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Showing posts from August, 2014

August 1186: Death of Geoffrey of Brittany

Geoffrey, the younger brother of Henry the Young King, was the third surviving son of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. Born in 1158, he succeeded to the Duchy of Brittany upon his marriage to Constance, the daughter and heiress of Duke Conan IV, in 1181. He supported his elder brother Henry in both 1173 and 1183 rebellions against their father, and, in case of the second one, against their brother Richard.
Geoffrey has always been "neglected” by historians, perhaps because he was the only son of Eleanor and Henry who never wore a crown. "Duke among kings”, as he could be called. At present I'm working on his biographical note which should appear on 23 September, being his birthday. Today, however, I would like to focus solely on the events surrounding Geoffrey's untimely death and the depiction of this sad event as described by the contemporary chroniclers*.

               Plaque commemorating Geoffrey in Notre-dame de Paris. Courtesy of  Mr Malcolm Craig
The popular …

27 August 1172: The Second Coronation of Henry the Young King

Yes! Young Henry was crowned twice. Not an unusual custom in the times he lived in. The turbulent twelfth century, especially on English soil, was the period when both anarchy and uncertainty ruled side by side. Struggles over succession had already begun between the sons of William the Bastard –better known as William the Conqueror (1066-1087)- and reached their climax during King Stephen’s reign (1135-1154). The latter’s clashes with his cousin, Empress Matilda were to last until 1153 when Matilda’s son, Henry [later Henry II], was recognized by Stephen as his rightful heir. With no written succession law at hand it was crucial for the twelfth-century king to see himself firmly seated on the throne. Henry the Young King was not the first and not the last to have been crowned king twice. His paternal great-grandfather, Henry I had himself crowned by the nearest available bishop when his elder brother William Rufus died while hunting, the ceremony he chose to undergo a second time whe…

23 August 1169: Blowing Horns at Domfront

I have just returned from the seashore, so two short notes only:
Firstly, 23 August 1169: rare occasion when we know our Henry's exact whereabouts. That day he was at Domfront, hunting with his father, when the papal legates, Gratian and Vivian, arrived in the town. They had come to reconcile Henry II with the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. As William fitz Stephen reported in his biography of Becket, the elder king returned late from hunting and paid a visit to the curial officials at their lodgings. While they were exchanging compliments, the king's son (our Henry) took centre stage arriving with his party, all blowing their horns and bringing the stag they had killed as a present to the envoys. John Guy in his biography of Becket calls it "a carefully staged act of deliberate provocation". The puppeteer who masterminded the scene must have been Henry II, of course, for I doubt that his fourteen-year-old son could come up with the idea like that. The…

Ms. Sharon Kay Penman and One Fashionable Lock

Happy Birthday to Ms. Sharon Kay Penman, my favourite author of historical fiction, who was born on August 13. Ms. Penman has brought the Young King vividly to life in her Devil's Brood and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to meet her Hal- as the Young King is called in the novel- and Ms. Penman herself, the experience that made me return to the long-forgotten Angevin domains. I developed an interest in Eleanor, Henry and their tempestuous family in my late teens- then I also met their eldest surviving son- but later somehow left their realm for eleven years! Ms. Penman's novel Time and Chance, which I came across purely by chance, was a driving force behind my return. I felt deeply honoured and extremely excited when she started to reply to my comments on her brilliant blog and this hasn't changed, for every single word, every e-mail written to me makes me feel like a child receiving a long-awaited Christmas gift. There would never be enough …