King Henry

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Famously, England has had eight Kings called Henry. (There was also a Jacobite claimant to the throne of the UK whom his followers called 'Henry IX'.) A brief account of each is given below. There have been kings in other countries, such as Portugal, France and Spain, called 'Henry'; and in Germany, where some rulers were Emperor or Archduke Henrys. Wikipedia's list is given at [[1]].

There was a coin issued in the reign of Henry VI which was known as a Henry[-noble] or harry[-noble] - see Noble (coin) for more.

The forename Henry was abbreviated conventionally to Harry, which was applied to several King Henrys (see Harry (name) for more). The adjective meaning 'to do with [King] Henry' is Henrician. It can be applied to any of the King Henrys, but is most commonly applied in England to the Reformation carried out in the reign of, and under the leadership of, Henry VIII. It is also used sometimes to describe the army of one Henry or another in conflict (e.g. "The Henrician forces attacked on the right..."), or a particular phase of building work or so on ("The Henrician alterations included much reglazing with stained glass"). The noun can also be applied to the followers of the heretic Henry of Lausanne (d. ca. 1148, in Toulouse).

There has also been one King Henry of Scotland: Henry Stewart (1545/6-1567), the second consort of Mary Queen of Scots. He was known as Henry, King of Scots, although he had no royal power. (He is usually called Darnley, more formally 'Lord Darnley', in modern histories.) It is worth adding that there have been four King Henris of France, usually known in English as Henry. These may confuse some students, not least because of some of the overlapping chronology: Henry I of France ruled from 1031 to 1060; Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559; Henry III of France from 1574 to 1589; and Henry IV from 1589 to 1610.

Even more confusingly, during the Hundred Years War, King Henry VI of England was crowned in Paris as 'Henry II' of France, in 1431, at the age of 10. He never ruled the whole of France, and the effectiveness of English rule even north of the river Loire was limited. At the end of the war, in 1453, this claim lapsed. It was a century before France had a rightful Henry II.

Henry I

Born 1068/9; married Edith of Scotland (1080-1118) (who adopted the name Matilda) in 1110, and, after her death, Adeliza (or Alice) (c.1103-1151) in 1121; succeeded his brother, William II in 1100; died 1135; succeeded by Stephen, although he had named Matilda as his heir.

Henry I, nicknamed Beauclerk/Beauclerc, or 'fine scholar', became king on the death of his brother, William II in 1100. After the battle of Tinchebray (1106), he also ruled Normandy, reinstating Kings of England as Dukes of Normandy for a century: he kept his oldest brother Robert 'Curthose', the former Duke, in prison for 27 years. Henry was a thinker (his scholarship seems to have been mostly in the collecting of books), who is credited with making the Norman administration of England much more efficient. He kept the peace in England. He was a respected ruler, though sometimes cruel in his punishments, such as blinding traitors. He took an interest in Church matters, being in conflict with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm, and the Archbishop of York, Thurstan over matters of authority - whether the King or the Pope should rule the Church in England. Henry acknowledged at least 20 illegitimate children, but only one son in wedlock "on whom he clearly doted" (Green, 2006) - Prince William, who died in the wreck of the White Ship in 1120, after which it is said that Henry "never smiled again". He had a legitimate daughter, Matilda who married Henry V, Emperor of Germany, and then after his death Geoffrey 'Plantagenet', Count of Anjou. Although Henry had named her his heir, and had his barons swear allegiance to her - and she had the better claim by modern understanding of primogeniture - Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois, count of Mortain, was a man in an age when leadership in war mattered to kings, and he succeeded.
Henry II

Born 1133; married Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) in 1152; succeeded Stephen in 1154; died 1189; succeeded by his son Richard I, 'the Lionheart'.

