Roman Emperors as Charlemagne and Frederick Barbarossa.
("The Genealogy of Homer Beers James", V1, JANDA Consultants, c 1993 Homer James)
Henry II, byname HENRY OF ANJOU, HENRY PLANTAGENET, HENRY FITZEMPRESS, or HENRY CURTMANTLE (Short Mantle) (b. 1133, Le Mans, Maine--d. July 6, 1189, near Tours), duke of Normandy (from 1150), count of Anjou (from 1151), duke of Aquitaine (from 1152), and king of England (from 1154), who greatly expanded his Anglo-French domains and strengthened the royal administration in England. His quarrels with Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, and with members of his family (his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and such sons as Richard the Lion-Heart and John Lackland) ultimately brought about his defeat.
After receiving a good literary education, part of it in England, Henry became duke of Normandy in 1150 and count of Anjou on the death of his father, Geoffrey Plantagenet, in 1151. Although the claim of his mother, Matilda, daughter of Henry I, to the English crown had been set aside by her cousin, King Stephen, in 1152, Henry advanced his fortunes by marrying the beautiful and talented Eleanor, recently divorced from King Louis VII of France, who brought with her hand the lordship of Aquitaine. Henry invaded England in 1153, and King Stephen agreed to accept him as coadjutor and heir. When Stephen died the following year Henry succeeded without opposition, thus becoming lord of territories stretching from Scotland to the Pyrenees.
The young king lacked visible majesty. Of stocky build, with freckled face, close-cut tawny hair, and gray eyes, he dressed carelessly and grew to be bulky; but his personality commanded attention and drew men to his service. He could be a good companion, with ready repartee in a jostling crowd, but he displayed at times the ungovernable temper of a furious animal and could be heartless and ruthless when necessary. Restless, impetuous, always on the move, regardless of the convenience of others, he was at ease with scholars, and his administrative decrees were the work of a cool realist. In his long reign of 34 years he spent an aggregate of only 14 in England.
His career may be considered in three aspects: the defense and enlargement of his dominions, the involvement in two lengthy and disastrous personal quarrels, and his lasting administrative and judicial reforms.
His territories are often called the Angevin Empire. This is a misnomer, for Henry's sovereignty rested upon various titles, and there was no institutional or legal bond between different regions. Some, indeed, were under the feudal overlordship of the king of France. By conquest, through diplomacy, and through the marriages of two of his sons, he gained acknowledged possession of what is now the west of France from the northernmost part of Normandy to the Pyrenees, near Carcassonne. During his reign, the dynastic marriages of three daughters gave him political influence in Germany, Castile, and Sicily. His continental dominions brought him into contact with Louis VII of France, the German emperor
Frederick I (Barbarossa), and, for much of the reign, Pope Alexander III. With Louis the relationship was ambiguous. Henry had taken Louis's former wife and her rich heritage. He subsequently acquired the Vexin in Normandy by the premature marriage of his son Henry to Louis's daughter, and during much of his reign he was attempting to outfight or outwit the French king, who, for his part, gave shelter and comfort to Henry's enemy, Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. The feud with Louis implied friendly relations with Germany, where Henry was helped by his mother's first marriage to the emperor Henry V but hindered by Frederick's maintenance of an antipope, the outcome of a disputed papal election in 1159. Louis supported Alexander III, whose case was strong, and Henry became arbiter of European opinion. Though acknowledging Alexander, he continued throughout the Becket controversy to threaten transference of allegiance to Frederick's antipope, thus impeding Alexander's freedom of action.
Early in his reign Henry obtained from Malcolm III of Scotland homage and the restoration of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmorland, and later in the reign (1174) homage was exacted from William the Lion, Malcolm's brother and successor. In 1157 Henry invaded Wales and received homage, though without conquest. In Ireland, reputedly bestowed upon him by Pope Adrian IV, Henry allowed an expedition of barons from South Wales to establish Anglo-Norman supremacy in Leinster (1169), which the King himself extended in 1171.
His remarkable achievements were impaired, however, by the stresses caused by a dispute with Becket and by discords in his own family.
The quarrel with Becket, Henry's trusted and successful chancellor (1154-62), broke out soon after Becket's election to the archbishopric of
Canterbury (May 1162; see Becket, Saint Thomas). It led to a complete severance of relations and to the Archbishop's voluntary exile. Besides
disrupting the public life of the church, this situation embroiled Henry with Louis VII and Alexander III; and, though it seemingly did little to
hamper Henry's activities, the time and service spent in negotiations and embassies was considerable, and the tragic denouement in Becket's
murder earned for Henry a good deal of damaging opprobrium.
