Saturday, 13 September 2014

Henry the Young King Takes Centre Stage II

Some time ago I wrote about a new biography of Henry the Young King by Professor Matthew Strickland which is to be ""the first full length study for a century of the eldest son and principal heir of Henry II". For further details check here. Today I have some exciting news to report as well: yesterday saw the publication of the long-awaited second part of Ms Elizabeth Chadwick's Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy, The Winter Crown. To my utter delight, Henry [the future Young King] gets a mention already in the first sentence of the novel. He attends his parents' coronation, giving his mother a vigorous kick in her womb as the Archbishop of Canterbury places the crown on her head!!! He is but seven months old and leads a very eventful prenatal life, it seems :-) For example, he can boast about, no more no less, but crossing the Narrow Sea in the royal boat esnecca (we can read about it in the first part of the trilogy, The Summer Queen). Anyway, in the first chapter of The Winter Crown Henry is given a mention five times in total, but see for yourself. You can read the whole chapter here

Hurrah for Henry the Young King!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Two September Deaths

10 September 1167 saw the passing of one of the most important figures of the 12th century, Henry the Young King's paternal grandmother, Empress Matilda (b.1102). Matilda died at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Prés, near Rouen and was buried at the Abbaye du Bec, the religious house she had cherished throughout her life. The monks, following their benefactress’s wish, interred her body before the altar of the Virgin Mary. According to Stephen (known as Stephen of Rouen- Fr. Etienne de Rouen), one of the monks, when she died the flower of the meadow (Fr.le pré) withered and a star fell. It was the first time when Empress Matilda was compared to a flower. Usually she was described in different terms, such as ‘haughty, hard, inflexible and lacking feminine qualities’. She is still best remembered for pitching England into a disastrous civil war while trying to win back what she considered her rightful inheritance. And she might have won, had she only not alienated those whom she ought to have treated with due respect. Her chief allies, David I, king of Scotland (her maternal uncle) and Robert of Gloucester (her half-brother and the eldest of Henry I numerous illegitimate children) were influential backing in her war against Stephen, but proved not enough to overcome the main obstacle, Matilda’s own personality. Instead of trying to win as much support as possible, the Empress showed the same lack of political acumen as her enemy and cousin, king Stephen. After ‘God’s judgment was passed on’ Stephen and he was captured at the battle of Lincoln, ‘the Empress was regarded as their lady by all the English except in Kent, where the queen and William of Ypres fought against her with all their might. She was first recognized by the bishop of Winchester, the papal legate [and Stephen’s brother], and soon after by the Londoners. But she was puffed up with intolerable pride because her followers had been so successful in the uncertainties of war, and she alienated everyone from her. So, 'whether by conspiracy or by divine providence (for whatever men do is by the will of God) she was expelled from London’. She had levied a heavy tax from the citizens (who showed enough eagerness to support her cause) and offended nobles who could have provided arms, ipso facto turning their loyalty and willingness to cooperate into resistance. Still it is hard not to admire her iron will and determination. She was an exceptional and powerful woman in an age dominated by men. Tough and ambitious, she never deviated from her political aims. In the end, it was she who won and lived to see her beloved eldest son, Henry crowned king of England. Her epitaph in the Rouen Cathedral (to which her remains were moved from Bec) reads, “Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring, here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife and mother of Henry”.
                    15th-century depiction of the Empress (source: Wikipedia)

The epitaph does not mention the Empress's second husband*, the founder of the Plantagenet dynastywho was an exceptional man in his own right** and whom she outlived for sixteen years. Geoffrey of Anjou, for he was the man, died on 7 September 1151. This is how John of Marmoutier, Geoffrey's first biographer, described his sudden death at the Chateau-du-Loir, in the Pays de la Loire region of France: ‘… on 7 September 1151, the victorious duke of the Normans, of the people of Anjou, Touraine and Maine, returning from a royal council [held in Paris by Louis VII of France], having been taken seriously ill with a fever [after he went to swim on a hot day] … collapsed on his couch. Then, looking into the future of his land and his people with the spirit of prophecy, he forbade Henry his heir to introduce the customs of Normandy or England into his own county, nor the reverse, as it might be, according to the succession of changing fortune’. Geoffrey was only thirty-eight at the time and did not live long enough to see his eldest son, Henry crowned king of England. He was buried in the church of St Julien at Le Mans ‘in a most noble tomb which the righteous bishop, William of pious fame, had built fittingly. Such a venerable likeness of the count was fashioned there, suitably ornamented with gold and precious stones, that it seemed to express their doom for the proud and grace to the humble. At the altar of the crucifix, at which the dead man lay, a chaplain was appointed by the bishop with a stipend in perpetuity, who each day offered the sacrifice to God for the count’s sake…’

