- Henry the Young King was the only king of
in his father’s lifetime. Seriously. In this his father, Henry II followed the
continental tradition. The Capetian rulers had their heirs crowned during their
reign in order to avoid even a momentary interregnum and disorder. Louis VI,
for instance, still active monarch, had his son, also Louis, anointed in England cathedral already
in 1131. It was not until 1137 that Louis began his independent rule and only
upon his father’s death. The same Louis had his only son, Philip crowned in Rheims 1179, a year before he
- Henry (b. 28 February 1155) was not meant to be a king. The crown was to be inherited by his elder brother, William (b.17 August 1153). Unfortunately, at the age of three, William probably became SERIOUSLY ill and died, the only child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who failed to reach maturity. Upon his untimely passing, Henry, the second in line, became his father’s heir.
- In his lifetime Henry was called “the Young King” to distinguish him from his father, king Henry II, but also “Henry the Younger” (William of Newburgh) or “Henry III” (William of Newburgh, Gerald of Wales), his status as a crowned and anointed king being taken SERIOUSLY when he lived. In one of his sirventes [D'un sirventes no-m cal far loignor ganda], trying to win the Young King’s support for his cause, the famous bellicose troubadour, Bertran de Born mockingly called Henry “the King of Lesser [or Little- depending on translation] Land” in an attempt to stir the latter’s ambition.
- Henry’s family ties with the Capets were really complex. He had two elder half-sisters from his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to Louis VII. These were Marie (b.1145) and Alix (b.1151), who, upon their marriages became respectively the Countess of Champagne and the Countess of Blois. In 1160, upon Henry’s marriage to Marguerite, they became his sisters-in-law (SERIOUSLY!!!), since Marguerite was also Louis’s daughter, but from his second marriage [to Constance of Castile (d.1160)]. Henry’s brother-in–law, Philip (b.1165), Louis’s only son, was a half-brother of both, Henry’s half-sisters and Henry’s wife (and her younger sister, Alys (b.1160)).
- At the tender age of five Henry was already a married man. And it was not merely a betrothal, but already a wedding ceremony itself. He wedded his two-year-old bride, Marguerite on the 2nd of November 1160, at Newbourg, with the sanction of Henry of Pisa and William of Pavia, cardinal-priests and legates of the apostolic see. This was the unusually early age even in the times when purely political, arranged marriages were standard. But SERIOUSLY, why Henry and Marguerite were married when, in chronicler’s words, “they were as yet but little children, crying in their cradle…”? The answer is simple. Henry’s father wanted to take possession of Marguerite’s dowry, the Norman Vexin, and keep a tight grip on it. And according to the marriage contract from 1158 this was only possible upon children’s wedding.
- In 1173, Henry, aged eighteen, rebelled against his father. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine and his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey supported the revolt. Henry, crowned and anointed king, had been repeatedly denied power and land by his father, but when the elder king decided to give three major castles in Anjou, the Young King’s territory, as part of marriage treaty between his son John and Alice, the daughter of Count Humbert of Maurienne, it was the proverbial final straw. The Young King protested and demanded at least part of his inheritance so that he could rule independently. When refused, he escaped from his father and headed straight to the French court, thus triggering what became known as the Great Revolt. Now his father had to treat him SERIOUSLY, for the kings of
France and Scotland, the counts of Flanders, Boulogne and Blois, as well
as the rebels in England, Normandy, Brittany and Poitou, all became the Young King’s allies .
- When in the opening days of June 1183 Henry contracted bloody flux and by the 7th it was already clear that he was not going to survive, he committed his crusader’s cloak to William Marshal, asking his friend and most faithful companion to take it in his stead to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which the Marshal later did. Henry had taken the cross some time before and the fact that he had not treated it SERIOUSLY enough, must have troubled him greatly.
- Henry died at Martel on 11 June 1183, aged twenty-eight and was buried twice. SERIOUSLY! William Marshal and other members of his household took his body north to bury it at
, according to Henry’s wish. When they
stopped at Rouen Le Mans the bishop and the great men
acting in, what they probably considered their common interest and utterly
disregarding the dying king’s will, seized the opportunity to acquire the
relics. That is why when the body “… was
set down in the choir of the Le Mans church of
St Julien [they] rushed in, and with popular
approval speedily buried it there”, next to the late king’s paternal
grandfather, Geoffrey le Bel of .
When the citizens of Anjou
learned of those ignoble doings they fought tooth-and-nail to get the royal
body back. They threatened to raze the city of Rouen to the ground and, if necessary,
carry off the body by force. All to grant their city its first royal burial and
heighten its prestige. And they won. Mainly thanks to the old king’s
intervention who ‘fearing bloodshed between the rival cities, made an order for
the corpse to be given up’. The poor body was disinterred, and, upon reaching
the Norman capital, buried peacefully near the high altar of the cathedral on
22 July 1183. Le Mans