All in November’s Soaking Mist…

1 November 1141
An important day for Henry the Young King’s grandmother, Matilda. On this day the warring factions released her cousin and enemy, King Stephen and her brother and ally, Robert of Gloucester in an exchange of prisoners. Early in the year, on 2 February King Stephen had been captured at Lincoln, receiving a divine punishment according to those who favoured Matilda. The latter would have been recognized as the ruler, had she not alienated all those whom she should have respected. Her haughtiness, arrogance, stubbornness, not to mention her imperial ways had all lead to her downfall. After she had demanded an enormous sum of money from the Londoners she had been forced to flee the capital. She had reached the safety of Oxford, but later ventured out to Winchester to chastise Henry of Blois, the papal legate and King Stephen’s younger brother who, previously willing to cooperate now abandoned her and appealed urgently to his sister-in-law , the queen. The latter had responded immediately by sending a contingent under the command of William of Ypres. Taken by surprise, the Empress had been able to escape only thanks to her half-brother, Robert who had been captured. Without his steadfast support she had no chance to win her cause. She had no other choice but to win his freedom by releasing Stephen.

                                            The battle of Lincoln, 2 February 1141

1 November 1179
“… William, Archbishop of Rheims, crowned … Philip, the son of his sister Ala [sic!] who was now in the fifteenth year of his age, and anointed him king at Rheims, in the church there of the Pontifical See, on the day of the feast of All Saints, being assisted in the performance of that office by William, archbishop of Tours and the archbishops of Bourges and Sens, and nearly all the bishops of the kingdom. Henry, the king of England, the son, in the procession from the chamber to the cathedral on the day of the coronation, proceeded him, bearing the golden crown with which the said Philip was to be crowned, in right of the dukedom of Normandy.” Henry the Young King accompanied by his younger brothers, Richard, duke of Aquitaine and Geoffrey, duke of Brittany represented the House of Anjou at the coronation of his brother-in-law, Philip, later known as Augustus. On All Saints’ Day, following Capetian tradition, fifteen-year-old Philip was anointed and crowned at the cathedral of Reims by the archbishop of Reims, his uncle, Guillaume aux Blanches Mains. At the time of the ceremony, Philip’s father, Louis VII was yet alive, but “labouring under old age and a paralytic malady” unable to attend. Philip’s mother, Adela of Champagne was also absent, probably tending to her ailing husband. Henry the Young King carried Philip’s crown in the procession and supported his head during the coronation. He had already bedazzled all the present with his retinue and most precious gifts for the new king, the fruit of his father, Henry II’s most unusual fit of generosity and largesse. The old king not only sent silver, gold and “the results of his hunting in England”, but also provided for his son’s journey so that the latter “accepted free quarters from no-one, either on the road thither or during the festival”. Also at the great tournament that followed young Henry outshone all other participants. The tournament was held at Lagny-sur-Marne and was later described in detail by William Marshal’s biographer.

1 November 1191
Henry the Young King’s illegitimate brother, Geoffrey, who had been nominated Archbishop of York by his brother king Richard I in 1189 and consecrated on 18 August 1191, was eventually enthroned on 1 November the same year. Geoffrey had been his father’s chancellor and stay with the old king till the very end [6 July 1189], “…secular office in his father’s service…” having been his true vocation. As the archbishop, Geoffrey possessing “an impracticable self-will and an ungovernable temper”, became notorious for the quarrels with his canons. His dispute with his younger brother, King John over taxing church revenues for the royal treasury in 1207 ended up with Geoffrey’s escape. He died a bitter man at Notre-Dame-du-Parc near Rouen on 12 December 1212.

2 November 1160
"… Henry, king of England, caused his son Henry to be married to Margaret, the daughter of the king of France, although  they were as yet but little children, crying in their cradle…
… the marriage … was celebrated at Newbourg on the 2nd of November [1160], with the sanction of Henry of Pisa and William of Pavia, cardinal-priests and legates of the apostolic see."
 At the time of his wedding Henry was five years old and his child bride was only two. With all probability none of them would remember their wedding day and none would have precious memories to evoke in the oncoming years of their marriage. In this young Henry’s position would prove to be yet one more time anomalous, for not only he would be the only English king crowned in his father’s lifetime and king who “reigned  but did not govern”, but also a child-bridegroom wed at the unusually early age even in the times when purely political, arranged marriages were standard. Henry and Marguerite, the third daughter of Louis [VII] of France (the first by his second wife, Constance of Castile) were betrothed in 1158, when Henry was three-years-old and Marguerite literally crying in her cradle, the engagement being the result of Henry II’s chancellor, Thomas Becket’s outstanding political skills. The princess would bring the Norman Vexin- a heated point of contention between England and France- back under Angevin rule through her dowry*.

2 November 1164
Four years after the young Henry’s wedding, the person responsible for arranging the match, Thomas Becket, already Archbishop of Canterbury, and already in exile landed in Flanders accompanied by two canons and a servant, carrying with him only his pallium and his archiepiscopal seal. One time chancellor would stay on the Continent for six years, spending most of his time at the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny. He would return to England on 1 December 1170 only to be murdered twenty-eight days later at the steps of his own cathedral.

