Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henry II
HENRY II (1133–1189), king of England, was the eldest child of Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and Geoffrey Plantagenet (1113–1150), count of Anjou. Geoffrey represented a family which in two centuries grew from the defenders of the Angevin march against Bretons and northmen into the lords of three important counties, Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, and from dependence on the ducal house of France into rivalry with the ducal house of Normandy, and thus at last with the royal house of England, and it was for the purpose of extinguishing this rivalry, and providing England and Normandy, after Henry I's death, with a sovereign in whom the blood of the hitherto hostile races should be united, that Matilda (whose first husband, the Emperor Henry V, had left her a childless widow) was married to the Angevin count in 1128. Geoffrey was then scarce fifteen—ten years younger than his wife—and it was not till 1133 that their first child was born, at Le Mans on Mid-Lent Sunday, 5 March (‘Acta Pontif. Cenomann.’ c. 36, in Mabillon, Vet. Analecta, p. 322). From his very birth, says a writer of the time, ‘many peoples looked to him as their future master;’ and the most important part of his destiny was indicated in the name by which he was baptised, and the surname by which he was commonly described, ‘Henry FitzEmpress.’ He was before all things King Henry's grandson and chosen successor, destined by Henry to continue his work of building up a strong government in England. The English witan were at once made to swear him fealty as his grandfather's heir; and the first two years of his life were chiefly spent with his mother at her father's court in Normandy. The king's death (December 1135), however, set the Norman and English barons free to repudiate an engagement made under compulsion to a child not yet three years old, the child too of a woman whom they scarcely knew, and of a man whom they hated with all the accumulated force of the hate that parted Anjou from Normandy; and Matilda found her son's heritage, on both sides of the sea, wrested from her by her cousin Stephen. Through the ten years of war that followed, the boy's education went on where and how it could. His earliest tutor was one Master Peter of Saintes, ‘learned above all his contemporaries in the science of verse,’ who took charge of him by his father's desire (Anon. Chron., Rer. Gall. Scriptt. xii. 120), probably after his mother went to England in 1139. In 1142 his uncle Earl Robert of Gloucester brought him over to join her, and for the next four years he was ‘imbued with letters and instructed in good manners beseeming a youth of his rank,’ by a certain Matthew in Robert's house at Bristol. In 1147 he rejoined his father, who had now conquered Normandy. Shortly after Matilda's return next year both she and Geoffrey seem to have made over to their son the claims which they had been holding in trust for him on both sides of the sea (Chron. S. Albin. a. 1149; Hist. Pontif., in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Hist. xx. 532, 533). In 1149 he ventured upon an expedition to England, and was knighted at Carlisle on Whitsunday by his great-uncle, David king of Scots; in the summer of 1151 he received from King Louis of France the investiture both of Normandy and of his father's hereditary dominions; and in September Geoffrey's death left him sole master of them all. To these territories, stretching from the Somme to the Loire and covering the whole western side of the royal domain of France, Henry in May 1152 added the great duchy of Aquitaine by his marriage with its duchess Eleanor, the divorced wife of the French king. The young duke found himself strong enough to disregard a citation before the royal court (‘Gesta Ludov. Reg.,’ in Duchesne, Hist. Franc. Scriptt. iv. 411; ‘Hist. Ludov. Reg.,’ ib. p. 414), to repel an attack made by Louis upon Normandy, to crush a rebellion of his own brother Geoffrey in Anjou, and to risk another visit to England at Epiphany 1153. Nine months of fighting and negotiation ended in the treaty of Wallingford (November), whereby Stephen and Henry adopted each other as father and son, Henry leaving the crown to Stephen for his life, on a promise of its reversion at his death, and Stephen undertaking to govern meanwhile according to Henry's advice; as Roger of Howden expresses it, ‘the king made the duke justiciar of England under him, and by him all the affairs of the kingdom were settled.’ The discovery of a plot among the king's Flemish troops to assassinate Henry drove him back to France early in 1154. On 24 Oct. Stephen died. Contrary winds detained Henry in Normandy till 7 Dec.; but the ‘mickle awe’ with which he was already regarded in England sufficed to keep the land in peace during the interregnum; and on Sunday, 19 Dec., he was crowned at Westminster.
There was little of regal dignity in the young king's look and ways, in his square-built, thick-set frame, his sturdy limbs, his bullet-shaped head with its mass of close-cropped tawny hair, his ‘lion-like’ face with its freckled skin, and its prominent eyes that, for all their soft grey colour, could glow like balls of fire when the demon-spirit of Anjou was roused; in his absorbing passion for the chase; in the disregard of conventionalities shown by his coarse gloveless hands, his careless dress, his rough-and-ready speech; in the restlessness which kept him on his feet from morning till night, scorning every seat but the saddle, grudging every minute withdrawn from active occupation, beguiling with scribbling or with whispered talk the enforced tranquillity even of the hour of mass, dragging his weary courtiers about the country in ceaseless journeys, often to the most unlikely and inconvenient places, with equal indifference to their comfort and to his own; or in the outbreaks of a temper which mounted to sheer momentary madness, when he would utter the most unaccountable blasphemies, or gnaw the rushes from the floor and lie rolling among them like one possessed. Yet already England had discerned in this uncouth lad of twenty-one the quiet strength of a born ruler of men. ‘All folk loved him,’ says the English chronicler, summing up the impression left by the five months which had elapsed between Henry's treaty with Stephen and his return to Normandy, ‘for he did good justice and made peace.’ And ‘justice’ and ‘peace,’ in the sense which those words conveyed to the men of his day, were to be the main characteristics of his reign in England.
