KING REVIEW: HENRY II

Church_of_Fontevraud_Abbey_Henry_II_effigy

The founder of the Plantagenet Dynasty was Henry II, who was the son and heir of Matilda, who was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor and granddaughter of William the Conqueror. After taking the English crown from his cousin Stephen, Henry started turning England into a medieval superpower such as annexing Aquitaine through his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, the Church of England was causing trouble for Henry because they operated outside his authority. To solve the problem, Henry appointed his Lord Chancellor Thomas Beckett as the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Unfortunately, once Beckett became Archbishop, he spent seven years defying Henry’s orders and challenged his authority as king. While feasting, Henry angrily spouted to his entire court, “WHO WILL RID ME OF THIS TURBULENT PRIEST?” Even though Henry was letting off some steam, his knights interpreted his outburst as a direct order from their king. The knights them murdered Beckett in his own church. This misunderstanding turned into a case of sacrilege that turned Henry into a pariah Europe.

The Pope threatened to take Henry’s kingdom from him, which forced Henry to take drastic action. To save his crown and regain the support of his subjects, Henry did penance and was publicly lashed three hundred times by a group of monks. The tactic worked and Henry saved his kingdom from the Pope. Sadly, this was only the start of Henry’s problems.

Even though Henry regained face after doing penance, he developed issues with his family. Henry was a control freak who effectively turned his whole family against him. His firstborn son and heir, Henry the Young King, was mistreated by his father by not being given any real power or money. The Young King was given an allowance of thirty shillings a day, which is worth thousands of pounds in modern times, but it was chicken feed for the heir apparent to the English throne. To add further insult to injury, Henry II gave the castle of Chinon, which was the crown jewel of the Plantagenet Empire, to his favorite son John instead of his heir apparent.

Things got even more dysfunctional amongst the Plantagenets when Henry II sold his wife’s duchy as part of a political alliance. Not only did it alienate his wife, but it also stripped his son Richard a large chunk of his inheritance. All of these factors became the final straw for Henry’s family.

In an attempt to kick Henry II off the throne, Eleanor and her sons formed alliances with France and Scotland and instigated a rebellion in England. However, Henry II quelled the rebellion, kept his wife in captivity, and “pardoned” his sons. Even though he “pardoned” his sons, Henry II still had no intention of giving them any real power.

Nine years later, the Young King died and Henry’s surviving sons fought to become his successor. Eventually, Richard waited long enough and staged a rebellion against his father and won. After accepting Richard as his heir apparent, the dying Henry muttered, “May God spare me until I have taken vengeance on you.” Shortly afterward, Henry II died and was succeeded by Richard, who would become Richard the Lionheart.

I am thinking of including some elements of Henry II’s reign to the reign of the main character in my third fantasy book.

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