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Note: I failed to post this when I was doing this series. So in order for it all to be complete and online I will post this today.

The reign of Henry II (1154-1189) saw many battles for power amongst his sons. If you have ever seen the 1967 classic the Lion in Winter then you will understand what I mean. Also, for the first time, maybe the only time, we see a king crown his successor in his life time. It is also during this period that we see the succession of male prefered primogeniture start taking hold.

Henry married the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former wife of king Louis VII of France (1137-1180). Eleanor married Henry 1152 when she was about 30 years of age and he was 19. They had a large family, with Eleanor bearing Henry 5 sons and 3 daughters. The eldest son, William, died when he was only three leaving the next son, Henry, as heir to the English throne.

Henry has come down through history known as the Young King. Henry II crowned his son King of England in 1170. The practice was carried out in the Capetian Dynasty in France and Henry adopted this practice as a formal manner in establishing his heir. In 1172 Henry, called the Young King to distinguish him from his father, was crowned once more when he married Margaret d’Anjou, daughter of King Louis VII of france and his second wife, Constance of Castile.

Henry the Young King held his position for 11 more years but had a falling out with his father in 1182. The battles between Henry II and his sons have become the tales of legends and although these are not the focus of this blog entry they do play a role in the battle for the crown. Henry The Young King often struggled financially and had just raided a few monasteries to raise money for his campaign against his brothers when he died from dysentery at the age of 28. Although the Young King was crowned and anointed King of England but since he never ruled in his own right he is not counted or numbered among the kings of England.

When Henry II died in 1189 the throne passed to his eldest son who became Richard I of England known as famously as Richard the Lion Heart. Richard spent the majority of his time on Crusades and was rarely home in England. He married Berengaria of Navarre but had no issue leaving the succession in question once again. Historians claim that Richard was a homosexual although he did have one illegitimate son, Philip of Cognac, by an unidentified mother. In March of 1199 Richard had attacked the Castle of Chalus-Chabrol when he was shot in the neck by an arrow from a crossbow. The doctor mangled the surgery and the wound became gangrenous and Richard died on April 6, 1199. Before his death he had bequeathed all his lands, including the English Crown, to his brother John, a prince who was in constant rebellion toward his brother.

This would seem like a cut-and-dried legal succession but during these times the laws covering succession were not always clear. Richard did grant John his titles and this was in accordance of Norman Law. However, in the rest of the Angevin Empire which Henry II had established, the Law of Primogeniture was more in force and this left Arthur of Brittany as heir to the English throne. Arthur was the eldest son of Geoffery II, Duke of Brittany, who was the younger brother of Richard I, yet the older brother of John.

Phillippe II of France (1180-1223) placed his support behind Arthur for the English throne. Arthur, who was only 16 at the time (this was the reason he was by-passed for the throne, Richard considered Arthur too young) led forces into Maine and Anjou. However, nothing came of this and within a year Philippe II changed sides and signed a treaty recognizing John as the rightful ruler over the Angevin lands. Arthur was reconciled to John but in time grew suspicious of the English King. John never trusted his nephew and in time Arthur was captured by the Barons and imprisoned. By 1203 Arthur disappeared from history. No one knows what happened to Arthur but legend has it that he was murdered by King John himself and his body was tied to a rock and tossed into the Seine.

Was John a usurper? I guess it depends on the laws you adhere to. Richard did leave the Crown to him and in that manner his rule is legitimate in England. In the other French territories of the Angevin Empire, that were governed by the laws of male primogeniture, John could be considered a usurper. But one thing historians are unanimous over: John was a bad king.