Henry II and his sons

Henry II
Henry II

As noted in my previous post, in the Great War, Henry II had thoroughly trounced his three sons, Young Henry, Richard and Geoffrey, but they were far from cowed. Richard was the ruler of Aquitaine, Geoffrey was Duke of Brittany and Young Henry was King of England, but since his father was still alive and bore that title, he didn’t have anything to rule. This lack led him into an improvident and irresponsible lifestyle, and bitter jealousy of his younger brothers.

A decade later, Young Henry and Richard quarreled over possession of the castle of Mirabeau, and the older Henry summoned them to join him in Le Mans in order to repair the situation before it got out of hand. Henry II was a wise ruler and an intelligent man, but, blind where his sons were concerned, he was inclined to indulge rather than punish and put his trust in them even when he must have known they were deceiving him. First he persuaded Richard to hand over the castle of Mirabeau to himself, which Richard was initially unwilling to do, and then he required his two younger sons to take oaths of homage to the elder as heir to the overlordship of the Angevin federation. Richard refused. He argued that he did not hold any lands within the young king’s perceived inheritance; Aquitaine came to him through his mother Eleanor, and he did homage to the King of France. His refusal infuriated the old king and another quarrel ensued. Without leave from his father, Richard quit the court and rode in haste to his own territory to fortify his towns and castles.

Henry the Young King
Henry the Young King

Now the young king’s skill in duplicity came to the fore, at the same time as the old king’s blind trust reached new heights. Young Henry sought his father’s permission to go to Aquitaine and bring to terms the rebellious barons Richard had been unable to quell. Henry II agreed, even though he must have known the only reason Young Henry might succeed where Richard had failed was because a secret understanding had existed for a few years, Young Henry having convinced the barons that he would be a more sympathetic lord than Richard.

So it transpired. Young Henry sent his wife off to her brother in Paris, and as soon as he reached Limoges he secretly accepted the service of Richard’s disaffected barons. Henry II followed behind with only a small escort, but when he approached the city gates, a shower of arrows rained down on him and his men, one of which pierced his cloak. The king withdrew and  attempts at negotiation followed, with Young Henry claiming it was a misunderstanding and his father – at least on the face of it – believing him. (It must have been hard for Henry to accept that his beloved son had tried to kill him.) The negotiators met with abuse, and arrows flew again when the king approached the town a second time. Meanwhile, since Richard had demolished the walls of Limoges, the rebels were frantically tearing down churches and throwing up ramparts.

Richard and Philip of France
Richard and Philip of France

The rebels of Aquitaine had already tasted Richard’s mettle, and Henry II was a renowned and successful commander of armies. Apart from his household knights, Young Henry had few men with him, nor did his allies, so they were in desperate straits. But now Geoffrey entered the fray. He had the resources of Brittany with which to hire mercenaries, giving the rebels a fighting chance. At the same time Count Aymer of Limoges summoned mercenaries from the wilds of Gascony, and King Philip of France sent more to to aid his brother-in-law, Young Henry. Finally the king was forced to face the truth, and he immediately sent for mercenaries of his own.

Richard was savagely dealing with the disorder created by hordes of undisciplined mercenaries, moving swift as a cat from one part of the province to another, while the king laid siege to Limoges. As his own, more disciplined mercenaries began to arrive, the position of Young Henry and the rebels looked more and more precarious. He slipped out of Limoges, after robbing the citizens and plundering the shrine of St. Martial to pay his mercenaries. When he tried to return, his famous charm failed to overcome the anger of the townsfolk, who pelted him with stones from the walls.

Rootless and purposeless, he drifted through southern Aquitaine, until he developed dysentery, and died.

These events are portrayed in my book The First Plantagenet.

Sources: Henry II by W.L. Warren & Wikipedia



Author: susanappleyardwriter

I am a writer and reader of historical fiction. In the eighties I had 2 books published traditionally and recently 2 books self-published. I live in Canada for half the year - the warm half - and Mexico for the other half.

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