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March 2, 2011 @ 10:47 pm

21. Henry II


Stephen's death in 1154 puts an end to the civil war, and with the accession of Henry II England enjoys something of a change in fortune. Henry is one of the great characters of the medieval period and the first of the Angevins (or the Plantagenets) and oversees a large empire as well as making significant improvements to the English legal system. However, his reign is not without its challenges. His conflict with his Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, scandalises the age while his rebellious sons prove to be a constant thorn in his side. As if this were not enough, his sons are encouraged by Henry's estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most remarkable figures of the period and a stand-out personality in English history. Will Henry II be up to the task?

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  • Laura

    I enjoyed this episode very much – Elenor of Aquitaine, Thomas Beckett and legal reform – fun times! However, I feel that I have to make a comment on the first proper introduction of Ireland into the story, as it wasn’t a true invasion and probably shouldn’t give Henry any points for ‘battleyness’.

    Henry II never claimed to be King or Lord of Ireland, although he did start the process by which Ireland would be ruled by England . It was the much lamented Diarmuit Mac Murchada, King of Leinseter that literally invited the Anglo-Norse to come to Ireland and help him fight against Ruaidhrí Ua Conchobhair, High King of Ireland who had banished him from Ireland. Dairmuit married his daughter Aoife off to Strongbow in return for land, and thereby opened the door for other Knights to set up estates of their own in Ireland. The Anglo-Normans settled into Ireland quite peacefully, and seemed to fully embrace the gaelic culture.

    Henry became concerned that his fellow Anglo-Normans were ammassing rival territory and wanted to secure it for himself. Henry was critisised for being too soft on the Irish, and in fact he didn’t have to do very much to take control. He gained control of most of Leinster and some eastern parts of ireland, but never the whole country. The level of opposition put up by the Irish is debatable, but it was obvioulsy a key turning point in Irish history. I’m sure the next 800 years of English-Irish relations has been reinterpreted since I studied it at achool, but I’m sure it wasn’t as black and white as I was taught. For example, Aoife was in fact an ancestor of many English Kings!

    Jul 20, 2011 at 11:21 pm
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