Discover Who Was the King of England From 1154 to 1189?

Discover Who Was the King of England From 1154 to 1189?

If you are curious to know who ruled England during the 12th century, then you’ve come to the right place. The king who held the throne from 1154 to 1189 was none other than King Henry II.

King Henry II is a historical figure who has left a lasting impact on English history. He was a renowned monarch known for his political reforms, military campaigns, and significant contributions to the legal system. In this article, we will dive into his life and legacy, exploring the key events and achievements of his reign.

So, who was the king of England from 1154 to 1189? Let’s find out together.

King Henry II of England: A Historical Figure

King Henry II, a prominent 12th-century English king, is known for his influential reign over England from 1154 to 1189. Born in France in 1133, he was the first of the Angevin kings to rule England. His reign was marked by significant political reforms and military campaigns that shaped the course of English history.

Henry II was a skilled politician and military strategist whose ambitious reforms helped strengthen the royal authority over the nobility. He introduced legal reforms that provided a foundation for the modern English legal system. His reforms also had a significant impact on the church, leading to a conflict with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Henry II’s reign saw several notable military campaigns, including the conquest of Wales and the expansion of his territory in Ireland. However, he faced challenges from rebellious barons and his own sons, who contested his rule in the later years of his reign.

Henry II’s Legacy

Henry II’s reign had a lasting impact on English history. His legal and political reforms laid the groundwork for the development of the common law legal system and expanded the power of the monarchy. He also paved the way for the rise of the Angevin Empire, which included England, Normandy, and parts of France.

Henry II’s reign was followed by a period of instability and political turmoil in England as his successors struggled to maintain his legacy. Nevertheless, his impact on English history cannot be overstated, as he remains a key figure in the development of English legal, political, and military institutions.

In the next section, we will explore how Henry II ascended to the throne of England and the challenges he faced during this time.

The Ascension to the Throne

King Henry II ascended to the throne of England on December 19, 1154, following the death of King Stephen. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey on December 19, 1154, becoming the first Plantagenet king and the first to rule over a unified England since the death of Henry I in 1135.

Henry’s ascension to the throne was not without challenges. His claim to the throne was based on his grandfather’s (Henry I) designation of him as his heir, despite having two older brothers who were still alive. Additionally, during the preceding decades, England had been wracked by civil war and political instability, with multiple factions vying for control of the country.

However, Henry was a shrewd politician and skilled military strategist. He swiftly moved to consolidate his power, quashing rebellions and gaining the support of key nobles through strategic marriages.

Despite these early challenges, Henry II went on to become one of the most successful monarchs in English history, ruling over a period of unprecedented prosperity and stability.

King Henry II’s Reign and Influence

King Henry II was a medieval king of England and ruler of England from 1154 to 1189. His reign was marked by significant political and legal reforms, military campaigns, and a lasting impact on English history.

One of King Henry’s most significant achievements was instituting the Common Law legal system. He appointed judges who traveled around the country to enforce the laws, which led to a more unified and centralized legal system. Additionally, he reduced the power of local lords by increasing the power of royal courts.

Furthermore, King Henry II was a skilled military leader and expanded the English empire, ultimately annexing parts of Wales and Ireland. He also successfully managed to maintain peace with Scotland.

King Henry II’s reign was not without controversy, particularly in his relationship with Thomas Becket. Becket, a close friend and advisor to King Henry, became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. However, their relationship soured over Becket’s insistence on maintaining the independence of the church from royal interference. This eventually led to Becket’s murder in 1170, in which King Henry was widely believed to have been complicit.

Despite this controversy, King Henry II’s reign had a lasting impact on English history. His reforms to the legal system laid the foundation for the modern English legal system, and his military campaigns expanded the English empire. He was also succeeded by his son, King Richard the Lionheart, who continued to build on his father’s legacy.

King Henry II’s Relationship with Thomas Becket

One of the most notable aspects of King Henry II’s reign was his relationship with Thomas Becket, who served as Henry’s trusted friend and advisor. Becket was appointed as the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, which marked a turning point in his relationship with the king.

