HENRY II, KING OF ENGLAND b 1133 and Eleanor of Aquitaine b 1122


 21th Generation

Henry II, “Plantagenet ” King of England, son of Geoffrey V “Plantagenet” Count of Anjour and Matilda Princess of England, was born on 5 Mar 1133 in Le Mans, Sarthe, France, died on 6 Jul 1189 in Chinon, Indre-Et-Loire, France at age 56, and was buried on 8 Jul 1189 in Fontevrault, Maine-et-Loire, France.

Henry II was the first of three sons born to Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou on 4 March 1133. Raised in his father’s dominion, he did not visit English shores until 1142. At that time England, split in a vicious civil war, was divided into areas controlled by Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, and those controlled by Stephen, grandson of William the Conqueror. The nine-year old Henry returned quickly to the safety of anjou.

In 1147, as a fourteen-year-old boy, Henry returned to England with a small band of mercenaries to take up his mother’s cause in the civil war. The excursion was against his mother’s wishes and better judgement. When Henry found himself out of money, Matilda refused to help him. So, with the brashness that would be Henry’s trademark, he applied to his enemy, Stephen, for help; and with the characteristic lack of ruthlessness that would be Stephen’s undoing, he gave Henry the money to pay off his mercenaries and go home. By 1151 Henry was lord of Normandy and anjou. The following year he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most desirable women in Europe. Eleanor was recently divorced from Louis VII of France, after fourteen years of marriage and failure to bear him son.

Midwinter of 1153, Henry crossed the Channel and surprised Stephen. The English barons were, by this time, convinced that the only way to end the bitter war was to have Stephen declare Henry as his successor. The death of Stephen’s son, Eustace, brought the end of Stephen’s resistance. The Treaty of Westminster left Stephen on the throne, but declared Henry his successor. When Stephen died, less than a year later, Henry ascended the throne unopposed. Now, with a kingdom that stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees, he was the greatest prince in Europe. But his heart remained in anjou, the land of his father.

Throughout the first years of Henry’s reign, his attention was divided between England and anjou. He first set out to destroy those lands and castles granted without royal license during Stephen’s reign. He also reestablished overlordship of Scotland and Wales which was a relationship lost during Stephen’s reign. His attention soon turned back to his homeland and an attempt to establish overlordship of Toulouse, a region included in his wife’s inheritance. However, the most significant story of Henry’s reign began in 1162. That year Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury died. This very important clerical post was open for over a year, when in June, 1162, Henry appointed Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket at the time was Chancellor and well respected, but a very good friend to the King, maybe too much so, his critics claimed. He was also not known for his charity. A story told by William FitzStephen, a friend and biographer of Becket, illustrates not only Becket’s friendship with Henry, but his reputation as less that charitable:

One day they were riding together through the streets of London. It was a hard winter and the king noticed an old man coming towards them, poor and clad in a thin ragged coat. ‘Do you see that man?’ said the king. ‘Yes, I see him’, replied Becket. ‘How poor his is, how frail, and how scantily clad!’ said the king. ‘Would it not be an act of charity to give him a thick warm coat?’ ‘It would indeed; and right that you should attend to it my king.’

But the world underestimated Thomas Becket. Fully aware of public opinion, Becket decided he would be a good Archbishop, perhaps even a great one. Some contemporaries claim he actually had a conversion. Whatever the reason, Becket went out of his way to oppose the King. It did not take Henry long to regret his decision. The issue that brought Henry and Becket to the brink of their destinies was and old one–what to do with a churchman that breaks the laws of England. Like many layman, Henry wanted criminous clerks defrocked and tried by a lay court. Becket, of course, felt clerics should be tried in ecclesiastical courts. At Clarendon, Henry presented the bishops of England, led by Archbishop Becket, with a statement of the King’s customary rights over the church. Becket argued for two days, but finally, with the bishops in tow, gave in. No sooner was the ink dry, then Becket changed his mind. In desperation, Henry had Becket arrested on false charges, found guilty, and forced to forfeit all estates. In despair, Becket fled across the Channel.

For the next five years Becket remained in exile and Henry concentrated on other matters. He conquered Brittainy and overhauled the English legal system. (His reforms were revolutionary. The father of English common law, Henry made innovations manifest today in the form of localized and complex government.) But in 1170, Becket returned to England. Tales of his outrageous behavior and continued opposition to the King wasted no time in finding their way to Henry in Normandy. “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Henry allegedly shouted. True or not, Henry undoubtedly did mumble some words of frustration, and in response four of Henry’s knights went looking for Becket. They found him at Canterbury Cathedral where Becket had gone to hear evening vespers. They first struck him with the flat of a sword. According to William FitzStephen, the warning, “Fly, you are a dead man,” was shouted by one of the attackers, but Becket resisted and was brutally murdered. By all contemporary accounts, Henry appears to have been horrified by the actions of his knights. A friend of the king, Arnulf, Bishop of Lisieux wrote the following:

The king burst into loud lamentations and exchanged his royal robes for sackcloth and ashes, behaving more like a friend than the sovereign of the dead man. At times he fell into a stupor, after which he would again utter groans and cries louder and more bitter than before. For three whole days he remained shut in his chamber and would neither take food nor admit anyone to comfort him, until it seemed from the excess of his grief that he had determined to contrive his own death.