More dangerous were the domestic quarrels, which thwarted Henry's plans and even endangered his life and which finally brought him down in sorrow and shame.
Throughout his adult life Henry's sexual morality was lax; but his relations with Eleanor, 11 years his senior, were for long tolerably harmonious, and, between 1153 and 1167, she bore him eight children. Of these, the four sons who survived infancy--Henry, Geoffrey, Richard, and John--repaid his genuine affection with resentment toward their father and discord among themselves. None was blameless, but the cause of the quarrels was principally Henry's policy of dividing his dominions among his sons while reserving real authority for himself. In 1170 he crowned his eldest son, Henry, as co-regent with himself; but in fact the young king had no powers and resented his nonentity, and in 1173 he opposed his father's proposal to find territories for the favoured John (Lackland) at the expense of Geoffrey. Richard joined the protest of the others and was supported by Eleanor. There was a general revolt of the baronage in England and Normandy, supported by Louis VII in France and William the Lion in Scotland. Henry's prestige was at a low ebb after the murder of Becket and recent taxation, but he reacted energetically, settled matters in Normandy and Brittany, and crossed to England, where fighting had continued for a year. On July 12, 1174, he did public penance at Canterbury. The next day the King of Scots was taken at Alnwick, and three weeks later Henry had suppressed the rebellion in England. His sons were pardoned, but Eleanor was kept in custody until her husband die
A second rebellion flared up in 1181 with a quarrel between his sons Henry and Richard over the government of Aquitaine, but young Henry died in 1183. In 1184 Richard quarrelled with John, who had been ordered to take Aquitaine off his hands. Matters were eased by the death of Geoffrey (1186), but the King's attempt to find an inheritance for John led to a coalition against him of Richard and the young Philip II Augustus, who had succeeded his father, Louis VII, as king of France. Henry was defeated and forced to give way, and news that John also had joined his enemies hastened the King's death near Tours in 1189.
In striking contrast to the checkered pattern of Henry's wars and schemes, his governance of England displays a careful and successful adaptation of means to a single end--the control of a realm served by the best administration in Europe. This success was obscured for contemporaries and later historians by the varied and often dramatic interest of political and personal events, and not until the 19th century--when the study of the public records began and when legal history was illuminated by the British jurist Frederic William Maitland and his followers--did the administrative genius of Henry and his servants appear in its true ligh
At the beginning of his reign Henry found England in disorder, with royal authority ruined by civil war and the violence of feudal magnates. His
first task was to crush the unruly elements and restore firm government, using the existing institutions of government, with which the
Anglo-Norman monarchy was well provided. Among these was the King's council of barons, with its inner group of ministers who were both
judges and accountants and who sat at the Exchequer, into which the taxes and dues of the shires were paid by the King's local representative,
the sheriff (shire-reeve). The council contained an unusually able group of men--some of them were great barons, such as Richard de Lucy and
Robert de Beaumont, earl of Leicester; others included civil servants, such as Nigel, bishop of Ely, Richard Fitzneale, and his son, Richard of Ilchester. Henry took a personal interest in the technique of the Exchequer, which was described at length for posterity in the celebrated Dialogus de scaccario, whose composition seemed to Maitland "one of the most wonderful things of Henry's wonderful reign." How far these royal servants were responsible for the innovations of the reign cannot be known, though the development in practice continued steadily, even during the King's long absences abroad.
In the early months of the reign the King, using his energetic and versatile chancellor Becket, beat down the recalcitrant barons and their castles and began to restore order to the country and to the various forms of justice. It was thus, a few years later, that he came into conflict with the bishops, then led by Becket, over the alleged right of clerics to be tried for crime by an ecclesiastical court. A result of this was the celebrated collection of decrees--the Constitutions of Clarendon (1164)--which professed to reassert the ancestral rights of the King over the church in such matters as clerical immunity, appointment of bishops, custody of vacant sees, excommunication, and appeals to Rome. The Archbishop, after an initial compliance, refused to accept these, and they were throughout the controversy a block to an agreement. The quarrel touched what was to be the King's chief concern--the country's judicial system.
