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Showing posts from November, 2012

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…

A Lovely Place of Sin: Henry the Young King in the Eyes of His Contemporaries

Truly, he left nothing unprobed, no stone unturned; he befouled the whole world with his treasons, a prodigy of unfaith and prodigal of ill, a limpid spring of wickedness, the attractive  tinder of villainy, a lovely place of sin… the originator of the heresy of traitors… a false son to his father… the peaceful king. 
In these words Walter Map, one of Henry II’s clerks and protégés, writing shortly after Henry the Young King’s death, passed judgment on the late king, his hostile voice being just one among many. When the Young King died on 11 June 1183, aged eight-and-twenty, he was genuinely mourned by his father, his household knights and clerks, and all those who saw him as the herald of better days*. Some even did their best to make him canonized, the notion that the young Henry himself would have found ironic, especially in the light of the events preceding his untimely passing.** Unfortunately, as Professor Matthew Strickland points out: “… his premature death and anomalous posit…

Master Mainard and CO. Part II: William Marshal

When we say Henry the Young King we think William Marshal, when we say William Marshal we think Henry the Young King. The two men, the king and his tutor in arms, seemed to be inseparable, and William’s name is omnipresent in Henry’s story. As I have mentioned in Master Mainard & CO. Part I, the year 1170 turned out to be a breaking point in Henry the Young King’s life. On 14 June the prince was crowned co-king of England, the only English king to have been crowned in his father’s lifetime, and established with a household of his own. For William too 1170 marked the beginning of his slow but constant rise from rather humble beginnings to unexpected- mostly for William himself- greatness.

Upon William’s death on 14 May 1219 his eldest son and namesake commissioned one John, a poet to write a poem on an epic scale to celebrate his late father’s life story. Written in Middle French and comprising 19,214 lines in rhyming couplets, the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal is the only surv…

Master Mainard & CO. Part I

For some time questions concerning the education of Henry the Young King have been occupying my thoughts. The similar questions must have kept bothering Rotrou, Archbishop of Rouen in 1162, when he was formulating a letter of polite reproach to Henry II: ‘Although other kings are of a rude and uncultivated character, yours, which was formed by literature, is prudent in the administration of great affairs, subtle in judgments, and circumspect in counsel. Wherefore all your bishops unanimously agree that Henry, your son and heir may be the successor to your wisdom as well as to your kingdom’.
The Archbishop was growing more and more anxious. Only recently had his venerable head been filled with the images of the approaching disaster. He could not tell why, all of a sudden, the words of Fulk the Good crossed his mind and kept ringing in his ears ‘An unlettered king is a crowned ass’! Was this what loomed ahead the king’s eldest son and heir, Henry? The prince was seven years old and alrea…

All in November’s Soaking Mist…

1 November 1141 An important day for Henry the Young King’s grandmother, Matilda. On this day the warring factions released her cousin and enemy, King Stephen and her brother and ally, Robert of Gloucester in an exchange of prisoners. Early in the year, on 2 February King Stephen had been captured at Lincoln, receiving a divine punishment according to those who favoured Matilda. The latter would have been recognized as the ruler, had she not alienated all those whom she should have respected. Her haughtiness, arrogance, stubbornness, not to mention her imperial ways had all lead to her downfall. After she had demanded an enormous sum of money from the Londoners she had been forced to flee the capital. She had reached the safety of Oxford, but later ventured out to Winchester to chastise Henry of Blois, the papal legate and King Stephen’s younger brother who, previously willing to cooperate now abandoned her and appealed urgently to his sister-in-law , the queen. The latter had responde…