4 November 1174
As Ralph of Diceto noted: “On 4 November, at about midnight, for the space of an hour and more the whole of the northern sky was observed to be a bloody red colour.” (The Plantagenet Chronicles, p.140) Such occurrences were usually interpreted as bad omen heralding oncoming disasters.

6 November 1153
Long-awaited day for Henry the Young King’s father, Henry Fitz Empress. By the so called treaty of Wallingford [or Winchester] he was recognized as King Stephen’s heir. Stephen “worn out by war and saddened by the deaths of his wife and son” signed and agreement that Matilda’s son would succeed him. Henry of Huntingdon mentions the role Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury (Empress Matilda’a staunch supporter) played in arranging the treaty:
“… archbishop Theobald was trying hard to arrange a peace agreement, having frequent discussions with the king and dealing with the duke by messenger. He was helped in this by Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester, who had first stirred up the kingdom by giving his brother Stephen the crown; but now he repented, seeing everything destroyed by fire and slaughter, and tried to put an end to such evils by getting the princes to agree… What inestimable joy! O blessed day! When the king himself received the young prince at Winchester with magnificent procession of bishops and nobles through the cheering crowds. The king received him as his adopted son and recognized him as his heir…”

13 November 1160
Henry the Young King’s father-in-law, Louis of France married his third wife, Adela of Blois. His second wife, Constance of Castile had died giving birth to yet another daughter and Louis, never giving up hope to sire a male heir, did not waste time. As Ralph of Diceto noted in his usual matter-of-fact manner:
“ The queen of France, daughter of Alfonso emperor of Spain, died in giving birth to a daughter who fortunately survived. King Louis, however, did not observe the proper time of mourning but within two weeks had married Adela, daughter of Count Theobald of Blois”. One may find it the most unusual action taken by usually monkish king, but in 1160 Louis was already forty and the father of four daughters. No wonder he was in a hurry and to the good effect. Five years later Adela gave him a much-awaited son, Philip.

18 November 1169
Henry the Young King’s father met Louis VII at Montmartre to discuss the reconciliation between the English king and the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, whom the king of France, acting as a mediator, had taken under his protective wing.
As the eye witness of the event, Herbert of Bosham reported: “ Thus, it seemed, and we all hoped, that after so many and various storms we were on the point of entering harbour, when the archbishop, through the mediators, demanded some guarantee of peace offered to him, not because he suspected any treachery on the king’s part, but because he harboured suspicions about the king’s vassals, on account of the enmity they had so long showed towards him…” (p.449) Despite the promising beginning- Henry II promised to withdraw all obnoxious usages and customs and guarantee full freedom to the Church when matters of appeals and visitations were concerned and the Archbishop, in his turn, agreed to omit the saving clause and return to England at once- the meeting ended in failure. The reason being Thomas Becket’s obstinacy. He demanded the kiss of peace, saying that “he would not for the present make peace with the king, unless, in accordance with the pope’s advice, it was ratified by the kiss of peace” as the guarantee of his safety. This was met with the king’s refusal, who “weary after a full day and with this long night’s ride before him, again and again cursed the archbishop on the way, reckoning up and recapitulating the labours, vexations and distresses which he had caused him”.

                                              Thomas Becket and Henry II

18 November 1189
Henry the Young King’s brother-in-law, William II of Sicily, frequently referred to as William the Good,  died, aged thirty-five. He married Young Henry’s youngest sister, Joan in 1177. He was twelve when he assumed the throne and before he reached maturity his mother, Margaret of Navarre ruled in his name. When he could finally rule on his own he proved to be strong and capable ruler, a worthy match to his grandfather, Roger II. Notable for his foreign policy, he did little to diminish the model of monarchy introduced by his predecessors. Through his splendid marriage in 1177 he gained a powerful ally, Henry II of England. The same year he negotiated an important truce with Frederick I Barbarossa, who had been defeated the previous year by the Lombard League at Lognano. William’s most lasting achievement, however, was arranging a marriage between Barbarossa’s son, Henry [future Emperor Henry VI Hohensatufen] and William’s aunt and heir, Constance. Because of it the Hohenstaufen gained a connection to the southern Italian realm and produced one of the most outstanding medieval rulers, stupor mundi, “the wonder of the world”, Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. William also lead numerous campaigns against the Byzantines and the Muslims of North Africa. In 1185 he captured the Byzantine Thessalonica but before he reached Constantinople his forces were defeated and dispersed. William’s another enduring accomplishment was the foundation of the outstanding Benedictine monastery at Monreale in Sicily in 1174, its architecture expressing the multicultural character of the kingdom of southern Italy and Sicily: Norman, Byzantine, Arab and Italian.

