Skip to main content

19 April 1164: Consecration of Reading Abbey

19 April 1164: as Professor Matthew Strickland points out in his "On the Instruction of  a Prince", in all probability the nine-year-old Henry [the future Young King] was present at the consecration of Reading Abbey, which housed the "glorious mausoleum” of its founder, Henry's paternal great-grandfather, Henry I (Herbert of Bosham). Most importantly for the prince it was where his elder brother William (1153-1156) was buried at the feet of Henry I. The consecration ceremony was performed by the Archbishop Thomas Becket in the presence of Henry's father and the bishops and nobles of the realm. Nineteen years later, c. 17 April 1183,  Henry, desperately in need of money to pay off his mercenaries in the war he was waging against his brother Richard, was to plunder the shrine of Saint Martial, Limoges. Thanks to Bernard Itier (1163-1225), the librerian of the monastery and author of a chronicle and invaluable historical notes, we know that the Young King and his men " took from our treasury 52 marks of gold, 103 of silver, the altar frontal of gold from the altar of the sepulchre, the altar frontal of gold from the altar of the Holy Saviour, a golden chalice, a vase of silver, the cross from the altar of St Peter with half of the coffer in which it was kept, the reliquary of St Austriclianian, the cross of Bernard the hosteler."  

Bernard added that "The king, however, solemnly promsied that he would return it all and gave a charter, validated by his seal  Moreover, the value of the goldsmith's artistry and of the gold that was used in the gilding of the silver was not computed. " After paying for his men Henry went to assist Aimar Taillafer of Angouleme, one of his allies. We know that On 23 May, together with his knights and mercenaries, he seized control of Richard’s castle at Aixe, hollow victory since the Duke and his soldiers had already abandoned the keep. Three days later, on 26 May in Caen, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Bayeux, Evreux, Lisieux, Sees and Rochester, acting on Henry II’s orders, excommunicated all who “impeded the making of peace between the king and his sons”. All with the exception of the Young King. Henry could not have known that. He was in the town of Uzerche, suffering from- as it may seem- the first bout of illness which was to kill him seventeen days later. Over to Bernard Itier again: "on the feast of St Barnabas the Apostle, the king died at Martel on Saturday of the great week of Pentecost.  In fact, it was the tenth hour when his departure, that is his death, approached.   From his heart, he implored the mercy of God. He prayed for the aid of the Virgin Mary and of all the saints. He humbly begged St Martial of the Apostle, above others--because of the affront to whom he was being mortally afflicted--to come to his aid, and thus he sent forth his soul."

A few words about Bernard Itier and his chronicle here.


  1. Great post. Need to add the book to my wish list. xx :)

    1. Thank you, Marsha! But it really is just a note. Currently I am working on a "bigger" post, just wanted to mention the important events.

  2. How about a search for the bones of Henry 1st?

    1. Well... Searching for bones and skeletons has become kind of fashion, don't you think? :-) But why not? If it's to enrich our knowledge.

  3. Hi Kasia!

    Interesting details. I didn't know Henry's little brother was buried here. I'm all for the search for bones!

    Ciao, Joan

  4. Yes, the details are always aprreciated. I am happy that thanks to Bernard Itier we know the list of things Henry "borrowed" from the monks of St Martial. It is also good to know - scarcely anyone mentions it in books, be they fiction or academic - that Henry actually gave a charter validated by seal to prove he meant to return all he was taking. This I have found a precious nugget of info.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

19 December 1154. Coronation of Henry's Parents

On Sunday, 19 December 1154, Henry the Young King's parents were crowned king and queen of England at Westminster Abbey by Theobald Archbishop of Canterbury*. The chronicler Henry of Huntigdonexpressed the feelingsthat must have filled all the hearts in the ravaged by the civil war England: … Henry was crowned and consecrated with becoming pomp and splendour, amidst universal rejoicing, which many mingled with tears of joy!’ (Henry of Huntingdon p.296-97).
The then Henry fitz Empress was staying in Normandy when he learned that on 25 October king Stephen died. ‘… Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, with many nobles, dispatched messengers in all haste to their now lord the Duke of Normandy, intreating him to come over without delay, and receive the crown of England. Hindered, however, by contrary winds and a stormy sea, as well as other circumstances, it was not till six days before Christmas that, accompanied by his wife and brothers, with a retinue of great nobles and a strong forc…

28 February 1155: In Celebration of Henry the Young King's Birthday

On the pages of his Chronicon Geoffrey, prior of Vigeois, described in meticulous detail how young Henry packed as much repentance into his deathbed as he could before he passed away.  Geoffrey left nothing unsaid. The hair shirt, bed of ashes, halter around neck, Bernard, bishop of Agen administering the last rites, and many other men of religion … all was there to ‘draw the readers attention away from the affairs of this world to those of the next’. Of course, Geoffrey, a man of religion himself, must have seen young Henry’s untimely passing as a divine punishment. But there were other voices who disagreed with that of the prior. Thomas de Agnellis, for example, in his sermon claimed that as the Young King’s sad retinue was toiling over the jolly sunbathed hills and dales of Aquitaine, it became the focus for many miracles. The rumors of the late king’s sainthood began to circulate. The monasteries pillaged by him shortly before his death- as it happened some of the most sacred shri…

1 December 1135. Death of Henry I, the Great-Grandfather of Henry the Young King.

On 1 December 1135 Henry the Young King’s paternal great-grandfather and namesake, Henry I ofEnglanddied after 35-year reign. The reign marked by legal and administrative changes that assured prosperity and peace in bothEngland andNormandy(the latter had been won by Henry from his elder brother Robert Curthose in 1106).
At the time of his death Henry was staying inNormandyat a hunting lodge at Lyons-la-Forêt. As Henry of Huntigdon reports: “… he partook of some lampreys, of which he was fond, though they always disagreed with him; and though his physician recommended him to abstain, the king would not submit to his salutary advice… This repast bringing on ill humours, and violently exciting similar symptoms, caused a sudden and extreme disturbance, under which his aged frame sunk into a deathly torpor… “ (p.259-60)

The old king was known for the “great delight in his grandchildren, born of his daughter by the Count of Anjou”* and they were  probably with him in those last moments of his…