Henry II

by W.L. Warren

Paperback, 1977



Call number




University of California Press (1977), Paperback


Henry II was an enigma to contemporaries, and has excited widely divergent judgments ever since. Dramatic incidents of his reign, such as his quarrel with Archbishop Becket and his troubled relations with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and his sons, have attracted the attention of historical novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers, but with no unanimity of interpretation. That he was a great king there can be no doubt. Yet his motives and intentions are not easy to divine, and it is Professor Warren's contention that concentration on the great crises of the reign can lead to distortion. This book is therefore a comprehensive reappraisal of the reign based, with rare understanding, on contemporary sources; it provides a coherent and persuasive revaluation of the man and the king, and is, in itself an eloquent and impressive achievement.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member john257hopper
Very scholarly and well researched, but not really narrative history and not the biography per se of its subject that I was expecting, unlike the author's King John, which is a more straightforward biography. Stopped reading half way through but will retain for reference.
LibraryThing member bibliothecarivs
This classic biography provides a fascinating and authoritative look into the life of one of medieval England's most infamous rulers. Warren expertly illuminates the entirety of Henry's life and reign, including his tumultuous relationships with his queen, his sons, and Archbishop Becket. Part of
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the English Monarchs Series.
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LibraryThing member jonfaith
His greatest achievement, indeed, was not that he created a vast dominion, nor even that he held on to it and largely tamed it, but that he introduced to it the art of government.

Huge effort to capture the essence of a tireless soul whose struggled to standardize and thus modernize the English
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realm. Perhaps growing up during such instability forged his resolve. His famous mother Matilda escaping the clutches of King Stephen, a winter walk for posterity. Despite there being precious little that we can instantly identify as being English in the chauvinistic sense, Henry worked to anchor relations with the Scots, Welsh and Irish. reigned in the barons and addressed the church. Under Henry's tutelage, many steps were taken along the road to Common Law. His friends and family appeared as ambitious as he was, often with disastrous or at least minatory consequences. In fact he dropped dead after refusing to fight one of his sons Richard who had again chafed at reality and bared his sword. This is an exhaustive look at policy and posterity. There isn't an abundance of personality within.
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LibraryThing member Big_Bang_Gorilla
Being surely the definitive account of the life and polity of Henry II. The book begins and ends with a chronological narrative, with a middle dominated by an account of church-state relations during his reign, inevitably concentrating on his conflict with Archbishop Thomas Becket, his one-time
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crony. Another major theme is his ambition of establishing his sons in their own positions in the government of his vassal states on the continent, and their fitful allegiance to him which ultimately called the whole endeavor into question. The author has a high opinion of Henry, but this is conjoined with a recognition of his limitations and faults. He specifically does a good job of setting out the Becket arguments and placing them in the context of papal policy of the day, which he sees as rather different. The book obviously was not written with recreational reading in mind, and the account of church-state relations in particular is laden with far too much detail on the canon law of the time to be easily gotten through. Otherwise I was consistently interested by the account, which is one of high drama, as world theater and cinema have recognized for at least a half-century.
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Wolfson History Prize (Shortlist — 1973)


Original publication date


Physical description

350 p.; 9 inches


0520034945 / 9780520034945
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