Henry the Young King's Brothers and Sisters

Today I will discuss briefly Henry's brothers and sisters, including his half-sisters and natural brothers. Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) and Henry II (1133-1189) had eight children together, seven of whom reached maturity. Moreover, Eleanor had two daughters by her first husband Louis VII of France (1120-1180), Marie (b.1145) and Alix (b.1151). Additionally Henry II fathered a few children born out of wedlock.


Henry the Young King’s eldest brother was William (1153-1156). He was the only child of Eleanor and Henry who failed to survive infancy. Two years older than Henry, he died in his third year and was buried at Reading Abbey, his great-grandfather, Henry I’s resting place. Upon his death, Henry (our Henry) became his father’s heir.

Richard (1157-1199), was Henry’s younger brother, who succeeded their father in 1189. He is most remembered as a crusader king, champion of Christendom, brilliant military commander and warrior. Formally recognised as the Duke of Aquitaine in 1172, a year later he allied with his brothers, Henry and Geoffrey in a rebellion against their father. Ten years later he faced a coalition of his unruly barons led by the very same brothers. The rebels were supported by King of France, Duke of Burgundy and Count of Toulouse. Richard was forced to turn to his father for help. Henry II hastened to his rescue, and they emerged victorious mostly due to the Young King’s unexpected death. In 1189 the father and the son were again at war, this time standing on the opposite sides. Henry’s reluctance to appoint Richard as his heir lead the duke to seek support of the young King of France. This time it was Richard who won, mainly due to his father's death (Henry died in the course of the campaign in the castle of Chinion, on 6 July) the passing that marked the beginning of Richard’s reign. Shortly after his coronation, Richard fulfilled his dream and lead his army to the Holy Land. He won his name, fame, friends and enemies in the course of what was to become the Third Crusade.

Geoffrey (1158-1186), three years younger than the Young King, was the third surviving son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. He became Duke of Brittany through his marriage to Constance, Conan of Brittany’s heiress, in 1181. In 1173 he allied with Henry the Young King and Richard Duke of Aquitaine in a rebellion against their father. In 1183 he supported Henry the Young King against Richard and Henry II. After his eldest brother’s unexpected death he submitted to his father. A year later, in 1184, Geoffrey together with his wife, Constance, founded a chaplaincy at the cathedral of Rouen ‘for the soul of his late brother, the young king Henry, with a rent of 20 l. per annum from his mills at Guingamp’. Two years later he died of the injuries he received in the tournament accident. As Duke of Brittany Geoffrey proved to be a capable administrator and shrewd ruler. The troubadour Bertran de Born, who new all three English princes and held Geoffrey in high esteem expressed his admiration in one of his poems: “If only Geoffrey, noble duke of Brittany/ Had been the eldest of the English princes…”

Henry’s youngest brother was John (1166-1216). There was an eleven-year gap between Henry and John. In 1173 the matter of John's inheritance (or rather the lack of it) led Henry to rebellion against their father. John's titles were: count of Mortain, king of Ireland, and since 1199 king of England. Although he showed the administrative and military skills, his reign proved to be disastrous. Not only had he lost much of his father’s lands on the Continent (by 1206 Normandy, Anjou, Maine and much of Poitou had been lost) but had reduced his own realm to civil war [First Barons War (1215-1217)] which almost ended up with a French king on the English throne. By signing the Magna Carta in 1215, John became the first English sovereign to accept specified restrictions to his power.

                              Henry's sister Eleanor and her husband Alfonso VIII of Castile


Matilda (1156-1189) was Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s eldest daughter, one year younger than her brother Henry. In 1168 she became the second wife of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria. He was twenty-seven years her senior. During her husband’s absences, such as his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1172-73, despite her youth, Matilda often administered his vast lands. In the late 1170s, Duke Henry and the Emperor Frederick {Barbarossa] quarreled and in 1182 the duke, having been declared an outlaw, was forced to seek refuge at his father-in-law’s court. Matilda and some of their children accompanied him. They spent three years there before they were able to return to Saxony. Unfortunately, they were exiled again in 1188. Matilda died at Brunswick, in Germany, in 1189, aged 33. She and Henry had six children. One of their sons [Otto] became Holy Roman Emperor.

