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Information about reign: King Henry II

CountryEngland
From25 October 1154
To6 July 1189
Personal InformationKing Henry II of England (1133 - 1189)
Description

Henry II, also known as Henry Curtmantle (French: Court-manteau), Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, King of England (1154–89) and Lord of Ireland; at various times, he also controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany. 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 married 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: 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 royal grandfather, Henry I. During the early years of the younger Henry's reign he 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. By 1172, 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 and Eleanor had eight children. As they 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 and Geoffrey and by their mother, Eleanor. France, Scotland, 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, but Henry struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons' desires for land and immediate power. Philip successfully played on Richard's fears that Henry would make John king, and a final rebellion broke out in 1189. Decisively defeated by Philip and Richard and suffering from a bleeding ulcer, Henry retreated to Chinon in Anjou, where he died.

The Royal style of King Henry II was "Rex Angliae, Dux Normanniae et Aquitainiae et Comes Andegaviae" (King of England, Duke of Normandy and of Aquitaine and Count of Anjou).