King Henry II ruled England from October 25, 1154 to July 6, 1189. His reign lasted 34 years.
Henry was born on March 5, 1133 in Le Mans, France. His mother was the Empress Maude, and his father was Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. His mother was Queen of Normandy, having inherited the title from her father. His mother was the only child of King Henry I. Henry wanted Maude to become Queen of England, but Stephen, her cousin, defeated her in a civil war. Eventually, though, Henry won his right back into the succesion, and after Stephen died, Henry became King of England.
Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Duchess of Aquitaine. Therefore, Henry was the ruler of more lands in France than the French king was. At the time Henry came to the throne, England was in an anarchy and the barons of England were in rebellion. Henry quickly fixed this, and gained control of his kingdom. Henry also adopted many Norman laws into the English bureacracy, greatly improving the government.
Henry also engaged in several succesful wars. He invaded Scotland, capturing and conquering Cumbria and Northumbria. Wales and Ireland also fell to Henry, although the Welsh nobles still rebelled against their English overlords.
One thing in which Henry was unsuccesful in was curving the power of the church. Henry appointed his friend, Thomas Beckett, as Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Catholic Church in England. When Beckett refused to follow and abide by laws that reduced the power and influence of the church, Henry ordered him exiled. Beckett eventually came back to England, but still refused to yield any power. Henry had enough of Beckett, and in 1170, four of Henry’s knights murdered Beckett in his own cathedral. This caused an uproar throughout England, and for the rest of Henry’s reign the church and the English people resented him.
Towards the end of his reign, Henry’s son, Richard, led a revolt against him. Eventually, Richard, aided by Phillip II of France, defeated Henry and forced him to abdicate the throne on July 4, 1189. Two days later, Henry died of a jousting injury.
Interesting Fact #1: Henry was the first of the Plantagenent rulers of England. This royal dynasty originated in France and ruled England until the 15th century.
Interesting Fact #2: Henry was called Henry Fitzempress because of his mother, Empress Maude.
Interesting Fact #3: Henry had a terrible temper. It was probably this temper that led to the murder of Thomas Beckett. In a fit of rage, Henry shouted: “What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!” After he said this, Henry’s soldiers travelled to Canterbury and murdered Thomas Beckett.
Credits: http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-kings/king-henry-ii-biography.htm, http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon26.html, 5,000 Years of Royalty by Thomas J. Craughwell