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Henry II

Henry II Henry II (1154–1189), the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Henry I's daughter Matilda, was the first in a line of 14 Plantagenet kings, ending with the death of Richard III in 1485. In his time, Henry II was possibly the most powerful monarch in Europe with lands stretching from the borders of Scotland to the Pyrenees, including Ireland, granted to him by Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope. Henry introduced a new, efficient system of government and justice. His legal reforms, including the foundation of the jury system, led him to be regarded as the founder of English Common Law. There were quarrels with the Church, however, which became more intense following the murder of Thomas Becket. A strong king and brilliant military commander, Henry II spent much time away from England fighting abroad. Henry died in France in 1189, fighting against his son Richard, who had joined forces with King Philip of France to attack Normandy.

Henry Plantagenet (left) and King Stephen meet to discuss how to settle the succession of the English throne.

The Anarchy

Henry, known as Henry Plantagenet, was born in Le Mans, France, in 1133, the eldest son of Geoffrey the Fair, Count of Anjou, and Matilda, eldest daughter of Henry I. Following Henry’s death in 1135, Matilda laid claim to the English throne but her cousin, Stephen of Blois, was crowned king instead. Stephen also became the Duke of Normandy. This resulted in civil war between the rival supporters of Stephen and Matilda, a period of English history sometimes described as “the Anarchy”.
Henry invaded England in 1149 and again in 1153 in a bid to capture the throne on behalf of his mother. It was eventually decided, under the terms of the Treaty of Wallingford (also known as the Treaty of Winchester), that Henry himself would succeed to the throne when Stephen died.

Henry II was said to understand a little English, but he spoke only Latin and French.

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