Henry's first kingly act was the issuing of a charter declaring, as the basis of his scheme of government, the restitution and confirmation of all liberties in church and state as settled by his grandfather. He next put in force certain hitherto unfulfilled provisions of the treaty of 1153, for the expulsion of Stephen's Flemish mercenaries, the demolition of castles built by individual barons without royal license and held by them independently of royal control, and the restoration of royal fortresses and other crown property which had passed into private hands during the anarchy. William of Aumale in Yorkshire, Hugh of Mortimer and Roger of Hereford in the west, openly resisted this last decree; but in January 1155 Henry's mere approach brought William to restore Scarborough; Roger submitted in April; and a siege of Hugh's castle of Bridgnorth by the king in person ended in its surrender, 7 July. By the close of the year order was fairly re-established throughout the realm. The old machinery of justice, of finance, of general administration, was at work again; judges went on circuit through the country; capable ministers were set over the various departments of state business; even the succession to the crown had been thought of and carefully provided for in a council at Wallingford, 10 April 1155. The part of Henry's life-work bequeathed to him by his English grandfather was so well in train that he could safely turn his attention to that other, and probably in his eyes more important work, which he had inherited from his paternal ancestors: the building up of an empire which, as had been foretold to one of them, was to spread from the rock of Angers to the ends of the earth. It spread now from the Flemish border to the Pyrenees, commanding the whole western coast of France, and covering more than half the soil whose nominal lord paramount was King Louis VII of France. But it was made up of five distinct fiefs, with claims of suzerainty over some half-dozen others; all held on different tenures, all jealous of one another, and most of them in a state of chronic disaffection, which Louis, jealous as he naturally was of his formidable vassal and rival, might easily turn to his own advantage; Henry's brother Geoffrey, too, claimed the Angevin patrimony, which his father's will had destined for him on Henry's accession to the English throne. Early in 1156, therefore, Henry returned to France; he renewed his homage to Louis, fought Geoffrey into accepting a money-compensation for his claims, and secured his hold over Aquitaine; then he came back (1157) to enforce the surrender of a few royal castles still held by the Earls of Warren and Norfolk; to demand and win from his cousin Malcolm of Scotland the homage due from a Scottish to an English king, and the restoration of the three English counties—Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland—granted to Malcolm's father by Stephen; and to claim at the sword's point the homage of the princes of Wales. Another visit to Normandy in 1158 resulted in Henry's acquisition of the county of Nantes on the death of its ruler, his brother Geoffrey, and a successful assertion of his right to the overlordship of Brittany, with the sanction of the French king, whose daughter Margaret was now betrothed to Henry's eldest son. Next year Henry ventured to assert his wife's claim to the overlordship of Toulouse, and when the claim was denied prepared to enforce it with an army consisting of the great barons of his realm with the Scottish king at their head, and a crowd of mercenaries hired with the proceeds of a ‘great scutage,’ a tax levied upon every knight's fee throughout his dominions instead of the personal service due from the knights. The Quercy was conquered and the war carried to the gates of Toulouse, but when Louis threw himself into the city Henry withdrew, out of reverence for the feudal etiquette which forbade a vassal to fight against his overlord in person. In May 1160 a truce was made; in November Henry secured his Norman frontier by marrying his son to Margaret, and thus gaining possession of her dowry, the Vexin; a triple alliance between France, Blois, and Champagne failed to wrest from him the advantage which he had won; and he was seen as virtual arbiter of western Europe in 1162, when his adhesion to Pope Alexander III in his struggle with the emperor turned the scale in Alexander's favour, and compelled Louis, with whom the pope had taken refuge, to make a formal alliance with the English king in Alexander's presence at Chouzy.
In the intervals of his continental warfare Henry had been feeling his way towards a scheme of administrative reform in England. He had come to his throne just when the social, industrial, intellectual, and religious movements which had been stirring throughout Europe since the beginning of the century were all at their most critical stage. All of them, save the last, seemed to have been checked in England by the troubles of the anarchy, but no sooner was outward order restored than the forces which hitherto had been working in the dark confronted Henry in the light of day. He saw that the mere re-establishment of the old administrative routine of his grandfather's time could no longer suffice for a country where the very confusion of the past nineteen years, the loosening of accustomed restraints, the abeyance of accustomed authority, had fostered a new spirit of self-assertion and independent activity in burgher and yeoman and clerk, as well as in earl and baron and knight. The breakdown of the higher judicature, and the consequently unchecked corruption of the lower courts, had given an enormous advantage to the revived canon law, of which the clergy were the representatives and interpreters. The new relations, too, with the continent into which men were brought by the accession of their Angevin king were opening wider fields for commercial enterprise, which in its turn stimulated the growth of industrial activity at home, and the intercourse with foreign churchmen and foreign scholars was quickened, whence the English clergy, and through them the English people, were learning to scrutinise more closely and criticise more sharply the relations of king and people, church and state. Henry saw the opportunity which such a transitional state of society afforded for the building up of a system of financial, judicial, and military organisation in direct dependence upon the king, wherein men should find their surest safeguard amid the dangers that beset them on every side in the rapidly changing conditions of the national life. Only a few incidental notices enable us to mark some of his early steps in the path of administrative and legal reform. At the outset of his reign he had re-established in working order the old financial machinery of the exchequer and the judicial machinery of the curia regis. In 1158 he caused the debased coinage of his predecessor and that which had been illegally issued from private mints during the anarchy to be all alike superseded by a new and uniform currency. He facilitated the removal of suits from the local courts to the curia regis; he facilitated the administration of justice in the curia regis itself and in the provincial visitations of its judges, by introducing new methods of procedure; he gave a new development to the system of inquest by sworn recognitors, by applying it to an important branch of civil litigation in a ‘great assize,’ which sanctioned the settlement of disputes concerning land by the sworn verdict of twelve chosen knights of the district, instead of by ordeal of battle between the claimants as heretofore. He broke through the dependence of the crown upon its feudal tenants for the supply of a military force by a series of skilfully planned innovations, culminating in the scutage of 1159, which, while it conferred a benefit upon the tenants-in-chivalry by exempting them from service beyond sea, swept away their old exemption from money-taxation, and enabled the king henceforth to replace them whenever he chose by a paid force under his own immediate control.