Blessed with good looks Geoffrey was called ‘le Bel’, a nickname he won due to being ‘tall in stature, handsome and red-headed’. He had other praiseworthy qualities as well: ‘unusually skilled at warfare… energetic soldier, shrewd in his upright dealings, exceptionally well educated, generous to all’. John of Marmoutier claimed that the count ‘differed in no respect from the most excellent princes of his time and was loved by all, although he endured much trouble from his own men’. Good-looking or not, Geoffrey failed to impress his imperial bride. She remained cold and aloof throughout the twenty-three years of their marriage. She never ceased to despise him as her social inferior. Their marriage was described as tempestuous. They disliked each other from the start. On the other hand, they both proved to be tough and ambitious, as well as shrewd politicians. They fulfilled their duty and produced the children necessary to guarantee the continuation of their lines***. When she was fighting with Stephen over her inheritance in England, he made himself busily occupied in Normandy, the conquest of which he completed in 1144, after taking Rouen and being invested as duke. One year later, the last of Stephen’s strongholds, Arques, fell to him. In 1149 Geoffrey had turned over the duchy to his eldest son Henry. Perhaps John of Marmoutier gave us a clue, a key to Geoffrey’s success, when he wrote that ‘being intelligent and of strong character, he [Geoffrey] did not allow himself to be corrupted by excess or sloth in early adulthood, but spent his time riding around the country and performing illustrious feats, but saying little about himself as he did so’. I daresay that in that love of illustrious feats, Henry the Young King must have resembled his grandfather. A pity they had never been given a chance to meet. Unless the posthumous meetings do count, of course. I have Henry the Young King’s speedy and utterly unplanned burial at St Julien in mind, where his body was  interred next to his grandfather’s resting place for a short time in the course of the hot and humid summer of 1183.

Enamel effigy of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou on his tomb at Le Mans (source: Wikipedia)

Note: Both Matilda nad Geoffrey are important characters in Ms Elizabeth Chadwick's novel, Lady of the English and in Ms Sharon Kay Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept.

* Geoffrey was Matilda's second husband. In 1114 she had been married to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. Upon the latter's death eleven years later Matilda returned to England. She never ceased to use the imperial title, styling herself as "the Empress".

** At this point I would like to recommend a brilliant post on Geoffrey by Ms Elizabeth Chadwick. Find out how exceptional man he really was. Pity he is usually in the shadow, neglected by historians, whereas his formidable spouse takes centre stage ;-)

*** Geoffrey and Matilda had three sons: Henry (later Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou, Maine and Touraine, King of England) in 1133, Geoffrey (future count of Nantes) in 1134, and William, count of Poitou in 1136.


History of Duke Geoffrey by John of Marmoutier in The Plantagenet Chronicles edited by Dr. Elizabeth Hallam. Greenwich Editions, 2002.
The History of the English by Henry of Huntigdon in the Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Elizabeth Hallam. Greenwich Editions, 2002.
'The Empress Matilda and Bec-Hellouin' by Marjorie Chibnall in Anglo-Norman Studies X ed. by R.Allen Brown, Google Books.
Henry II by W. L. Warren. Eyre Methuen, 1977.
The Angevin Empire by John Gillingham. Edward Arnold, 1984.
Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy by Kenneth J. Panton. Google Books.
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly. Vintage Books, 1950.

