27 August 1172: The Second Coronation of Henry the Young King

Yes! Young Henry was crowned twice. Not an unusual custom in the times he lived in. The turbulent twelfth century, especially on English soil, was the period when both anarchy and uncertainty ruled side by side. Struggles over succession had already begun between the sons of William the Bastard –better known as William the Conqueror (1066-1087)- and reached their climax during King Stephen’s reign (1135-1154). The latter’s clashes with his cousin, Empress Matilda were to last until 1153 when Matilda’s son, Henry [later Henry II], was recognized by Stephen as his rightful heir. With no written succession law at hand it was crucial for the twelfth-century king to see himself firmly seated on the throne. Henry the Young King was not the first and not the last to have been crowned king twice. His paternal great-grandfather, Henry I had himself crowned by the nearest available bishop when his elder brother William Rufus died while hunting, the ceremony he chose to undergo a second time when Archbishop Anselm returned from exile. Young Henry’s own parents, following their coronation at London (19 December 1154) were crowned again, first Henry II alone at Lincoln in 1158, and next at Easter of 1159 at Worcester, this time with his consort. The younger brother of Young Henry, Richard I, was crowned king, first after his father’s death in 1189, and then again in 1194 at Winchester upon returning to his kingdom from German captivity, although this was more a crown-wearing than a coronation, as Professor John Gillingham points out in Richard the Lionheart.

                  The nave of Winchester Cathedral (source: Wikipedia)

Indeed, Henry the Young King was not the first and not the last to have been crowned king twice, but he was the first and the last king of England to have been crowned in his father’s lifetime. In this Henry’s father chose to follow the continental tradition, which had worked well for French and German kings. By crowning his eldest surviving son as a co-ruler of England, the king wanted to avoid future disputes over the succession. Young Henry's first coronation took place in the midst of the conflict between the two men who used to be friends, but then almost tore the kingdom apart. These were Henry’s own father, the king, and Henry’s former tutor, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, both of whom played important roles in the prince’s life. On 14 June 1170, Henry II had his son Henry [since then called the Young King] crowned king of England at Westminster, with Roger of Pont-l’Eveque, archbishop of York performing the act. Thomas Becket had remained in exile on the Continent at the time. The whole thing was done against the Pope’s wishes and furthermore enraged Louis VII of France, since his daughter Marguerite, the younger Henry’s wife, for reasons that remain obscure was not crowned with her husband*. To placate Louis VII and mend the rift between them, and because the first coronation of his son was considered invalid, Young Henry’s father, outdid himself in organizing the most elaborate and grand ceremony, that took place on 27 August 1172 at Winchester, with Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen officiating. The Princess’s father had expressed the wish that the excommunicated bishops who performed the coronation of his son-in-law in 1170 had been forbidden to participate.

What do we know about the second coronation of Henry the Young King? Together with his wife, Marguerite, he crossed the Narrow Sea and landed at Southampton with the purpose of their coronation (which was to be Henry’s second crowning) c. 24 August 1172. Rotrou, Archbishop of Rouen, Giles, Bishop of Evreux, and Roger, Bishop of Worcester, accompanied them. At the time Henry II was in Brittany, while the cardinal legates, Theodine and Albert, who, on 21 May, at the Council of Avranches, had absolved the king from the murder of Thomas Becket, were visiting the Norman abbeys**

20l. was allowed to Aylward the King’s Chamberlain to buy a robe for the young King at Winchester fair’ and this robe seems to have been bought for the purpose at Gilles-hill fair***. Henry the Young King was crowned for a second time, together with his wife, Marguerite in the first town in England governed by a mayor and in the cathedral that witnessed the most crucial events in the history of the kingdom. This is how Roger of Howden described the event in his annals: ‘Rotrod, archbishop of Rouen, Gilles, bishop of Evreux, and Roger, bishop of Worcester crowned them [Henry and Marguerite] in the church of Saint Swithin, at Winchester, on the sixth day before the calends of September, being the Lord’s Day.’ The contemporary historians considered the ceremony young Henry’s second coronation, although it was only Marguerite who was consecrated after the officiants placed the “diadema regni’ on her husband’s head.

What did this second ceremony mean for young Henry? Did it bring about any change in his status? Not really. It only rubbed salt into his wounds and made him realize even more clearly the emptiness of his title. His father stubbornly refused to share power with him, either in England or on the Continent. Not a year passed since that August day at Winchester when the Young King rebelled against his father. He was joined by his younger brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, and supported by his mother, Queen Eleanor, and the kings of France and Scotland. The Great Revolt began.

