Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Henry II: New Interpretations

Henry II: New Interpretations

Christopher Harper-Bill
Nicholas Vincent
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 422
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Henry II: New Interpretations
    Book Description:

    Henry II is the most imposing figure among the medieval kings of England. His fiefs and domains extended from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and his court was frequented by the greatest thinkers and men of letters of his time, besides ambassadors from all over Europe. Yet his is a reign of paradoxes: best known for his dramatic conflicts with his own wife and sons and with Thomas Becket, it was also a crucial period in the evolution of legal and governmental institutions. Here experts in the field provide significant reevaluations of its most important aspects. Topics include Henry's accession and his relations with the papacy, the French king, other rulers in the British Isles and the Norman baronage; the development of the common law and the coinage; the court and its literary milieu; the use of Arthurian legend for political purposes; and the career of the Young King Henry, while the introduction examines the historiography of the reign. CONTRIBUTORS: MARTIN ALLEN, MARTIN AURELL, NICK BARRATT, PAUL BRAND, SEAN DUFFY, ANNE DUGGAN, JEAN DUBABIN, JOHN GILLINGHAM, EDMUND KING, DANIEL POWER, IAN SHORT, MATTHEW STRICKLAND. CHRISTOPHER HARPER-BILL and NICHOLAS VINCENT are Professors of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-553-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editors’ Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  6. Introduction: Henry II and the Historians
    (pp. 1-23)
    Nicholas Vincent

    Some eight hundred and fifty years ago, a red-haired and fiercely energetic young man succeeded to the throne of England as King Henry II. Descended on his mother’s side from the Norman kings who had ruled England since 1066, and on his father’s from the Plantagenet dynasty that had held sway over Angers and the Loire valley from at least the tenth century, Henry II was vastly to extend this ancestral inheritance. By his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, he had already acquired dominion over the whole of south-western France, stretching from the Loire down to the Pyrenees. Through a...

  7. The Accession of Henry II
    (pp. 24-46)
    Edmund King

    Henry, duke of Normandy, arrived in England within the octave of the Epiphany 1153, and came to church to pray the mass ‘after the manner of military men’. The clerk intoned the introit, ‘Ecce advenit dominator Dominus: et regnum in manu eius, et potestas, et imperium (See he comes, our Lord and Ruler, armed with royal power and dominion.)’, and again: ‘Grant to the king, O God, your own skill in judgement; to the inheritor of a throne, may he be just, as you are just.’¹ Within the octave of the Epiphany a year later, ‘King Stephen and his new...

  8. Henry II and Louis VII
    (pp. 47-62)
    Jean Dunbabin

    Perhaps historians of the present generation are unusually well qualified to understand the atmosphere which prevailed in western Europe during the period 1151 to 1189, because, although there are obvious differences of scale, the analogies with the mature Cold War era are quite strong. In the first place, there was a long period of tension between two rival powers, occasionally exploding into conflict on one frontier or another. Then there were endless negotiations to try to defuse the tensions, initiated sometimes by one of the parties to the conflict, sometimes by apprehensive onlookers attempting to divert the protagonists’ attention to...

  9. Doing Homage to the King of France
    (pp. 63-84)
    John Gillingham

    More than a hundred years ago, Ferdinand Lot drew attention to what he called the strange spectacle of Henry II doing homage to Louis VII in 1156: ‘de voir le plus puissant souverain de l’Europe faire hommage de ses possessions continentals au roitelet de Paris’. It was, he felt, difficult to see the reasons for Henry’s condescension.¹ This is all the more curious because we have it on the authority of one of the king’s own clerks that Henry II thought it inappropriate for a king to do homage. The announcement of the agreement made on 30 September 1174 between...

  10. Henry, Duke of the Normans (1149/50–1189)
    (pp. 85-128)
    Daniel Power

    Historians of the ‘Anglo-Norman realm’ might be forgiven for not recognising the Angevin conquest of Normandy from this passage of the Historia gloriosi regis Ludovici, for the more familiar Anglo-Norman sources depict the Capetian kings as relatively minor players in the great crises of the Anglo-Norman realm that followed the death of Henry I. What the quoted passage does show is the centrality of Normandy to Henry’s political career from its inception. The province gave Henry his first title and landed base; it was the geographical and (to some extent, at least) the political fulcrum of his territories;but it was...

  11. Henry II and England’s Insular Neighbours
    (pp. 129-153)
    Seán Duffy

    In the inimitable words of the inimitable John Gillingham, ‘No view of Henry II in the first half of his reign is more misleading than one which sees him as a peace-loving, stay-at-home king.’¹ As an unapologetic devotee of chronicles and related genre, Professor Gillingham was no doubt persuaded to such a view by prolonged exposure to the observations of men like Gerald of Wales. It was, after all, Gerald’s belief that power such as that attained by Henry II had never previously been wielded by any king of England, not since the Norman Conquest, not even since the Anglo-Saxon...

