Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henry (1155-1183)
HENRY (1155–1183), second son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, was born in London on 28 Feb. 1155, and on 10 April was recognised as heir to the crown in case of his brother's death, an event which took place next year. His betrothal to Margaret, daughter of Louis VII of France, was proposed in 1158 and ratified in October 1160, when he did homage to Louis for Normandy; and on 2 Nov. King Henry caused the two children to be married at Neubourg. The boy's education was entrusted to his father's chancellor, Thomas Becket, who took him to live in his house, and treated him as an adoptive son. Early in 1162 Henry II determined to secure, as far as possible, the succession of his heir by having him crowned king; under the care of Thomas, therefore, the child was sent to England, and there received the fealty of the barons. The making of a crown for him was even put in hand (Pipe Roll, 8 Henry II, p. 43); but his coronation was delayed by the vacancy of the see of Canterbury, to which the right of crowning an English king specially belonged; and the filling of this vacancy by the appointment of Thomas Becket (June 1162) was followed by a change in the relations between Thomas and the king, which compelled Henry to postpone still further the realisation of his scheme. Before the close of 1163 the boy was removed from Thomas's household, and in January 1164 he was with his father at the council of Clarendon. His appearance there was probably intended as a manifestation of his inchoate right to a share in his father's regal dignity, which had already been acknowledged in the homage rendered to him by the Welsh princes and the Scot king at Woodstock in July 1163. At the peace of Montmirail in January 1169 he was invested by Louis VII with Anjou, Maine, and Brittany; shortly afterwards, as Count of Anjou, he officiated in Paris as seneschal to the French king; he also did homage to Louis's son, Philip Augustus, and received the homage of his own brother Geoffrey for Brittany, which Geoffrey was to hold under him. At last, on 14 June 1170, he was crowned at Westminster by the Archbishop of York; and on 27 Aug. 1172 he and Margaret were, to satisfy Louis, crowned together at Winchester by the Archbishop of Rouen. During the last two years the absence of Henry II, first in Normandy and then in Ireland, had left the ‘young king’—as his son is henceforth called—sole wearer of the crown in England; but the real powers of government remained with the justiciars. The discontented barons had done their utmost to excite young Henry's resentment at this withholding of the regal authority to which he deemed himself entitled by his coronation; their suggestions were backed by those of Louis, whom he visited in November 1172; and on his return he called upon his father to give him full possession of some part of the lands which fell to him. The demand was refused. In opposition to his father he also actively resisted the election of Richard, prior of Dover, after Becket's death to the see of Canterbury (Demimuid, Jean de Salisbury, pp. 265 sq.) Later the young king refused to ratify a grant of lands to his brother John, and fled by night from his father's court to that of his father-in-law. Louis received him as sole lawful king of the English, and all Henry's enemies broke at once into war. The young king joined the Count of Flanders in preparing a fleet for the invasion of England; but the fleet never sailed, the barons were crushed; young Henry's attempt to thwart his father's wishes respecting the appointment of a new primate by an appeal to Rome only resulted in the consecration of the elder king's favoured candidate by the pope himself; and in the autumn of 1174 father and son made peace. For nearly six years young Henry kept quiet. On All Saints' day 1179 he was present at the coronation of Philip Augustus at Reims, and as Duke of Normandy carried the crown in the procession. His tenure of the duchy was, however, merely nominal, and he still failed to understand that his father, in keeping him thus in dependence at his side, was really reserving him for higher things than his brother Richard, of whose independent position as actual ruler of Aquitaine he was bitterly jealous. The barons of Aquitaine, struggling unsuccessfully against Richard's control, wrought upon this jealousy for their own ends; Richard himself increased it by an encroachment upon land which the young king claimed as part of his Angevin heritage; and at the end of June 1182 young Henry joined the rebels at Limoges. The elder king's appearance on the scene, however, was followed by an immediate pacification, and this again by a fresh demand from his eldest son to be put in possession of his heritage, a fresh refusal, another flight of the young king to France, and his return on the promise of an increased allowance in money. At Christmas Richard's refusal to do homage to his elder brother caused another quarrel; the young king and Geoffrey followed Richard into Aquitaine, under pretence of ‘subduing his pride’ according to their father's orders, but in reality to head a rising of the whole country against both Richard and Henry. For six weeks Henry II besieged the rebels in Limoges; twice his eldest son came to him with offers of submission, but each time the offer was a feint; at last young Henry's shameless plunder of the townsfolk, and of the shrine of their patron St. Martial, opened their eyes to his real character, and on his return from an expedition to Angoulême they drove him back with insults from their gates. In the midst of a plundering raid upon the monastery of Grandmont and the shrines of Rocamadour, he was struck down by fever; he took refuge at Martel ‘in the house of Stephen, surnamed the Smith,’ and thence sent a message imploring his father to come and speak with him once more. The friends of Henry II, suspecting treachery, persuaded him not to go, but only to send a precious ring in token of his forgiveness. The young king had already made open confession of his sins; he now dictated a letter to his father, beseeching him to pardon all his fellow-rebels, to make atonement for the sacrileges which he had committed, and to bury him in the cathedral church of Rouen. Early on 11 June 1183, after repeating his confession, he begged to be wrapped once more in his cloak marked with the cross, which, rather in petulance than in piety, he had taken at Limoges; then he gave it to his friend William Marshal, charging him to bear it to the holy sepulchre in his stead. He next bade his followers strip him of his soft raiment, clothe him in a hair-shirt, drag him out of bed by a rope round his neck, and lay him on a bed of ashes; there he received the last sacraments, and there, kissing his father's ring, he died. In the selfish, faithless, unprincipled character displayed throughout young Henry's life, redeemed though it was by his deathbed repentance, it is difficult to discover the secret of the attraction which won him the friendship of such a man as William Marshal. It is hard to understand the grounds even of his general popularity, to which all the historians of the time bear witness, and which was curiously illustrated by a quarrel for the possession of his corpse. The people of Le Mans seized it on its way to Normandy and buried it in their own cathedral church, whereupon the citizens of Rouen threatened to come and reclaim it by force, and Henry II was obliged to order it to be disinterred and conveyed to Rouen for re-burial according to his son's last request. To the unthinking multitude the young king's charm probably lay in a stately, handsome person, a gracious manner, and a temper whose easy shallowness contrasted favourably, in their eyes, with the terrible earnestness of Richard. Henry and Margaret had but one child, who was born and died in 1177.
[Gesta Regis Henrici, Roger of Hoveden, Ralph de Diceto, Gervase of Canterbury, ed. Stubbs; Materials for History of Becket, ed. Robertson; Thomas Agnellus, De Morte Henrici Regis Junioris, in Stevenson's edition of Ralph of Coggeshall, all in Rolls Series; Robert of Torigny, ed. Delisle (Soc. de l'Hist. de Normandie); Geoffrey of Vigeois, in Labbe's Nova Bibliotheca MSS. Librorum, vol. ii.]