King Henry II of England, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou and Maine, Duke Consort of Aquitaine, and Count of Poitiers, and Lady Rosamund Clifford “Rosamund the Fair” (His Mistress).
Henry was the son of Matilda of England, Dowager Holy Roman Empress. When she became a widow, she was still young. She was daughter to the Norman King, Henry I. When he died, Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois, came to the throne of England, which a fair amount of people believed rightfully belonged to Matilda. Some people did not however, because in order for a woman to be placed upon the throne, there had to be no living male relatives… She had her cousin. Matilda married Geoffrey Count of Anjou and they began to fight for Matlida’s claim. If they would not be successful in fighting for her own claim, they would fight for it in the name of their son, Henry. Henry’s parents took care with his education. He was taught by some of the most brilliant minds of his time- most notably Williams of Conches.
When Henry was a teen, the French King had some territorial disputes with the Normans and some of his own Vassals (Anjou being one of them). Henry and his cousin Stephen teamed up against France causing France to lose some key territories. It was common gossip that the King of France was having marital difficulties as well. If Henry, could get the King of France’s wife’s Aquitainian support, this could make him quite powerful. It was spectacular that about six weeks after the King and Queen of France’s marriage was annulled, Henry married the ex, the rich and powerful Duchess of Aquitaine. With this new found strength Henry turned against his cousin, the King of England. Knowing he could not contend with Henry, Stephan agreed to a truce. Unfortunately, during the family feud, Stephan’s heir died from an illness. Stephan adopted Henry as his heir, ousting his remaining son William. William was made to swear fealty to Henry and renounce his claim to the throne. Stephan died of a stomach ulcer, and Henry became Henry II, King of England.
His wife Eleanor of Aquitaine soon joined his side as his Queen. Theirs was quite the fruitful union, unlike Eleanor and her first husband, the King of France. Eleanor had two daughter’s with Louis VII. With Henry II, she had five sons, and four daughters. She more than did her duty, in fact having too many sons would prove to be just as troublesome than not having enough sons. A king had to provide for so many princes, or they may fight among each other- jealous. They would also fight against their father in due time…
It can be said that beside every great King there is a great Queen. Also, on his other side is usually a great adviser. Sometimes the adviser is or becomes a great friend. Most times the Queen and the adviser fight for the greater influence over the King. Like many Kings, Henry had both. He made his best friend, Thomas A. Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket was his drinking buddy and he needed someone he could trust, an inside man, within the Church. Someone to help him to get his way every time. He did not plan on Becket to take his job seriously once he gave him the post. Becket suddenly became a pious man that could hardly do anything against his conscience. This annoyed the King. It annoyed him so much that one night at a royal party he yelled out famously, “Can no one rid me of the meddlesome priest??!!!” Someone over heard and took it seriously. They butchered Becket inside a Church creating a martyr out of him. He was later canonized, as St. Thomas of Canterbury. His skull healed people.
The Queen did not miss him because he was always thwarting her requests of influencing the king to give her sons more power and responsibility. Thomas foresaw how disastrous that could possibly be. Especially after they crowned the heir, Young Henry, in his father’s lifetime. The child proved to be an impetuous, annoying little brat. Eleanor was also not a demure and devoted wife. She herself desired power and influence. Having so many baby boys kind of gave her too much as it was. She was only concerned with her boys, for she knew that they were the future. She didn’t even seem to notice that her husband the King was having an affair with a beautiful commoner by the name of Rosamund Clifford. If she did notice, she did not seem to care much about it. The troubadours called her “Rosamund the Fair.” This was not just any common wench. She was the love of Henry’s life. He did not hide it, and Eleanor simply did not care. Henry and Rosamund were in love, but Rosamund seemed to not be an intriguer. She was no threat to the Queen. In fact, perhaps the Queen was tired of popping out babies. She could have thought: Let someone else have his children and warm his bed, I have done more than enough.
Yes, she did. All those babies started to grow up. The daughters brought to England powerful friends and allies. This was sweet and nice. They were good dutiful princesses. The boys however, were another story. They started to fight. Henry, the oldest started to demand titles and lands. As prince he was entitled to some power and governance of his own. Eleanor gave Aquitainian titles and lands to her favorite son Richard. This only made the other boys jealous. Geoffrey wanted lands too and really there were no lands to dole out to John (the youngest). He was eventually nick named John Lackland.
Henry decided to aid an Irish king that was kicked off his throne, and begun the Norman invasions of Ireland. Henry sent to him a bunch of Welsh mercenaries to do battle on the Emerald Island. (This is how my father’s ancestors got to Cork Ireland- in the South- actually.) Also, Henry needed some lands to give his youngest son, so he kept some lands in Ireland so John could be named Lord of Ireland. English kings would be called Lord’s of Ireland after John, from then on.
Henry spent most of his rein keeping control over his wild unruly sons, whom were instigated to antagonize their father by the Queen. She especially did not appreciate her husband trying to rule her duchy in Aquitaine or her other territories. Those territories were Vassals of France not England. Towards the end he even used a show of force in her domains. That made her very resentful. She would make his later years ones of great headaches. Henry’s heir, Henry the Younger fought rebellions against his father on his own, for his own arrogant reasons. Henry II was forced to battle his own son which ended in young Henry’s death. Henry soon followed, probably with a head full of grey hairs and full of remorse. He also lost his second son Geoffrey. He was especially devastated when his youngest and favorite son, John, also joined his brothers in rebellion. Perhaps in death he found some peace though. His son Richard (actually his third born legitimate son), became Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart.