What is Wilhelm III. From England's legacy

Heinrich II and his sons. The problem of the dynastic legacy

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. The Angevin Empire
2.1 That homagium in contrast to fiefdom
2.2 The rise of the Angevinen
2.3 The reforms and consolidation of rule of Henry II

3. The distribution of power among the successors of Heinrich II
3.1 Henry the Younger as heir to Henry II
3.2 The co-kingship as an instrument to secure rule
3.3 The education of Henry the Younger as an heir
3.3.1 The conflict between Henry II and Thomas Beckett
3.4 The coronation of Henry the Younger
3.5 The great rebellion against Henry II

4. Henry II and his sons -

The Dynastic Legacy Problem 1174-1189

5. Conclusion

6. List of sources and references

I. Sources

II. Literature

1 Introduction

When Henry the Younger was crowned king-designate in 1170, this was a novelty for the Angevin Empire in many ways. Heinrich the Younger was the second-born, but the eldest son of Heinrich II, as his brother Wilhelm died in childhood. He was appointed his successor and governor in England while his father was still alive and in reign. The question therefore arises as to whether Henry II's will was based on giving his rule stability through primogeniture.

The topicality of this topic can be seen, among other things, in the cult around another son of Heinrich II, Richard the Lionheart, which has not been demolished to this day. Only recently, the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer dedicated an entire exhibition to this. Aside from the popular myth of Richard the Lionheart, there is still interest in the deeds of the Angevin kings of England today. For the Anglo-Saxon-speaking area, this results from the reference to its own history, but German-speaking historians also take up this topic, as Henry II's international relations extended far beyond the Anglo-Norman-French area. In addition to Richard the Lionheart and Heinrich II. Plantagenet, his second-born, Heinrich the Younger, is now also moving into the focus of science. In 2016, Matthew Strickland published a detailed monograph dealing with the fellow king.1 In research over the past few years, two theories have emerged to consider the conflict between Henry II and his sons and the French kings Louis VII and Philip II. On the one hand, the emergence of an idea of ​​the early nation state. This can be determined, among other things, from the fact that Henry II regarded certain areas as indivisible, for example England and Normandy or Ireland as a whole, and only wanted to bequeath them as a single entity. On the other hand, the Capetian-Angevin antagonism. In the second half of the 12th century these two houses can be referred to as major European powers without hesitation. However, family or marriage relationships raise the question of how great this contrast really was. Both Heinrich the Younger and Richard the Lionheart sought and often found support at the French court, either against their father or to safeguard their own interests. These changeable relationships may also have been another reason why Henry II could not be sure how to divide his empire and to whom to bequeath it.2

The source situation for the period under review turns out to be very good. There are many reports from numerous historiographers, whose works were copied and preserved as early as the 17th century. Apart from these reports, however, there is little to nothing about what happened in the Angevin court, as most of the documents and letters have not survived. Furthermore, it was customary at this time to conclude contracts in a ritualized, oral form and not to write them down. Writing at court did not develop until the 12th century.3 The contemporary historians had no access to the negotiations or the inner circle of the family, so that the relationships between Henry II and his sons are difficult to depict. In addition, numerous reports are based on rumors that were part of everyday life and may have influenced the actions of kings and heirs, but cannot be verified. It is therefore necessary to compare the individual works and use them to draw as precise a picture of this epoch as possible. Primarily this work is supposed to focus on the reports of William of Newburgh4, Radulphus de Diceto5, Henry of Huntington6, Robert of Torigni7 and Roger von Howden's Chronicle8 and its gesture9 can be used. This variation in historiographers is intended to help paint as complete a picture as possible of the efforts that Henry II undertook to establish and secure his dynasty.

2. The Angevin Empire

When in English literature from Angevin Empire is spoken, it means the possessions of Henry II. It would be wrong to equate the term “empire” with that of a nation state. Rather, the Angevin Empire is to be understood as an amalgamation of various counties and duchies, the supreme lord of which was Heinrich II. In the following, the genesis of the House of Anjou and the first years of Henry II as King of England will be briefly presented.