20 November 1181
Roger of Pont l’Eveque, Archbishop of York died. By some called  "a learned and eloquent man, and in worldly affairs, prudent almost to singularity” by others simply a "devil”, it was he, who, acting at Henry II’s order, in 1170 crowned the Young Henry king of England in Westminster Abbey, in the absence of the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket. The coronation enraged Thomas Becket and renewed the long-lasting dispute over primacy between Canterbury and York. The Archbishop of Canterbury reminded that it was the traditional right of the archbishop of Canterbury, and not the archbishop of York, to perform coronations. In his turn, Archbishop Roger evoked Pope Gregory the Great’s words “Let there be between the bishops of London and York distinction of honour according to seniority of ordination”, and explained that in 1161 he received a letter in which His Holiness, the Pope permitted the King of England to have his son, Henry crowned by any bishop of his choosing. Roger was well acquainted with Thomas: the two had been members of the household of Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, before acquiring even more honourable positions. When Becket went to exile in 1164, it was Roger who acted as the senior churchman in England, the situation which, on 14 June 1170, lead him straight to Westminster Abbey and the young prince awaiting to be crowned. The act that he was to pay for dearly. The coronation was considered illegal and Roger and the bishops who assisted him at the ceremony excommunicated. He was later able to return to his duties, but with the war already lost: Canterbury now had her freshly canonized martyr, Thomas of blessed memory. Roger, however, never gave up his claim to primacy over Canterbury. He died “full of days, after having happily ruled his archbishopric for twenty-seven years and six weeks”. On his deathbed he distributed his property for the use of the poor and, “among other wondrous deeds of his power”, sent more than five hundred ponds of silver to the bishops of France, a similar sum respectively to the bishops of Normandy and England. Fortunately the archbishop never learned what happened to the money. He died on “ the tenth day before the calends of December, being Saturday, at twilight”. Two men were greatly delighted upon hearing of his death, each for different reason: king William [I] of Scotland, “still remaining under the sentence of excommunication which the before-mentioned archbishop of York had pronounced against him’, and king Henry [II] of England who confiscated all the wealth the Archbishop wanted to give away.

                              The first coronation of Henry the Young King, 14 June 1170

25 November 1120
There would have been no King Stephen, no Lady of the English**, no Henry II and no Henry the Young King had not the White Ship sunk on a cold November evening near Barfleur, burying the hopes of many, both in England and Normandy. On its deck there was the cream of the young Anglo-Norman aristocracy, with the “most pampered prince in Christendom” among them, Henry I’s only legitimate son and heir, William Adelin. Being notorious for his out-of-wedlock activities and constant violating of his marital vows, Henry I, the father of more than twenty bastard children, had been able to produce only two legitimate children in the eight years of his marriage to Edith-Matilda, the Good Queen. These were Matilda ( b. 1102) and William (b. 1103). The latter’s death in the White Ship disaster and his father’s subsequent failure to produce a legitimate male heir form his second marriage led to the succession crisis and the nineteen years of the darkest period in the history of medieval England, the Anarchy.

* Marguerite’s dowry, the Vexin- an area of northern France that bordered Normandy-had been given to Louis by Geoffrey of Anjou [the Young Henry’s paternal grandfather] as the price of his son Henry’s [future Henry II] recognition as Duke of Normandy. Henry never doubted that one day he would win it back.

** Lady of the English, “Domina Anglorum”, Henry the Young King’s grandmother, Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, who, upon her younger brother, William Adelin’s death in the White Ship disaster became her father’s sole heir. Her struggle to win back what she considered rightfully hers plunged England in the civil war that was not to be ended until her eldest son, Henry of Anjou ascended the throne in 1154.


The History of the English by Henry of Huntingdon in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth Hallam

Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth Hallam

The Annals of Roger de Hoveden  trans. by Henry T. Riley

Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History Vol. II translated into English by J. A. Giles

Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia ed. by Christopher Kleinhenz

Henry I: king of England and Duke of Normandy by Judith A. Green

Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, III by Herbert of Bosham in English Historical Documents 1833-74 ed. by David Douglas and G.W. Greenaway

Henry II by W.L.Warren

The English in the Twelfth Century. Imperialism, National Identity and Political Values by John Gillingham

Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade

Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy by Kenneth J. Panton

Plantagenet Ancestry by Douglas Richardson


  1. Fascinating! I loved this one in 1174 especially: “On 4 November, at about midnight, for the space of an hour and more the whole of the northern sky was observed to be a bloody red colour.” The same thing happened on 31 October 1322, according to two chroniclers - the sky was 'like blood' for several hours. I also love the comment about Henry and Marguerite marrying "as yet but little children, crying in their cradle". :-)

  2. Henry was five so perhaps he considered himself too big a boy to cry, but Marguerite was only two... Poor children. I am a mother of a five-year-old and I cannot imagine my son already a married man:-)

  3. Hi Kasia! I made it over to your blog. I'm looking forward to finding out about Henry, the young King. I know very little about him.

    1. Anerje, I'm so happy to find you here! I hope that my posts concerning Henry and his family will be interesting enough to make you stay:-)


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