Henry II

Henry II was the first King of England from the House of Plantagenet during the 12th century. He was the grandson of William the Conqueror.

Henry II

He had two sons, Richard The Lionheart and King John who are more prominent in history books. He ruled over much of France and increased the territory of Anglo-French area during his reign.

Childhood years

Henry II was born in Lemans, France in 1133. He was the son of Geoffrey the Fair, the Count of Anjou. His mother was Matilda the daughter of Henry I the King of England and Duke of Normandy.

She had been married before to Henry V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. When he died she married Geoffrey the Fair. She was a powerful woman of the Norman family.

When Henry II was two years old Henry I died and Matilda had planned on becoming queen. But Stephen of Blois, her cousin was anointed King and Duke of Normandy. The problems between her and Stephen of Blois escalated until Geoffrey the Fair marched on Normandy.

While growing up, Henry II spent much time in Normandy, England, and Anjou. He was tutored by Peter of Saintes and William Conches. At the early age of 14 years old, Henry II commissioned his first army and ventured to fight with Stephen of Blois.

He had little success with his first army and did not have money to pay his soldiers. In the end it was quite surprising that Stephen of Blois paid Henry II’s soldiers.

Becoming King

Geoffrey the Fair anointed Henry II to be Duke of Normandy in 1150 C.E. at the age of 18 years old. In 1152 C.E. he married his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine who was the former wife of King Louis VII of France. This created a problem for the King of France because he had no sons from Eleanor, only daughters.

With the marriage Henry II was now in possession of more land in France than King Louis VII. After the marriage King Luis VII created a partnership with others to fight Henry II. Henry II withstood the attacks and was named the Count of Anjou after his father’s death in 1151 C.E.

Henry II became King of England in 1154 C.E. after a brutal civil war against King Stephen. He fought fiercely with King Stephen and eventually forced the king to sign the Treaty of Winchester. The treaty outlined Henry II as the successor to the crown.

The destruction to the country was enormous. Nobles had constructed numerous castles under King Stephen’s reign that were difficult to overcome in battle.

He knew that changes needed to be made in order to restore calmness in the country. He proceeded to tear down all of the illegal castles and began restructuring the government by removing all changes to the government made after Henry I died in 1135 C.E.

Henry II was also interested in controlling the church. In 1161 C.E. he appointed Thomas Becket his chancellor to oversee the church.

He thought Becket would follow his orders of placing the English church under control of the government. This did not happen and Becket became a vocal critic of the king and defender of church autonomy.

Later years

By 1173 C.E. King Henry II had grown the Plantagenet Empire to its greatest position of strength in land holdings and military army. But there were internal problems with his family. His two sons did not want to have the territories split equally between them upon Henry II’s death.

His eldest son referred to as Young King Henry and his brother Richard went to war against their father in what is known today as the Great Revolt. Henry II was victorious against his sons and the nobles of Normandy, England, Scotland, and France. At one point he even jailed King William of Scotland.

In 1183 C.E. Young King Henry died. Henry II appointed Richard as the successor to the crown. Six years later King Henry II died and Richard assumed the role of King of England.

Important facts about Henry II

  • Henry II was born in Lemans, France to the Count of Anjou in 1133 C.E. He was a member of the House of Plantagenet.
  • His mother Matilda was the daughter of King Henry I and the former wife of Henry V, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • He was tutored as a young boy by William Conches and Peter of Saintes.
  • Henry II married Eleanor who was the former wife of King Louis VII of France.
  • He was appointed Duke of Normandy at the age of 18 years old.
  • Henry II was crowned King of England in 1154 C.E. after the death of king Stephen of Blois.
  • Henry II wanted the government to control the church which angered his chancellor Thomas Becket.
  • During his lifetime he acquired territory that included lands in France, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.


  1. Who was his mother first married to before his father Geoffrey the Fair?

Henry V

  1. Who was his wife Eleanor previously married to before marrying Henry II?

King Louis VII of France

  1. What prominent scholars were Henry II’s tutors while as a young child?

Peter of Saintes and William of Conches

  1. Who did Henry II fight against to gain control of the English crown?

King Stephen of Blois