2.1. The homagium in contrast to the feudal system

In order to understand the relationships within the royal family, the Angevin Empire and with France, it is important to understand the concept of the homagium to consider in more detail. In contrast to the feudal system common in the Holy Roman Empire, this can be homagium rather understand it as an ideal friendship. A definition is also made more difficult by the fact that the contract was mostly concluded orally and the wording was not recorded. So that is homagium to be understood more as a ritual than as a binding right. The most important difference to the relationship between feudal lords and vassals lies in the fact that the parties did not face each other as master and subject, but on one level. Mutual loyalty and friendship were promised, but without the swearing person being owed service or obedience to the recipient. The relationship between both sides is therefore rather than primus inter pares to understand. That has its origin homagium probably in the Norman tradition, according to which one mutually " de vita et membris et terreno honore " committed. There was a reciprocal duty of peace without harming the life or rights of the other. In the early 12th century the meaning was discussed again, but the actual meaning was stuck with the addition of the remark that one owes no service, but loyalty. This results in the relationship between Heinrich II and Ludwig VII. Heinrich does not recognize Ludwig as a master, but rather secures himself through it homagium to him Normandy. Likewise, the early leads homagium the sons of Henry II to the French king not to depend on him, but rather to secure their possessions. A mutual promise of loyalty protects against border violations and provocations. However, in the course of the relations between Henry II, his sons and France it became clear that this homagium could be a very ambiguous form of agreement, as it did not rule out a just war.10

2.2. The rise of the Angevinen

In order to be able to understand Henry II's struggle for the continued existence of his possessions, one cannot avoid at least briefly presenting the changeful history of the Anjou family. These should make it clear that the succession envisaged by Heinrich II should be understood neither as a novelty nor as a continuation of a line of tradition.

The ancestral land of the Angevinen, which was probably already a county in Merovingian times and part of the Breton possessions since 770. As the progenitor of the Angevinen family, Fulco der Rote can be called, the 898 as vicecomes was used for state administration. From 929 onwards, he also carried the title of Count of Angers. Through skilful marriage and power politics, he succeeded in expanding his sphere of influence beyond his home country.

Under the influence of the Norman conquests during the 940s, the counties began to strive for autonomy and to become independent principalities, whose rulers took on royal duties in their lands.

The House of Anjou achieved a further consolidation and enlargement of its sphere of influence through the support of Hugo Capet during the royal election in 987. Up to the middle of the 11th century, the Angevines had an almost uninterrupted policy of expansion. So the King of France Philip I asked Fulco IV in 1068 for help against Wilhelm I. After the death of Wilhelm I, however, his sons had to rely on the support of the king and the Angevines in order to maintain their position of power. In the years 1103 to 1104 the two continental powers Henry I helped to secure rule in England. With the death of Fulco IV, his successor, Fulco V, turned against Henry I in 1109. Until the 1920s, the Normans and Angevines therefore constantly campaigned against each other. In 1128, after the death of Fulcos V, Heinrich I succeeded in marrying off his daughter Mathilde to Gottfried von Anjou, known as Plantagenet, thus uniting the old rivals Anjou and Anglonormans. However, a peaceful unification did not last long, as Gottfried demanded that Heinrich I participate in the government, which also included royal rights, which Heinrich I, according to the tradition of his ancestors, categorically rejected. In 1135, Gottfried, supported by his wife, marched against Heinrich I. However, since he died in December 1135, this dispute shifted. Heinrich I appointed his daughter Mathilde as the sole heiress, expressly excluding her husband. However, both the nobility and the clergy spoke out against a female ruler. The moment was seized by Heinrich I's nephew, Stephan von Blois, when he claimed control of the Anglo-Norman Empire. The years to come were therefore marked by skirmishes between Gottfried and Mathilde on the one hand and Stephan on the other. The result of this dispute was the collapse of the Anglo-Norman Empire. Heinrich II., The son of Mathilde and Gottfried, gained his first experience at the front during these wars at the age of 9, but remained in England to educate himself after an unsuccessful operation.

