Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Westminster. Rouen. Chinon. Poitiers. The Four Centres Of Power For Henry Plantagenet, Mediaeval King Of England, 1154 – 1189. Friend And Foe Of Thomas à Becket.

Text from Wikipedia - the free  encyclopaedia,
unless stated otherwise.

Soundtrack from Simon Schama's "A History of Britain",
which included King Henry II's reign.
Sung by Emma Kirkby (Soprano)
Music by John Harle.
Available on YouTube at

The "three lions passants guardants or", attributed to King William I
and his Plantagenet successors (Henry I, Stephen, Henry II, John, Henry III)
Date: 13th-Century.
Source: British Library website, Royal MS 14 C VII
Author: Matthew Paris.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Henry II (5 March 1133 – 6 July 1189), also known as Henry Curtmantle (French: Court-manteau), Henry FitzEmpress or Henry Plantagenet, ruled as Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Nantes, King of England (1154–1189) and Lord of Ireland. At various times, he also controlled Wales, Scotland and Brittany.

Henry was the son of Geoffrey of Anjou and Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. He became actively involved by the age of 14 in his mother's efforts to claim the throne of England, then occupied by Stephen of Blois, and was made Duke of Normandy at 17. He inherited Anjou in 1151 and shortly afterwards married Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose marriage to Louis VII of France had recently been annulled. Stephen agreed to a Peace Treaty after Henry's military expedition to England in 1153. Henry inherited the Kingdom on Stephen's death a year later.

More melodramatic music that, to Zephyrinus's ears, captures the Mediaeval era perfectly.
Composed by John Harle, who wrote the Theme Music for "A History of Britain" (see, above), narrated and introduce by Simon Scharma.
Available on YouTube at

Henry was an energetic and sometimes ruthless Ruler, driven by a desire to restore the lands and privileges of his Royal Grandfather, King Henry I. During the early years of the younger Henry's Reign, he restored the Royal Administration in England, re-established hegemony over Wales, and gained full control over his lands in Anjou, Maine and Touraine, all in France.

Henry's desire to reform the relationship with The Church led to conflict with his former friend, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This controversy lasted for much of the 1160s and resulted in Becket's murder in 1170. Henry soon came into conflict with King Louis VII of France, and the two Rulers fought what has been termed a "Cold War" over several decades.

Henry expanded his Empire, often at Louis' expense, taking Brittany, and pushing East into Central France and South into Toulouse. Despite numerous Peace Conferences and Treaties, no lasting agreement was reached. By 1172, he controlled England, large parts of Wales, the Eastern half of Ireland and the Western half of France, an area that would later come to be called The Angevin Empire.

Henry and Eleanor had eight children. As they grew up, tensions over the future inheritance of The Empire began to emerge, encouraged by King Louis of France and his son, King Philip II. In 1173, Henry's heir apparent, "Young Henry", rebelled in protest; he was joined by his brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, and by their mother, Eleanor.

France, Scotland, Flanders, and Boulogne, allied themselves with the Rebels. The Great Revolt was only defeated by his vigorous military action and talented local commanders, many of them "new men" appointed for their loyalty and administrative skills. Young Henry and Geoffrey revolted again in 1183, resulting in Young Henry's death.

The Norman invasion of Ireland provided lands for his youngest son, John, but Henry struggled to find ways to satisfy all his sons' desires for land and immediate power. King Philip successfully played on Richard's fears that King Henry would make John king, and a final Rebellion broke out in 1189. Decisively defeated by Philip and Richard, and suffering from a bleeding ulcer, King Henry retreated to Chinon, in Anjou, France, where he died.

Henry's Empire quickly collapsed during the Reign of his youngest son King John. Many of the changes Henry introduced during his long Rule, however, had long-term consequences. Henry's legal changes are generally considered to have laid the basis for The English Common Law, while his intervention in Brittany, Wales and Scotland shaped the development of their societies and governmental systems.

Historical interpretations of Henry's Reign have changed considerably over time. In the 18th-Century, scholars argued that Henry was a driving force in the creation of a genuinely English Monarchy and, ultimately, a unified Britain. During the Victorian expansion of The British Empire, historians were keenly interested in the formation of Henry's own Empire, but they also expressed concern over his private life and treatment of Thomas à Becket. Late-20th-Century historians have combined British and French historical accounts of Henry, challenging earlier Anglo-centric interpretations of his Reign.

English: Chinon Castle. France.
One of King Henry II's four centres of power in the 12th-Century.
Français: Vue du château de Chinon de la rive gauche de la Vienne.
On distingue à droite la tour de l'Horloge et à gauche la tour du moulin.
This File: 23 March 2009.
User: Citypeek.
(Wikimedia Commons)

During The Middle Ages, Chinon, France, developed, especially under King Henry II (Henry Plantagenêt, Count of Anjou, and Crowned King of England in 1154). The Castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming his Administrative Centre and a favourite Residence. It was where Court was frequently held during The Angevin Empire.

