Family tree for Henry II, son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I showing:
In 1135 his grandfather died. Although his mother, Matilda, had been nominated as heir she had little support among the nobility and her cousin, Stephen of Blois took the English throne. Her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, rebelled against Stephen beginning a period of Civil War known as The Anarchy.
The Road to Becoming King
In 1147 at the age of 14 years, Henry sailed to England with a mercenary force to try to take the throne for his mother. He failed due to lack of funds to pay the army.
Four years later Henry’s father died and Henry became Duke of Normandy and Anjou. The new titles gave him additional power and incomes.
The Treaty of Westminster, signed in December 1153, brought The Anarchy to an end and stipulated that after the death of King Stephen, Henry would inherit the English throne. When Stephen died in October 1154 Henry took the throne as King Henry II.
Marriage and Family
On 18th May 1152, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine, former wife of Louis VII of France. He now became Duke of Aquitaine by right of his wife. Henry and Eleanor had eight children including King Richard I, Geoffrey of Brittany and King John.
Henry and Becket
Thomas Becket, Henry’s close friend, was appointed as Chancellor. Henry hoped that they could work together to reform and improve the administration of the country.
By 1162 Henry was determined to reduce the power of the Church. He was especially angered by the fact that members of the clergy who committed crimes were tried by church courts rather than the courts of the country. He decided to appoint Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, believing that his friend would support his desire for reform. However, once appointed Becket championed the Church and firmly rejected any move to reform Church practices. The tension between the two became so great that Becket exiled himself to France where he remained for 5 years.
Murder of Becket
Becket had been back in England for less than a year and he was again frustrating Henry. In December, Henry, frustrated with the priest shouted ‘will no-one rid me of this turbulent priest!’ or words to that effect.
Four of his knights, anxious to gain favour with the King. Rode to Canterbury and murdered Becket in the cathedral. When he heard the news Henry was very upset.
Henry’s obsession with Becket soured his relationship with Eleanor of Aquitaine and by 1168 they were leading separate lives.
His relationship with his sons also suffered as they argued about their future inheritance and Henry’s reluctance to give them more power. In 1173, supported by their mother and Louis VII of France, Henry’s sons mounted a rebellion against their father. Henry soon made peace with the French King and captured and imprisoned Eleanor of Aquitaine. He then forgave his sons.
Death and Succession
Henry’s eldest son, Henry died in 1183. When Henry II died on 6th July 1189, his son Richard succeeded as King Richard I.
First published 2017, updated and re-published Feb 20 2021 @ 12:45 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2017 – 2021). King Henry II 1133 – 1189. Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/king-henry-ii-1133-1189. Last accessed September 30th, 2021