When Gottfried died in 1151, Henry II took over the inheritance and took control of Normandy, which he defended against the initial interventions of the French king. In a dispute with his brother, he wrested this Maine and thus secured his claim to be allowed to marry Eleanor of Aquitaine.

His further campaigns were also crowned with success. On August 17, 1153, he succeeded in forcing Stephan von Blois to conclude peace. Heinrich II's conditions were that Stephan had to adopt him and make him co-king. Stephen's son Wilhelm had to swear the feudal oath to Heinrich II.11

2.3. The reforms and consolidation of rule of Henry II.

With the coronation of Henry II as King of England on December 19, 1154, the consolidation of his rule as one of the powerful in Europe began. His possessions at that time extended over Anjou, Maine, Touraine, Normandy and England. Wales, Scotland and Ireland still remained independent. After the reign of King Stephen, which was generally understood as a time of anarchy, it was now up to Henry II to build a functioning state.12 According to Newburgh, Henry II was celebrated as the new king by the people because Stephen's reign was badly remembered.13 In the charter drawn up for his coronation, he vowed to overcome the previous conditions.14 With the reform of the tax system, the lack of written form in the introduction also found its way into courtly business. The first so-called pipe rolls, records of income and expenses, can be dated back to 1156.15 With the introduction of generally applicable laws, for example in the form of the Assizes of Clarendon in 1166, Henry II tried to steer the previously practiced law of the fittest into regulated, state-controlled channels.16 Heinrich II also remained successful militarily. So he managed to subdue Scotland and Malcom IV to the homagium while Henry II's brother, Gottfried, subjugated Brittany. Only in Wales was he only partially successful. Owain Heinrich II did that homagium, however, this did not ensure lasting peace.

3. The distribution of power among the successors of Heinrich II.

The central problem from the second decade of Heinrich's reign remained that of the succession, thus that of securing the long-term security of what was acquired. Since this was not clarified until his death in 1189, the main part of this work should be devoted to the question of why Henry II tried different approaches and what the reasons for their failure were. The main cause of Henry II's constant hesitation may be the rebellion of his designated successor, Henry the Younger. Therefore, his upbringing as an heir, his tasks and his motivation to ultimately rebel against his own father will be examined in more detail in the following chapter.

3.1. Henry the Younger as heir to Henry II.

Since Heinrich II had to establish a dynasty, he had his counts swear by Wilhelm and his newly-born brother Heinrich the Younger as early as 1155 in order to secure their succession:

[…] Henricus rex, apud Warengefort, fecit optimates Anglici regni jurare fidelitatem Willelmo primogenito suo, de regno Angliae; et si idem puer immatura morte occumberet, Henrico fratre suo.17

At the beginning of his reign, Heinrich II wanted only one son to inherit him. Heinrich the Younger was sworn in as the subsequent sole heir only in the event of Wilhelm's death. The problem with this swearing-in was that Henry II was only lord himself. Only the forced adoption of Stephen brought him into the royal family. Since Wilhelm died the following year, Heinrich the Younger was now heir to the throne. In order to consolidate Henry the Younger's position, Henry II arranged a marriage between him and the daughter of the Capetian King Ludwig VII in 1158. This happened in the course of the peace agreement between Heinrich and Ludwig.

[...] Henriens rex mense Augusto transfretavit in Normanniam et lecutus eum rege Francorum Ludovico saper Ettam fluvium de pace et de matrimonio contrahendo inter filium suum Henricum et filiam regis Francorum Margaritam [...]18

The agreed dowry for Margaret was the Vexin, which Ludwig VII should continue to dispose of until she came of age. In the event that Heinrich the Younger should die, the promise of marriage would pass to his son Richard, who was born in 1157.19

Heinrich II always knew how to skillfully use his military victories for his politics. Often he was apparently lenient, but demanded a marriage with a generous dowry or simply that homagium. Both were instruments to stabilize his rule. By naming an heir, however, he secured his claim to a royal dynasty. Heinrich II's succession regulation remained unchanged until the Peace of Montmiral.