On Henry's death at the Castle in 1189, Chinon first passed to his eldest surviving son from his marriage with Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard I the Lionheart. On Richard's death in 1199, it then passed to the youngest of Henry's children, John Lackland. King John would lose the Castle in a siege in 1205 to the French King, Philip II Augustus, from which date it was included in the French Royal Estates as The Royal Duchy of Touraine.

The Castle in Chinon served as a prison, when King Philip IV the Fair ordered The Knights Templar arrested in 1307.Jacques de Molay, Grand Master, and a few other dignitaries of the Order of the Temple were incarcerated there prior to trial and eventual execution.

During most of the Early-Middle Ages, the Town of Poitiers, France, took advantage of its defensive tactical site and of its location, which was far from the centre of Frankish power. As the Seat for an Évêché (Bishop) since the 4th-Century A.D., the Town was a centre of some importance and the Capital of the Poitou County. At the height of their power, the Counts of Poitiers governed a large domain, including both Aquitaine and Poitou.

The Town was often referred to as "Poictiers", a name commemorated in Warships of The Royal Navy, after The Battle of Poi(c)tiers.

[Editor: Two Ships of The British Royal Navy have been named HMS Poictiers. Poictiers is an alternative spelling for Poitiers, and, in this instance, commemorates the English victory there.

The first HMS Poictiers was a 74-Gun Third-Rate, launched in 1809. She participated in an action where she rescued HMS Frolic by capturing the USS Wasp in 1812. Poictiers was broken up in 1857.

The second HMS Poictiers was a 2,380 ton Battle-Class Destroyer, launched in April 1946, but broken up soon after.]

The first decisive victory of a Christian army over a Muslim power, The Battle of Tours, was fought by Charles Martel's men in the vicinity of Poitiers on 10 October 732 A.D. For many historians, it was one of the World's pivotal moments.

Eleanor of Aquitaine frequently resided in the Town of Poitiers, which she embellished and fortified, and, in 1199, entrusted with Communal Rights. In 1152, she married the future King Henry II of England in Poitiers Cathedral.

During The Hundred Years' War, The Battle of Poitiers, an English victory, was fought near the Town on 19 September 1356. Later in the War, in 1418, under duress, The Royal Parliament moved from Paris to Poitiers, where it remained in exile until The Plantagenets finally withdrew from the Capital in 1436. During this interval, in 1429 Poitiers was the site of Joan of Arc's formal inquest.

Poitiers Castle,
Illustration: EUROSTAR

Rouen is a City on The River Seine in the North of France. It is the Capital of the Region of Normandy. Formerly one of the largest and most prosperous Cities of Mediaeval Europe,

Rouen was the Seat of The Exchequer of Normandy during The Middle Ages. It was one of the Capitals of The Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th- to the 15th-Centuries.

The Duchy of Normandy grew out of the 911 A.D., Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, between King Charles III of West Francia and Rollo, leader of The Vikings. From 1035 to 1135, it was held by The Norman Kings of England, and then, after 15 years of government by Stephen of Blois and Geoffrey Plantagenet, it was held by The Angevin Kings of England from 1150 to 1204.

English: Rouen Cathedral.
The Church was the tallest building in the World,
from 1876-1880, with a height of 151 m.
Photo: 15 February 2014.
Source: Own work.
Author: DXR.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Normandy was conquered by King Philip II of France in 1204 and remained disputed territory until The Treaty of Paris of 1259, when the English Sovereigns ceded their claim, except for The Channel Islands.

The Title of "Duke of Normandy" was then sporadically conferred in the Kingdom of France as an honorific, but non-feudal, Title, the last one having been Louis XVII of France from 1785 to 1789.

The Nave,
Rouen Cathedral, France.
Photo: 14 May 2014.
Source: Own work.
Author: DXR.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The name Westminster originated from the informal description of the Abbey Church and Royal Peculiar of Saint Peter's (Westminster Abbey), literally West of The City of London, indeed, until The Reformation, there was a reference to the 'East Minster' at Minories (Holy Trinity Priory, Aldgate), East of the City; the Abbey was part of The Royal Palace that had been created here by Edward the Confessor. It has been the home of the permanent institutions of England's government, continuously since about 1200 (High Middle Ages' Plantagenet) and is now the Seat of British government.

Westminster Abbey.
Photo: 26 May 2013.
Source: Own work.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Westminster Abbey, formally titled "The Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster", is a large, mainly Gothic Abbey Church in The City of Westminster, London, just to the West of The Palace of Westminster.

It is one of The United Kingdom's most notable Religious buildings and the Traditional Place of Coronation and Burial Site for English, and later, British, Monarchs. Between 1540 and 1556, the Abbey had the status of a Cathedral. Since 1560, however, the building is no longer an Abbey, nor a Cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar" — a Church responsible directly to The Sovereign. The building itself is the original Abbey Church.

