Skip to main content

Much Ado About... Coronation

14 June 1170 saw a new king of England crowned at Westminster Abbey with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal coronation. Later the coronation was to be found illegal by many an important personages, but at the time nothing could spoil the day for fifteen-year-old Prince Henry who from now on would be called Henry the Young King to distinguish him from his father, Henry II of England. I wrote about the event itself and the commotion it caused here. Today, let me just remind that Henry (b. 28 February 1155) was not meant to be king. The crown was to go to his elder brother, William (b.17 August 1153). Unfortunately, William became seriously ill and died, aged three, the only child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who failed to survive infancy. Upon his untimely passing, Henry, the second in line, became his father’s heir and from 1170 a co-king of England. Pity that only in name. Had his father been more  eager to share power and responsibilty with him, the history might have taken a different course. 

Speaking of which, I was delighted to come across a fascinating interview with Thomas Asbridge, historian and writer, known for both the BBC documentary (I had a small input in) and latest book on Henry's most loyal companion, William Marshal. The Tudor fans must forgive me, but I skipped the interview on Henry VIII and only listened to the one devoted to Henry the Young King. What I heard made me think that if not good, at least better times are coming for England's forgotten king. Find out what makes me think so here. Mr Asbridge mentions Professor Matthew Strickland's articles on Henry and the biography he is currently working on, so I guess he knows what he is talking about :-)


  1. I watched that documentary a few months back. I'll check out the other links.

    1. The interview is really worth listening to :-) At last someone to stand up for Henry not only in books but also in media. I do hope that Mr Asbridge's talk will renew/spark the interest in Henry.

  2. Great post. Shared on fb. xx :)

    1. Enjoyed the article Kasia.
      In Asbridge's The Greatest Knight, Asbridge puts Eleanor of Aquitaine at the Young King's coronation, when William FitzStephen tells us she was in Normandy. The William Marshal biography is packed with errors. However, his work on the Young King in that book is probably its saving grace and an interesting take.

    2. Thank you, Marsha. Much appreciated.

      I am happy to hear you enjoyed it, Elizabeth. Yes, I remember you warned your readers and William admirers against all the errors in the biography. Still I will read it for the sake of the Young King :-) Although, as I suspect, much of what is said in the book has been also said in the interview.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Guest Post: The Three Sisters of the Young King by Sharon Bennett Connolly

Today I am delighted to welcome Sharon Bennet Connolly to the blog. Sharon is going to present her new book, Heroines of the Medieval World, and tell us a few words about Henry the Young King's younger sisters, Matilda, Eleanor and Joanna. Over to you, Sharon...

In history we tend to focus on the actions of the men in a family. Well, let’s face it, the life of Henry II and his sons is fascinating, full of love, honour, death and betrayal. Who wouldn’t be drawn into that world? But did you know that the women of the Young King’s family had no less exciting and eventful lives?
With a mother like Eleanor of Aquitaine, you would not expect her daughters to be shrinking violets. And, indeed, they were not. And neither were the girls sent off into the world, never to see their parents again. In what may be a unique occurrence for royal princesses, each of the three daughters of Eleanor and Henry II would get to spend time with their mother later in their lives.
Matilda of England, the elde…

19 December 1154. Coronation of Henry's Parents

On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry the Young King's parents were crowned king and queen of England at Westminster Abbey by Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury*. The chronicler Henry of Huntigdonexpressed the feelingsthat must have filled all the hearts in the ravaged by the civil war England: … Henry was crowned and consecrated with becoming pomp and splendour, amidst universal rejoicing, which many mingled with tears of joy!’ (Henry of Huntingdon p.296-97).
The then Henry fitz Empress was staying in Normandy when he learned that on 25 October king Stephen died. ‘… Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, with many nobles, dispatched messengers in all haste to their now lord the Duke of Normandy, intreating him to come over without delay, and receive the crown of England. Hindered, however, by contrary winds and a stormy sea, as well as other circumstances, it was not till six days before Christmas that, accompanied by his wife and brothers, with a retinue of great nobles and a strong forc…

28 February 1155: In Celebration of Henry the Young King's Birthday

On the pages of his Chronicon Geoffrey, prior of Vigeois, described in meticulous detail how young Henry packed as much repentance into his deathbed as he could before he passed away.  Geoffrey left nothing unsaid. The hair shirt, bed of ashes, halter around neck, Bernard, bishop of Agen administering the last rites, and many other men of religion … all was there to ‘draw the readers attention away from the affairs of this world to those of the next’. Of course, Geoffrey, a man of religion himself, must have seen young Henry’s untimely passing as a divine punishment. But there were other voices who disagreed with that of the prior. Thomas de Agnellis, for example, in his sermon claimed that as the Young King’s sad retinue was toiling over the jolly sunbathed hills and dales of Aquitaine, it became the focus for many miracles. The rumors of the late king’s sainthood began to circulate. The monasteries pillaged by him shortly before his death- as it happened some of the most sacred shri…