But the scutage touched other privileges besides those of the tenants-in-chivalry; it was levied not only upon the knight's fees of the lay lords, but also, and more stringently, upon those held under the churches. It was thus Henry's first step towards the execution of a plan for breaking down the barriers which, under the name of clerical immunities, kept a large part of the population free of all legal restraint save that of the canon law, and altogether beyond the reach of his kingly authority and justice. The chief agent of Henry's reforms hitherto had been his chancellor, Thomas Becket, and it was to secure for his plans the co-operation of Thomas on a wider scale, and in a capacity which would add enormously to its value and usefulness, that he set constitutional tradition, ecclesiastical propriety, and public opinion all alike at defiance by raising his brilliant, worldly chancellor to the primacy of all England (June 1162). Instead of co-operation, he met from his new archbishop an uncompromising opposition. His proposal of a change in the mode of levying the land-tax, which would have transferred its profits from the sheriffs to the exchequer, was defeated by Thomas's resistance (July 1163); his attempts to bring criminal clerks to justice broke against the shield of the canon law with which Thomas sheltered the delinquents; his demand, made in a great council at Westminster (October 1163), for a public acknowledgment of what he called the ‘customs of his grandfather,’ in other words, of his royal supremacy over all persons and all causes throughout his realm, was answered by the bishops, under their primate's guidance, with a declaration that they would only agree to the customs ‘saving the rights of their order;’ and a vague verbal promise of assent which he at last wrung from them was revoked as soon as the customs were set forth in the form of written constitutions at the council of Clarendon (January 1164). Henry saw that in making Thomas archbishop he had but laid a stumbling-block across his own path, and he thrust it roughly aside. In October 1164 he summoned Thomas before a council at Northampton to answer a string of charges concerning his conduct as chancellor and as archbishop. From the outset it was plain that the primate's condemnation was a foregone conclusion. Insults of every kind were heaped upon him; every offer of compromise was scornfully rejected or made vain by the introduction of some new and unexpected charge; the bishops were compelled to join with the lay barons in sitting in judgment on their primate, till a prohibition from Thomas himself, enforced by an appeal to Rome, scared them into a protest to which Henry found it necessary to yield; the lay lords, with ‘certain sheriffs and lesser barons ancient in days’ whom the king had summoned to join them, were ready to depose the archbishop as a traitor, but he checked the delivery of their sentence by another appeal to the pope, fought his way out of the council, and finally escaped over sea.
Thomas's flight left Henry master of the field, and the constitutions of Clarendon were put in force at once. By these constitutions disputes about presentations and advowsons were transferred from the ecclesiastical to the royal courts; appeals to Rome without leave from the king, and ordination of villeins without leave from their lords, were forbidden; the right of sanctuary was annulled as regards chattels forfeited to the crown; clerks were made amenable to lay tribunals; the provisions of the ‘great assize’ were applied to disputes about church lands; and an appeal to the witness of twelve local jurors summoned by the sheriff was introduced to protect laymen from injustice in the bishops' courts. With these provisions those ‘customs’ of the Norman kings which forbade bishops and beneficed clerks to quit the realm or excommunicate the king's tenants-in-chief without his license, and regulated the election and the temporal liabilities of bishops, were now for the first time coupled together in a written code, which Henry probably meant as the first instalment of a much wider code, whereby he hoped to remodel the entire legal and administrative system of the country. Two years later, in fact, he boldly undertook to deal single-handed, on his own sole responsibility, with the whole question of the administration of justice in all criminal cases whatsoever. In his assize of Clarendon (February 1166) he applied the principle of jury-inquest to criminal cases by ordaining that in every shire criminals should be arrested and brought before the sheriffs and the itinerant justices, to be by them dealt with according to rules laid down in the same assize, on the presentment of twelve freemen of every hundred, and four of every township, bound by oath in full shire-court, to denounce all known malefactors in their districts; and he summarily set aside all claims to exemption, either from service on the juries or from liability to the interference of sheriffs and justices, founded on private jurisdictions or special franchises of any kind. In four ways especially Henry's assize is a landmark in English history. It was the first attempt made by an English king to put forth a code of laws, as distinct from a mere reassertion of traditional ‘custom.’ It was the first attempt to break down the feudal system of government by bringing its countless independent jurisdictions and irresponsible tribunals into subjection to one uniform judicial administration. It re-established once for all, so far as England was concerned, the old Teutonic principle of the right and the duty of a people to govern itself, in its own courts and by its own customary procedure, as against the Roman law which was fast taking its place in continental Europe; and it opened an almost boundless field for the training of the English people in self-government, by bringing home to every man his share in the administration of justice and police. About the same time Henry seems to have issued the assize of novel disseisin, which enabled any man disseised of his freehold without legal sentence to claim within a given period reinstatement by a writ from the king. The act whereby Henry thus ‘cast his protection over possession made the disturbance of seisin a cause of complaint to the king himself,’ though apparently little noticed at the time, was in fact ‘perhaps the greatest event in the history of English law’ (Maitland, Introd. to Select Pleas in Manorial Courts, Selden Soc., i. liv).
At the moment when Henry thus opened a new era in the history of English government, he was in the hottest of his fight with the church. In vain had he sought to prevent the pope and the French king from espousing the cause of Thomas; still more vainly had he driven into exile every man, woman, and child who could be charged with any sort of connection with the primate; Pope Alexander, ill as he could afford it at the moment, risked a breach with England by receiving Thomas honourably. Louis offered a shelter in France to him and his fellow-sufferers, and Henry found himself held up to the general scorn and indignation of orthodox Christendom. He turned to the eagerly-offered alliance of the emperor and the antipope, promised his daughter's hand to the emperor's cousin, Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, and threatened to withdraw from Alexander the spiritual obedience of the whole Angevin dominions. A Welsh war furnished him with a means of evading the consequences of these pledges, and of gaining a breathing space, which was turned to good account for England by the issuing of the assize of Clarendon. In Lent 1166 he recrossed the Channel to take up again the threads, complicated as they were by his embroilment with the church, of his continental policy; to reopen diplomatic relations with all parties at once: with the Marquis of Montferrat, whose influence at Rome was secured for the royal cause by the offer of a daughter of England as wife for his son; with the duke and the nobles of Brittany, whose heiress Henry was bent upon wedding to his third son, Geoffrey; with Louis of France, whose assent was needed for this arrangement, and also for the recognition of little Henry as heir of Normandy and Anjou, and for that of the second son, Richard, as heir of Aquitaine; with the emperor on one hand and with his Lombard foes on the other; with the kings of Castile and Sicily, who proposed to become Henry's sons-in-law; with the discontented barons of Aquitaine, who were profiting by the troubles of their Angevin duke to break loose from his hated control; as well as with Thomas and Alexander, who were perpetually threatening to lay the English kingdom under interdict and excommunicate the king himself. In four years the work seemed all but done; Henry had secured the alliance of Germany and of Castile by the marriages of his two elder daughters, Matilda and Eleanor (1168–9); he had betrothed his youngest daughter, Joanna, to King William of Sicily (1169); he had broken the opposition of the Bretons in three successive campaigns (1166–9), and gained the French king's formal sanction to his plans for his three sons in the treaty of Montmirail (January 1169). In an unlucky hour he resolved to complete the new settlement of his dominions by the coronation of his eldest son, a scheme which he had planned seven years before, but which had been set aside owing to his quarrel with Thomas, who as metropolitan of all England was alone qualified to crown an English king. Now, seeing no hope of agreement with Thomas, Henry was rash enough to fall back upon a license for the boy's coronation by Archbishop Roger of York, granted by the pope three years ago, but since withdrawn; and at his command Roger, though forbidden by both Thomas and Alexander under pain of suspension, crowned the young king at Westminster, 14 June 1170.
