Henry II

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  • Henry II
    • How did Henry become King?
      • Henry I became king after William II. His only heir was his daughter Matilda which was not a popular idea as monarchs were expected to be male.
      • Henry I was a strong monarch who brought stability to England. He helped to lessen the differences between English and Norman society.
      • Henry I's boat  The White Ship, sank in 1120. His only legitimate son William and 2 of his other children were on board and drowned. He had no choice but to make Matilda his heir.
      • Henry II was Matilda's son.
    • Matilda
      • Matilda was promised in marriage to the German Holy Roman Emperor when she was 8.
      • When the German Holy Roman Emperor died in 1125, her dad Henry ordered her to marry Geoffrey of Anjou. Geoffrey was the Count of Anjou and Maine, and he later became the Duke of Normandy. Matilda and Geoffrey's marriage was meant to bring peace between England and Normandy,
      • In 1126, Henry got all of the English nobles, including his nephew Stephan, to recognise Matilda as his heir.
      • Henry died in 1135. However, Matilda's cousin Stephen got to London before Matilda did, and had himself crowned King. Most nobles wanted Stephan to rule because he was a man.
        • The conflict started a civil war that lasted for nearly 20 years. Neither side won. Matilda ruled for about 8 months as 'Lady of the English' not Queen.
          • It was decided that Stephan would remain king, but that Matilda's son Henry should he heir to the throne.
    • Henry II and the Court System
      • Until the time of Henry II, medieval courts were really disorganised and complicated.
      • There were loads of different courts competing for power. (e.g. Church courts, manor courts).
      • Henry II set up regular royal courts to deal with serious offences such as murder.
      • Judges went around the country to hold trials.
      • Trial by jury became a common way of deciding who was guilty and things got a lot fairer.
    • Henry II and Thomas A'Becket
      • The King and the Church usually worked well together. The Church enjoyed the protection of the King and gave its support to the King. The King enjoyed the support of the Church and the work of literate bishops and monks.
      • In the late 12th century a conflict developed between King Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas A'Becket. A'Becket had once been Henry's chief minister.
      • When A'Becket became Archbishop, he wanted the Church to be separate from the King, in particular courts of law. A'Becket supported separate Church Courts for priests and monks. Henry wanted the clergy to be tried in the same courts to ensure fairness.
      • In 1170, some knights murdered A'Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. They thought they were acting for the King but there was outrage. Henry II felt guilty and volunteered to be publicly punished.
      • A'Becket became a saint, and Canterbury became a place of pilgrimmage.


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