Tag Archives: Lous VII

Henry II, from Civil War to Empire.

So I have had a little block recently, and some real life events have put me on hold.  February has been a bit of a wash out for the blog but hopefully things will begin to get a little bit better and I can continue on with my quest.

Henry II is the next King on my list of Plantagenet’s and I suppose this is maybe not helped me, the question is with Henry II where to start?

It looks like even before he became King he led a busy life.  Securing lands in France, helping his mother against Stephen and securing the crown of England for himself.  So to begin with I have decided to take this piece from the Treaties of Wallingford and Winchester where he finally managed to succeed in securing his succession to the throne of England.

Henry was now the adopted son of Stephen who accepted him as his rightful successor to the throne.  Stephen promised to listen to Henry but retained all his Royal powers and castles.  William, Stephen’s ‘other’ son would do homage to Henry renouncing his claim to the throne for promises that his lands were safe.  The agreement was sealed with a kiss of peace at Winchester Cathedral.  Although following the agreement peace remained precarious and after rumours of a plot to assassinate Henry he returned to Normandy.

Stephen fell ill of a stomach disorder and died on 25th October 1154.  Once news reached Henry he returned to England to take oaths of loyalty from some of the barons.  He was crowned at Westminster alongside Eleanor on the 19th December 1154.  During the civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’ much of England had suffered some form of destructive action.   Henry upon receiving the crown set to trying to establish normality.  The king’s income had declined dramatically and the royal control over the mints remained limited.

Henry II

Henry presented himself as the legitimate heir to Henry I his grandfather through his mother Empress Matilda.  He tried to begin by rebuilding the kingdom in his grandfather’s image.  Although the majority of this work had to be carried out at a distance as he spent six and a half of the first eight years of his rule in France.  Despite this work was carried out to demolish unauthorised castles that had sprung up during the civil war.  Efforts were made to restore the royal justice system and royal finances and Henry invested heavily on the construction and renovation of new royal buildings.

Now King of England Henry’s troubles did not end there.  Throughout the 1150’s Henry was continually at conflict with different Kings, Counts, Dukes and overlords from different areas of France and the British Isles.  In 1157 Henry through continuing pressure managed to make a young Scots King Malcolm to return the lands in the north of England that had been taken during the Anarchy.  Welsh princes were a little harder to subdue.  Henry had to fight two different campaigns one in the north and one in the south of Wales.  In 1157 and 1158 both Owain Gwynedd and Rhys ap Gruffydd submitted to Henry’s rule returning to pre-civil war borders.

Henry continued to have problems with Louis VII of France throughout the 1150’s that led to the disputes drawing in other powers from the region.  Henry also had the greater resources at the time after his succession in England.  Theirry the Count of Flanders signed a military alliance with Henry albeit with a clause that stopped him being forced to fight against Louis.  Theobald V, Count of Blois also became allied with Henry.  On returning to France from England Henry looked to squash any possible rebellion with the French Lords.  As a result the peace treaty of 1154 between Henry and Louis was signed.  Clauses of the peace treaty stated that Henry bought back Vermon and Neuf-Marche from Louis.  The treaty was shaky and tensions remained high as Henry hadn’t paid homage to Louis for the Dukedoms in France.  In an attempt to improve the situation Henry met Louis at Paris and Mont-Saint-Michel in 1158.  They agreed to betroth Henry’s eldest son the ‘Young Henry’ to Louis daughter Margaret.  Part of the marriage arrangement was that Louis would betroth the disputed territory of Vexin to Margaret upon the marriage.  Although this ultimately gave the lands to the Henrys it also implied that Vexin was Louis to give away in the first place.

Henry also had turned his attention to the Duchy of Brittany.   The Breton dukes held little power across the duchy and most of the power was with local lords.  In 1148 Conan III died, leaving a power vacuum which lead to civil war.  Henry claimed himself overlord of Brittany on the basis that the duchy had previously owed loyalty to Henry I.  Henry ruled Brittany through proxies and backed the claim of Conan IV’s claim to the majority of the area because of Conan’s strong English ties.  Conan’s uncle Hoel continued to rule in the county of Nantes until he was deposed by Henry’s brother Geoffrey in 1156.  Geoffrey then died in 1158 and Conan annexed Nantes into the control of the overall duchy.  Louis made no moves to stop Henry’s power within Brittany from growing.

Henry hoped to make a similar move for control of Toulouse in southern France.  Toulouse was part of the Duchy of Aquitaine but had become increasingly independent and was ruled by Count Raymond V.  Encouraged by Eleanor, Henry allied himself with Raymond’s enemy Raymond Berenguer of Barcelona.  In 1159 Henry threatened to invade himself to dispose of Raymond.  Henry did invade Toulouse but found Louis visiting Raymond who was married to Louis sister Constance.  Not willing to attach whilst Louis was in attendance in case it looked like a move against Louis himself Henry backed off.  Henry then ravaged the surrounding county, seizing castles and taking the province of Quercy.  Toulouse would be a long running dispute between Henry and Louis and the chronicler William of Newburgh called it ‘the forty year war’.

Henry and Eleanor holding court.

Henry and Eleanor holding court.

After Toulouse Louis tried to repair relations with Henry and in 1160 a further peace treaty was signed that stated that Henry was promised the lands of his grandfather Henry I.  It also reaffirmed the betrothal of Margaret and Young Henry, with the Young Henry giving homage to Louis for his lands in France and reinforcing his position as heir to Louis through the marriage.  Louis thou quickly moved his position after the death of his wife Constance.  Louis married Adele the sister of the Count of Blois and Champagne.  Louis then betrothed his two daughters Marie and Alix to Theobold of Blois’ sons.  Henry was not happy.  He had custody of Margaret at the time and managed to persuade Papal legates into marrying the two children although they were only five and three.  He then seized Vexin to conclude the previous promised marriage arrangement.  This then made Louis unhappy and he declared the treaty from 1160 broken in spirit by Henry’s actions.

This lead to increased tensions in the area and Theobald mobilised his forces along the border of Touraine.  Henry then attached Chaumont in Blois in a surprise attack taking the castle.  In 1161 it seemed likely that war would ravage across the region, but a fresh peace was negotiated in Freteval and a second agreement in 1162 that was overseen by Pope Alexander III.

Henry now controlled more of France than any man had since the days of the Carolingians.  These lands with his possession’s in England, Wales, Scotland and most of Ireland was vast and referred by historians as the Angevin empire.  His mother now in her early sixties I am sure would have been very proud and happy with how he had grown his lands and established his empire.  He ruled in England for another 27 years after the agreement overseen by Pope Alexander III and the as the early part of his life and reign this time was also never quiet with lots of significant events but we will pick these up later.  As I mentioned at the beginning with Henry it was always a question of where to start as so much happened within his life, but it must be said the Empire he grew surely rivalled anything previously seen in Western Europe.  The Plantagenet’s were truly now on the map.