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Reading Henry the Young King Biography...

Happy Birthday to the lovely and gracious Lady! Big thank you for my renewed interest in one of the most tempestuous royal families of the Middle Ages, especially for the great masterpiece Devil's Brood, in which Henry the Young King shines in all his virtues and vices, and for a kind mention  in the latest post on the blogIf you still haven't read Sharon Kay Penman's novels, here's a chapter of the above mentioned Devil's Brood. I strongly encourage you to read it (and then the entire book :))

I am currently reading the biography of Henry the Youg King by Matthew Strickland. Here come the first impressions and reflections...

Professor Strickland's voice and my humble voice come unanimous in one thing: I have always strongly believed  - even if my opinion was based only on waht was known of Henry the Young King's personality rather than certainty (for how it could be otherwise) that had Henry the Young King lived long enough to become the sole ruler of the so called Angevin Empire, his reign would not have been as absolute disaster as modern historians believe it would. Normandy, for example, would not have been lost (or at least not as soon as John lost it). As Professor Strickland points out, Henry and his brother-in-law Philippe Auguste's relationship was "cordial" and if we add Henry's "winning personality" and his renown of a chivalrous warrior ('... young Henry had forged a new image of chivalric kingship in a manner that was not to find an equivalent among monarchs of England until Edward III', Strickland, p. 325)) it seems highly improbable that such loss would have occured during his reign. Also, quite probably, there would have been no tensions in regard to the vexing matter of the Norman Vexin, which after Henry's untimely passing came to haunt Henry II and Richard I respectively.... Since these are just first reflections and conclusions on Professor Strickland's excellent and meticulous study, I'd better stop now and in a spare moment make them into a longer post ;)

Just as a note, to my utter delight, I have just read that in the 17th century (!!!) one man contemplated and disscussed at lenght the Young King's rather tragic life and apparently he was more objective  in his judgement than today's generally hostile historians.


  1. Sadly, we'll never know if young Henry would have been a 'good' King. I wonder what his relationship might have been with Richard, as Duke of Acquitain. Might Richard and the French King have caused trouble? And just as Henry and his siblings caused trouble for his father, might not they have given Henry the same treatment?We'll never know, but it's interesting to speculate.

    1. Professor Strickland thinks that had Henry lived long enough to wear the crown, the Acquitaine would have become totally separate realm, and I'm inclined to share this view - one kingdom would be too small to contain Henry and Richard in it and to survive :)

  2. Kasia, I'm looking forward to more comments on the bio you've waited so long for. You must be in 7th heaven!

  3. Anerje, in the scenario of a surviving Henry III, I believe Richard and Geoffrey would have gotten along well with their brother the King. The boys were all trained for some period by William Marshal, tutored by Becket, and raised with chivalric and artistic flair by their mother. The rise of the Angevin empire coincides with what some historians call the Light Renaissance. Henri II would have to die. So I believe Kasia and Strickland's conclusions about a Henri III reign are certainly right. Had that occurred, we might well have had real Lancelots and Galahads, and not the tales of Chretien. I believe "the boys" would have gotten along well under the supervision of their mother who was a traveler and more the driving Architect of the Empire than Henri. Keep up the fine work, Kasia.


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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.
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'(...) 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…

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