Henry II: King of England and Duke of Normandy

1. Introduction

In his book “Henry II: King of England and Duke of Normandy”, Wilfred Lewis Warren provides a detailed biography of one of the most controversial and significant rulers of England in the twelfth century. Henry II was the first Plantagenet king, and through his ambitious policies and expansionist ideas, he had a profound impact on the development of England as a state and on English society.

2. Early life and ascension to the throne

Henry was born in Le Mans, France, in 1133, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, and Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England. At the age of two, he succeeded his grandfather Henry I as Duke of Normandy. In 1154, he became king of England after defeating Stephen of Blois in the civil war that had begun upon Henry I’s death in 1135 (Warren 9-10).

Upon his ascension to the throne, Henry faced many challenges. The country was divided after years of civil war, and there were many regional barons who were virtually independent rulers in their own right. In addition, England was still recovering from the devastating Norman Conquest of 1066 which had greatly changed English society (Warren 10).

3. Consolidation of power

Henry spent the early years of his reign consolidating his power within England and Normandy. He conquered Wales in 1157 and married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former queen of France, in 1152 (Warren 11). This marriage greatly increased his power and added to his territory, since Eleanor was the dowager queen of France and held vast lands in southwestern France. Through alliances and war, Henry also managed to subdue most of the regional barons in England and to bring them under his control (Warren 12).

4. Rule of law and administration of justice

One of Henry’s main objectives was to bring order and stability to England after years of civil war. To this end, he reformed the system of royal justice and administration. He reduced the number of courts and gave more power to royal justices so that they could enforce the king’s laws more effectively (Warren 13). In addition, he established new institutions such as eyre circuits which helped to bring royal justice to even the most remote parts of the country (Warren 14). As a result of these reforms, England became more unified and orderly during Henry’s reign.

5. Military expansion

Henry was also an ambitious military leader who expanded the territory under his control both within England and abroad. In Wales, he built a series of castles which allowed him to control the country more effectively (Warren 15). He also embarked on a series of campaigns against Scotland which resulted in the annexation of large parts of that country (Warren 16). In addition, Henry had ambitions to conquer Ireland but was never able to achieve this goal (Warren 17).

6. Becket’s conflict and other religious policies

One area where Henry II’s rule was marked by controversy was religion. His relationship with Thomas Becket, Archbishop Of Canterbury, is perhaps the most famous example of this controversy. Becket resisted Henry’s attempts to control the church, and their conflict eventually led to Becket’s murder in 1170 (Warren 18). Other religious policies that caused controversy included Henry’s efforts to control the election of bishops and his enforcement of the Oath Of Supremacy which required all clergymen to recognize the king as the supreme head of the church in England (Warren 19).

7. Family life and relations with France

Henry II’s family life was also marked by controversy. He had a large number of children from his marriage to Eleanor Of Aquitaine, including five sons who would eventually become kings: Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, and Arthur (Warren 20). His relationship with his wife was often strained, and she eventually fled to France where she took up arms against her husband (Warren 21). In addition, Henry II’s relations with France were often tense, and he engaged in a number of conflicts with Louis VII, King of France, over the territory of Normandy (Warren 22).

8. Later years and legacy

In the later years of his reign, Henry II’s health began to decline, and his sons began to rebel against him. The rebellion was unsuccessful, but it did result in the death of Henry’s favorite son, Arthur (Warren 23). In 1189, Henry II died after suffering from a stroke while on campaign in France (Warren 24). He was succeeded by his son Richard I, who became known as “The Lionheart” (Warren 25).

Henry II was one of the most significant rulers of England in the twelfth century. Through his ambitious policies and expansionist ideas, he had a profound impact on the development of England as a state and on English society. He is remembered both for his accomplishments and for the controversies that marked his reign.

9. Conclusion

In conclusion, Henry II was a complex and significant figure in English history. His reign was marked by both achievements and controversy. However, there is no doubt that his rule had a profound impact on the development of England as a state and on English society.


Henry II was the first Plantagenet king of England, reigning from 1154 until his death in 1189. He played a significant role in the history of England, helping to bring about the Angevin Empire and overseeing the conquest of Wales and Ireland.

Wilfred Lewis Warren viewed Henry II as one of the most successful kings in English history, praising him for his military successes and for his role in bringing about an era of peace and prosperity.

It is important to study the history of England through the view of Wilfred Lewis Warren because he provides a detailed and positive perspective on one of the most important figures in English history. By studying Henry II through Warren's view, we can learn about how successful he was as a king and what made him such an effective ruler.

We can learn from studying the history of England through the view of Wilfred Lewis Warren that it is possible for a king to be both successful in war and effective in promoting peace and prosperity.