* Robert of Torigni, who was a friend of Henry II and family familiaris, says simply that the princess arrived too late, but other sources reveal that she was deliberately delayed at Caen (which was meant as an insult to her father, Louis VII of France, who stood firmly on Becket's side in the conflict)

** Henry II received his absolution after he and the Young King had sworn to the cardinals that they would abolish all the “unlawful customs established during his [Henry II] reign”.

*** The curious thing is that when visiting the abbey of St Martial, Limoges, ten years later, the Young King gave "a pallium of silk woven with gold thread” (Itier) as a gift to the monks. It might have been his coronation robe. The question is which one. Was it the one from his first coronation (Westminster, 14 June 1170) or the one he wore on 27 August at Winchester? Henry was buried at Rouen and according to both Matthew Paris and Ralph of Diceto "he lay upon the bier attired in the linen vestments in which he was anointed and still showing traces of chrism" (Coronation, p.56). The traces of chrism may suggest that the robe was the one used in 1170 rather than 1172- as I mentioned above Henry was not anointed during the second ceremony, but only had the diadema regni placed on his head.


 The Annals of Roger of Hoveden   http://archive.org/details/annalsofrogerdeh01hoveuoft

Court, household, and itinerary of King Henry II by R.W.Eyton. Internet Archive http://archive.org/stream/courthouseholdit00eyto#page/n5/mode/2up

Franks, Burgundians, and Aquitanians and the Royal Coronation Ceremony in France by Elizabeth A. R. Brown. Google Books.

‘The cathedrals of Winchester, Lichfield, and Oxford’ in The Cathedral Antiquities, Vol III by John Britton. Google Books.

Coronation. From the 8th to the 21st Century by Roy Strong. Harper Perennial, 2006.

England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 by Robert Bartlett. Clarendon PressOxford, 2000.

Richard the Lionheart by John Gillingham. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly

The Gentleman’s Magazine and  Historical Chronicle Vol. 135 by Sylvanus Urban. Google Books.

Henry II by W. L. Warren. Eyre Methuen, 1977.

The Chronicle and Historical Notes of Bernard Itier edited and translated by Andrew W. Lewis. Google Books.

Coronation: From the 8th to the 21st Century by Roy Strong. Harper Perennial, 2006.


  1. I didn't realise he was crowned twice. Winchester is a superb cathedral! Can I ask - has the young king ever been referred to as Henry III? or would that go against protocol while his father was still alive?

  2. Doh! as soon as I pressed reply, I realised he's called 'The Young King' so of course he wasn't called Henry III. Never mind, I shall leave it there to give others a chuckle;)

    1. But he WAS referred to as Henry III by his contemporaries, Anerje. No chuckles here :-) In his lifetime Henry was called “the Young King” to distinguish him from his father, but also “Henry the Younger” (William of Newburgh) or “Henry III” (William of Newburgh, Gerald of Wales), his status as a crowned and anointed king being taken seriously when he lived. He was also called “the King of Lesser [or Little- depending on translation] Land" by a famous bellicose troubadour, Bertran de Born.

      I wrote about it in one of my previous posts :-)

  3. Phew - thanks for the answer - very enlightening!

    1. You are most welcome :-) I thought it a good question. It was only natural that Henry was called Henry III after his coronation and his contempraries were simply doing a count ;-)

  4. Brilliant post, dear Kasia. Shared. xx

    1. Thank you, dear Marsha! We cannot find proper words to say how greateful we are for your kind support.

  5. I thoroughly enjoy your care and feeding of Henry the Third. Interesting political note: Father Henri rushed three bishops to do the deed under the pretext that Marguerite must be crowned, rather than wait for the imminent election of Roger de Baillieul as the next Archbishop of Canterbury to conduct a traditional coronation. In the end the Saint-slayer got his way, rubbing salt into Becket's grave.

  6. Thank you, Mark. As for Henry II, I think his prime motive was to mend the rift between him and Louis VII.

  7. Great post, interesting comments, gorgeous Winchester Cathedral that I will be standing in very very soon!!!

    Thanks Kasia.


    1. I'm so happy for you, Joan! Your enthusiasm is becoming contagious :-)

  8. BTW, that crowning the son during the lifetime of the father didn't turn out that well in Germany, either. Sure, with the greater power of the electors it was neccesary to get a successor up as soon as possible, but the sons often thought they should have more power, just like Young Henry. Heinrich V even imprisoned his father Heinrich IV.

    1. I wonder what might have happened had the sons won the Great Revolt of 1173-74. It's interesting to speculate what they would have done with their father.


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