While Henry mourned, the rest of Christiandom was outraged. Becket, canonized in record time, became a symbol of resistance against oppressive authority. Henry did penitence for his role in Becket’s death, but he ordered the Bishop of London to declare in a sermon that he had not commanded Becket’s death. After the storm died down it became apparent that despite the scandal, Henry was at the height of his power. The real threat would come from his family.

Henry was plagued with rebellious sons. Henry the Younger, the oldest son, was actually crowned successor in 1169, but wanted more than just a title. Richard and John felt left out all together, and spurred on by Eleanor, Henry’s wife, launched one plot after another. However, the Young King Henry died in 1183, leaving Richard the oldest surviving son, poised for the succession. But Henry’s preference for John was obvious. Richard, pushed to the point of open rebellion, joined with Philip II of France in an attempt to destroy the Angevin empire and Henry. In July, 1189, with his health failing, Henry accepted a humiliating peace. When given a list of names of those who had fought against him, he was shocked to find John’s name among them. He turned his face away and according his his chroniclers said, “Enough; now let things go as they may; I care no more for myself or for the world … Shame, shame on a conquered king.” A month later Henry died.


Eleanor of Aquitaine Queen of England, daughter of William X of Aquitaine and Eleanore de Chatellersault Duchess, was born in 1122 in Chateau De Belin, Gironde, France, died on 31 Mar 1204 in Mirabell Castle at age 82, and was buried on 4 Apr 1204 in Fontevrault Abbe, Fontevrault, Main-et-Loire, France.

Eleanor of Aquitaine is credited with giving birth to Western traditions of romance, chivalry, and courtly love. She was a leader of the Second Crusade to the Middle East. Her battle plan would have brought victory, but her jealous husband King Louis jailed her. The crusade was lost, but the culture she encountered in “modern day” Iraq-Syria-Israel transformed her. Her new view of romantic love changed her and her new courts of love changed the world.

Young Eleanor becomes the Queen of France at 15. She matures as a powerful and seductive leader. At 24 she marches to the Second Crusade. There an amazing transformation of Eleanor takes place, where her battle plans lead to emprisonment by her jealous husband King Louis. In the desert she learns of the noble values of romantic love. Returning as Queen of France, as if that is not enough, she becomes Queen of England at 32. Perhaps her greatest contribution, at the height of her power at 47 is her legendary romantic courts of love. Her main court is centered in Poitier, France while she is the Queen of England. The city is already a pilgrimage for great knights old and new, for Poitier lies near the site of the great battlefield where Charles Martel defeated the Muslims 300 years before. Here in Eleanor’s court, a code develops of love, honor, and chivalry. As her culture begins to flourish and grow in fame and influence, and at its very height, her envious husband, Henry II has Archbishop Becket murdered horribly in the Canterbury Cathedral. Fearing Eleanor’s power and the upheaval in Europe to march on the murderer, Henry imprisons the 50 year old Queen. After 15 years in jail, her famous son, Richard the Lionhearted, defeats Henry in battle and releases Eleanor from prison. She presides over England while Richard leads the Third Crusade. When Richard is taken captive by his German allies and after raising ransom, Eleanor travels to his dungeon with the ransom to release him. Over time she becomes the master politician of European kingdoms. At 82, a mother of ten, queen of two countries and creator of the great romantic court traditions her life is over. Her children became the royalty of Italy, Germany, Spain, France and England – King Richard the Lionhearted, King John, Queen Eleanor of Spain, Queen Joanna of Sicily, and granddaughter Blanche, Queen of France.

A champion of the human dimensions of love, Eleanor puts an end to the world tradtions of marriage as an arrangements of women as property, . In its place she encouraged a genuine code of love and valuing. In her courts, love is the heart of relationship. Strong testimonies acted before the court were evidence enough to end a marriage, and become the grounds for divorce, a highly controversial notion at the time. She rebalances the value of women, disallows women being the tokens of marriage, elaborates the codes of chivalry, certifies the establishment of the jury by twelve, and becomes the inspiration for thousands of knights. She becomes the motive for many Troubadour songs, and inspires lyrics and stories of the times. The rewrite of King Arthur puts in the legendary story for the first time, Guenivere (Eleanor) and the new and now famous French knights. In Eleanor’s domains, women were no longer the object of conquest as the bargaining chips by fathers. Love, especially the love by man for woman became its own quest. The testimonies of the court codified the many rituals of romance practised today- letter writing, courteous behavior, gift giving, engagement rings, Valentine ceremony, refined wine, flower giving, dance and other revels of her form of court. In her court, when love came subject, her judgments ruled love as a primary cause in a relationship – a controversial belief that was ruled heresy.

Reviving ancient Roman styles of life, Eleanor extended this to the humanely elegant form of architecture – the Romanesque. She also imported Spanish Muslim and Persian influences in architecture, customs, dress, cooking, and thought. Her freeing rule helped give birth to what historians call the first European Renaissance. Romance as a social code and individual determination of courage, faith and relationships were important to her sense of life and justice. Love, which gives life, figured heavily into the complex multi-level courts and domains that she ruled. Upon her death, her court practices, judgments, and laws were expunged and reversed by church and king.


Children of Henry II Plantagenet, King of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and Poitou:

  1. Eleanor of England  born 1162, died 1214
  2. John I King of England born. 24 Dec 1167, died 19 Oct 1216