Henry the Young King, after having spent almost two years on English soil solely in his father’s company. Missing his former life on the tournament field, he asked the latter’s permission to go on pilgrimage to the shrine of St James at Compostella. With all probability it was meant to serve as a cover to escape his father’s influence. Henry II must have seen through his son, for he flatly refused to provide for so extended an expedition. Still he gave him leave to cross to the continent, where, as Ralph of Diceto wrote in his Images, ‘he passed three years in tournaments, spending a lot of money. While he was rushing around all over France he put aside the royal majesty and was transformed from a king into a knight, carrying off victory in various meetings. His popularity made him famous…’ (p.152).
Marguerite of France, the Young Queen (c.1158-1197)
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Marguerite of France, Henry the Young king's wife has been even more neglected by historians than her husband. Not much is known about the young queen, even the exact date of her birth remains unknown. Not very unusual, concerning the treatment of women in the Middle Ages, but in case of Marguerite there was more to that. Her arrival into this world must have been a great disappointment to her father, Louis VII of France. A few years before he had divorced Eleanor of Aquitaine- ironically Marguerite’s future mother-in-law- because he had found her unable to produce a male heir. His second marriage, as it turned out, did not have a very auspicious beginning either, for in 1158 Donna Constanza of Castile had a cheek to give birth to one more daughter and leave Louis without so much-awaited male heir. Marguerite was the third daughter of Louis, the first by his second wife. She was born when her father was already thirty-eight and despairing over lack of a son. From his first marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine Louis had two daughters, Marie (b. 1145) and Alix (b.1151). He had his marriage to Eleanor declared null on grounds of consanguinity, but it was only a cover. He yearned for a male heir and Eleanor, apparently, was unable to provide him with one.
New Year’s Day 1176. I Am No Bird To Be Mewed Up…
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Henry the Young King spent Christmas 1175 at Windsor together with his father, the elder king Henry. As the year came to an end and the new year 1176 began he was the most unhappy young king in Christendom. Exactly two months shy of his twenty-first birthday, “tall in stature,… fair among the children of man…” (Gervase of Tilbury) and “…of the most handsome countenance” (Robert of Torigni)*, staying in what he considered his house arrest, deprived of his vitae fons, the tournaments, he had a real cause to complain. He spent almost entire year 1175 on English soil, not out of his own choice but as the result of the disastrous- at least to him- Great Revolt. And although he had his dearest friend, his carissimus, William Marshal with him all the time, he took the whole situation badly.
Young King Henry Looked Out On the Feast of... Christmas
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I have been wondering how the twelfth-century English king spent the Twelve Days of Christmas. First and foremost, he did not always spend them in England, but also on the Continent (remember: at the time the English king’s continental possessions far surpassed those of his overlord, the king of France). Henry the Young King spent only seven out of his twenty-eight Christmases on English soil. The remaining twenty-one he did pass in his father’s continental domains. Some turned out to be quite memorable, the other less.
In the Dark of December
Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, after an absence of six years accompanied by his faithful followers returned to England. Hardly had they disembarked at Sandwich when the royal officials at the head of the armed troops stopped them and tried to seize the Archbishop. The latter was set free only after showing the king’s letter of safe conduct. On his way to Canterbury Thomas was met with the enthusiastic reception especially by the poor people of the realm, who already treated him as a saint. Perhaps he knew that his road back to Canterbury would also become his road to martyrdom.
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The Young King's effigy in Rouen Cathedral, Normandy. By courtesy of Ms. Rebecca Bugge.
Tradition has it Young Henry died in this house at Martel.
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The inscription incorrectly calls the Young King 'Curtmantle' - this was his father's nickname.