Henry, known as 'FitzEmpress', was the son of Matilda, the dowager Empress of Germany (consequently grandson of Henry I) and her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou. He was nominated as heir by Stephen at Winchester in 1153, ending the Anarchy; on Stephen's death in 1154 he became king, thus founding the Angevin dynasty - Angevin is the adjective meaning 'from Anjou'. He founded and presided over what is now known as the Angevin Empire, containing the former Anglo-Norman realm, (duchy of Normandy and kingdom of England); the county of Anjou and the counties of Maine and Touraine; Queen Eleanor had brought Aquitaine as her dowry in 1152. Henry claimed overlordship of the duchy of Brittany, Wales and Scotland. Ireland also came into the Angevin orbit following Henry's invasion of 1171 - 2. In effect, he governed all the territories of the British Isles, along with the western third or more of modern France. He was a man of great energy and some skill in government, holding his territories together (partly by increasing the written contribution to administration). He is famous for his struggles with the church which culminated in the murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Head of the church in England), Thomas Becket, who had been his Chancellor (Head of the government under the king) in 1170. The murder seems to have been an overhasty zealousness in the knights who did it in response to an outburst of bad temper in the King who is reported to have said, "What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born clerk!". This is given in later versions as "Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?". A civil war with Queen Eleanor and their sons, Henry and Richard, supported by two Kings, Louis VII (1120-1180; r. 1137-1180) of France and William ('the Lion') of Scotland, broke out in 1173, and ended the following year, essentially with the capture of Eleanor in France and William at Alnwick. Succession problems with his sons Richard, John and Geoffrey (Duke of Brittany, who died in 1186) plagued the reign; but Henry was a successful, or lucky, king. Under him, the so-called Angevin Empire reached its greatest extent, and England was largely peaceful. Lawyers talk of him as the founder of the English Common Law. He controlled his court, tenants and subjects in ways that prefigured the complaints made against King John which led to Magna Carta, but did not cause such grievances against the father.
(Henry the Young King)

Born 1155; married Margaret (Marguerite) of France 1172; crowned as heir and co-regent with his father Henry II in 1170 in England and 1172 in France; died 1185.

The 'young King Henry' (a pupil of Thomas Becket) is not usually counted among the King Henrys of England, and certainly never numbered among them, although he was crowned twice as co-regent with his father. His coronation was partly a necessary attempt to buy him off, as he was fomenting trouble within the two realms of England and Normandy, and partly an imitation of French practice, probably to secure the succession. Young King Henry was reputed a gallant knight, and had much popularity (wikipedia [[2]] quotes W. L. Warren (1973): "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, high-hoped, incompetent, improvident, and irresponsible.")
He died (on campaign, of dysentery) before his father. He was succeeded as heir by his younger brother, Richard the Lionheart.
Henry III

Born 1207; succeeded his father King John in 1216; married Eleanor of Provence (1223-1291) in 1236; died 1272.

ODNB divides the reign of Henry III ('of Winchester') into four periods: first, his minority, till his late twenties. During this period, he was under the tutelage first of William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and then of a papal legate, Pandulf, Hubert de Burgh and Peter des Roches, with first the former and then the latter dominating. The beginning of the second period - of his independent rule - may be marked by his marriage in 1236 to Eleanor, who, along with her uncle William of Savoy was a good advisor although she was only 11 at the time, as well as bringing dynastically useful alliances. During this time he tried unsuccessfully to restore English possessions in France: the shortage of resources persuaded him to desist from this and to concentrate on building up royal (~ state) finances. He was, however, accepted as feudal overlord of Wales, and put down a revolt in Gascony. The third period of his reign was marked by domestic political conflict with the Barons, whose figurehead was Simon de Montfort. This led to civil war between 1264 and 1265 - the (second) Barons' War. The fourth period of his reign was the resumption of personal rule, marked by continued anxiety over finance, and the growing independence of Prince Edward. Henry is often labelled as 'incompetent'; what is certain is that he was much under the influence of advisers, and that his own motives were largely to maintain the peace, and the Angevin dynasty.
He was a great patron of Westminster, contributing lavishly to the Abbey as a mark of his own devotion to its saintly founder, Edward the Confessor whom he had re-buried there - and in whose coffin he was temporarily laid on his own death - and building the Great Hall of the Palace, which still survives within the Houses of Parliament.