Monday, 8 September 2014

8 September 1157: Birth of King Richard I

Happy Birthday to HM Richard I, the younger brother of HM Henry the Young King, who was born on this day in 1157 as the third son (second surviving) of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) and Henry II of England (1133-1189). He was four years younger than his brother William (b. 17 August 1153- d. spring of 1156), two years younger than his brother Henry (b. 28 February 1155), and one year younger than his sister Matilda (b. June 1156). He was the elder brother to Geoffrey (b. 23 September 1158), Eleanor (b. September 1161), Joanna (b. September 1165) and John (b. December 1166). From the day of his arrival he was destined to rule his mother's duchy, Aquitaine. I wonder whether it had ever occured to Richard to say (if only mentally) "Thank you!" to his brother Henry. After all he owed him, no more no less, but the throne of England itself (plus Normandy, Anjou, Maine, etc.) That might have been not possible had the Young King not died suddenly, prematurely and quite conveniently in 1183. For there was only one obstacle on Richard's path to becoming a legend, and it was his elder brother Henry. As Professor Matthew Strickland observed, and I cannot agree more, "had it been Richard who died in 1183, he would have left a reputation as a harsh, even tyrannical ruler, as much as that of a fine warrior" (The Upbrining of Henry the Young King. p.187). The author said this in the context of Henry's death in 1183 and the universal outpour of grief it caused, but I would go even further claiming that without Henry's death Richard would have never become the Lionheart of the legend. He would have gone to the Holy Land and won his name there, that I am quite certain of, but still I will hold on to the notion that it was the royal crown that turned out to be the crucial element of his success and fame (both in his lifetime and posthumously). 

Modern historians have discussed at length differences between the two brothers, Richard and Henry, praising the former's virtues and pointing out the latter's shortcomings. It seems that they have formed their judgement on what can be read in the works of Gerald of Wales, who gave us a glimpse of the two princes. Usually Gerald was at his malicious best when writing about Henry II and his family, never ceasing to nurse a personal grudge against them, but I get the impression that in his evalution of Henry and Richard he came very close to, what can be called, objectivity. 

Different as were the habits and pursuits of the two brothers, sprung from the same stock and the same root, each has merited everlasting glory and endless fame. They were both tall in stature, rather above the middle size, and of commanding aspect. In courage and magnanimity they were nearly equal; but in the character of their virtues there v as a great disparity. One was admirable for gentleness and liberality, the other distinguished himself by his severity and firmness. The one had a commendable suavity, the other gravity. One was commended for his easy temper, the other for his determined spirit. One was remarkable for his clemency, the other for his justice. The vile and undeserving found their refuge in the one, their punishment from the other. One was the shield of bad men, the other the hammer to crush them. The one was bent on martial sports, the other on serious conflicts. The one bestowed his favours on foreigners, the other on his own people; the one on all the world, the other on the worthy only. The one's ambition magnanimously compassed the world; the other coveted, to good purpose, what was rightfully his own. 
But why should I dwell on such details? Neither the present age, nor any former times, have seen two princes born of the same king, so noble, and yet so different. Yet the germs of their great and various virtues, and of far greater still, if it were possible, might all be derived, different as they were, in rich abundance, from their illustrious stock. Whatever good qualities you find in either of them, you know v ere transfused from the root into the branches. For who was ever more merciful to the meek, or more cruel to the fierce, than their right noble father?" (On Henry II and His Sons, from The Topography of Ireland, Chapters 49-50)

Unfortunately, modern historians have apparently decided to go a little bit further and misinterpret Gerald's words. The outcome? Let me just say that when compared to Richard, poor Henry does not stand a chance. For what the poor thing could say in the face of this (just random quote from Frank McLynn's Richard and John: Kings at War):

"A hedonist and wastrel, permanently in debt, he was prodigal, improvident, insouciant and foolish; the notion of paying his way was unknown to him. Henry [the father] had tried to train him in court politics and administration, especially after the first coronation in 1170, but the young man proved an unwilling apprentice, lazy, incompetent and empty-headed. as with most charismatic figures, he was given the benefir of the doubt, and sagacious observers, bedazzled by his charm and magnetism, put their intellectual faculties on hold and indulged in a primitive form of a sun worship." 

No comment today, but my next post is on the way :-) Thank you Mr. McLynn for the inspiration.

But back to Richard. Taking this opportunity I would like to recommend a few blog posts about him, discussing his eventful life, unnecessary death and posthumous career as a character of many novels. Here they are:

My Coronation Post here.
Death Post by Mr. Richard Willis here.
The reviews of Ms. Sharon Kay Penman's Richard-centred novels here and here.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

