Who’s Who? All Those Who Mattered to Henry the Young King. Part I

Henry, known as Henry the Young King (well, yes! he certainly mattered a lot to himself) to distinguish him from his father, king Henry II. He was born on 28 February 1155 as the second child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In 1156, upon his elder brother William’s death Henry became his father’s heir and a central figure of his his home and foreign policy. In 1158, aged three, he was betrothed to Marguerite, Louis VII’s first daughter by his second wife, Constance of Castile. The princess brought the Norman Vexin- a heated point of contention between England and France- back under Angevin rule through her dowry. In 1169, Henry II made known that Anjou, Normandy and England should go to young Henry. The latter was declared of age in 1170, settled with a large income and a household of his own (with William Marshal as a tutor in arms), and crowned king of England in his father’s lifetime.

William Marshal (c.1147-1219)- the fourth son of John Marshal (the second by his second wife, Sybil, sister of Patrick, Earl of Salisbury); in 1170 appointed tutor in arms of the newly crowned Henry the Young King. The latter’s mentor, guide and best friend for thirteen years, loyal to his young lord until the latter’s sudden death on 11 June 1183. Fulfilling Henry’s deathbed wish, he undertook the pilgrimage to the Holy Land to take the Young King’s crusader cloak to the Holy Sepulchre. He remained in the service of the Plantagenets for the rest of his life,  becoming- through his marriage to Isabel of Striguil- one of the most powerful men in the empire (lord of Striguil and Earl of Pembroke) and during the minority of  Henry III the regent of England.

                             The children of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine

Henry II, king of England (1133- 1189), the first of the Plantagenet monarchs and one of the greatest medieval rulers. Father of Henry the Young King. His vast domains stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees. He also added Ireland to his kingdom. After succeeding Stephen in 1154, he successfully undertook the difficult task of restoring law and order that had been lost during the civil war of the late king’s reign. He not only reestablished but also revolutionized the legal system, and regained control over the unruly barons, which Stephen had lost. Unfortunately, Henry proved to be not so skilled a father: due to his unwillingness to share power, his sons kept rebelling against him.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204), queen of England and duchess of Aquitaine in her own right. Mother of Henry the Young King, one of the most remarkable figures of the 12th- century Europe. Having inherited Aquitaine in 1137, she married Louis (later Louis VII), the successor of the French king, and shortly afterwards became queen of France. The couple had two daughters, Marie (future Countess of Champagne) and Alix (future Countess of Blois), but their relationship deteriorated. Their marriage was annulled in 1152. Two months later- which must have shocked her contemporaries and her ex-husband- Eleanor married Henry of Anjou. Within two years they were crowned King and Queen of England. The couple had eight children. Seven of them survived infancy and reached maturity.

Marguerite of France (1158-1198), Henry’s consort; the third daughter (first by his second marriage) of Louis VII of France; married to Henry the Young King in 1160, when she was merely two years old; brought the Norman Vexin to her husband’s family in her dowry; after Henry’s untimely death married to Bela III of Hungary (c.1148-1196).

William (June 1177)- Henry and Marguerite’s only child. The boy arrived before he was due, and died shortly afterwards. Interestingly enough, there are two different versions describing his birth and apparently some controversy arose over it at the time. Roger of Howden noted that “… queen Margaret, the wife of the king, the son, being pregnant, went to her father [Louis VII], the king of France, and, on arriving at Paris, was delivered of a still-born son. The Franks, however, asserted that this son of the king was born alive and was baptized, and named William”. (The Annals, Vol I, p.456). In this case the Franks must have known better. After all they were there, receiving the first-hand information.

Henry the Young King’s brothers: William of Poitiers (1153-1156). Henry’s eldest brother  The only child of Eleanor and Henry who failed to survive infancy. When he died in 1156 he was a few months shy of his third birthday. He was buried in Reading Abbey, beside his great-grandfather, Henry I. Upon his death, Henry (our Henry) became his father’s heir. Richard I, king of England (1157-1199), Henry’s younger brother, who succeeded their father in 1189.  A crusader king, champion of Christendom, and brilliant military commander. In 1172 formally recognized the Duke of Aquitaine. Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186), Henry’s younger brother, since 1181 Duke of Brittany through his marriage to Constance, Conan of Brittany’s heiress. A capable administrator and shrewd ruler, according to Gerald of Wales “his were the powers of language able to throw two kingdoms into confusion”. John (1166-1216), Henry’s youngest brother, in 1199 succeeded Richard as king of England. In 1173 the matter of John’s inheritance brought his eldest brother, Henry the Young King to rebel against their father. Geoffrey (c.1152-1212)- Henry’s half-brother, the eldest illegitimate son of Henry II; during the Great Revolt of 1173-74 stood firmly by his father’s side and won his name fighting the rebels in England. In the aftermath of the uprising appointed chancellor to Henry the Young King. Since 1175 Bishop-elect of Lincoln (resigned the office in 1182), since 1181 Chancellor of England and since 1189 Archbishop of York.