This action was the greatest blunder of Henry's life. The crowning of the heir during his father's lifetime was an innovation wholly at variance with all English constitutional theory and practice, and the moment was singularly ill-chosen for such an unprecedented step. For fifteen years Henry had been developing a scheme of government whereby all separate jurisdictions, all local and personal privileges, were to be brought into direct subjection to the authority of the crown. For six years he had been literally, throughout his English realm at least, over all persons and all causes supreme, and there had been no outward obstacles to hinder the working of his administrative system. It worked, indeed, regularly and in the main successfully, but not without a great deal of very severe friction; and the adherents of Thomas were far from being the only section of the community who saw in Henry's reforms nothing but engines of regal tyranny and extortion. The first visitation of the judges after the assize of Clarendon carried terror and desolation into every shire, while it brought to the treasury an enormous increase of wealth from the fines of justice and the goods and chattels of the criminals condemned under the assize. Scarcely was it concluded when a visitation of the forests was held in 1167, and this again was followed next year by the levy of an aid for the marriage of the king's eldest daughter. The people writhed helplessly under these manifold burdens; the barons watched in sullen silence for an opportunity to break the yoke which Henry was rivetting more tightly upon them year by year. Henry's own sense of an impending crisis in England, on his return thither in March 1170, was shown in the sweeping measure by which he sought to anticipate it. He suspended from their functions all the sheriffs of the counties and all the bailiffs of his own demesnes, and appointed a body of special commissioners to institute during the next two months an inquiry into every detail of the administration, judicial, financial, political, of every royal officer throughout the country and of every local tribunal, no matter to whom appertaining, during the last four years. When the two months expired, out of twenty-seven sheriffs only seven were reinstated in their office; to the places thus left vacant Henry appointed officers of the exchequer whom he knew and trusted. Three days later the feudal nobles, whose claims of hereditary jurisdiction and independence he had thus afresh trampled underfoot, were called upon to do homage and fealty to a new king, chosen by Henry himself to share with him in the sacred dignity which till now had been exclusively his own. The oath was taken readily enough; its possible results were perhaps better foreseen by some of those who took it than by him who demanded it. Meanwhile the wrath of primate and pope at the insult to Canterbury, and the wrath of the French king at the insult to his daughter, who had not been allowed to share in her husband's coronation, rose to such a pitch that in July Henry was driven to a formal reconciliation with both Louis and Thomas. But there was no real peace with either. The king was keeping Christmas at Bures, near Bayeux, when the Archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury came to tell him that Thomas on his return to England had refused to absolve them from the papal sentence under which they lay for their share in the coronation, and was setting his royal will at defiance. ‘What a parcel of fools and dastards have I nourished in my house,’ he burst out, ‘that not one of them will avenge me of this one upstart clerk!’ Four knights took him at his word, and on 29 Dec. 1170 he was ‘avenged,’ far otherwise than he desired, by the martyrdom of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
For the moment all seemed lost. Alexander threatened to interdict the whole Angevin dominions and excommunicate the king unless he would do penance for the murder and submit unconditionally to the demands of the church, and at once despatched two legates to execute the threat. But the hour of extreme danger was always the hour which Henry turned to account for some specially daring piece of work; and it was at this most perilous crisis of his life that he added a new realm to his dominions. As early as 1155 he had planned the conquest of Ireland, and it was afterwards said that he had obtained from Pope Adrian IV a bull to sanction the enterprise; this bull, however, has never been found among the papal archives, and its genuineness is disputed (cf. Analecta Juris Pontifici, Mai–Juin 1882, Paris; F. A. Gasquet in Dublin Review, 3rd ser. x. 83). The scheme, opposed by his mother, was left in abeyance till at the close of 1166 Diarmait Mac Murchadha, king of Leinster, having been driven from his throne, besought Henry's aid in regaining it, and offered him his homage in return. Henry accepted the homage, and proclaimed that any of his subjects who chose might enlist in the service of the Irish king. A band of knights from the South Welsh border availed themselves of the permission; by the end of 1170 they were masters of the Irish coast from Waterford to Dublin; their leader, Richard de Clare (d. 1176) [q. v.], was married to Diarmait's daughter; on Diarmait's death (May 1171) he set himself up as Earl of Leinster, and was in a fair way to become the head of an independent feudal state whose growth might soon have threatened England with a new peril, if Henry had not summarily taken the matter into his own hands. The papal legates were on the point of entering Normandy when he announced to his barons that he was going to Ireland. Early in August he landed at Portsmouth; a month later he received the submission of Earl Richard, whom he had summoned to a meeting on the Welsh border; by the end of September he was at Pembroke, and a fleet of four hundred ships was gathering in Milford Haven; and on 17 Oct. he landed at Waterford with some four thousand men. He had left strict orders both in Normandy and in England that the ports should be closed to all clerks, and that no man should follow him unless specially summoned; but more effectual than these precautions was the stormy wind of the western sea, which for nearly six months severed all communication between Ireland and the rest of the world. Those six months were fateful alike for Ireland and for England; in them was laid the foundation of Ireland's subjection to the English crown. The hostile parties, whether of natives or invaders, all alike saw their only hope in submission to the new comer, and all alike laid themselves at his feet. Before Christmas 1171—which he kept at Dublin, in a palace built of wattles after the Irish fashion—Waterford, Wexford, Limerick, and Cork were in his hands, and all the Irish princes, except the king of Connaught, had given him hostages and promised tribute. The bishops and clergy made their formal submission to him at Cashel. With the promise of their spiritual obedience their conqueror might hope to strike a bargain with Rome; and the tidings which at last (March 1172) reached him from England made him feel that the bargain must be struck without delay. What little he could do for Ireland at the moment he did before he left her. He compelled Earl Richard and his fellow-adventurers to resign their conquests to him, and parcelled them out afresh as fiefs to be held in obedience to himself as sovereign; he appointed Hugh de Lacy to act as his representative and vicegerent; he fortified and garrisoned the coast towns; and he started Dublin, ruined as it was by three sieges in two years, on a new career of prosperity by granting it to the burghers of Bristol to colonise and raise into a trading centre as free and flourishing as their own native city. He sailed from Wexford on Easter night; by the middle of May he was in Normandy; on Sunday 21 May he met the legates at Avranches, purged himself of complicity in the primate's death, promised expiation, and abjured his ‘customs;’ four months later he repeated his submission, and was publicly absolved.