3 September 1189: Coronation of Richard I

Today marks the anniversary of the coronation of Henry the Young King's younger brother Richard on 3 September 1189. When Richard was born on 8 September 1157 he was second in line to succession after his brother Henry (b. 28 February 1157) and this did not change until the latter's untimely death in 1183. Then Richard's prospects of becoming king of England, duke of Normandy and count of Anjou boosted. One may think that Richard became his father's heir immediately upon Henry the Young King's death. Far from that. As John Gillingham has pointed out, Richard's inability to quell the 1183 revolt by effectively defeating his brothers could have been the reason for his father's stubborn refusals to recognize him as his heir. Also, there might have been more to this: Henry II probably feared that Richard would follow in his elder brother's footsteps and try to supplant him, as the Young King had tried to do in 1173 (see the Great Revolt of 1173-74). I wrote about Richard's rocky road to becoming his father's rightful heir in my previous post about his brother Geoffrey's death, and about Richard's coronation itself here

Sunday, 31 August 2014

August 1186: Death of Geoffrey of Brittany

Geoffrey, the younger brother of Henry the Young King, was the third surviving son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. Born in 1158, he succeeded to the Duchy of Brittany upon his marriage to Constance, the daughter and heiress of Duke Conan IV, in 1181. He supported his elder brother Henry in both 1173 and 1183 rebellions against their father, and, in case of the second one, against their brother Richard.

Geoffrey has always been "neglected” by historians, perhaps because he was the only son of Eleanor and Henry who never wore a crown. "Duke among kings”, as he could be called. At present I'm working on his biographical note which should appear on 23 September, being his birthday. Today, however, I would like to focus solely on the events surrounding Geoffrey's untimely death and the depiction of this sad event as described by the contemporary chroniclers*.

The popular version holds it that in August 1186 Geoffrey went to Paris to plot with Philippe Auguste against his father and Richard, and when already there he was killed in a tournament**. As simple as that. It was also said that Philippe was so grief-stricken that he had to be restrained from following Geoffrey into the grave. The latter was buried with great honour in the cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris ***. Whether Philippe's grief was genuine or not, he had a good political reason for regretting the duke's premature passing. Without Geoffrey and the resources he could draw on, the French king was too weak to chalenge the Angevin dominance and venture into Henry II's territory**** 

Why did Geoffrey decide to enter into alliance with Philip Augustus in 1186? After all his life's goals and ambitions had been fulfilled: he ruled independantly as a duke of Brittany, including the county of Nantes (since 1185), and as earl of Richmond (from Michaelmas 1183). To get the answer we are looking for we need to go back in time to the events preceeding and following his elder brother Henry the Young King's death in 1183. When Geoffrey had decided to ally himself with Henry against Richard he was third in line to succession, so without prospects of advancement other than by the favour of the Young King when the latter became independent ruler. Young Henry, as the History of William Marshal tells us, placed great trust in Geoffrey and relied on his judgement, which might mean that during Henry III's reign (:-)) Geoffrey might have become influential voice behind the throne or even unofficial co-ruler. Unfortunately, all those plans came to naught when Henry died suddenly in June 1183, leaving his younger brother with no other prospects but to pledge allegiance to their father, the king, which Geoffrey dutifully did in late June or early July at Angers. To show loyalty to his father he allied himself with the youngest brother John against Richard. John had been told by their father that Aquitaine was his for taking. Richard was in extreme disfavour at the time due to his refusal to give his duchy over to John, which Henry II had demanded of him at Michealmas 1183. Geoffrey, to the contrary, was in high favour, which may explain his position as 'custos' of Normandy in late 1184. With Richard estranged from their father Geoffrey had a good reason to believe that he was only one step away from being acknowledged as future duke of Normandy. Did he not prove himself an effective administrator and military leader? Was he not the only one of Henry II's sons to have produced legitimate offspring?***** Additionaly, according to William of Newburgh, Geoffrey cherished hopes that his father would give him the county of Anjou. In the first half of 1185, however, it became obvious that he would get neither Normandy nor Anjou, for his father reconsidered the possibility of disinheriting Richard and the two came to terms. In return for being recognised as heir to England, Normandy and Anjou, Richard surrendered Aquitaine to his mother, which was confirmed in March 1186. Richard was now the undisputable heir to their father's lands. With little prospect of advancement by his father Geoffrey turned to the French king, Philippe Auguste. Here is how Dr. Judith Everard explains Geoffrey's motives: what had been generous provision for the infant third son must have seemed meagre for the second in line of succession to Henry II, and in 1186 Geoffrey was second in line.  