3.2. Co-kingship as an instrument to secure rule

It was not the introduction of the primogeniture that was a novelty within the practice of inheritance and rule in the 12th century, but the fact that Heinrich II had Heinrich the Younger crowned for the first time in 1170 and then for the second time in 1172. However, he himself remained in office and Heinrich the Younger was given few tasks. In fact, he did not have real power. Why Henry II chose this way to consolidate the rights of his heir will be answered below.

One reason may be the connection to the tradition of great rulers. Henry the Younger was the first English ruler since the Norman conquest in 796, who was crowned while the reigning king was still alive. Furthermore, it would be possible to appeal to Charlemagne, who appointed his eldest son to be co-emperor shortly before his death.


1 Strickland, Matthew: Henry the young king. 1155-1183, Yale 2016.

2 Cf. Eickels, Klaus van: From staged consensus to systematized conflict. Anglo-French relations and their perception at the turn of the high and late Middle Ages, Stuttgart 2002, pp. 54f.

3 See Ibid., P. 48.

4 Howlett, Richard (Ed.): Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. Vol. I Containing the first four books of the Historia rerum anglicarum of William Newburgh, London 1884 and Howlett, Richard (Ed.): Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. Vol. II. I. The Fifth book of the "Historia rerum anglicorum" by William Newburgh. II. A continuation of William of Newburgh's history to a.d. 1298. III. The "Draco Normannicus" of Etienne Rouen, London 1885. Indicated in the paper as Newbourgh I and Newbourgh II.

5 Stubbs, William (Ed.): Radulfi de Diceto decani Lundoniensis opoera historica, Vol. I, London 1876; Stubbs, William (Ed.): Radulfi de Diceto decani Lundoniensis opoera historica, Vol. II, London 1876. Indicated in the work as Diceto I or Diceto II.

6 Forester, Thomas (Ed.): The chronicle of Henry of Huntington. Comprising the history of England, from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the Acession of Henry II., London, 1853. Cited in the work as Chronicle.

7 Howlett, Richard (Ed.): Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. Vol. IV. The chronicle of Robert of Torigni, London 1889. Cited as Torigni in the work.

8 Stubbs, William (Ed.): Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene, Vol. III, London 1870; Stubbs, William (Ed.): Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene, Vol. II, London 1869. Indicated in the work as Howden II or Howden III.

9 Stubbs, William (Ed.): Gesta regis Henrici secundi Benedicti Abbatis, Vol. I., London 1867. Indicated in the work as Gesta.

10 Cf. Eickels: From staged consensus to systematized conflict, pp. 290 - 324.

11 For the entire paragraph see Berg, Dieter: Die Anjou-Plantagenets. The English kings in Europe in the Middle Ages (1100 - 1400), Stuttgart 2003.

12 Newborgh p. 102: "et ut legum vigor in Annglia revivisceret, qui sub rege Stephano exstinctus sepultusque videbatur, cura propensiore sategit."

13 See ibid. P. 101; Gourde, Leo: An annotaded translation of the life of St. Thomas Becket. By William FitzStephen, Loyola 1943, pp. 25f. Indicated in the work as FitzStephen I.

14 See Stubbs, William (Ed.): Select Charters and other illustrations of English constitutional history, 9. revised. Edition, Oxford 1921, p. 158. Cited in the paper as Charters.

15 See Berg: Die Anjou-Plantagenets, p. 29.

16 See Charters, p. 143.

17 Torigni, p. 184.

18 Ibid., P. 196.

19 See Warren, Wilfired: Henry II., London 1977, p. 72.

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