It was no light matter that had moved the king thus to break off the work which he had but just begun in Ireland and to surrender the constitutions which he had so stubbornly maintained for eight years in the teeth of primate and pope; it was the discovery that in leaving his eldest son as king in his stead he had placed within reach of his foes a weapon which they were quick to use against him, and which was only too ready to lend itself to their use. Father and son no sooner met again than the young king asserted his claim to be acknowledged as actual ruler of England, or, if not of England, then of Normandy and the Angevin lands. Henry, busy now with a scheme for the marriage of his youngest son John to the heiress of Maurienne, which would have given him command over all the passes of the Alps, not only refused the claim but proposed to settle upon John three of the most important castles in Anjou and Touraine. The young king hereupon fled to the court of France, and on his appearance there a vast conspiracy came to light. The French king, the counts of Blois, Flanders, and Boulogne, the king of Scots, a crowd of barons in England, Normandy, Aquitaine, and the Angevin lands, his brothers Richard and Geoffrey, his mother Queen Eleanor, ranged themselves at once upon his side; and Henry had scarcely time to fortify the Norman frontier, recall some of his troops from Ireland, and gather a force of Brabantine mercenaries at the cost of every penny he possessed, before a general war broke out (June 1173). Normandy, attacked on two sides at once, was saved by the death of the Count of Boulogne and by a rapid march of Henry which drove Louis from Verneuil; and another equally rapid march upon Dol crushed the revolt in Brittany. In a flying visit to England (Eyton, Itin. Hen. II, p. 173) Henry, it seems, had already concerted measures for its security with the justiciar, Richard de Lucy; here the actual outbreak had been delayed by the absence of the chief rebel, Earl Robert of Leicester; and Leicester no sooner landed in Suffolk than he was defeated and made prisoner by the royal forces (17 Oct.) Next spring, while Henry was crushing out rebellion in Anjou and Aquitaine, a Scottish invasion stirred up a rising in the north; scarcely were the northern rebels defeated by the king's illegitimate son Geoffrey, bishop-elect of Lincoln, when East Anglia was overrun by a host of Flemings brought in by the traitor Earl of Norfolk, Hugh Bigod; the London citizens broke into anarchy; the young king threatened invasion from Flanders; and the justiciars in despair called Henry to the rescue. He crossed the sea in a terrific storm on 7 July, and made straight for Canterbury. Fasting, barefoot, in pilgrim's weeds, he entered the cathedral church, and there publicly did penance for the martyr's death, submitting to be scourged by all the seventy monks of the chapter, spending the night in vigil before the shrine, and loading it with costly gifts ere he set out next morning for London. Four days later a courier burst at midnight into the king's bedchamber, and woke him with tidings that on the very day, almost at the very hour, of his departure from Canterbury the Scottish king had been made prisoner at Alnwick (13 July 1174). Henry marched at once upon the English rebels, and in three weeks they were all at his feet. Then he recrossed the sea, forced Louis to raise the siege of Rouen, and by Michaelmas was in a position to dictate terms all round. The terms which he imposed on his sons, on the French king, and on the rebel barons amounted to little more than a return to the status quo ante bellum, with a pledge of general amnesty and reconciliation. The king of Scots, however, regained his freedom only by doing liege homage to the English king for his crown and all his lands, and giving up five of his strongest fortresses in pledge for his fidelity; and there was one captive whom Henry would not release at all. At the opening of the rebellion he had caught his wife, disguised in man's attire, attempting to follow her sons to the French court; he had put her in prison at once, and there, with one brief interval, he kept her for the rest of his own life.
In England his triumph was complete and final. He took up again at once his work of administrative reform, and carried it on thenceforth without check and without break. In January 1176 he issued the assize of Northampton; this was in effect a re-enactment of the assize of Clarendon, with important modifications and amendments of detail, and with the addition of several entirely new clauses, one of which originated the proceeding known as the ‘assize of mort d'ancester,’ while others defined the pleas, criminal and civil, which were to be reserved for the hearing of the royal justices, and another directed that every man in the realm, from earl to ‘rustic,’ should take an oath of fealty to the king. In the same year he wrung from a papal legate a partial assent to the constitutions of Clarendon, which enabled him to bring clergy as well as laity within the scope of a great visitation of the forests, held in punishment for the damage done in the rebellion. Next year he ordered a return of all tenements held in chief of the crown, with the names of the existing tenants and the services due from each. An inquiry into the several liabilities of the king's tenants-in-chivalry had been instituted ten years before, apparently for the assessment of the aide pour fille marier, and on that occasion the returns had been made by each baron for himself; the inquest of 1177, however, was seemingly designed to be of wider scope and more searching character, and was entrusted to the sheriffs and bailiffs of the different counties. In 1178 Henry reorganised the curia regis by restricting its highest functions to a small inner tribunal of selected counsellors, which afterwards grew into the court of king's bench. From 1176 to 1180 he was busy with a series of experiments which ended in the virtual establishment of the system of judges' circuits familiar to us now. By his assize of arms, 1181, he imposed on every free man the duty of bearing arms for the defence of the country; and by enacting that each man's liability should be determined by the amount, not of his land, but of his annual revenue and movable goods, he introduced into English finance the principle of direct taxation on personal property.