Geoffrey must have known Philippe well. Technically his allegiance to the king of France was simply a continuation of a feudal bond which dated back to Phlippe's coronation on All Saints' Day 1179, when Geoffrey is said to have paid homage for Brittany. Furthermore, in 1181, together with his brothers, Henry and Richard, Goeffrey came to Philippe's aid, offering his support against Philip of Flanders (Diceto). The details of Geoffrey's visit to Paris in 1186 remain unknown, and little wonder, all that was said and done was a part of conspiracy after all****** As we know, the scheme failed when Geoffrey died suddenly at Philippe's court. 

There were numerous versions of Geoffrey's death circulating at the time, all agreeing that he died at Paris in August 1186. The Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi gives more detailed account. It says that Geoffrey was unhorsed and trumpled to death while participating in a tournament ******* The author adds that Geoffrey had sought the King of France to enter the alliance with him and boasted that he would lay Normandy waste. Strangely enough after saying this Geoffrey was seized by "acute abdominal pain" (Brittany and the Angevins, p.142). As Dr. Everard points out, there must have been two different sources of information the chronicler had access to, which suggests that the rumours of Geoffrey's illness had already been circulating at his father's court when the messanger bore the news about his death. Thus we get two contradictory pieces of information in one account. Dr. Everard suggests the following sequence of events: Geoffrey was at Paris, where he bacame ill, but recovered and felt well enough to take part in a tournament, in which he met his end. The author finds it all highly improbable. That is why she introduces two possible explanations for the tournament story: either it was the chronicler's pure invention, a device he chose to moralise on how Geoffrey, that "son of perdition" and "son of iniquity" was punished (probably by the Almighty himself) by means of a sinful tournament- but then why spoilt the effect by including the account of Geoffrey's ilness, Dr. Everard wonders- or the chronicler simply recorded all the information which came to his knowledge. He used both, the tournament and the ilness, to condemn Geoffrey's trecherous actions. To explain the tournament version it can be assumed that tournament, a purely social occassion, might have been invented by Philippe to hide the truth about real reason for Geoffrey's visit to Paris from Henry II. Without Geoffrey's aid, Philippe was not ready to enter into armed conflict with Geoffrey's father and brother, that's why he did everything to cover up the plotting. His grief for the duke was rather a grief at the loss of a perfect opportunity to conquer the Angevin empire. Dr. Everard finds the illness version more probable, noting that incurable as it proved to be, it could not have affected Geoffrey the very moment he made his declaration of allegiance, of course :-) Note: Reminds me of the White Ship sinking described as a divine punishment for laughing down and mocking the clerks who arrived to bless William Atheling and his companions shortly before they embarked.

One thing we can be certain of: in the long run Geoffrey's untimely passing proved to be disastrous for his children. His son Arthur (b.1187), that golden boy, in whom all of Brittany saw the  incarnation of his namesake, the legendary king, was to disappear from the pages of history murdered probably on orders or by his uncle John himself. Geoffrey's daughter Eleanor was to spend her entire adult life in John's and later his son Henry III's custody. She was to live out her days in close confinement in Bristol Castle.

* At the time of his death Geoffrey was a month shy of his twenty-eighth birthday.

** Four different sources give 19 August as the day on which Geoffrey died (The Charters of Duchess Constance of Brittany)

*** A plaque commemorating Geoffrey can still be seen today, but it is very difficult to spot as I have learnt thanks to Mr. Malcolm Craig, the expert in Geoffrey and his family. Countess Marie of Champagne, Geoffrey's half-sister, dedicated an altar in Paris for him.

**** Sadly it seems that Philippe was more affected by Geoffrey's death than Henry II himself. The latter, as Gerald of Wales records, was grief-stricken, but mainly because Geoffrey's untimely passing reminded him of that of Henry the Young King (Brittany and the Angevins, p.145). I would be cautious, though, when it comes to Gerald's notes on Geoffrey- apparently he disliked him more than other sons of Henry II. I wonder where this personal hostility stemmed from. 

*****  In 1184, Geoffrey had at least one daughter, Eleanor (b.1182/84)

****** As it was rumoured, Philippe enticed Geoffrey with attractive offers, including the seneschalship of France (the prestigious office his brother Henry once held) 

******* Geoffrey was as avid fan of tournaments as his brother Henry the Young King


The Annals of Roger of Hoveden

Gerald of Wales: On Henry II and his Sons, from the Topography of Ireland, chapters 49-50” fromThe Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis. Translated by Thomas Forester; revised by Thomas Wright. Etext file created for a class by Scott Mcletchie. Reproduced in Paul Hassal, ed.the Internet Medieval Source Book. Fordham University

Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles. Ed. by Dr. Elizabeth Hallam, London 2002.

Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire. 1158-1203 by J. A. Everard, Cambridge 2004.

The Charters of  Duchess Constance of Brittany and her Family, 1171-1221. Ed. by Judith Everard and Michael Jones. Google Books.

The Government of Philip Augustus by John W. Baldwin. Google Books.

"Aristocratic Women in the County of Champagne" by Theodore Evergates inAristocratic Women in Medieval France ed. by T. Evergates. Google Books

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27 August 1172: The Second Coronation of Henry the Young King

Yes! Young Henry was crowned twice. Not an unusual custom in the times he lived in. The turbulent twelfth century, especially on English soil, was the period when both anarchy and uncertainty ruled side by side. Struggles over succession had already begun between the sons of William the Bastard –better known as William the Conqueror (1066-1087)- and reached their climax during King Stephen’s reign (1135-1154). The latter’s clashes with his cousin, Empress Matilda were to last until 1153 when Matilda’s son, Henry [later Henry II], was recognized by Stephen as his rightful heir. With no written succession law at hand it was crucial for the twelfth-century king to see himself firmly seated on the throne. Henry the Young King was not the first and not the last to have been crowned king twice. His paternal great-grandfather, Henry I had himself crowned by the nearest available bishop when his elder brother William Rufus died while hunting, the ceremony he chose to undergo a second time when Archbishop Anselm returned from exile. Young Henry’s own parents, following their coronation at London (19 December 1154) were crowned again, first Henry II alone at Lincoln in 1158, and next at Easter of 1159 at Worcester, this time with his consort. The younger brother of Young Henry, Richard I, was crowned king, first after his father’s death in 1189, and then again in 1194 at Winchester upon returning to his kingdom from German captivity, although this was more a crown-wearing than a coronation, as Professor John Gillingham points out in Richard the Lionheart.

                  The nave of Winchester Cathedral (source: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Henry the Young King was not the first and not the last to have been crowned king twice, but he was the first and the last king of England to have been crowned in his father’s lifetime. In this Henry’s father chose to follow the continental tradition, which had worked well for French and German kings. By crowning his eldest surviving son as a co-ruler of England, the king wanted to avoid future disputes over the succession. Young Henry's first coronation took place in the midst of the conflict between the two men who used to be friends, but then almost tore the kingdom apart. These were Henry’s own father, the king, and Henry’s former tutor, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, both of whom played important roles in the prince’s life. On 14 June 1170, Henry II had his son Henry [since then called the Young King] crowned king of England at Westminster, with Roger of Pont-l’Eveque, archbishop of York performing the act. Thomas Becket had remained in exile on the Continent at the time. The whole thing was done against the Pope’s wishes and furthermore enraged Louis VII of France, since his daughter Marguerite, the younger Henry’s wife, for reasons that remain obscure was not crowned with her husband*. To placate Louis VII and mend the rift between them, and because the first coronation of his son was considered invalid, Young Henry’s father, outdid himself in organizing the most elaborate and grand ceremony, that took place on 27 August 1172 at Winchester, with Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen officiating. The Princess’s father had expressed the wish that the excommunicated bishops who performed the coronation of his son-in-law in 1170 had been forbidden to participate.

What do we know about the second coronation of Henry the Young King? Together with his wife, Marguerite, he crossed the Narrow Sea and landed at Southampton with the purpose of their coronation (which was to be Henry’s second crowning) c. 24 August 1172. Rotrou, Archbishop of Rouen, Giles, Bishop of Evreux, and Roger, Bishop of Worcester, accompanied them. At the time Henry II was in Brittany, while the cardinal legates, Theodine and Albert, who, on 21 May, at the Council of Avranches, had absolved the king from the murder of Thomas Becket, were visiting the Norman abbeys**

20l. was allowed to Aylward the King’s Chamberlain to buy a robe for the young King at Winchester fair’ and this robe seems to have been bought for the purpose at Gilles-hill fair***. Henry the Young King was crowned for a second time, together with his wife, Marguerite in the first town in England governed by a mayor and in the cathedral that witnessed the most crucial events in the history of the kingdom. This is how Roger of Howden described the event in his annals: ‘Rotrod, archbishop of Rouen, Gilles, bishop of Evreux, and Roger, bishop of Worcester crowned them [Henry and Marguerite] in the church of Saint Swithin, at Winchester, on the sixth day before the calends of September, being the Lord’s Day.’ The contemporary historians considered the ceremony young Henry’s second coronation, although it was only Marguerite who was consecrated after the officiants placed the “diadema regni’ on her husband’s head.

