The Latter Days of Henry II Plantagenet


Henry at this time was also unable to seek solace in the company of his wife and family, as they were as usual at odds with him. In 1173, Richard and Henry the Young King rebelled against their father – egged on by Queen Eleanor – in a bid to secure the lands that they had been promised. They were constantly frustrated by their father’s refusal to give them the power that accompanied their titles.

Henry crushed this rebellion, but didn’t punish his sons overly – instead he pointed out that their behaviour was untrustworthy, and proved that they were not yet responsible enough to rule their own lands independently.

Nine years later, the brothers were all at each others throats, each squabbling over Henry’s lands in France. The young king of France, Philip Augustus, was instrumental in driving a wedge between Henry and his sons often by offering financial support and aid to the quarrelling brothers. When, in 1183, Henry the Young King died, the rebellion fell apart, and the brothers scuttled off to their various domains to lick their wounds.

The following year, John and Geoffrey decided to band together to invade Richard’s Aquitanian lands, the invasion was repelled by Richard, who by this time already had a reputation as a formidable warrior, and Geoffrey died a couple of years later.

Romantic Dalliances

Henry’ wife Eleanor had been held in ‘honourable confinement’ for her involvement in his sons’ rebellions, and rumours had begun to surface about Henry’s relationship with the young Alys of France.

Alys was Philip Augustus’s half sister, and was the betrothed of Richard. She had come to live at Henry’s court as was the custom, and rumours abounded that the king had seduced his son’s bride, and she had given birth to a child by him.

Richard constantly demanded his bride, but for whatever reasons, Henry kept delaying the marriage – leading to further speculations. This at last drove Richard to make an alliance with Philip of France. Richard was also afraid that John had wormed his way into Henry’s affections and would be named his heir.

Henry’s Final Days

Richard and Philip declared war against the aging king, and at last, weak and ill, he was summoned to do homage to Philip for his French lands. The French King took pity on the defeated English king and offered hospitality, but Richard would have none of it.

Henry retired to Chinon castle, attended by his faithful bastard son Geoffrey, and discovered that his favourite son John had betrayed him and joined with Richard and Philip.

On discovering this, Henry lost the will to live, and two days later on 6 July 1189, he died, bemoaning the fact that his true sons were the real bastards, and that only his bastard son had kept faith with him until the end. The words ‘Shame, shame on a conquered king’ were said to be his last. He was buried at Fontevrault Abbey, and was later joined there by his wife Eleanor and son Richard.