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Christmas Must-Reads

I spent last Christmas at the court of a certain young king I’m rather fond of. I was meeting him in Devil's Brood, the second part of Sharon Kay Penman’s wonderful Angevin Trilogy. This is the best and the most complete portrait of the Young Henry ever. Make yourself a wonderful Christmas gift and purchase the book.
I would also like to recommend my friend Richard’s two very well written texts concerning accordingly the Norman Vexin and Henry the Young King’s youngest brother, John, whose birthday we celebrate on 24 December although 27 December (the feast day of St. John the Evangelist) is another probable date.
I’m planning to spend the upcoming Christmas in the company of the three lovely ladies: Kathryn Warner who wrote at length about Edward II’s Christmas celebrations (you will find the texts hereherehere and here); Anerje, who is Piers Gaveston’s champion and wrote a brilliant The 12 Days of Christmas According to Piers; and Gabrielle, who has managed to evoke precious m…

Young King Henry Looked Out On the Feast of... Christmas

As Christmas is coming with the family meetings, Christmas trees, decorations and presents, let me wish you a wonderful festive season filled with joy, celebrating and carol singing, all the things that were already known and practised by medieval people to commemorate the birth of Christ.
I’ve been wondering how the twelfth-century English king spent the Twelve Days of Christmas. First and foremost, he did not always spend them in England, but also on the Continent (remember: at the time the English king’s continental possessions far surpassed those of his overlord, the king of France). Henry the Young King spent only seven out of his twenty-eight Christmases on English soil. The remaining twenty-one he did pass in his father’s continental domains. Some turned out to be quite memorable, the other less.



Family meetings
Certainly the Young Henry could not have remembered his first Christmas (1154) which he spent with his elder brother, William and his parents at Bermondsey, London just d…

In the Dark of December...

1 December 1135
After 35-year reign Henry the Young King’s paternal great-grandfather and namesake, Henry I ofEnglanddied. His was an eventful reign marked by legal and administrative changes that assured prosperity and peace in bothEnglandandNormandy. To learn more about the circumstances of his death and of the king himself click here.
1 December 1170 Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, after an absence of six years, accompanied by his faithful followers returned to England. Hardly had they disembarked at Sandwich when the royal officials at the head of the armed troops stopped them and tried to seize the Archbishop. The latter was set free only after showing the king’s letter of safe conduct. On his way to Canterbury Thomas was met with the enthusiastic reception especially by the poor people of the realm, who already treated him as a saint. Perhaps he knew that his road back to Canterbury would also become his road to martyrdom.
1 December 1177 As Ralph of Diceto reports: “On 1 De…

William I of Scotland and Henry the Young King

4 December 1214 marked the end of a long and eventful reign. King William I of Scotland died, having ruled forty-nine years and was succeeded by his only legitimate son, Alexander. William, also known as the Lion, was one of the most vivid figures of the twelfth-century Britain. He is best remembered for being the one-time ally of Henry the Young King. But how did the Scottish king ever get involved in a project known to posterity as the Great Revolt of 1173-74, the project that proved so disastrous for him and his countrymen? It seems that in this particular case the king of the Scots had a very real grievance.


                      William I the Lion of Scotland (sixth from the left)

Inauspicious beginnings
William (b.1143) was the second son of Henry Earl of Huntingdon and Ada de Warenne. After his father died in 1152 the boy was invested as an Earl of Northumberland by his grandfather, king David I. David held the earldom through his wife Matilda de Senlis, Countess of Northampton-Hu…

1 December 1135. Death of Henry I, the Great-Grandfather of Henry the Young King.

On 1 December 1135 Henry the Young King’s paternal great-grandfather and namesake, Henry I ofEnglanddied after 35-year reign. The reign marked by legal and administrative changes that assured prosperity and peace in bothEngland andNormandy(the latter had been won by Henry from his elder brother Robert Curthose in 1106).
At the time of his death Henry was staying inNormandyat a hunting lodge at Lyons-la-ForĂȘt. As Henry of Huntigdon reports: “… he partook of some lampreys, of which he was fond, though they always disagreed with him; and though his physician recommended him to abstain, the king would not submit to his salutary advice… This repast bringing on ill humours, and violently exciting similar symptoms, caused a sudden and extreme disturbance, under which his aged frame sunk into a deathly torpor… “ (p.259-60)

The old king was known for the “great delight in his grandchildren, born of his daughter by the Count of Anjou”* and they were  probably with him in those last moments of his…

25 November 1120: The White Ship Disaster or How the Wine and Bout of Diarrhea Changed the Course of History.

There would have been no Henry the Young King had one Thomas, son of Stephen stayed where he was in those closing days of November 1120. Instead he went to the Young Henry’s great-grandfather, Henry I who was about to depart from Barfleur, Normandy to England, to ask the king for his father’s position. Stephen son of Airard had carried the king’s father, William of Normandy [the Conqueror] in his ship in 1066 and might have been the master of the Mora, the ship that William had received as a gift from his wife, Matilda of Flanders. Thomas, too was a master of a fine vessel, the White Ship [Blanche Nef]. He offered to take the king across the Channel, but Henry had already made arrangements for himself. Still he wanted to do something for Thomas and decided to entrust his son and heir, William Atheling* to his care.
There would have been no Henry the Young King had the afore-said Thomas stayed sober instead of letting himself and whole of his crew get drunk with prince William’s wine. T…