Henry II

Henry IIHenry II (1154-1189) was the son of Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou. He succeeded his cousin Stephen, bringing an end to the civil war that had been ravaging the country for 19 years.

Henry set to work to restore royal authority by destroying private castles that had been built by nobles during the war. He also introduced a new set of laws that form the basis of the English Common Law used today, established new law courts and introduced trial by jury.

Henry's reign is marred by the murder of Thomas Becket. Having argued with his friend Becket, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry is believed to have shouted "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest!" Four knights hearing him rode to Canterbury and murdered Becket in the Cathedral. Henry claimed he had not meant it and walked to Canterbury barefoot in a sack and let himself be flogged as penance.

Henry II was a remarkably successful king in many ways. By the end of his reign he controlled more land in France than the King of France did! However, the later years of his reign were marked by family rifts when he became estranged from his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Supported by their mother, his sons rebelled in anger at how Henry II planned to divide up his vast territories between them.

Succeeded by:

Richard I
Richard I

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