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Henry II of England, His Life and Work Report


Biography of Henry II

Henry II was born on the 4th of March in 1133 in the North West region of the French territory. Henry’s father was Count of Anjou and his mother was Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I. Henry II became the ruler of Normandy and Anjou after the demise of his father in around 1150. Afterward, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine and in 1153 Henry II crossed to England with the main aim of becoming the king of England. He managed to reach an agreement with Stephen who died around 1154 and Henry II took over the reign of power (Bevan 94)

Henry was also known by the nickname “Curt Mantle” since he wore practical cloaks that were short. Furthermore, there was another nickname that Henry II was known with as “The lion of Justice” this nickname was given to Henry I who was the grandfather of Henry II. Henry II had eight children; William, Matilda, Henry, Eleanor, Joan, John, Geoffrey, and Richard. The relationship between Henry and Eleanor flourished but later on, the couple decided to take separate ways due to irreconcilable differences (Green 20).

As a result of the separation, Eleanor started to incite her children to rebel against their father and this forced Henry II to ground Eleanor for some time. Henry II was also promiscuous since although he was married he an affair with Rosamund Clifford which he never admitted until the time he separated with his wife Eleanor (Green 86). Henry II had illegitimate children whom Eleanor placed these children in the children’s nursery where they grew together with Henry II’s children.

Summary of Henry II’s Achievements

Henry II did an excellent job in restoring order in England. Henry II’s chancellor Thomas Becket was a very effective administrator and he was efficient at carrying out his duties. Henry II improved the judicial processes in England (Harper-Bill & Vincent 27). Justice was administered through the courts and the Assize of Clarendon formulated the procedures involving criminal justice. He managed to put in place courts and prisons for the individuals in the society who were awaiting trial. This enables the delivery of fast and clear verdicts.

The treasury of England was also enriched as a result of the fines which were charged to the individuals who broke the law. This improved the economic growth and development of England in a very massive way. Also, Henry II managed to expand his royal control to all the areas of England and was able to do this because he had a very effective administrative system in place (Harper-Bill & Vincent 32).

More so, Henry II was an apologetic ruler. He made attempts to reassert his ancestral rights on the church but Becket who held the position of Canterbury archbishop disagreed with him. Becket punished the priests who collaborated with Henry II and thus he murdered Becket for opposing him but later on, he realized his mistake and offered his apology.

Henry II managed to expand the English territory but before the year 1170, a force that originated from Anglo-Norman landed in England with their main motive being to support a specific claimant to the high Irish kingship. Henry acted swiftly by traveling to Dublin to defend his position as the king of the Irish territory. This shows his intelligence services were also effective.

Importance of Henry II

Henry II lived in a period that was characterized by biographers and individuals who were skilled in letter writing (Amt 13). The likes of Thomas Becket, Walter Map, Peter of Blois and other people who knew Henry II well also made their impressions about Henry II. The majority of English citizens agreed on Henry II’s outstanding ability and unique character. This motivated many people to document the life and times of Henry II and also, the errors and achievements he made enabled people to learn about so as not to repeat the same mistakes (Amt 63).

Henry II’s character was very contradictory, for instance when he murdered Becket then later he was convicted and he offered his apology to the church. Furthermore, he did not admit his affair with Rosamund until after separating from his wife. Henry II had no deep religious or moral conviction and was only respected by specific saints who were; Aelred of Rievaulx, Gilbert, and Hugh of Lincoln.

Henry II was an approachable and faithful master and friend (Amt 43). Despite his shortcomings, Henry II was considerate of the conditions the English people lived in and ensured that the English territory was thriving in all aspects. Henry II was also loyal to his duties has he administered England effectively and efficiently. However, sometimes Henry II was inhumane in his operations. This is ascertained when he murdered Becket and when he acquired Ireland back by force. This also shows that apart from being inhumane he was also a tough leader who did not entertain opposition.

Evaluation of Henry II

Henry II was a leader who made both positive and negative impacts in England. He managed to expand the territorial borders of England and this was a credit to his profile. On the other hand, by expanding England’s territory Henry II oppressed the Irish people and this was not appropriate. Henry II was selfish and self-centered since his main aim was to extend his lordship as far and wide as he could and he did not consider the effect this had on other people (Green 76).

The administrative systems in England were very effective under the reign of Henry II. His intelligence was hi-tech since he managed to acquire information about Ireland and expanded to the region. Henry II was a leader who did very many mistakes not just in governance but also in his home. He separated from his wife Eleanor due to his unfaithfulness and he also had illegitimate children (Green 46).

Despite all these, Henry II was a humble leader. He did the unexpected by apologizing for something that is not a usual thing for a ruler. Many rulers even if they are wrong will never make any attempt to apologize.

Henry II shows that he is very ambitious when he comes back to England to pursue the throne. He is also innovative because he manages to obtain solutions to the problems being faced by England. He rectified the judicial systems and also increased the revenue which was received by the treasury (Bevan 34).

In conclusion, Henry II was acknowledged by many historians and scholars and this attests to the fact that he was a transformational leader who made a massive impact in England.

Works Cited

Amt, Emilie. The Accession of Henry Ii in England: Royal Government Restored, 1149-1159. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 1993. Print.

Bevan, Bryan. Henry II. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994. Print.

Green, Judith A. The Government of England Under Henry II. Cambridge, CA:Cambridge University Press, 1986. Print.

Green, Judith A. Henry II: King of England and Duke of Normandy. Cambridge, UA:Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006. Print.

Harper-Bill, Christopher, and Nicholas Vincent. Henry II: New Interpretations. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2007. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Henry II of England, His Life and Work." July 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/henry-ii-of-england-his-life-and-work/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Henry II of England, His Life and Work'. 17 July.

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