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Henry II то Richard I: 1154-99
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Henry II то Richard I: 1154-99Henry II (1154-89)
‘One of the most remarkable characters in English history’, Henry II (born 1133) ruled an empire larger than any English king before him. It included England, Wales, Ireland, Anjou, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. His prestige rivalled that of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, while Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine - one of the most formidable and dynamic women of medieval times - matched him in power of will.

Henry was ‘medieval action man’; robust, physically impressive, and restlessly active in war, the hunt, the law, letters, art and architecture. His rages struck onlookers with terror; his charm bewitched them. Henry’s iron will awed his subjects and imposed his policies on his country. His most lasting achievement was reconstruc¬tion of the English legal system.

Yet it was Henry’s quarrels, rather than his law-making, that most impressed at the time and his most infamous dispute - with his friend and chancellor, Thomas Becket - echoed through the centuries. This was both a clash of wills and a conflict between rights of Church and Crown. Its result was Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Whether or not Henry knowingly commanded the murder is debatable, but he did public penance for it. His later quarrels with Queen Eleanor and his sons provoked a vicious civil war that threatened to dismember the empire.

The English Pope
Nicholas Breakspear became Pope in 1154, taking the name of Adrian IV. At his death in 1159, the only English Pope was ‘lamented by all good men’. One of his acts was to grant ‘the illustrious king of England’, Henry II, hereditary possession of Ireland.

Richard I (Coeur de Lion) (1189-99)
It has been said of Richard that ‘few English kings have played so small a part in the affairs of England’. Born in 1157 at Oxford, Richard was the second surviving son of Henry II and Queen Eleanor. He grew up in France where he learned soldiering by fighting the barons of Aquitaine. An admired if reckless soldier and crusader alongside his friend King Philip of France, Richard spent less than five months of his reign in England. For some Englishmen, this made him an ideal monarch.

Richard fought in France, Sicily and in Palestine during the Third Crusade, earning the respect of the Muslim leader Saladin but failing to recapture Jerusalem. His military career, though impressive, was expensive and culminated in a huge ransom bill when - in 1192 - the home-bound king was held hostage by Leopold of Austria. Managing such affairs was left to the capable Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury. Richard’s marriage to Berengaria of Navarre produced no children (the king may well have been homosexual) and in 1192 carelessness during a minor siege resulted in a crossbow wound that cost him his life at the age of 42. The Lionheart passed into legend, and his brother John became king.

Setting sail forthe east
Richard of Devizes describes how Richard I assembled a fleet of over 100 ships for his crusade in 1190. The biggest, known as busses, had 30 oars and two sails and carried 40 horses ‘well trained for War’ along with knights and foot-soldiers, and a year’s stores. The ‘exceedingly great’ royal treasure was split between the ships, for safety.

Where a king did penance
Henry II, pictured in stained glass in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral. In a public show of remorse and guilt for Becket’s death, the king was scourged (beaten) by monks the following year. Becket’s shrine became a place of pilgrimage, and the chapel’s Miracle Window shows scenes of miracles attributed to the saint.

Henry II то Richard I: 1154-99

Richard's coronation
Richard’s coronation procession approaches Westminster. England was a peripheral interest throughout the reign of this soldier king who also wrote poetry.

Henry II то Richard I: 1154-99

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