Henry’s sister, Eleanor (Leonora) was the sixth child and second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In September 1170 she married Alfonso VIII, King of Castile, Toledo and Extremadura. The marriage was arranged to secure the southern border of her father’s continental domains, with Gascony offered as her dowry. Of all Henry’s sisters, Leonora enjoyed the greatest political influence. She is reported to be almost as powerful as her husband. In his will Alfonso expressed a wish that she was to rule alongside their son in the event of his death. Apart from the constant threat from the Almohads, Alfonso faced the coalition of the Christian rulers, namely the kings of Aragon, Leon, and Portugal, who instead of collaborating against Saracens were preparing to open hostilities against the king of Castile, a ruler whom they accused of the ambition to dominate them all. It was only due to Pope Celestine III’s intervention that the king of Castile and Leon were persuaded to make peace in 1194 and it was Leonora who came up with the project that would cement the new alliance. She persuaded her husband to marry their daughter Berenguela to the king of Leon. When Alfonso VIII died on 5 October 1214, Leonora was heartbroken. She took sick and died shortly after him. They were both buried at Las Huelgas Abbey, the royal abbey which had been founded in 1187 at the request of Leonora (who took with her to Castile the distinctive Angevin style of building), and where their daughter Constance was the abbess. Their daughter Blanca married Louis [later Louis VIII] of France, became Queen and mother of Louis IX.

Henry’s youngest sister was Joan (1165-1199). In 1177 she was married to William, king of Naples and Sicily. After his death, in 1189. she was imprisoned by her husband’s successor, Tancred and held in captivity for several months. It was Joan’s brother Richard, king of England, who came to her rescue, ensuring her release and return of the dowry paid to William on her marriage. She sailed for the Holy Land together with Richard and his newly wedded bride, Berengaria of Navarre In 1196 she took Raymond of Toulouse as her second husband. In 1199, heavily pregnant, she fled to her mother’s court in order to escape an uprising by Raymond’s nobles. She died in childbirth on 4 September at Fontevrault Abbey, her father’s resting place. Joanna had four children, one with William, but the boy failed to survive infancy, and three with Raymond. One son, also named Raymond, succeeded his father as count of Toulouse.


Marie (1145-1198), Countess of Champagne for over thirty years, today best remembered for being Eleanor of Aquitaine’s eldest daughter and because of her associations with Chretien de Troyes. Under her and her husband, Henry the Liberal’s (1127-81) patronage the court of Champagne and its literature flowered. In the count’s eighteen-month absence (June 1179- February 1181) Marie ruled the county in his name, the role she was later to assume again upon her husband’s death in 1181, this time as a regent (from March 1181 to May 1187) for her eldest son Henry and again in 1190 upon Henry’s departure for the Holy Land . She proved to be skilled administrator and politician. There is evidence she was close to her half-brothers, Richard and Geoffrey. With the former she shared Adam of Perseigne as confessor, for the latter- after his untimely death in 1186- she dedicated an altar in Paris. She also entertained her half-sister, Marguerite at the Christmas court of 1184. As for her relationship with Henry the Young King, we can only guess. The two certainly met on 11 April 1182 at La Grange St Arnoult, between Senlis and Crepy, at the conference held to discuss the Vermandois succession, so we can safely assume that they must have met also on different occasions, too.

Alix (1151-1197/98) Generally very little is known of the younger of Henry's half-sisters. The daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France, she became the countess of Blois upon marrying Theobald (1130-91), the younger brother of Marie's husband, Henry of Champagne, in 1164. Alix never really knew her mother. In 1152, when they were separated after her parents' marriage was decalared null and void, she was one year old. We can only speculate about her relations with her half-siblings, which were probably reduced to the great social meetings at the French court (such as the coronation of Philip [later Augustus] in November 1179).

Prominent half-brothers

Geoffrey (c.1152-1212)- Henry’s half-brother, styled "filius regis Henrici naturalis", the eldest illegitimate son of Henry II; played a prominent part in the supression of the Great Revolt of 1173-74 in England. Since 1175 Bishop-elect of Lincoln (resigned the office in 1182), since 1181 Chancellor of England and since 1189 Archbishop of York. From the above we can assume that Henry had no love for his eldest natural brother, and vice-versa. In his study Archbishop Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Chapter of York, D.L Douie put it this way: “Geoffrey was certainly his worst enemy and a modern psychologist would probably attribute the imperious and overbearing temperament which made it impossible for him to remain on good terms with his half-brothers, or anyone with whom he had to work, particularly those who had once been his opponents, to his difficult heredity, the misfortune of his birth, his early environment and his being forced into a profession for which he had no inclination” (both Gerald of Wales and Jordan Fantosme praise his military prowess).