Anglo-Saxon England had two courts of justice--that of the hundred, a division of the shire, for petty offenses, and that of the shire, presided over by the sheriff. The feudal regime introduced by the Normans added courts of the manor and of the honour (a complex of estates). Above all stood the royal right to set up courts for important pleas and to hear, either in person or through his ministers, any appeal. Arrest was a local responsibility, usually hard upon a flagrant crime. A doubt of guilt was settled by ordeal by battle; the accused in the shire underwent tests held to reveal God's judgment. Two developments had come in since William the Conqueror's day: the occasional mission of royal justices into the shires and the occasional use of a jury of local notables as fact finders in cases of land tenure. (see also Index: criminal court, procedural law, common law, shire court, feudalism)
Henry's first comprehensive program was the Assize of Clarendon (1166), in which the procedure of criminal justice was established; 12 "lawful" men of every hundred, and four of every village, acting as a "jury of presentment," were bound to declare on oath whether any local man was a robber or murderer. Trial of those accused was reserved to the King's justices, and prisons for those awaiting trial were to be erected at the King's expense. This provided a system of criminal investigation for the whole country, with a reasonable verdict probable because the firm accusation of the jury entailed exile even if the ordeal acquitted the accused. In feudal courts the trial by battle could be avoided by the establishment of a concord, or fine. This system presupposed regular visits by the King's justices on circuit (or, in the technical phrase, "on eyre"), and these tours became part of the administration of the country. The justices formed three groups: one on tour, one "on the bench" at Westminster, and one with the King when the court was out of London. Those at Westminster dealt with private pleas and cases sent up from the justices on eyre.
Equally effective were the "possessory assizes." In the feudal world, especially in times of turmoil, violent ejections and usurpations were common, with consequent vendettas and violence. Pleas brought to feudal courts could be delayed or altogether frustrated. As a remedy Henry established the possessory writ, an order from the Exchequer, directing the sheriff to convene a sworn local jury at petty assize to establish the fact of dispossession, whereupon the sheriff had to reinstate the defendant pending a subsequent trial at the grand assize to establish the rights of the case. This was the writ of Novel Disseisin (i.e., recent dispossession). This writ was returnable; if the sheriff failed to achieve reinstatement, he had to summon the defendant to appear before the King's justices and himself be present with the writ. A similar writ of Mort d'Ancestor decided whether the ancestor of a plaintiff had in fact possessed the estate, whereas that of Darrein Presentment (i.e., last presentation) decided who in fact had last presented a parson to a particular benefice. All these writs gave rapid and clear verdicts subject to later revision. The fees enriched the treasury, and recourse to the courts both extended the King's control and discouraged irregular self-help. Two other practices developed by Henry became permanent. One was scutage, the commutation of military service for a money payment; the other was the obligation, put on all free men with a property qualification by the Assize of Arms (1181), to possess arms suitable to their station.
The ministers who engaged upon these reforms took a fully professional interest in the business they handled, as may be seen in Fitzneale's writing on the Exchequer and that of the chief justiciar, Ranulf de Glanville, on the laws of England; and many of the expedients adopted by the King may have been suggested by them. In any case, the long-term results were very great. By the multiplication of a class of experts in finance and law Henry did much to establish two great professions, and the location of a permanent court at Westminster and the character of its business settled for England (and for much of the English-speaking world) that common law, not Roman law, would rule the courts and that London, and not an academy, would be its principal nursery. Moreover, Henry's decrees ensured that the judge-and-jury combination would become normal and that the jury would gradually supplant ordeal and battle as being responsible for the verdict. Finally, the increasing use of scutage, and the availability of the royal courts for private suits, were effective agents in molding the feudal monarchy into a monarchical bureaucracy before the appearance of Parliament.
Henry II lived in an age of biographers and letter writers of genius. John of Salisbury, Thomas Becket, Giraldus Cambrensis, Walter Map, Peter of Blois, and others knew him well and left their impressions. All agreed on his outstanding ability and striking personality and also recorded his errors and aspects of his character that appear contradictory, whereas modern historians agree upon the difficulty of reconciling its main features.
Without deep religious or moral conviction, Henry nevertheless was respected by three contemporary saints, Aelred of Rievaulx, Gilbert of Sempringham, and Hugh of Lincoln. Normally an approachable and faithful friend and master, he could behave with unreasonable inhumanity. His conduct and aims were always self-centred, but he was neither a tyrant nor an odious egoist. Both as man and ruler he lacked the stamp of greatness that marked Alfred the Great and William the Conqueror. He seemed also to lack wisdom and serenity; and he had no comprehensive view of the country's interest, no ideals of kingship, no sympathetic care for his people. But if his reign is to be judged by its consequences for England, it undoubtedly stands high in importance, and Henry, as its mainspring, appears among the most notable of English kings.
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