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King Henry II (1154 - 1189)

Name: King Henry II
Born: March 5, 1133 at Le Mans, France
Parents: Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and Empress Matilda
Relation to Charles III: 23rd great-grandfather
House of: Angevin
Ascended to the throne: October 25, 1154 aged 21 years
Crowned: December 19, 1154 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Daughter of William X, Duke of Aquitaine
Children: Five sons including Richard I and John, three daughters and several illegitimate children
Died: July 6, 1189 at Chinon Castle, Anjou, aged 56 years, 4 months, and 1 day
Buried at: Fontevraud, France
Reigned for: 34 years, 8 months, 11 days
Succeeded by: his son Richard

King of England 1154–89. The son of Matilda and Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, he succeeded King Stephen (c. 1097–1154). He curbed the power of the barons, but his attempt to bring the church courts under control was abandoned after the murder of Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The English conquest of Ireland began during Henry's reign. On several occasions his sons rebelled, notably 1173–74. Henry was succeeded by his son Richard (I) the Lionheart.

Henry was lord of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and Count of Anjou, Brittany, Poitou, Normandy, Maine, and Gascony. He claimed Aquitaine through marriage to the heiress Eleanor in 1152. Henry's many French possessions caused him to live for more than half his reign outside England. This made it essential for him to establish a judicial and administrative system which would work during his absence. His chancellor and friend, Becket, was persuaded to become archbishop of Canterbury in 1162 in the hope that he would help the king curb the power of the ecclesiastical courts. However, once consecrated, Becket felt bound to defend church privileges, and he was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral 1170 by four knights of the king's household.

In 1171 Henry invaded Ireland and received homage from the King of Leinster. In 1174 his three sons Henry, Richard and Geoffrey led an unsuccessful rebellion against their father.


Here I am, not a traitor of the king, but a priest of God. Why do you want me?' - Thomas à Becket addressing his murderers, 29 December 1170

Timeline for King Henry II

Year Event
1154Henry II accedes to the throne at the age of 21 upon the death of his second cousin, Stephen.
1154Pope Adrian IV (born Nicholas Breakspear) becomes the first English Pope 1154-1159.
1155Henry appoints Thomas a Becket as Chancellor of England, a post that he holds for seven years.
1155Pope Adrian IV issues the papal bull Laudabiliter, which gives Henry dispensation to invade Ireland and bring the Irish Church under the control of the Church of Rome.
1162On the death of Archbishop Theobald, Henry appoints Thomas a Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury in the hope that he will help introduce Church reforms.
1164Henry introduces the Constitutions of Clarendon, which place limitations on the Church’s jurisdiction over crimes committed by the clergy. The Pope refuses to approve the Constitutions, so Thomas a Becket refuses to sign them.
1166The Assize of Clarendon establishes trial by jury for the first time.
1166Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster in Ireland, appeals to Henry to help him oppose a confederation of other Irish kings. In response to the appeal, Henry sends a force led by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, thereby beginning the English settlement of Ireland.
1168English scholars expelled from Paris settle in Oxford, where they found a university.
1170Pope Alexander III threatens England with an interdict and forces Henry to a formal reconciliation with Becket. However, the two of them quarrel again when Becket publishes papal letters voiding Henry’s Constitutions of Clarendon.
1170Becket is killed in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December by four of Henry’s knights.
1171Henry invades Ireland and receives homage from the King of Leinster and the other kings. Henry is accepted as Lord of Ireland.
1171At Cashel Henry makes Irish clergy submit to the authority of Rome
1173Canonization of Thomas a Becket.
1173Eleanor of Aquitaine and her sons revolt unsuccessfully against her husband Henry II.
1174Henry’s sons Henry, Richard, and Geoffrey lead an unsuccessful rebellion against their father
1176Henry creates a framework of justice creating judges and dividing England into six counties
1185Lincoln cathedral is destroyed by an earthquake.
1189Henry dies at Chinon castle, Anjou, France