Henry IV

Born 1367, son of John of Gaunt and grandson of Edward III; usurped the throne by a successful rising against his cousin Richard II in 1399; married, (1) Mary Bohun (c.1369-1394) in 1381; (2) Joan of Navarre (1368-1437), in 1402; died 1413. Succeeded by his son Henry V

Henry of Bolingbroke, eldest son and heir of John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, is perhaps best known through Shakespeare. In the relevant plays - see below - Shakespeare is not wildly inaccurate about the history as it is now understood. Henry, first Earl of Derby, later Duke of Hereford in his father's lifetime, was a fine soldier and jouster, fighting in France, Lithuania and the Holy Land. In England, he took part in the rising against Richard II of the Lords Appellant in 1387, with Henry commanding a defeat of the King's forces at the battle (or skirmish) of Radcot Bridge. Richard seems not to have forgiven this, during what the ODNB terms his 'tyrannical government'. When Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, and Bolingbroke accused each other of treason, Richard first ordered a trial by combat, and then (1398), before it could begin, exiled Henry (for 10 years) and Mowbray for life. Gaunt died the following year, and rather than let Henry inherit the wealth and position of the Duchy of Lancaster as he had said that he would, Richard extended Henry's banishment to life. Henry returned, ostensibly to claim his rights; and overthrew Richard, who was absent in Ireland, possibly originally intending only to restrain the king's tyranny and govern in his name. By 1400, Richard was dead - perhaps by self-starvation.
`The remainder of Henry's reign was troubled by rebellion, often claiming to support the dead king, as did the Percy family - Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, his brother Thomas, Earl of Worcester, and son Henry 'Hotspur' who rose in 1403, having helped to set Bolingbroke on the throne: they were defeated at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, where Hotspur was killed: his father rose again in 1405 and 1408, when he was killed. A serious revolt in Wales under Owain Glyndŵr (Shakespeare's 'Glendower') continued to absorb resources and command attention until 1406, though not finally put down till 1415 (the year of Agincourt). In 1405, Archbishop Richard Scrope of York (c.1350-1405) raised a mob which was persuaded to disband: Scrope became the first English Archbishop to be executed, despite apparent guarantees of safe conduct. Henry's demands for money caused discontent; he had promised to impose little taxation as part of his usurpation, and later attempts to tax failed: he died in heavy debt. He also died a sick man: he had had a breakdown, or more than one, and, a pious man, he may have been afflicted by a sense of guilt.
Shakespeare has two plays called Henry IV, the central character of Shakespeare's second tetralogy of history plays. Bolingbroke is central to Richard II, whose tragedy is the king's deposition and murder. Henry IV part 1 opens with the king's remorse and the troubles consequent on his rebellion; the main plot of the play involves a rebellion against the crown by the Percy family - the Earl of Northumberland and his dashing son, Harry 'Hotspur'. A sub-plot involves the King's son, Prince Hal, who is sowing his wild oats with a number of low-life characters, principally Falstaff. The climax of the play comes in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where Hal defeats Hotspur hand-to-hand (and Falstaff claims the credit).
Henry IV part 2 deals rather more with Prince Hal and his progression to becoming the heroic figure of Henry V. He takes little part in defeating the rebellion of this play: his brother John of Lancaster defeats it more by politics than battle. Hal continues to drink and wanton around the disreputable haunts of London, to his father's disappointment; when the latter, nearing his end, falls asleep, the Prince tries on the crown and is upbraided with heartless ambition. He defends himself successfully by saying he was trying the weight to see what oppressed his father so much. Bolingbroke dies, thinking of making penance for the murder of Richard by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land - he has been told he will die in Jerusalem. But the chamber in which he lies is called Jerusalem, and he dies there. At this point, the new king Henry V rejects Falstaff in one of the most heartless scenes in Shakespeare; but he is preparing to be the serious and heroic figure of Henry V.
Henry V

Born in 1386; succeeded his father Henry IV in 1413; married, in 1419, Catherine of Valois (1401-1437); died 1422. Succeeded by his son Henry VI

