The Troublesome Time of England’s Dual King Henrys

This is one of my absolutely favorite parts of English history. The whole Plantagenet family needed a family counselor. Can you imagine the conversation? “Richard, you do NOT need an army to talk with your Dad.”

Last year I wrote about the tempestuous marriage of Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England, and his headstrong queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Although they spent much of their relationship at loggerheads or estranged, the discordant duo were at least united in one goal: to found a dynasty to rule over their vast Angevin lands that now stretched from the Scottish borders all the way down to the Pyranees. In their four surviving sons they doubtless felt the future of the mighty Plantagenet empire was assured, but the ambitious king would not rest on his laurels. Instead, his obsession with the succession meant that in 1170, England was to bow to not one, but two kings, as Henry crowned his fifteen-year-old son, also called Henry, alongside him. But the throne wasnโ€™t big enough for both of them, and as conflict erupted between father and son, spreading across the wholeโ€ฆ

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Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.

13 thoughts on “The Troublesome Time of England’s Dual King Henrys”

  1. Thanks for this, Marilyn! I’m not surprised this is one of your favourite parts of history too – this lot take some beating! ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. I always try to imagine a family counselor trying to convince the Plantagenets to relax, chill. Try talking rather than murder and mayhem. They really WERE a murderous bunch, although the Tudors weren’t exactly genteel either! They were very big on head chopping.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s funny – we were having exactly the same conversation about Plantagenet family counselling earlier! And yes, the Tudors were awful – at least the Plantagenets didn’t chop the heads off their own wives… ๐Ÿ™‚


        1. Because that is one of my all-time favorite movies, Garry and I always laugh at the little family gatherings … especially the one in the dungeon. I think medieval history is a blast. Garry — newsie and all that — is more wrapped up in whatever IS going on, but he has learned to enjoy at least some of it. I think the first one that grabbed me — still grabs me — was Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.” Every time I want to watch it, Garry makes faces, but the truth really is that he has learned to really appreciate it. It’s really the only one of Bergman’s films I really LIKE (as opposed to appreciate). And speaking of medieval movies, have you ever seen “A Walk With Love and Death”? I think it was produced by Anjelica Huston. It’s during the period of two popes, rampaging armies leftover from the crusades, endless war without any goal or reason. It isn’t exactly a laugh a minute, but that was such a strange time in Europe and so little has been written about it. I think, if my memory serves me, it was also a period of plague. But of course, Bubonic plague didn’t just come and then disappear. They recently had an outbreak in Siberia right as COVID was ramping up and there’s no vaccine because it’s not a virus. Heavy antibiotics work — assuming the doctor figures out what it IS before it kills the patient. We had a long (smallish) outbreak in the U.S. that lasted (according to the CDC) for almost 70 years in the southwest. Once they figured out what it was, they didn’t lose too many people, but until someone said “Hey, I think this is the Plague,” we were losing a dozen or two people a week.

          Plagues, epidemics, and pandemics have shaped our world as much as war and changes of the dominant (ruling) culture — or major religious changes. And ALL of this started because I read “The Tontine” when I was a kid. My mother had a thing for Thomas Costain. Actually, I think she read EVERYTHING. She didn’t graduate high school, so she made up for it by reading every book she could lay her hands on.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I haven’t heard of ‘A Walk with Love and Death’, but it sounds very interesting, and I haven’t seen ‘The Seventh Seal’ either, but I’ve just Googled it and I’m intrigued. As for pandemics, well they do say there were always more people killed by disease than there ever were in war. They’ve definitely shaped our world, as this one is now. I often wonder what the historians of the future will make of this year; how history will judge us and how we dealt with it. Amazing that there was an outbreak of Plague that lasted seven decades where you are.

            If I was Garry, I’d be only too happy to watch those films with you at the moment. However newsie one might be, I think we’ve all had more than enough of the depressing news this year. The medieval period has been a real escape for me in 2020. I’m completely with you with medieval history being a blast. It really is, and the characters and stories from the era are what hooked me so strongly, and they’re why I’m doing a degree. You can’t beat the Middle Ages for entertainment value. You’re a kindred spirit, Marilyn! ๐Ÿ™‚


            1. It’s great to actually meet someone who finds this stuff exciting. If you haven’t see “The Seventh Seal,” you have to see it. It’s one of those basic movies that everyone should see, but if you are a medievalist, it’s mandatory. I almost learned to speak Swedish by watching it over and over. “A Walk With Love & Death” was Anjelica Huston’s first movie and she was amazing. It’s not easy to find it, so if you find a copy, get it while you can. I don’t think it’s in production anymore. Other than that, the other movie from that period we both love is “Robin and Marian” with Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery (not the young ones, the mature ones) and Robert Shaw as The Sherriff. Directed by Richard Lester and, I think, shot in England, but maybe Scotland.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Well if The Seventh Seal is mandatory for medievalist like me, I’d better try and get hold of a copy. Haven’t seen ‘Robin and Marian’ either, but Robin Hood is one of my favourite medieval characters.

                On a more recent note, one of the few dramas I really love is called ‘The White Queen’, a lavish production made for British TV back in 2013, based on three books by Phillipa Gregory. Have you seen that? It’s about the Wars of the Roses leading up to Bosworth, but it’s from the perspective of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Inevitably there are historical inaccuracies, but it’s such a good production and so evocative that you forgive it. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video, so if you’re ever at a loose end I can recommend that! ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Did you ever see the movie “The Lion in Winter”? That took place a year or so after the time of two Henrys (i.e., after the death of “the young king”), and is 100% fictional, but does a good job with the characters.


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