Henry the Young King’s sisters: Matilda Duchess of Saxony and Bavaria (1156-1189), Henry’s sister, one year his junior. In 1168 she became the second wife of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria. During her husband’s absences (his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1172-73), despite her youth, Matilda often administered his vast lands. Matilda and Henry had six children. One of their sons, Otto became Holy Roman Emperor. Eleanor-Leonora (1161-1214) Henry’s sister, in 1170 betrothed to Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, Toledo and Extremadura, she married him in September 1177, the match arranged to secure the southern border of her father’s continental domains, with Gascony as her dowry. Of all Henry’s sisters, it was Leonora who enjoyed as great political influence as their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Joan, Queen of Sicily (1165-1199) Henry’s youngest sister, in 1177 married to William (1155-1189), king of Naples and Sicily. After his death in 1189 she was imprisoned by her husband’s successor, Tancred and held in captivity for several months. It was Joan’s brother Richard, king of England, who came to her rescue, ensuring her release and return of the dowry paid to William on her marriage. In 1196 she took Raymond VI of Toulouse (1156-1222) as her second husband.

Henry’s half-sisters (separated from their mother upon their parents’ divorce in 1152; raised at their father’s court): Marie (1145-1198) countess of Champagne for over thirty years, the eldest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Louis VII of France. Best remembered for her associations with Chretien de Troyes. Under her and her husband, Henry the Liberal’s (1152-81) patronage the court of Champagne and its literature flowered. Skilled administrator and politician. In the count’s eighteen-month absence (June 1179- February 1181) Marie ruled the county in his name, the role she was later to assume again upon her husband’s death in 1181, this time as a regent (from March 1181 to May 1187) for her eldest son Henry and again in 1190 upon Henry’s departure for the Holy Land. Alix (1151–1198), the second daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France; in 1164 married to Theobald V the Good, Count of Blois (1152-91), the younger brother of Marie’s husband, Henry of Champagne.

Henry the Young King’s grandparents: on his mother’s side: William X, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, and Count of Poitou (c.1099-1137); Aénor of Châtellerault, duchess of Aquitaine (c.1103-1130); on his father’s side: Geoffrey Plantagenet ‘le Bel’, count of Anjou, Touraine and Maine (1113-1151); Empress Matilda, Lady of the English (1102-1167).

Henry’s uncles on his father’s side: Geoffrey, Count of Nantes (1134-1158) and William, Count of Poitou (1136-1164)- the two younger brothers of Henry II of England

Petronilla (Alix) of Aquitaine (c.1125-1151)- Henry’s aunt, the younger sister of Eleanor of Aquitaine; illegally- this is at least how the Pope saw it- married to Count Raoul I of Vermandois (1117-1152), the seneschal of France, who had his first marriage (to Eleanor of Champagne, sister of King Stephen of England) annulled. The match led to a war with Theobald of Champagne (Eleanor of Champagne’s brother) and excommunication of the couple by Pope Innocent II.

Henry’s cousins: Elisabeth/Isabelle of Vermandois* (d.1182)- the elder daughter of Petronilla of Aquitaine and Raoul of Vermandois; married to Philip of Flanders, who after Raoul II’s death in 1167 obtained all of Vermandois and Valois ‘and had many other fiefs from the honour of Vermandois on the part of his wife Elisabeth’ (Gilbert of Mons, p.51). Raoul II the Leper of Vermandois (d.1167)- the only son of Petronilla of Aquitaine and Raoul of Vermandois; being still under age succeeded his father in 1152, with Ivo count of Soissons and lord of Nesle in custody of the county; died of leprosy. After his death Vermadois went to his elder sister Elisabeth. Eleanor of Vermandois** (d.1214)- the younger daughter of Petronilla of Aquitaine and Raoul of Vermandois; married four times: 1. Godfrey of Hainaut (d. 1163), 2. William IV count of Nevers (d.1168), 3. Matthew count of Boulogne (d.1173), 4. Matthew III of Beaumont-sur-Oise (d.1208), grand chamberlain of France.