What did this second ceremony mean for young Henry? Did it bring about any change in his status? Not really. It only rubbed salt into his wounds and made him realize even more clearly the emptiness of his title. His father stubbornly refused to share power with him, either in England or on the Continent. Not a year passed since that August day at Winchester when the Young King rebelled against his father. He was joined by his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, and supported by his mother, Queen Eleanor, and the kings of France and Scotland. The Great Revolt began.

* Robert of Torigni, who was a friend of Henry II and family familiaris, says simply that the princess arrived too late, but other sources reveal that she was deliberately delayed at Caen (which was meant as an insult to her father, Louis VII of France, who stood firmly on Becket's side in the conflict)

** Henry II received his absolution after he and the Young King had sworn to the cardinals that they would abolish all the “unlawful customs established during his [Henry II] reign”.

*** The curious thing is that when visiting the abbey of St Martial, Limoges, ten years later, the Young King gave "a pallium of silk woven with gold thread” (Itier) as a gift to the monks. It might have been his coronation robe. The question is which one. Was it the one from his first coronation (Westminster, 14 June 1170) or the one he wore on 27 August at Winchester? Henry was buried at Rouen and according to both Matthew Paris and Ralph of Diceto "he lay upon the bier attired in the linen vestments in which he was anointed and still showing traces of chrism" (Coronation, p.56). The traces of chrism may suggest that the robe was the one used in 1170 rather than 1172- as I mentioned above Henry was not anointed during the second ceremony, but only had the diadema regni placed on his head.


 The Annals of Roger of Hoveden

Court, household, and itinerary of King Henry II by R.W.Eyton. Internet Archive

Franks, Burgundians, and Aquitanians and the Royal Coronation Ceremony in France by Elizabeth A. R. Brown. Google Books.

‘The cathedrals of Winchester, Lichfield, and Oxford’ in The Cathedral Antiquities, Vol III by John Britton. Google Books.

Coronation. From the 8th to the 21st Century by Roy Strong. Harper Perennial, 2006.

England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 by Robert Bartlett. Clarendon PressOxford, 2000.

Richard the Lionheart by John Gillingham. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly

The Gentleman’s Magazine and  Historical Chronicle Vol. 135 by Sylvanus Urban. Google Books.

Henry II by W. L. Warren. Eyre Methuen, 1977.

The Chronicle and Historical Notes of Bernard Itier edited and translated by Andrew W. Lewis. Google Books.

Coronation: From the 8th to the 21st Century by Roy Strong. Harper Perennial, 2006.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

23 August 1169: Blowing Horns at Domfront

I have just returned from the seashore, so two short notes only:

Firstly, 23 August 1169: rare occasion when we know our Henry's exact whereabouts. That day he was at Domfront, hunting with his father, when the papal legates, Gratian and Vivian, arrived in the town. They had come to reconcile Henry II with the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. As William fitz Stephen reported in his biography of Becket, the elder king returned late from hunting and paid a visit to the curial officials at their lodgings. While they were exchanging compliments, the king's son (our Henry) took centre stage arriving with his party, all blowing their horns and bringing the stag they had killed as a present to the envoys. John Guy in his biography of Becket calls it "a carefully staged act of deliberate provocation". The puppeteer who masterminded the scene must have been Henry II, of course, for I doubt that his fourteen-year-old son could come up with the idea like that. The time would show that Henry's father would not hesitate to employ various methods of beguiling the legates into finding in his favour. The stag scene was just the beginning of a cat and mouse game he would play.

               The ruins of the Domfront Castle (source: Wikipedia). 
               Henry's younger sister, Eleanor, was born here in 1161.

Secondly, my friend, Richard, who is lucky enough to live in Houston, Texas, could go and see a copy of Magna Carta which was on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science for six months of 2014. Richard seized the opportunity- I would be surprised if he didn't- and here they are... his impressions and photos. You can read about the exhibition here. Poor King John... must be spinning in his grave. That accursed document is conquering the world again:-) 

Note: Guess who I spotted on the genealogy chart. Needless to say, I am happy he hasn't been forgotten this time :-)