, , , , , , , , ,

Henry the Young King (February 28, 1155 – June 11, 1183) was the eldest surviving son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Beginning in 1170, he was titular King of England, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou and Maine. Henry the Young King was the only King of England since the Norman Conquest to be crowned during his father’s reign, but spent his reign frustrated by his father’s refusal to grant him meaningful autonomous power.

Little is known of the young Prince Henry before the events associated with his marriage and coronation. His half-siblings (mother’s children by her first marriage to Louis VII of France) were Marie of France, Countess of Champagne and Alix of France. He had one elder brother, William IX, Count of Poitiers (August 17, 1153 – December 2, 1156) and his younger siblings included Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan, and John.


In June 1170, the fifteen-year-old Henry was crowned king during his father’s lifetime, something originally practised by the French Capetian dynasty and adopted by the English kings Stephen and Henry II. The physical appearance of Henry at his coronation in 1170 is given in a contemporary court poem written in Latin, where the fifteen-year-old prince is described as being very handsome, “tall but well proportioned, broad-shouldered with a long and elegant neck, pale and freckled skin, bright and wide blue eyes, and a thick mop of the reddish-gold hair.”

He was known in his own lifetime as “Henry the Young King” to distinguish him from his father. Because he was not a reigning king, he is not counted in the numerical succession of the Kings of England.

Henry is described as a constant competitor at tournaments across northern and central France between 1175 and 1182. With his cousins, Philippe I, Count of Flanders, and Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut, he was a key patron of the sport. Though Henry lacked political weight, his patronage brought him celebrity status throughout western Europe.

On November 2, 1160, he was betrothed to Margaret of France, daughter of King Louis VII of France and his second wife, Constance of Castile, when he was 5 years of age and she was at least 2. The marriage was an attempt to finally settle the struggle between the counts of Anjou and the French kings over possession of the frontier district of the Norman Vexin, which Louis VII had acquired from Henry’s grandfather, Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, in around 1144.

By the terms of the settlement, Margaret would bring the castles of the Norman Vexin to her new husband. However, the marriage was pushed through by Henry II when Young Henry and Margaret were small children so that he could seize the castles for himself. A bitter border war followed between the kings.

Henry and Margaret were formally married on August 27, 1172 at Winchester Cathedral, when Henry, aged seventeen, was crowned King of England a second time, this time together with Margaret, by Rotrou, the Archbishop of Rouen.


Young Henry fell out of favor with his father in 1173. Contemporary chroniclers allege that this was owing to the young Henry’s frustration that his father had given him no realm to rule, and his feeling starved of funds. The rebellion seems, however, to have drawn strength from much deeper discontent with his father’s rule, and a formidable party of Anglo-Norman, Norman, Angevin, Poitevin and Breton magnates joined him.

The revolt of 1173–1174 came close to toppling King Henry II; he was narrowly saved by the loyalty of a party of nobles with holdings on the English side of the Channel, and by the defeat and capture of William I, the King of Scotland. Young Henry sought a reconciliation after the capture of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the failure of the rebellion. His funds were much increased by the terms of the settlement, and he apparently devoted most of the next seven years to the amusement of the tournament.

In November 1179, Henry represented his father at the coronation of Philippe II Augustus as associate king of France at Reims. He acted as Steward of France and carried the crown in the coronation procession. Later, he played a leading role in the celebratory tournament held at Lagny-sur-Marne, to which he brought a retinue of over 500 knights at huge expense.

Henry the Young King contracted dysentery at the beginning of June 1183, during the course of a campaign in Limousin against his father and his brother Richard the Lionheart. Young Henry had just finished pillaging local monasteries to raise money to pay his mercenaries. He Weakening fast, he was taken to Martel, near Limoges. It was clear to his household that he was dying on June 7, when he was confessed and received the last rites.

As a token of his penitence for his war against his father, he prostrated himself naked on the floor before a crucifix. He made a testament and, since he had taken a crusader’s vow, he gave his cloak to his friend William Marshal, with the plea that he should take the cloak (presumably with the crusader’s cross stitched to it) to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

On his deathbed, he reportedly asked to be reconciled to his father, but King Henry II, fearing a trick, refused to see him. He died on June 11, aged 28, six years before his father, leaving his brother Richard to become the next king. Henry died clasping a ring his father had sent as a sign of his forgiveness. After his death, his father is said to have exclaimed: “He cost me much, but I wish he had lived to cost me more.”

Three years after the death of her husband, Margaret, titular Queen of England and Duchess of Anjou by righter of her husband, became the second wife of Béla III of Hungary in 1186, after receiving a substantial pension in exchange for surrendering her dowry of Gisors and the Vexin. She was widowed for a second time in 1196 and died on pilgrimage to the Holy Land at St John of Acre in 1197, having only arrived eight days prior to her death.