Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine
Founding an Empire
- Matthew Lewis
15th May 2023
Henry II became King of England in 1154 after twenty years of civil war. He was the first Plantagenet king, the founder of England’s most successful and longest-ruling dynasty.
But Henry did not come to the throne alone. He had married Eleanor of Aquitaine, a feisty, formidable and powerful woman ten years his senior. Eleanor had spent fifteen years married to Louis VII of France before he divorced her, only to be angered when she married his young rival. Together, they were a medieval power couple who soon added the ultimate rank of king and queen consort to their list of titles. With them, the Angevin Empire was born.
Over the decades, a wedge was driven between the king, fiercely protective of his empire, and Eleanor, who felt restrained in her husband’s shadow. Henry imprisoned his wife, fought his elder sons and pinned his hopes on his youngest, whose betrayal was the last straw.
This book charts the early lives of Henry and Eleanor before they became a European power couple and examines the impact of their union on contemporaries and European politics. It explores the birth of the Angevin Empire that spread from Northumberland to the Mediterranean, and the causes of the disintegration of that vast territory, as well as the troublesome relationships between Henry and his sons, who dragged their father to the battlefield to defend his lands from their ambitious intriguing.