  12. Henry II, the English Church and the Papacy, 1154–76
    (pp. 154-183)
    Anne J. Duggan

    The preponderant historical opinion of Henry II’s relations with the English Church and with the papacy is easily summarised as reasonably amicable, apart from the Becket crisis, which represented an aberration from the broad accommodation that characterised the relationship between the regnum and the sacerdotium. Based very largely on the highly tendentious arguments advanced by Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, in his open letter to Becket, Multiplicem nobis of September 1166, the general historical consensus is that it was Thomas Becket who destroyed the harmony of the English kingdom by his arrogance and lack of moderation.¹ Gilbert had painted a...

  13. On the Instruction of a Prince: The Upbringing of Henry, the Young King
    (pp. 184-214)
    Matthew Strickland

    Few figures played such a central role in the world of Henry II as his son Henry, the Young King. From the death of his older brother William on 2 December 1156,¹ he was Henry II’s principal heir, the object of his father’s deep affection and the linchpin of his dynastic schemes. The only post-Conquest English king to be crowned in the lifetime of his father, young Henry’s coronation in 1170 precipitated the final stages of the Becket crisis and led, though perhaps by no means inevitably, to the most acute crisis of Henry II’s reign, the great war of...

  14. Henry II and the Creation of the English Common Law
    (pp. 215-241)
    Paul Brand

    The reign of Henry II has long been regarded, and rightly, as a period of major importance in the history of English law. For most legal historians it is the period when it first becomes possible to recognise the existence of an English ‘Common Law’: both a set of national legal institutions bringing law and justice to the whole of England, and a body of legal rules applicable over the whole or almost the whole of England. The clearest overall view of this newly emergent English ‘Common Law’ is to be found in the pages of the legal treatise known...

  15. Finance and the Economy in the Reign of Henry II
    (pp. 242-256)
    Nick Barratt

    Presenting an assessment of the finances of Henry II, linked to an examination of the English economy during his reign, would normally necessitate the construction of a series of comprehensive data tables for all component parts of royal revenue, in a similar manner to the ones I prepared for the reigns of his sons, Richard I and John.¹ This work has shed new light on many of the controversial aspects of the period that encapsulated the loss of Normandy and the formulation of Magna Carta, and included the rapid inflation that gripped the English economy. In many ways, there was...

  16. Henry II and the English Coinage
    (pp. 257-277)
    Martin Allen

    Henry II reformed the English coinage twice, in 1158 and 1180, reorganising the mints and ordering a comprehensive replacement of the silver coins in circulation on both occasions. By the end of Henry II’s reign in 1189, the number of mints in England had been severely reduced. Centralised mints replaced the dispersed small workshops of individual moneyers, which had been a normal feature of the English urban landscape since the late Anglo-Saxon period. In 1180, the moneyers lost their customary role in the administration of the profits of the coinage, and the mints now had separate exchanges, where a new...

  17. The Court of Henry II
    (pp. 278-334)
    Nicholas Vincent

    The court of King Henry II must rank as one of the least neglected institutions in history, viewed since the time of Walter Map as the very archetype of what a medieval princely court both should and should not be. Scholarly interest here merely reflects twelfth-century perceptions, since Henry’s court is unique not only for the attention that it has attracted from nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians but for the breadth and richness of the contemporary reports it inspired from Walter Map, Gerald of Wales, John of Salisbury, Richard fitz Nigel, Roger of Howden, Peter of Blois and Stephen de Fougères,...

  18. Literary Culture at the Court of Henry II
    (pp. 335-361)
    Ian Short

    Investing physical phenomena with meaning was second nature to a twelfth-century monastic chronicler such as William of Malmesbury. An eclipse of the sun, for example, he would embrace, in common with many of his contemporaries, as a heaven-sent pretext for establishing a causal connection between the cosmic and the mundane. Trained to recognise the ubiquity of the divine, and zealous in decoding its signs, he contrives to adorn his narrative of Henry I’s departure from England in August 1133 with earth-shattering presages of the king’s death in Normandy — an event that was actually to take place (after an incautious meal...

  19. Henry II and Arthurian Legend
    (pp. 362-394)
    Martin Aurell

    Arthurian legend first makes its mark towards the end of the twelfth century, as one of the most fertile, innovative and popular genres in all of Western literature. For several decades now, a number of medievalists have directly linked this new fashion in Arthurian literature to the patronage of Henry II. In their view, the king, his wife and their children were the guiding lights behind a group of literate courtiers who developed and disseminated the matière de Bretagne. These clerks are assumed to have been working as propagandists for Henry II, who, thanks to this additional source of prestige,...

  20. Index
    (pp. 395-404)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 405-405)