The English king's supremacy over the neighbour states and his importance in Europe at large grew with the growth of his power at home. Three Welsh campaigns (1157, 1163, 1165), and a series of negotiations conducted by Henry in person on his way to and from Ireland, had broken the independence of the Welsh princes; in the revolt of 1173, Rhys of South Wales appeared as the king's ally, and at its close David of North Wales was bound to him by a marriage with his sister. The loyalty of the Scottish king was secured in 1175, and in the same year the homage of the king of Connaught completed Henry's overlordship of Ireland. Next year his youngest daughter Joanna (1165–1199) [q. v.] was married to the king of Sicily, and welcomed in her new country with honours which showed how great was the reverence felt by its Norman rulers for the distant sovereign whom they were proud to acknowledge as the head of their race. The kings of Castile and Navarre chose him as arbiter in a family quarrel between themselves in 1177; the king of Arragon and the Count of Toulouse had done the like as early as 1173, when the latter had submitted to do homage to Henry for his county. In France itself the factions that raged around the deathbed of Louis VII and the ill-secured throne of his young successor, Philip Augustus, were driven to accept, nay to solicit, the mediation of the English king (1180–2); and the crowning-point of his glory seemed to be reached in 1185, when, as head of the Angevin house, he was implored by the patriarch of Jerusalem in person to undertake the deliverance of the Holy Land, where the Angevin dynasty and the Christian realm which they had been defending for half a century against the Moslems were both alike at their last gasp. The ‘faithful men’ of the land, however, assembled in council at Clerkenwell, refused to sanction such an undertaking (R. Diceto, ii. 33, 34); and Henry had ample reasons for yielding to their decision.
The peace-maker of Europe could not keep peace among his own sons. He had freely forgiven their rebellion, and fully reinstated all three in the positions which they had respectively occupied before it: Richard as duke of Aquitaine, Geoffrey as duke of Brittany, Henry as acknowledged heir to the overlordship of both, and to direct sovereignty over England, Normandy, and Anjou. But the brothers were jealous one of another, and their jealousy broke out at last in open war. In 1183 young Henry and Geoffrey joined the nobles of Aquitaine in a rising against their father and Richard, and twice, while besieging the rebels in their headquarters at Limoges, Henry himself narrowly escaped with his life. The young king's death (11 June) ended the strife for a while, but it opened the way to other quarrels. Henry proposed to transfer Aquitaine from Richard, now heir to the crown, to John, whose betrothal with Alice of Maurienne had come to nothing, but for whom he had in 1176 secured the rich heritage of Earl William of Gloucester, and whom in 1177 he had nominated king of Ireland. It was to Ireland, not to Aquitaine, that John was at last despatched by his father (1185); but his misconduct there forced Henry to recall him within a few months. Geoffrey meanwhile was plotting treason with Philip of France; in August 1186 he died, and Philip claimed the guardianship of his infant heir Arthur (1187–1203) [q. v.] The relations of Philip and Henry were already strained almost to breaking point; there was a standing dispute between them about the dower-lands of the young king's widow; there were other disputes about the overlordship of Auvergne, about the ownership of Berry, about the French king's right of intervention in a quarrel between Richard and the Count of Toulouse, and about Philip's sister Adela, who, as Richard's plighted bride, had been for fourteen years, or more, in the custody of Henry, and whom he would give up neither to her brother nor to her betrothed. The motives and the aim of Henry's policy at this juncture are as obscure to us now as they were to Richard then; but its outward aspect gave some colour of reason to the suspicion, adopted by Richard at Philip's instigation, that he was planning to oust Richard from his position as heir, and perhaps to rob him of his intended wife, in favour of John. Conference after conference failed to restore the good understanding of father and son, to satisfy Philip, or to force from Henry a definite avowal of his intentions. For a moment all differences were hushed by tidings of the capture of Jerusalem; the two kings took the cross together (October 1187), and Henry went to England to arrange for the collection of the ‘Saladin tithe,’ a tax of one-tenth of all the movable goods of clergy and laity, which was to defray the expenses of his crusade. In his absence an attack made by Richard on Toulouse gave Philip a pretext for invading Berry; Henry hastened to its defence; Philip fought and negotiated by turns with the father and the son; at last all three met in conference at Bonmoulins (18 Nov. 1188); Richard demanded an explicit recognition as heir to all his father's dominions, and on the refusal of his demand openly transferred his homage to the French king.
Henry was left alone, without troops, without money, without resources of any kind. His enemies saw their advantage and used it ruthlessly. They turned a deaf ear to his overtures of reconciliation, and to the remonstrances of the legates whom the pope, in terror for the peace of Europe and the success of the crusade, at once despatched to his support; they would be satisfied with nothing short of unconditional submission to their demands. Rather than stoop to this, Henry with a handful of followers shut himself up to await the end in his native city, Le Mans. The end came with startling rapidity. In a week Philip and Richard were masters of Maine; on 12 June 1189 they prepared to assault Le Mans; its defenders fired the suburbs; the city itself caught fire, and Henry with his little band fled for their lives towards Normandy. The wild words of blasphemy which Gerald de Barri (De Instr. Princ. dist. iii. c. 24) puts into the mouth of the fugitive king, if uttered at all, can only have been uttered in the irresponsible frenzy of despair; and as he lay that night at La Frênaye Henry recovered his self-control and planned the last adventure which was to be the fitting close of his adventurous life. Sending on his followers to Normandy with instructions for the gathering of fresh forces and the disposal of the Norman castles, he turned back almost alone and made his way through the heart of the conquered land to Chinon. Fever-stricken, death-stricken, he lay there or at Saumur while Philip and Richard stormed Tours; on 4 July he dragged himself, by a supreme effort, to meet them at Colombières. He was forced to put himself at their mercy, to pardon and release from their allegiance all those who had conspired against him, to renew his homage to Philip, to acknowledge Richard heir to all his lands, and to give him the kiss of peace. The kiss was given with a muttered curse; but it was not Richard's treason that broke his father's heart. That night Henry bade his vice-chancellor read him the list of the traitors whose names Philip had given up. The first name was that of John. ‘Enough,’ murmured the king as he turned his face to the wall; ‘now let things go as they may; I care no more for myself or for the world.’ For two days he lay tossing in anguish and delirium, cursing his sons and himself, muttering ‘Shame, shame on a conquered king!’ till the approach of death, and the tender care of the one child who had remained with him to the last, his illegitimate son Geoffrey, brought him back to reason, penitence, and peace, and on 6 July he passed quietly away. Two days later he was buried in the abbey church of Fontevraud, where the characteristic outlines of the face so vividly described by his courtiers may still be seen in the effigy sculptured on his tomb.
