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Two Important May Anniversaries

Two important anniversaries concerning the Young King these days:

On Sunday, 18 May 1152 Henry’s parents, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) and Henry fitz Empress (1133-1189) were married in the cathedral of St Pierre, Poitiers, the match that was to result in forging the greatest empire of the 12th century-Europe. Henry, the eldest son of Geoffrey le Bel of Anjou and Empress Matilda, already the duke of Normandy, heir to England, Anjou and Maine was lucky to win the greatest prize on the then marital market- the former queen of France now free to be wed again. Duke William X’s eldest daughter and heiress, Eleanor, two months earlier was divorced, her first marriage declared null and void on grounds of consanguinity. For fifteen years she had been the consort of Louis VII of France (1120-1180), but apparently displeased her husband with bearing him only two daughters, Marie (b.1145) and Alix (b.1151). By marrying Henry fitz Empress just eight weeks after her first marriage was annulled, she must have shocked entire Europe and angered the other candidates eager to reach for the richest heiress of Christendom. Theobald of Blois, second son of Louis’s vassal the count of Champagne, and Henry’s own brother, Geoffrey were both planning to kidnap her. Fortunately their plans came to naught and three years after the Sunday wedding of 1152 our Henry was born, the couple’s second son, who went down in history as Henry the Young King (J). Eleanor and Henry had eight children, seven of whom reached maturity. They were: William (b.1153), Henry (b.1155), Matilda (b.1156), Richard (b.1157), Geoffrey (b.1158), Eleanor (b.1162), Joanna (b.1165) and John (b.1167).
                        14th century representation of Henry and Eleanor, via Wikipedia

On 19 May 1218, Henry the Young King’s nephew, Otto, Holy Roman Emperor died, aged 43. Fascinating albeit tragic figure. To learn more about the emperor pay a visit to a brilliant blog run by my friend Gabriele, who kindly agreed to post a link to her text on Otto. Also my favourite author Sharon Kay Penman shared her opinion on the emperor on her wonderful blog. By her kind permission I am including the link as well. Henry the Young King and his nephew could not have seen much of each other, but they probably met during Otto’s stay in England, when he accompanied his exiled parents. There was one person, however, who Henry and Otto “had in common”: Gervase of Tilbury (c.1152 - c.1222). In the 1180s he had been Henry’s chaplain and wrote a work, now considered lost, for him, Liber Facetiarum (“Book of Entertainment”). Gervase was a fervent admirer of the prince, and, when already in Otto’s service, he wrote highly laudatory lines in his praise, which he included in his major work Otia Imperialia, written, as its title suggests, for the emperor to amuse his leisure hours. This is how he described Henry the Young King:
Gracious to all, he was loved by all; amiable to all, he was incapable of making an enemy. He was matchless in warfare, and as he surpassed all others in the grace of his person, so he outstripped them all in valour, cordiality, and the outstanding graciousness of his manner, in his generosity and his true integrity.


Eleanor of Aquitaine by Marion Meade. Pheonix Press Paperback, 2002..

Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy by Kenneth J. Panton. Google Books.

Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury. Fragments in “On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” by Matthew Strickland in Henry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007

Change in Medieval Society: Europe North of the Alps, 1050-1500 by Sylvia Lettice Thrupp. Google Books.

A History of Anglo-Latin Literature. 1066-1422 by A.G. Rigg. Google Books.


  1. Emilie Laforge20 May 2013 at 10:51

    Kasia, it's about time I post a comment to tell you how much I love and learn from your blog. Henry, the Young King, is lucky to have you to keep his memory alive.

    1. Emilie! What a nice surprise! To see your name on Henry's blog. We will never forget your kind words of encouragement at the very beginning of our Internet "career" :-) Although at the time of Henry's baptism no one bothered to write down the names of his Godparents, we- I mean you and me- know that Henry is lucky to have such a God-mother! Thank you so much.

  2. Hi Kasia - I still find it amazing that Eleanor was Queen of France before she was Queen of England. I wonder why Henry wasn't put off by her only having 2 daughters in 15 years? Or was the prize of her lands etc too great an opportunity to miss?

  3. A very interesting question, Arenje! I too thought about it many times and came to the conclusion you've just put forward: the prize of Eleanor's lands was too great a temptation. The others, e.g. Theobald and young Geoffrey are the confirmation of this theory. The whole Aquitaine, can you imagine? Who could resist it!

  4. Maybe he also thought he was more of a man to sire sons than the king of France. ;-)

  5. That's a point, Gabriele! Henry certainly was a self-confident and determined man, already at the age of twenty-one- when he wedded Eleanor. And Louis? Eleanor was to remark once that she had married a monk.

    Again many thanks for letting me post the link to your text on Otto :-)

  6. Sorry, never been good at Maths! Henry was actually 19 when he married Eleanor :-) At one-and-twenty he was crowned king of England.

  7. Hi Kasia
    I'm enjoying your posts. Keep 'em coming!

  8. Thank you Paula! I'm honoured. I'm aware of the fact that my English is "clumsy" at times, but I do my best to keep the posts coming :-) With June- the month of Henry's untimely passing- ahead, I'm a little busy. The outcome? We'll see soon, I do hope :-)

  9. Happy belated wedding anniversary to Henry and Eleanor! :-) And their grandson Otto is such a fascinating character.

  10. Thank you Kathryn! Otto is a fascinating man indeed, although a little bit neglected by historians, I daresay :-(

  11. I will get back to him, I promise. ;-)


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