Heritage > Rulers
Henry II, 1154-1189
Henry was born in 1133 and was married to Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine immediately after her divorce from Louis VII, King of France. They had nine children: William, Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Philip, Eleanor, Joan and John.
Henry was the first of fourteen hereditary kings, who were later refered to in the history oracles as Plantagenets. Henry was the son of the Count of Anjou, whose family emblem was the 'plante genet', a yellow flowering bloom.
It was with the land bequeathed by the Count to Henry and his auspicious marriage to Eleanor, which gained him a vast amount of lands in France. These lands exceeded the lands owned in France by the King of France, himself. In those times, the King of France ruled from Paris and its surrounding areas.
Henry had lands reaching for 1000 miles, and it was this vast domain, which was called the Angevin Empire.
Henry was the first king to demonstrate that he was truly a sovereign, and he ended all the anarchy and demonstration of strengths throughout his lands. He devoted himself to the internal security of his land and promoted domestic and foreign trade. Productivity doubled during his reign.
He revolutionised the law system, and even sat over cases himself. He was a notable lawyer, and he built up the system of English Common Law, and began to develop the traditional jury system. He was a gifted administrator.
Henry's notable failure was his attempt to curb the power and strength of the Church, particularly in the case of Thomas Beckett, who had been his wild pal until he was made Archbishop of Canterbury. His death did little for Henry's popularity.
He was unfortunate in love, relentlessly and romantically pursuing the hand of his wife, Eleanor, who became a selfish spoilt lady, and who turned her sons against their own father. A rebellion by the eldest son, Henry was crushed, and Eleanor was placed under house arrest for fifteen years. The other brothers placed continual pressure on their father, in alliances with the King of France.
Henry died a lonely and griefstricken man deserted by all of those he had loved and honoured.