Henry's children by his queen are enumerated in the biography of their mother [see Eleanor of Aquitaine]. He is known to have had three illegitimate sons: Geoffrey, born probably before his accession to teh crown, possibly even before his marriage [see Geoffrey, archbishop of York [q. v.]; Morgan, whose mother is said to have been the wife of a knight called Ralf Bloeth (Hist. Dunelm. Scriptt. Tres, Surtees Soc., p. 35); and William Longespée [q. v.], afterwards Earl of Salisbury, who may have been a child of Fair Rosamond. The romantic adjuncts of the Rosamond legend [see Clifford, Rosamond] have been swept away, but its central fact remains. Of the darker tale about Adela of France (Gesta Ric., ed. Stubbs, p. 160; Gir. Cambr. De Instr. Princ. dist. iii. c. 2; cf. Ric Devizes, in Howlett, Chron. of Stephen and Henry II, iii. 403) it can only be said, on the one hand, that it seems to have rested on evidence strong enough to convince her betrothed husband Richard and her brother Philip Augustus; and, on the other, that Richard was only too ready to believe any evil of his father, while Philip was equally ready to feign belief of anything, if it suited his policy at the moment. Still, though the pictures of Henry's private character given by lampooners such as Gerald de Barri and Ralph the Black may well be painted in needlessly glaring colours, we can hardly venture to say more in its defence than was said by another contemporary, that ‘he left the palm of vice to his grandfather.’ His nature was full of passion; but the passion was far from being all evil, though it was lavished too often upon unworthy objects, among the most unworthy being, unhappily, his own spoiled, ill-trained, mismanaged, but tenderly loved sons. Except in the case of his children, however, Henry's bestowal of honour and power was never dictated by blind partiality to a personal favourite. Despot as he was, his ministers were no mere tools of the royal caprice, but responsible statesmen such as the elder Earl Robert of Leicester, Richard de Lucy ‘the loyal,’ and Richard's successor, the great lawyer Ranulf de Glanville [q. v.], men who were not afraid to speak their minds and act upon their convictions, and to whom Henry, on his part, was not afraid to entrust the whole administration of affairs in his own absence from the country. His personal friends again, from Thomas Becket up to St. Hugh of Lincoln [q. v.], were far better men than himself; they were in fact among the purest and noblest characters of their time; and the more unlike they were to him, the holier and more unworldly were their lives, the more loyally and devotedly he clung to them, the more readily he accepted their counsel and their rebukes, and the more, too, he seems to have inspired in them a corresponding warmth of affection. The half droll, half pathetic stories of his relations with St. Hugh told in the ‘Magna Vita S. Hugonis’ reveal glimpses of a side of his character which is otherwise hardly perceptible in his career as an English king, but which has left traces to this day in the home-lands of his race, in the great hospitals which he built at Angers and at Le Mans, and in the remains or the records of the lazar-houses which he endowed in the chief towns of Normandy, that at Quévilly, near Rouen, indeed, being formed out of a hunting-seat which he had originally built for his own enjoyment.
Henry was a great builder, though not like his predecessors, of churches and abbeys. He founded but seven religious houses in the course of his life; the erection of three of these was part of the penance imposed on him for the death of St. Thomas; and though the commandery of Knights Templars at Vaubourg was founded in 1173, and the Charterhouse of Witham in the following year, while that of Le Liget in Touraine is said to date from 1175, they remained so insignificant that many years later Gerald de Barri could affect to ignore the very existence of two of them, and sneered at the niggardliness with which Henry was supposed to have fulfilled his vow at his predecessors' expense, by putting regular instead of secular canons into Harold's old foundation at Waltham, and foreign nuns from Fontevraud instead of English Benedictine sisters into the ancient abbey of Amesbury. His other religious foundations attained no greater fame; they were an Austin priory at Beauvoir in Normandy, established before his accession to the crown; a second near La Flèche in Maine, founded about 1180; a third at Newstead in Sherwood, dating possibly from 1170, more probably from 1166 or earlier; and a Gilbertine house at Newstead in Ancholm, which came into existence before 1175. Henry built much for himself, and, as he hoped, for his successors; Caen, Rouen, Angers, Tours were all adorned with royal palaces in his reign. He built yet more for his subjects, and while of his palaces scarcely a fragment remains, save the ruined pile at Chinon where he died, the waters of the Loire are kept in to this day by a great embankment or levée, thirty miles long, which he constructed as a safeguard against its frequent and disastrous floods. The ‘Grand Pont’ at Angers seems to have been built by him, in place of an earlier bridge destroyed by fire in 1177. The popular astonishment at the greatness of his architectural undertakings, and the rapidity with which they were accomplished, is expressed in the legend of the ‘Pont de l'Annonain,’ a viaduct over a swamp near Chinon, built by Henry, but locally said to have been reared by the devil in a single night at the bidding of his ancestor Fulk Nerra, the one other Angevin count who lived, side by side with Henry FitzEmpress, in the memory of the Angevin people. The English people, on the other hand, seem to have quickly cooled in their enthusiasm for the king whom before his accession they had ‘all loved;’ it was only by slow degrees, and after he was gone, that they learned to appreciate his real merits as a ruler. Henry never courted popularity. He by no means shunned personal contact with the multitude, and when he did go forth into their midst, he and they alike flung etiquette to the winds. But he did not lay himself out to please them, as his grandfather had done, by a routine, at once familiar and splendid, of daily life lived of set purpose before their very eyes. When counsellors, courtiers, and spectators had flocked together from far and near at his summons for a great judicial and political assembly, he would disappear at dawn and keep them all vainly awaiting his return till nightfall put an end to his day's hunting. His household was a by-word for confusion and discomfort, to which he himself was utterly indifferent, and which went on unchecked while he withdrew to his chamber and there buried himself in his own pursuits. Chief among these was the discussion of literary questions with the scholars who thronged his court, and whom he delighted to honour. He had inherited both from his father and from his maternal grandfather a great love of learning; he was probably the most highly educated sovereign of his day, and amid all his busy, active life he never lost his interest in literature and intellectual discussion; he loved reading only less than hunting, and it was said by one of his courtiers that his hands were never empty, they always held either a bow or a book. He could speak, and speak well, in at least two languages, French and Latin, and is said to have known something of every tongue ‘between the Bay of Biscay and the Jordan,’ a definition which seems to exclude the English tongue. Of the varied elements, Angevin, Norman, and English, united in Henry FitzEmpress, the last indeed can hardly be traced at all in his strangely complex character. Yet the work that he did for England was the only part of his work that outlasted his own life, and it has lasted for seven centuries. It was under his rule that ‘ the races of conquerors and conquered in England first learnt to feel that they were one. It was by his power that England, Scotland, and Ireland were brought to some vague acknowledgment of a common suzerain lord, and the foundations laid of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It was he who abolished feudalism as a system of government, and left it little more than a system of land tenure. It was he who defined the relations established between church and state, and decreed that in England churchman as well as baron was to be held under the common law. It was he who preserved the traditions of self-government which had been handed down in borough and shire-moot from the earliest times of English history. His reforms established the judicial system whose main outlines have been preserved to our own day. It was through his “constitutions” and his “assizes” that it came to pass that all over the world the English-speaking races are governed by English and not by Roman law. It was by his genius for government that the servants of the royal household became transformed into ministers of state. It was he who gave England a foreign policy which decided our continental relations for seven hundred years.’ ‘Indirectly and unconsciously, his policy did more than that of all his predecessors to prepare England for the unity and freedom which the fall of his house was to reveal.’