Louis VII, king of France (1120-1180), father-in-law of Henry the Young King; first husband of Eleanor of Aquitaine; succeeded his father, Louis VI le Gros in 1137; married thrice; his first daughter by his second wife became Henry the Young King’s consort.

Philip Augustus, king of France (1165-1223)- Henry the Young King’s brother-in-law; the only son of Louis VII of France; crowned king in his father’s lifetime in 1190.

* Elisabeth’s alleged love affair with Walter de Fontaines was one of the greatest scandals of the 12th century. Walter was put to death after he and the countess had been caught in adultery  by Elisabeth’s husband. The knight denied fervently and wanted to prove his innocence, but was ignored. Philip had him tied hand and foot and put to death in most humiliating manner. The wretch was wounded with swords and clubs, and later suspended by his feet in a latrine hole until he was dead. Roger of Hoveden in his Annals called Walter’s death “shocking”. Philip was to paid for this act of cruelty. Walter’s family allied with the lord of Guise and ravaged the count’s lands in retaliation. To stop them, Philip was forced to pay them compensation. Elisabeth was punished as well. Philip took over all her titles and lands. I have also come across the information that he had her placed in a convent, where she lived out her days. She died in 1182.

** In 1194, eleven years after the Young Henry’s passing, Eleanor, the then countess of Beaumont-sur-Oise made a grant to the abbey de Notre-Dame d’Ourscamp for the souls of her late sister, Elisabeth/Isabelle, her present and past husbands, and ‘of the Young King Henry, my cousin’. As Professor Crouch has pointed out in his excellent Tournament the two, Eleanor and the Young King, must have often met on the occasion of the numerous tournaments held in the north of today’s France.


The Annals of Roger of Howden. Vol I. Trans. by Henry T. Riley. Internet Archive of Northeastern University Libraries

Chronicle of Hainaut by Gilbert of Mons. Trans. into English by Laura Napran. The Boydell Press, 2005.

Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth Hallam.Greenwich Edition, 2002.

Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy by Kenneth J. Panton. Google Books.

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade. Pheonix Press Paperback, 2002..

William Marshal. Court, Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219 by David Crouch.Longman, 1990

Tournament by David Crouch. Hambledon Continuum, 2005.

The Angevin Empire by John Gillingham. Edward Arnold, 1984.

Aristocratic Women in Medieval France ed. by Theodore Evergates. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.

The Aristocracy in the County of Champagne 1100-1300 by Theodore Evergates. Google Books.

Archbishop Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Chapter of York by D.L.Douie. St. Anthony’s Press, 1960.


  1. Lots of details on those important to Henry - very interesting post!

  2. Thank you Anerje! At present I'm working on the second part and, in the meantime, on one more post, which should be ready for 5 May :-)

    I'm especially interested in the Vermandois branch of the family, and the Flemish connection of course. In the second part of Who's Who I'm going to write more about Philip of Flanders and Matthew of Boulogne.

  3. Love the detail here.

    I hesitate to point this out, but you forgot at least one of the Young King's illegitimate half-brothers - William Longspée, Earl of Salisbury - though as he wasn't born until around 1176, there's a good chance that the Young King never met this brother some two decades younger than him.

  4. Richard, how nice you popped in :-)

    I haven't forgotten about Longspee. How could I? He is one of the major characters of the novel I have just finished, namely Elizabeth Chadwick's To Defy a King (BTW, I highly recommend this one) and a colorful inspiring figure in his own right. I've been considering including him into the band of Henry's brothers- he and Geoffrey (archbishop of York) are after all the most prominent of Henry II's illegitimate children- but in the end decided not to. At the time William was born (c.1176) Henry was a mature man. When William was seven Henry was dead. I doubt that the younger brother- William was twenty-one years his junior- what's more born out of wedlock, mattered a lot to the Young King.

    As you have probably noticed I haven't mentioned Morgan, Henry II's illegitimate son by Nest Bloet, either. I know he and Geoffrey (Archbishop of York) got on well, and Geoffrey took care of his younger half-brother. Unfortunately I haven't come across any information concerning Young Henry-Morgan relationship.

    Thanks for your comment. Has given me a chance of explaining myself :-)


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