Skip to main content

19 April 1164: Consecration of Reading Abbey

19 April 1164: as Professor Matthew Strickland points out in his "On the Instruction of  a Prince", in all probability the nine-year-old Henry [the future Young King] was present at the consecration of Reading Abbey, which housed the "glorious mausoleum” of its founder, Henry's paternal great-grandfather, Henry I (Herbert of Bosham). Most importantly for the prince it was where his elder brother William (1153-1156) was buried at the feet of Henry I. The consecration ceremony was performed by the Archbishop Thomas Becket in the presence of Henry's father and the bishops and nobles of the realm. Nineteen years later, c. 17 April 1183,  Henry, desperately in need of money to pay off his mercenaries in the war he was waging against his brother Richard, was to plunder the shrine of Saint Martial, Limoges. Thanks to Bernard Itier (1163-1225), the librerian of the monastery and author of a chronicle and invaluable historical notes, we know that the Young King and his men " took from our treasury 52 marks of gold, 103 of silver, the altar frontal of gold from the altar of the sepulchre, the altar frontal of gold from the altar of the Holy Saviour, a golden chalice, a vase of silver, the cross from the altar of St Peter with half of the coffer in which it was kept, the reliquary of St Austriclianian, the cross of Bernard the hosteler."  

Bernard added that "The king, however, solemnly promsied that he would return it all and gave a charter, validated by his seal  Moreover, the value of the goldsmith's artistry and of the gold that was used in the gilding of the silver was not computed. " After paying for his men Henry went to assist Aimar Taillafer of Angouleme, one of his allies. We know that On 23 May, together with his knights and mercenaries, he seized control of Richard’s castle at Aixe, hollow victory since the Duke and his soldiers had already abandoned the keep. Three days later, on 26 May in Caen, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Bayeux, Evreux, Lisieux, Sees and Rochester, acting on Henry II’s orders, excommunicated all who “impeded the making of peace between the king and his sons”. All with the exception of the Young King. Henry could not have known that. He was in the town of Uzerche, suffering from- as it may seem- the first bout of illness which was to kill him seventeen days later. Over to Bernard Itier again: "on the feast of St Barnabas the Apostle, the king died at Martel on Saturday of the great week of Pentecost.  In fact, it was the tenth hour when his departure, that is his death, approached.   From his heart, he implored the mercy of God. He prayed for the aid of the Virgin Mary and of all the saints. He humbly begged St Martial of the Apostle, above others--because of the affront to whom he was being mortally afflicted--to come to his aid, and thus he sent forth his soul."

A few words about Bernard Itier and his chronicle here.


  1. Great post. Need to add the book to my wish list. xx :)

    1. Thank you, Marsha! But it really is just a note. Currently I am working on a "bigger" post, just wanted to mention the important events.

  2. How about a search for the bones of Henry 1st?

    1. Well... Searching for bones and skeletons has become kind of fashion, don't you think? :-) But why not? If it's to enrich our knowledge.

  3. Hi Kasia!

    Interesting details. I didn't know Henry's little brother was buried here. I'm all for the search for bones!

    Ciao, Joan

  4. Yes, the details are always aprreciated. I am happy that thanks to Bernard Itier we know the list of things Henry "borrowed" from the monks of St Martial. It is also good to know - scarcely anyone mentions it in books, be they fiction or academic - that Henry actually gave a charter validated by seal to prove he meant to return all he was taking. This I have found a precious nugget of info.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The History of William Marshal on the War of 1183. Part I

The anniversary of Henry the Young King's untimely passing is fast approaching and though I have discussed the surrounding events many times here, on the blog, I have never focused solely on the version introduced by one John, the author of the History of William Marshal. If we are believe to him, this is what happened in the spring of 1183 and these are the roots of the conflict that broke out between the Angevins, the conflict in which brothers stood against each other, and sons stood against father (following the translation by Nigel Bryant):

'(...) the following Lent saw conflict between the three brothers. The Young King and his brother Count Geoffrey, lord of Brittany, angrily left their father, offended and enraged that their brother, the count of Poitiers, with their father's backing, had made so bold as to wage war on the highest nobles of that land and to treat them most unjustly. They'd complained to the Young King and declared that they would sooner serve hi…

Safe Passage to Heaven

Saturday, 11 June 1183. Martel. The spring in the valley of the Dordogne lazily drifts into summer. A young man, with a sapphire ring fervently pressed to his lips, lies dying in the house of Etienne Fabri’s. He finds himself far from his family, among ‘quite barbarous people’ in Gascony, with only a few faithful companions at his side. That young man happens to be the King of England’s son and heir. Contemporary chroniclers refer to him either as Young Henry, Henry the Younger, the Young King or Henry III. He does not know that since he is destined to predecease his father, his name will vanish somewhere in a dim and distant… future, almost utterly lost to posterity. Ironically, it is Henry’s untimely passing-the best documented moment of his life-that he is mainly remembered for. Additionally, the actions surrounding his death serve as an invaluable source of information concerning the rituals performed at the twelfth-century deathbed. From his example we can learn a lot about medie…

A Few Facts About Henry the Young King

Henry the Young King was the only king of England crowned in his father’s lifetime. In this his father, Henry II followed the continental tradition. The Capetian rulers had their heirs crowned during their reign in order to avoid even a momentary interregnum and disorder. Louis VI, for instance, still active monarch, had his son, also Louis, anointed in Rheims cathedral already in 1131. It was not until 1137 that Louis began his independent rule and only upon his father’s death. The same Louis had his only son, Philip crowned in 1179, a year before he himself died. Today I would like to introduce a few facts about Henry the Young King everyone should know.
- Henry (b. 28 February 1155) was not meant to be a king. The crown was to be inherited by his elder brother, William (b.17 August 1153). Unfortunately, at the age of three, William became seriously ill and died, the only child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who failed to reach maturity. Upon his untimely passing, Henry, the s…