[Notices of events in Henry's life before his accession to the crown can only be picked out here and there from Robert of Torigni (Chronicle, ed. Delisle, Soc. de l'Hist. de Normandie; Contin. Will. Jumièges, in Duchesne, Hist. Norm. Scriptt.), Hen. Huntingdon, l. viii (ed. Arnold, Rolls Ser.), the Gesta Stephani (ed. Howlett, in Chronicles of Stephen, &c., vol. iii.), and the last pages of the English Chronicle (ed. Thorpe). From his coronation to the close of his struggle with the church information has to be extracted from the letters of Gilbert Foliot and John of Salisbury (ed. Giles, Patres Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ) and the vast store of Materials for Hist. of Archbishop Becket (ed. Robertson and Sheppard), supplemented by Ralph de Diceto and Gervase of Canterbury (ed. Stubbs). From 1169 onwards our primary authorities are the Gesta Henrici (wrongly ascribed to Benedict of Peterborough) and Roger of Howden (ed. Stubbs), while R. Diceto is of increased importance. Henry's dealings with Ireland are recorded in Gerald de Barri's Expugnatio Hiberniæ (Gir. Cambr. Opera, vol. v. ed. Dimock), and in an Anglo-Norman poem (ed. F. Michel); his dealings with Wales, in Gerald's Itin. Kambriæ (Opera, vol. vi. ed. Dimock), and in the Annales Cambriæ and Brut y Tywysogion (ed. Williams ab Ithel). The Scottish war of 1173–4 has its special chronicler in Jordan Fantosme (ed. Michel, Surtees Soc., and Howlett, Chron. of Stephen, &c., vol. iii.). William of Newburgh (ed. Hamilton, Engl. Hist. Soc., and Howlett, as above, vol. i.) is a valuable contributor to the history of the whole reign. The Draco Normannicus (ed. Howlett, as above, vol. ii.) is more curious than really useful. For Henry's continental policy and wars we have, besides Robert of Torigni's Chronicle, the assistance of an Aquitanian writer, Geoffrey of Vigeois (Labbe, Nova Bibliotheca MSS. Libr., vol. ii.), and two French ones, Rigord and William of Armorica (Duchesne, Hist. Franc. Scriptt., vol. v.). From these two last, and Gerald's De Instructione Principum (Anglia Christiana Soc.), the story of the king's last days has been worked out in detail by Bishop Stubbs in his preface to Rog. Howden, vol. ii. Henry's person and character are described by Gerald (De Instr. Princ.), W. Map (De Nugis Curialium, ed. Wright, Camden Soc.), Ralph Niger (ed. Anstruther, Caxton Soc.), and Peter of Blois (Epistolæ, ed. Giles). His buildings &c. may be traced in Dugdale's Monasticon, Sainte-Marthe's Gallia Christiana, Stapleton's introduction to the Norman Exchequer Rolls (Soc. Antiqu.), the Chroniques d'Anjou, edited by Marchegay and Salmon (Société de l'Histoire de France), the Cartulaire de l'Hôpital St. Jean d'Angers (ed. C. Port), the Revue de l'Anjou, vol. xii. (1874), and the essay on the Home of our Angevin Kings in Green's Stray Studies. The Tractatus de Legibus Angliæ, which passes under R. Glanville's name, throws light on the king's legal reforms; the Pipe Rolls 1–4 Hen. II (ed. Hunter) have been published by the Record Commission, those of 5–12 Hen. II by the Pipe Roll Soc.; other documents for the history of his government are to be found in Bishop Stubbs's Select Charters, as well as in Gesta Hen., Rog. Howden, Rymer's Fœdera, vol. i., the Liber Niger Scaccarii (ed. Hearne), and the appendices to Lord Lyttelton's Hist. of Hen. II. Lyttelton's own work is, in the words of a more modern authority, ‘a full and sober account of the time.’ An elaborate Itinerary of Henry II has been compiled by the Rev. R. W. Eyton. Dr. Stubbs has dealt with the constitutional side of the reign in Constit. Hist., chapters xii. xiii., and preface to Gesta Hen., vol. ii.; and with its more general aspects in Early Plantagenets, cc. ii–v., and preface to Rog. Howden, vol. ii. J. R. Green's Hist. of the English People, bk. ii. ch. iii., Short History, ch. ii. secs. 7, 8, and Stray Studies, pp. 361–381, are studies of Henry's character and career designed to form part of the groundwork for a history of the Angevin kings. Henry's claims to a place among English statesmen have also been vindicated in a monograph by Mrs. Green. A general account of the reign appears in England under the Angevin Kings, by the writer of this article.]