According to a Tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a Church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the 7th-Century A.D., at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present Church began in 1245, on the orders of King Henry III.

Canterbury Cathedral.
Site of the murder of Thomas à Becket.
Photo: 2006.
Author: Antony McCallum 
(Wikimedia Commons)

Since 1066, when Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror were Crowned, the Coronations of English and British Monarchs have been held there. There have been at least sixteen Royal Weddings at the Abbey since 1100. Two were of Reigning Monarchs (Henry I and Richard II), although, before 1919, there had been none for some 500 years.

Thomas Becket, also known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas of London, and, later, Thomas à Becket, 21 December circa 1119 – 29 December 1170, was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is Venerated as a Saint and Martyr by both The Catholic Church and The Anglican Communion.

He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of The Catholic Church and was murdered by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral. Soon after his death, he was Canonised by Pope Alexander III.

The Cloisters at Canterbury Cathedral.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas à Becket,
would have often walked these Cloisters.
Photo: 28 July 2014.
Source: Own work.
Author: Diliff.
Attribution: "Photo by DAVID ILIFF.
License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"
(Wikimedia Commons)

In June 1170, Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the Archbishop of York, along with Gilbert Foliot, the Bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon, the Bishop of Salisbury, Crowned the Heir Apparent, Henry the Young King, at York. This was a breach of Canterbury's Privilege of Coronation, and, in November 1170 Becket Excommunicated all three. While the three Clergymen fled to King Henry II in Normandy, France, Becket continued to Excommunicate his opponents in The Church, the news of which also reached Henry.

Upon hearing reports of Becket's actions, Henry is said to have uttered words that were interpreted by his men as wishing Becket killed. The King's exact words are in doubt and several versions have been reported. The most commonly quoted, as handed down by oral Tradition, is: "Who will rid me of this troublesome Priest ?", but, according to historian Simon Schama, this is incorrect; he accepts the account of the contemporary biographer Edward Grim, writing in Latin, who gives us: "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their Lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born Cleric" Many variations have found their way into popular culture.

The Angevin Empire and claims of King Henry II of England (Red, Buff, Orange, Yellow).
Blue is the Royal Domain and Vassal States of The French King.
Date of construction of File: 5 January 2011,
Derivative work: Hchc2009.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Whatever Henry said, it was interpreted as a Royal Command, and four Knights, Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville,William de Tracy and Richard le Breton, set out to confront The Archbishop of Canterbury.

On 29 December 1170, they arrived at Canterbury. According to accounts left by the Monk, Gervase of Canterbury, and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a tree outside the Cathedral, and hid their Mail Armour under cloaks, before entering to challenge Becket.

The Knights informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions, but Becket refused. It was not until Becket refused their demands, to submit to the King's Will, that they retrieved their weapons and rushed back inside for the killing. Becket, meanwhile, proceeded to the Main Hall for Vespers.

A Seal of the Abbot of Arbroath, Scotland, showing the murder of Becket.
Arbroath Abbey was founded eight years after the death of Saint Thomas
and Dedicated to him. It became the wealthiest Abbey in Scotland.
Date: Mediaeval Seal. Photo from the 1850s.
Source: Cosmo Innes and Patrick Chalmers (eds.), Liber S. Thome De Aberbrothoc;
Registrorum Abbacie De Aberbrothoc, Volume 2, Edinburgi (Bannatyne Club) 1848-1856, front.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The four Knights, wielding drawn Swords, caught up with him in a spot near a door to the Monastic Cloister. Several contemporary accounts of what happened next exist; of particular note is that of Edward Grim, who was himself wounded in the attack. This is part of the account from Edward Grim:
The wicked Knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of Sacred Chrism had Dedicated to God. Next, he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow, he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice: "For the name of Jesus and the protection of The Church, I am ready to embrace death."
Following Becket's death, the Monks prepared his body for burial. According to some accounts, it was discovered that Becket had worn a hairshirt under his Archbishop's garments — a sign of Penance.

Soon after, The Faithful throughout Europe began Venerating Becket as a Martyr, and on 21 February 1173 — little more than two years after his death — he was Canonised by Pope Alexander III in Saint Peter's Church in Segni, Italy. In 1173, Becket's sister, Mary, was appointed as Abbess of Barking Abbey, as reparation for the murder of her brother. On 12 July 1174, in the midst of the Revolt of 1173–1174, Henry humbled himself with Public Penance at Becket's tomb, as well as at the Church of Saint Dunstan's, Canterbury, which became one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in England.

12th-Century Mediaeval Chant.
Medieval chant from Codex Calixtinus.
Title: "Responsorium in organo: Dum esset Salvator in monte"
Service: Missa Sancti Iacobi
Performers: Ensemble Organum, Director: Marcel Peres
Album: "Compostella - Ad Vesperas Sancti Iacobi : Codex Calixtinus XIIe siècle"
Available on YouTube at

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