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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Henry II

King of England from 1154, duke of Normandy from 1150; founder of the house of *Plantagenet, son of Geoffrey Plantagenet and Matilda; married *Eleanor of Aquitaine (1152).

His grandfather, *Henry I, had intended Henry's mother, *Matilda, to inherit the throne of England but it was seized in 1135 by *Stephen. Henry invaded in 1153 to assert his rights. By then he had huge possessions in France; not only the dukedom of Normandy, but Anjou (inherited from his father) and Aquitaine (the territory of his wife). His strength was sufficient for Stephen to make a treaty, at Westminster in 1153, acknowledging Henry as his heir in place of his own son. Stephen died the following year.

The new king, still only 21, rapidly reasserted royal authority over the barons after a period of anarchy. His attempts to do the same over the church were for a while frustrated, to Henry's surprise and fury, by his friend Thomas *Becket. The main territorial expansion of royal power in his reign was into *Ireland, where English dominance was for the first time clearly established. But it was in the administration of justice that he left his most lasting mark; his reinforcement of his grandfather's system of itinerant judges (on circuit), his establishment of a permanent court at Westminster to deal with a wide range of cases (the Court of Common Pleas), and important developments in the *jury system have all contributed to his reign being seen as the effective beginning of *common law.

Henry's determination to safeguard the rightful succession (denied to him) prompted the unorthodox device of having his son, also Henry, crowned in his own lifetime (in 1170) as the Young King. But this son died before him, in 1183. After the murder of Becket, Henry survived a rebellion by his younger sons in league with their mother and the kings of both Scotland and France. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son as *Richard I (see the *royal house).

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