Henry II overview


Restoring Authority 

Behaviour of Becket or Henry responsible for clash

  • Instability caused by Stephen and Matila's reign 'the anarchy of Steven'
  • Restoring authority over barons; marched on hostile barons such as Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester who virtually ruled Hampshire, destroyed illegal castles, Cartae Boronum 1166 (Domesday book out of date), Inquest of the Sheriffs 1170 replaced hereditary magnates with legal servant bureaucracy
  • Financial restabilisation; royal demense restored, reformation of coin (had lost value during reign of Steven) 1158 & 80, Exchequer revived 1169 increasing royal revenue
  • Legal reform; spent first year of reign hearing legal disputes, Assizes of Clarendon 66 & Northampton 76 introduced itinerant judges, established Court at Westminster as the center of system of justice
  • Failed to consolidate power of the Church; Beckett appointed Archbishop in 1062 refused Assizes of Clarendon 64 trying to make clergy subject to secular courts, decision to reconcile led to excommunication of bishops e.g. A.B of York, and 1170 murder resulted in penance & backing down over Constitutions with threat of excommunication followed by outbreak of Great war
  • Becket - dramatic change in opinion after A.B promotion in 62 - refusal to accept Constitutions of Clarendon defied 'ancient customs of the realm' in 66 and Sheriff's aid 63 (highly controversial however)
  • Aggressive, provocative action especially after return to England in 1170 w/ excommunication of bishops supporting Henry e.g. A.B of York
  • Martyr intention to 'save' the Church from Henry's control? Last words 'For the name of Jesus... I am ready to embrace death' & hairshirt - resulted in Henry backing down over Constitutions of Clarendon & penance in 1172 - success?
  • Henry - friend of Becket (arguable reason for appointment - in order to establish control over Church); failure to identify stubborn personality of Becket
  • Attempts to reform were overly aggressive and fast - Constitutions of Clarendon included major reformation which would have angered many devout clergymen
  • Henry's rage allegedly resulted in Becket's assassination by 4 knights including William de Tracy and therefore back down over that forementioned - 'Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?' could be misinterpreted, but immediate action of knights suggest the topic of assassination would have been mentioned beforehand

Development (Growth & change)

Other reasons for conflict with the Church

  • Conflicts of fealty - Archbishops to be loyal to either monarch or Pope first
  • Peter's Pence - ordered for money to be deposited into treasury until he made a decision


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