Prince Henry was born on 11 Feb 1155, the second of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s sons. Five years later he married the daughter of King Louis of France – Marguerite, her dowry was the Vexin region and Henry’s father King Henry II was keen to extend his empire. At seven Prince Henry was sent off to the household of Thomas Becket – the arrangement didn’t last long.
On 14 June 1170, Henry II had Henry crowned king of England at Westminster. The Archbishop of York did the honours as Thomas Becket, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, was in exile. From that point forward Henry is known in history as the Young King. He is the only English monarch, even if he doesn’t feature on most lists of kings and queens, to be crowned during his father’s lifetime. And in all honesty the problems that followed between father and son were largely because the title was an empty one.
King Henry II wasn’t doing anything politically innovative but he was avoiding potential disputes about the succession, remember Henry was the second son, and making a statement about how unimportant Becket actually was. This wasn’t helpful as there was a bit of a tug of war relating to whether York or Canterbury was more important. Becket was furious because he believed that Canterbury crowned English monarchs. York basically stuck his tongue out at Canterbury by waving a letter around from Pope Alexander III which gave the King of England the right to have Prince Henry crowned by whoever he wanted. Becket upped the ante by excommunicating the Bishop of York and the other bishops who had assisted in the coronation. So much for Henry II trying to curb the power of the Church.
After Becket’s death there was a second coronation – on 27thAugust 1172 at Winchester for the prince and his princess. This coronation wasn’t unusual either – medieval kings where in the habit of reminding their subjects who was in charge by being crowned on more than one occasion but in this instance Henry II was remedying a perceived slight to King Louis of France in not having Marguerite crowned alongside her husband at Westminster. With Becket dead – the Bishop of Rouen crowned the pair.
Unfortunately the Young King expected power and finances to go with the title. When this was not forthcoming he revolted against his father in 1173. Henry II was ultimately victorious in the family dispute but one of the consequences was the imprisonment of Eleanor of Aquitaine who had sided with her sons. The Young King got more money out of the deal but no more power although he was sent to fulfill various ceremonial duties on his father’s behalf. Instead of political power the Young King turned to the tournament and jousting.
Henry was supported in his new role by a knight in his household – William Marshall. The pair travelled around Europe gaining reknown at the tourney. They fell out in 1182 when Marshall was accused of being a little too close to Marguerite.
By the end of the year the Young King was in rebellion once more and in 1183 he died having taken to pillaging monastic houses to finance his campaign. He died from dysentery and as a result of his death William Marshall, who had reconciled with his young lord and received permission to rebel against the king, went to the Holy Land to lay the Young King’s cloak in the Holy Sepelchre.