Henry of Monmouth, eldest son and heir of Henry IV (Bolingbroke), is perhaps best known through Shakespeare's play, memorably filmed by Laurence Olivier in 1944, with himself in the title role, and by Kenneth Branagh in 1989. Shakespeare is not wildly inaccurate about the history as it is now understood. 'Harry of Monmouth', who was created Prince of Wales at 13 years old, was not his father's favourite son (that was Thomas, Duke of Clarence), and apart from tough military service in Wales against Owen Glendower and a period of membership of a virtual Regency Council during his father's ill-health, he was almost an outsider for the last four years of the reign. On his accession, he was at pains to secure the Welsh and Scots borders preparatory to engagement on the continent; at home he was strict against heresy, reflecting his disciplinarian character. In 1415, Henry landed in France to pursue the English claim to the French crown. he captured Harfleur, and then after a march through northern France, decisively defeated the French, who outnumbered his army, at Agincourt. That was followed by intense diplomatic efforts, before, in 1418, Henry resorted to force again and captured Normandy. In 1419 the Treaty of Troyes saw the marriage of Henry with Catherine of France, with the promise that their children would inherit, and unite, the two kingdoms. Despite this - or because the Dauphin had been disinherited - warfare continued, with mostly English success, until Henry died of dysentery contracted on campaign. He is regarded as one of the most successful of all Englsih kings, perhaps partly by contrast with his son.
Shakespeare's Henry V is the final play in his second tetralogy of history plays. It starts with praise for the change in the 'wild' Prince Hal, of Henry IV: "Never came reformation in a flood ... As in this king". (Of his low-life companions in the earlier plays, Falstaff is only mentioned in Mistress Quickly's account of his death, and the others (Pistol, Nym and Bardolph) come to a bad end. But there is much less humour in Henry V than either part of Henry IV.) It continues with a meeting with French ambassadors leading to a decision to invade France. Apart from a conspiracy against the king (which is foiled), reminiscent of the Percys in Henry IV, the rest of the play centres on the invasion, and the twin victories at the siege of Harfleur, and at Agincourt, shown as a notable triumph of English arms. The play ends with the marriage of Henry and Catherine. The play can be read, inter alia, as a triumphalist presentation of a hero-king, or as a demonstration that political success requires devious manipulation
Henry VI

Born 1421; succeeded his father Henry V in 1422 (aet. 9 months); crowned King of France, Paris, 1431 (the only English monarch to be so crowned) having been crowned King of England in Westminster, 1429; married Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) in 1445; deposed 1461 by Edward IV; regained the throne ("readepted") from Edward 1470, and deposed again by him 1471; died 1471 (probably murdered in the Tower of London); succeeded by Edward IV after the deposition of 1460 and the defeat of 1471. He was the last Lancastrian monarch.

Having succeeded the great warrior Henry V in infancy, Henry VI was always going to have difficulty in reigning in one, let alone two, countries. By 1437, when he was 15, Henry was taking up his full powers, partly to settle disputes between his uncles about policy. His father's country had remained unquestioningly loyal through his minority; his mother's country, France, was less so. Henry's French coronation, at Notre Dame de Paris, was a response to that of Charles VII in 1429, following the success of Joan of Arc against the English armies, and in fact was his last visit to that country. His marriage to Margaret of Anjou, the niece of the French queen and herself not rich, was in part to assure peace; the cost, of ceding the counties of Maine and Anjou to France, led to English unrest. The political struggles among the king's uncles and other aristocrats culminated in the 'execution', in 1450, of the Duke of Suffolk on board a privateer as he was leaving for exile. In 1453, news of the loss of Gascony precipitated a mental collapse in the king which lasted 17 months, during which his only child, Edward Prince of Wales (1453-1471), was born, and his cousin Richard Duke of York (1411-1460), was Protector (~ Regent). In 1455 York resigned this post, precipitating the Wars of the Roses, and immediately the battle of St Albans where he defeated the king. Five years of war followed; the 'Yorkist' claim to the throne led to the defeat and death of Richard of York at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. His eldest son Edward Duke of March (1442-1483) deposed Henry the following year, after the battle of Towton, and was crowned as Edward IV. More confusion followed, including the capture of Henry in 1465, and rebellions by the Neville family, including 'The King-maker', Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (1428-1471); his invasion of 1470 restored Henry to the throne. After the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, where his army was routed and his son was killed, he was put to death in the Tower of London.
Henry was lavish with his money, extravagant (and generous) in household expenses. He was also devout and pious, founding both Eton College and King's College, Cambridge (where Queen Margaret founded Queens'), for the good of education and the Christian church. He was even offered as a candidate for canonization. Contemporaries judged his religiously motivated desire to pardon his enemies as evidence of the 'simplicity' for which he was condemned, along with his fragile mental state and indecisiveness.
Famously, Shakespeare's dramatic fame began with the tetralogy Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2 (first printed as The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster), Henry VI Part 3 (The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt) and Richard III
Henry VII

Born 1457; married Edward IV's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), in 1486; succeeded Richard III, whom he defeated at the battle of Bosworth in 1485; died 1509; succeeded by Henry VIII.


Henry VIII

known as Hal, Harry


'Henry IX'