William Longespée, was Henry II's illegitimate son by Ida de Tosny. At the time of his birth (c.1176) Henry the Young King was a mature man. When William was seven, Henry was already dead. I doubt that the younger brother (William was twenty-one years Henry's junior) born out of wedlock mattered a lot to the Young King, but Longespée, a skilled knight and battle commander, was a colourful figure in his own right. In 1196 his half brother Richard married him to the great heiress, Ela of Salisbury, thus making him the 3rd Earl of Salisbury. During his half brother John's reign, William was one of the few who remained loyal to the king.



  1. Fantastic post, Kasia! I love family posts! Such a fascinating bunch, Henry and his siblings. I especially love Eleanor, queen of Castile, and the story of her life and her children.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog! Unfortunately I can't approve it at the moment as Blogger will not let me log in, nor even post a comment on my own blog. Since yesterday morning, agh!

  2. Thank you, Kathryn! Athough I'm really sorry to hear about your predicament. I hope I won't encounter simillar problems with my blog :-(

  3. Kathryn, have you switched off Compatibility View for Blogger? That did the trick for me.

    Again a very interesting post, Kasia. I didn't really know about Henry's other sisters, only Matilda.

    1. Thank you, Gabriele! Henry's sisters are fascinating figures in their ownright and in the nearest future I'm planning to write separate texts about them.i'm looking forward to the research (your blog will be very useful when it comes to Matilda).

  4. Interesting post - I'm tight on time right now, but I'd totally disagree with you that John's reign was as disastrous as is often made out, and far too much importance is attached to Magna Carta in the context of it's time - it was resurrected at a much later date to beat another monarch with. John inherited a lot of his problems from Richard 1st, who bankrupted England and left John to sort out the mess. Not enough praise is given to John's achievements - such as the development of the English Navy. I need to find my essay from Uni!

    1. Anerje: :-) :-) :-) Believe it or not, but when I was writing the "disastrous" sentence I was pretty sure that you might disagree, for I rememered you mentioned your interest in John. In this case I only look at the general outcome of his reign, which is, mainly, the loss of Henry and Eleanor's empire. I don't really blame John or Richard. Already their father worked hard enough to lose what he had won :-(

      P.S. A guest post about the youngest of Devil's Brood would be most welcome, but I know you are too busy.

  5. LOL Kasia - you know me well! Yes, I am partial to John - I think he gets a hard time, and I'm always cursing in Robin Hood films! I know John is perceived as one of history's bad boys, and he certainly had some' problems' . I do think he has been judged harshly by history though, and the Angevin Empire was just too big. My essay on John was written over 20 years ago - if I find it, I'll certainly share it.

  6. That would be great! Actually, the figures treated badly by history (or historians) are very interesting and I strongly believe there always are several sides to their stories, not just the dark side. That is why I run this blog :-)

  7. Napiszę to w końcu: dziękuję, po stokroć dziękuję! :) Ten blog, tak wspaniały dzięki Twojej pasji i pracy, to dla mnie jedno z podstawowych źródeł wiedzy o mej ukochanej plantageneckiej rodzince i w ogóle o całej epoce. Do szału doprowadza mnie fakt, że studiując w Polsce i to na, podobno, jednym z dwóch najlepszych uniwerków, nie mam możliwości dotarcia do literatury i źródeł o tym, co mnie pasjonuje. Studencie, interesujesz się historią powszechną? Chcesz wiedzy wykraczającej poza ogólne opracowania? Chcesz obcojęzycznych podręczników? Zapomnij albo wyjedź z kraju. Niestety, tak to wygląda. Zazdrość to bardzo zła rzecz, ale zazdroszczę, że masz dostęp do wiedzy ;). I dziękuję, że przekazujesz tę wiedzę innym. Pozostaję wierną czytelniczką i pozdrawiam - też Kasia ;).

    1. Droga Kasiu! Nie umiem wyrazić ile znaczą dla mnie Twe słowa. Wzruszyłam się. I nareszcie ktoś napisał po polsku :-) Eleonorę Akwitańską spotkałam gdy miałam dwadzieścia lat, czyli prawie 13 lat temu (jak ten czas leci), a wraz z nią jej najstarszego (żyjącego) syna, Młodego Króla. Od tamtej pory pozostaje wiernym dworzaninem :-) Dzięki Internetowi mogłam zrobić coś z moja pasją i podzielić się nią z innymi, i wcale nie opuściłam kraju. Korzystam z internetowych źródeł oraz z uprzejmości braci mojego męża, którzy mieszkają na stałe w UK i zaopatrują mnie w książki, za co serdecznie im dziękuję (a także z usług eBay) :-)

      W zeszłym roku w moim życiu pojawił się jeszcze jeden Henryk. Nasz krzyżowiec, książę sandomierski Być może rozpocznę pisanie bloga także o nim :-)

      P.S. Wspominałam już o tym tutaj wielokrotnie, ale nie zaszkodzi polecić jeszcze raz: jeśli chodzi o powieści historyczne podejmujące temat pierwszych Plantagenetów (a także ich przodków) polecam dwie pisarki: Sharon Kay Penman i Elizabeth Chadwick.

