Henry II (b.1133 r.1154-1189)
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Henry II (b.1133 r.1154-1189)

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This King Henry was wise, valiant, and generally fortunate. His faults were such as speak him man, rather than a vicious one. Wisdom enough he had for his work, and work enough for his wisdom, being troubled in all his relations.
Thomas Fuller, Church History of Britain, 1655.

Additional Information on
Henry II (b.1133 r.1154-1189)

Henry was the son of 'The Empress' Matilda and Geoffrey Plantagenet, and the grandson of Henry I. Henry II has been described as one of the most remarkable characters in English history, ruling the largest empire to date: England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Anjou, Brittany and Aquitaine. He overwhelmed his contemporaries with the sheer force and brilliance of his temperament and talents. He was one of the most powerful kings of his time and had a passion for hunting, art, architecture, law and warfare. Henry's aim when he ascended the throne was to restore England to what it had been under Henry I. He retook lost territories and destroyed castles built without permission. Henry reconstructed the English legal system and improved the economy. He created the Cura Regis or King's court which travelled around the country so freemen could seek justice. He introduced trial by jury, and began the use of Westminster as a centre of government. Henry is remembered for his association with Thomas Becket who he appointed as his Lord Chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket resisted Henry's attempts to reduce the power of the church, and in 1170 in a rage, Henry begged for someone to get rid of the Archbishop. At once, four knights rode away and killed Becket in his cathedral before Henry could stop them. This was just one of the many dramas overshadowing the latter years of his reign - resulting in the rebellion of his wife and sons - ending his reign in misery, dying exhausted and heartbroken at the treachery of his own children in 1189.

N.B. In 1183 the crowned Young King Henry died. He had been Henry's favourite and heir, so on his death the throne was passed in line to Henry's second son Richard.


He traveled incessantly, and in stages intolerable, like a public carrier, and, in this matter, he showed scant consideration for his retinue. In dogs and birds he was most expert, and exceeding fond of hunting. He passed nights without sleep and was untiring in his activities. Whenever in his dreams passion mocked him with vain shapes, he used to curse his body, because neither toil nor fasting was able to break or weaken it. I , however, ascribe his activities not to his incontinence but to his fear of becoming too fat.
- Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium.

From the Devil he came, and to the Devil he shall return.
- St. Bernard of Clairvaux, of Henry's boyhood behaviour, 1140.

Henry II wants for nothing and has men, horses, gold, silk, jewels, fruit, game and everything else. We in France have nothing but bread and wine and gaiety.
- Louis VII of France. Quoted Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium.

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