Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What's a King to do with a family like this? King Henry II

King Henry II of England, also referred to Henry Fitz-Empress, was born on March 5, 1133 in Le Mans. His father, Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, and Duke of Normandy was the second husband of his mother, Matilda of England, also called the Empress of Germany from her first marriage. Matilda was the only living legitimate child of King Henry I. When King Henry I died, Matilda fought with her cousin Stephen, both of them claiming the English throne. The civil war tore the country apart, but in the end, King Stephen won. Henry was designated heir to the throne.

When he was 14, Henry road at the head of an army, at an attempt at helping his mother's claim. He was sent back to Normandy. At age 16, Henry was knighted by King David of Scotland. When Henry was eighteen, he came across Eleanor of Aquitaine. The French Queen had been divorced from King Louis VII of France for failing to provide him with a son. Eleanor had given Louis two daughters. She had accompanied Louis to Outremer (the Holy Lands) on Crusade, where she was involved in a scandal with her Uncle, Prince Raymond of Antioch. It was spoken in quiet whispers how Eleanor had supposedly been seduced by her Uncle, although no one could present proof. Eleanor was also accused of having an affair with Geoffrey of Anjou, King Henry II's father.

The heir to the English throne was intrigued by Eleanor, as she was by him. Henry and Eleanor married on 18th of May, 1142, he was nineteen and she was thirty. Eleanor proved fertile with the young Henry over the course of their marriage, giving him William (b.1153, d.1156), Henry the Young King (b.1155, d.1183), Matilda (b. 1156, d. 1189), Richard I (b. 1157, d. 1199), Geoffrey (b. 1158, d. 1186), Eleanor (b. 1161 or 1162 and d. 1177 ?), son (unk dates), Joan (b. 1165, d. 1199), and John I(b. 1166, d. 1216). Henry supposedly stopped visiting Eleanor's bed after John was born, and sometime after that she was exilled to Aquitaine - an order Henry probably regretted.

King Henry had multiple acknowledged illegitimate children. Geoffrey the Bishop of London, whose mother was said to be Ykenai, a reported prostitute, remained loyal to his father to the day of Henry’s death. Henry’s mistress Ida de Tosny gave the King a son, whom they named William Longspee. Nest, married to Ralph Bloet, gave the King another son, Morgan, who eventually became the Bishop of Durham.

Henry was determined to make his mark as a King. He set a goal to restore the country to ‘all its rightful customs which were had in the time of King Henry my grandfather, revoking all evil customs which have arisen there since this day.’ Henry wasn’t afraid to be tough when the situation demanded it, but he also knew when to use diplomacy. He was a private man, never fully trusting those around him. The King admired loyalty, but never forgot a traitor.

Henry initiated reforms within the court systems. His realm saw the establishment of Royal Magistrate Courts, under the authority of the Crown, to adjudicate local complaints. The Assize of Clarendon in 1166 paved the way for the country to change from the trial by combat or ordeal to a trial by jury of twelve men. The trial by ordeal was finally banned in 1215 and the trial by combat in 1819.

Henry believed that Churchmen should not be exempt from the laws of the land. The King set down sixteen constitutions that he believed was fair, declaring secular courts would have jurisdiction over the clerical issues. This had come about after increased complaints about churchmen committing crimes and getting away scot-free due to their status. This ideology was not taken very well with his friend, Thomas Beckett, who had been raised to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Pope who threatened to excommunicate the entire island of Britain. The arguments came to a head in 1164, Thomas fleeing England and taking sanctuary in France.

In 1170, King Henry relented, allowing Beckett to come home. Relations between Henry and Thomas were strained, the once best friends stood on opposite ends of the debate. A famous remark, perhaps off-the-cuff – or was it a regrettable remark made in anger – in which Henry said “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” prompted a hideous act. To the King’s dismay, four knights were listening. Reginald Fizthurse, William de Tracy, Richard le Breton, and the lord of Wesmorland, Hugh de Morville travelled to Canterbury Cathedral. They found Thomas Beckett, where they preceded to beat the Archbishop to death. The King was distraught when he heard the news. Henry made a pilgrimage to Canterbury as a penance in 1174. A shrine now stands in that spot.

Henry’s problems with Beckett were mild compared to the problems with his sons. If Henry followed through with his plans, and let his sons help administer the lands he had decided to give to them, perhaps his family life would have been less stressful. Henry the Younger was supposed to get England, Normandy and Anjou; Richard would be in charge of the Aquitaine; Geoffrey would watch over Brittany; and, John was to tend Ireland. Unfortunately, the best made plans are no good if one doesn’t use them.

The King for his own reasons, decided to crown his son Henry as the Young King. This only led to resentment, for Henry gave his son the title without any powers. Henry the Younger was married to Margaret of France. He wanted responsibility, but his father kept him out of the loop. Naturally, King Henry’s enemies took advantage of the situation, encouraging the Younger Henry to rebel against his father. Not one to miss an opportunity, Richard joined his brother, even convincing Geoffrey to join in the fun, along with some English Barons. Henry II used his experience to win the campaign; his allies even beat back the Scots King William.

Henry’s sons weren’t done. With the support of Eleanor, who had been exiled to Aquitaine, Henry the Younger tried again in 1183, but this time with dire consequences. He died during his attempt of dysentery. Another try by Richard, Eleanot's favorite, this time with King Phillip of France in 1189, and now with John – Henry’s favorite son, became the final straw. Henry became ill, some say losing the will to live at the betrayal of John, finally dying on the 6th of July, 1189.

King Henry II was described as a medium height, stocky build, with red hair and grey eyes and freckles. He was said to have boundless energy, rarely sitting down except on a horse or in Council. He was an intelligent man who loved to read, spoke Latin, had a great sense of humor but also had a legendary temper, and was known to be generous. A tale has come down of when he and Beckett were riding along a London street and saw a beggar who looked cold. Henry ordered Beckett to give the man his cloak. The King never forgot a face, his memory was said to be remarkable.

It is also said that Henry’s one true love was Rosamund Clifford. Rosamund was a daughter of Walter de Clifford and Isobel de Tosny. Through the centuries, the stories of Henry's love for Rosamund have changed, fact and legend melding into one. Chroniclers claim Queen Eleanor had Rosamund poisoned, but there is no facts to support that claim. A monument to Rosamund was built after her death and her tomb destroyed during Henry VIII's disolution of the monastaries.

In Thaelia’s World, King Henry II does not exist; his contemporary is King Arken to a certain extent. Arken is different in appearance but both men have similar personalities as Gaelynn discovers. The modern King Henry increased England’s boundaries, adding Ireland, Scotland, Toulouse, Nantes, Quercy, Brittany, and Wales to his inheritance of Anjou, Normandy, Maine, and England. Henry’s marriage to Eleanor brought him the Aquitaine. King Arken is just as ambitious, starting out with Seimerki and Greycliff as his inheritance (stay tuned for further on his adventures).

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