    2. Och, znam, znam! Książki obu pań figurują na liście moich ulubionych lektur :). Swoją drogą, szkoda, że w Polsce tłumaczy i wydaje się mnóstwo słabych, pseudo-historycznych powieścideł, a takie książki zna tylko garstka zapaleńców...Przetłumaczony na polski "Waleczny rycerz" E. Chadwick przeszedł bez echa. Nie wiem, o co chodzi.
      I tak, nasze piastowskie podwórko jest absolutnie fascynujące, moim ulubieńcem jest też Henryk, ale Probus, książę wrocławski. Chyba coś specjalnego tkwi w tym imieniu. Nazwałam tak nawet kota, sama już nie wiem, na cześć którego z Henryków, chyba wszystkich na raz :D.
      Poza Plantagenetami mocno pociąga mnie Francja, ale nieznajomość języka powoduje, że mogę sobie tylko tęsknie wzdychać i zadowalać się tym, które napisano po angielsku i polsku. Może kiedyś wezmę się za siebie i spróbuję się nauczyć francuskiego na tyle, żeby rozumieć słowo pisane ;).
      Ebay... hm! To jest myśl. Kiedy już kupuję książki anglojęzyczne to korzystam z The Book Depository albo Amazona. Czasem, bardzo rzadko, trafi się coś w bibliotece, ostatnio wpadła mi w łapy biografia Simona de Montfort i cieszę się nią jak dziecko :).

    3. Polskie tłumaczenie The Greatest Knight pozostawia wiele do życzenia (w pewnym momencie William żali się królowi Henrykowi II, że został "zmieszany z błotem" :-)). Szczerze mówiąc Book Depository (pomimo, iż opłata za przesyłkę jest darmowa) i tak jest dla mnie troszkę za drogi. Korzystam z AbeBooks i eBay. Bracia mojego męża kupują książki na miejscu, a potem przywożą ze sobą do Polski :-)

      Co do Simona, mój przyjaciel Darren Baker jest w trakcie pisania jego biografii. Polecam jego stronę Simon de Montfort 2014.

      To mój adres e-mail: kateyoungking@gmail.com (wczoraj zauważyłam, że do tej pory nie zamieściłam go nigdzie na blogu).

    4. Mnie też pociąga Francja! W końcu Henry the Young King spędził większość swego krótkiego życia na kontynencie. Planuję pielgrzymkę jego śladami (Chinon, Rouen, Verneuil, Arques, Martel i inne miejsca).

      Pisz Kasiu na mój adres, kiedy tylko zechcesz :-)

  8. Loved your post Kasia! And look forward to future posts on the girls…...I'm always interested in the daughters' stories. Seems to me that Leonora was truly her mother's daughter! Though Joan is my favorite & love Sharon's depiction of her childhood & womanhood. If Geoffrey had been eldest & lived to a ripe old age, what incredible drama we would have missed out on!

    Anerje, if you find your essay, do you think you could share it with all of us…..I'd love to read it. I don't defend John for any of his actions (a good ruler can sort out an inherited mess, at least some of it), but always felt he got the rawest deal as a child. And it screwed him up royally!

    Thanks Kasia

  9. Thank you, Joan! I'm so happy you like it. Yes, contrarily enough, I'm going to start with the girls not the boys :-) My personal favorite is Matilda. I have a feeling that in reality she might not have been the timid Tilda from Sharon's novels :-)

    Anerje, I second Joan! We would be delighted to read your essay on John!

  10. I think Matilda grew into her role. Sure, Heinrich the Lion was not an easy man to live with, but so was her father at times. ;-) And she introduced a lot of French culture to the court of the Lion.

  11. Yes, Gabriele! Thanks to your blog I've learnt that she had Le Chanson de Roland translated into German :-)

    Unfortunately, I know nothing about Heinrich's character, but hope to learn soon :-)

  12. I always love stories of truly happy royal marriages, so Leonora/Eleanor's marriage with Alfonso of Castile gladdens my heart:-). I need to re-read the story of Joanna with Raymond - in any case, she and Tilda died much too soon. As for the boys, I've come to agree with Anerje and others who defend John; he may have done some disastrous things, but in the long run I think his reign ended up helping England over time. I like William Espee and Geoffrey of Brittany as well:-)


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