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Henry the Young King

Henry the Young King (1155-1183) was the first of four sons of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Fostered by Thomas a Becket, in 1170 the fifteen-year-old Henry was crowned king during his father's lifetime, but he never actually ruled and is not counted in the monarchs of England.

He is now known as "Henry the Young King" to distinguish him from his nephew Henry III of England. He broke with his father and allied with his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and brothers in a lengthy civil war (1173-74) in which he tried to wrest the power of the crown from his father. When he died at the age of 28 of dysentery, during the middle of a second rebellion, his father is said to have exclaimed: "He cost me much, but I wish he had lived to cost me more."

The historian W.L. Warren said of him, "The Young Henry was the only one of his family who was popular in his own day. It was true that he was also the only one who gave no evidence of political sagacity, military skill, or even ordinary intelligence....", and elaborated in a later book, "He was gracious, benign, affable, courteous, the soul of liberality and generosity. Unfortunately he was also shallow, vain, careless, empty-headed, incompetent, improvident, and irresponsible."

Henry did not seem much interested in the day-to-day business of government, or in the subtleties of military tactics. Instead he spent much of his time at tournaments or meddling in the affairs of his brothers.

Henry the Young King was married to Margaret of France[?]. His brothers Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland both later became king.


  • Henry II, by W.L. Warren, ISBN 0520034945
  • The Young King Henry Plantagenet, 1155-1183, in history, literature, and tradition, by O.H. Moore

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