Angevin, Anglo-Norman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry the Young King, House of Anjou, House of Plantagenet, King Henry II of England, Norman, Philippe II of France, Poitevin and Breton, William I of Scotland, William Marshal
Young Henry fell out with his father in 1173. Contemporary chroniclers allege that this was owing to the young man’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 the king; 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, he represented his father at the coronation of Philippe II Auguste 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. The Young Henry’s affairs took a turn for the worse in 1182.
Henry fell out with William Marshal, the leader of his tournament mesnée. The unknown author of L’Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal suggests that Marshal’s disgrace was because he had indulged in a clandestine affair with Queen Margaret. David Crouch, one of the Marshal’s principal modern biographers, argues that the charge against William was actually one of lèse majesté, brought on by Marshal’s own arrogance and greed. By this account, the charge of adultery was only introduced in the Life of William Marshal as a distraction from the real charges, of which he was most probably guilty.
Though the Young King sent his wife early in 1183 to the French court, it was done most likely to keep her safe in the impending war with his brother, Richard, rather than because she was in disgrace.
The only child of Henry and Margaret was William, who was born prematurely on June 19, 1177 and died three days later. This difficult delivery may have left her infertile, for she had no further children.
Death and burial
Henry the Young King died, aged 28, in the summer of 1183, during the course of a campaign in Limousin against his father and his brother Richard the Lionheart. He had just finished pillaging local monasteries to raise money to pay his mercenaries. He contracted dysentery at the beginning of June. 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, fearing a trick, refused to see him.
He died on June 11, clasping a ring his father had sent instead 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.”
After Henry’s death, there was an attempt by his mother and a faction of his friends to promote his sainthood. Thomas of Earley, Archdeacon of Wells, published a sermon not long afterward detailing miraculous events attending the cortège that took his body north to Normandy. Henry had left orders that his entrails and other body parts should be buried at the abbey of Charroux, but the rest of his body should rest in Rouen Cathedral.
However, during the funeral procession, a member of Henry’s household was seized by his mercenary captains for debts the late king had owed them. The knights accompanying his corpse were so penniless they had to be fed by charity at the monastery of Vigeois.
There were large and emotional gatherings wherever his body rested. At Le Mans, the local bishop halted the procession and ordered the body buried in his cathedral, perhaps to help defuse the civil unrest Henry’s death had caused. The dean of Rouen recovered the body from the chapter of Le Mans a month later by a lawsuit, so that the Young Henry could be buried in Normandy as he had desired in his testament.