As Becket became more involved in Church matters, tensions between him and Henry began to rise. Henry wanted more control over the Church, while Becket believed in the Church’s independence. Their disagreements eventually led to a conflict that forced Becket to flee to France in 1164.

The Conflict with Becket

Despite their disagreements, Henry and Becket remained in contact, and several attempts were made to reconcile their differences. In 1170, Becket returned to England, which eventually led to his death. On December 29, 1170, Becket was murdered by four of Henry’s knights in Canterbury Cathedral.

Henry was initially blamed for Becket’s death, but he denied any involvement, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. However, the event had a significant impact on Henry’s reign and legacy.

Becket’s Martyrdom

Following Becket’s murder, he was regarded as a martyr by the Church, and his cult grew rapidly. Henry was forced to perform public penance for his role in the conflict, which damaged his reputation and authority. Becket’s remains were enshrined in Canterbury Cathedral, and he became one of the most popular saints in the country.

Despite their conflict, Henry remained fascinated by Becket and developed a sense of guilt and remorse following his death. He made several attempts to make amends, including a pilgrimage to Canterbury in 1174, where he received a public flogging in front of the cathedral.

Overall, the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas Becket was a complex one that had a profound impact on English history. Their story has inspired countless works of literature, art, and drama and continues to capture the imagination of people around the world.

Legacy of King Henry II

King Henry II of England reigned from 1154 to 1189, making him a significant figure in English history during the medieval period. His reign saw major political and legal developments that would shape England for centuries to come.

One of King Henry II’s most significant legacies was his contribution to the development of the common law legal system. He introduced reforms that standardized legal procedures and strengthened the power of English courts. This helped to reduce the influence of feudal lordships and establish the concept of the royal prerogative.

King Henry II also played a pivotal role in establishing the Angevin Empire, which consisted of his territories in England, France, and parts of Ireland. This vast empire made him one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe at the time, and his military campaigns helped to expand and consolidate his power.

Despite the accomplishments of his reign, King Henry II’s legacy is also tied to his controversial relationship with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their dispute over the rights of the Church led to Becket’s murder in 1170, which greatly damaged the reputation of King Henry II and cast a shadow over his reign.

Overall, King Henry II’s legacy as a medieval king of England is complex and multifaceted. His reign saw significant political, legal, and military developments but also featured personal conflicts and controversies that have influenced how he is remembered in history.

The Succession Crisis and Death

Towards the end of his reign, King Henry II faced a succession crisis that threatened to plunge England into turmoil. His eldest surviving son, Henry the Young King, had already been crowned as his father’s co-ruler. Still, he remained dissatisfied with his limited power and sought to challenge his father’s authority. This led to a bitter conflict between father and son, which dragged on for several years until the younger Henry’s death in 1183.

After this, the succession was thrown into further disarray when King Henry’s second son, Richard the Lionheart, rebelled against his father and launched a campaign to seize the throne for himself. This led to a prolonged period of civil war, with Richard eventually emerging victorious and succeeding his father as King of England in 1189.

Unfortunately, King Henry II did not live to see his son’s coronation. He died on July 6, 1189, in the midst of the succession crisis, reportedly from a combination of illnesses and exhaustion brought on by years of conflict and stress. He was buried at Fontevraud Abbey in France, alongside his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard.

Historical Context: England in the 12th Century

The 12th century was a period of significant change for England. It began with the reign of Henry I, who was succeeded by his nephew Stephen, leading to a period of civil war and political instability known as the Anarchy. The emergence of Henry II as a powerful monarch ended the Anarchy and ushered in a new era of stability and prosperity.

During this time, England experienced a resurgence of culture and trade, with the growth of towns and cities and the expansion of international commerce. The country also saw the rise of the common law legal system, which was embodied in the legal reforms introduced by Henry II.

Henry II’s reign was marked by a challenging relationship with the Church, including the conflict with Thomas Becket that ultimately led to Becket’s murder. This tension reflected broader struggles between the secular and ecclesiastical authorities across Europe during the High Middle Ages.

In addition, the 12th century saw England become increasingly involved in the affairs of France and other parts of Europe, leading to military campaigns and political alliances that would shape the country’s destiny for centuries to come.

Overall, the 12th century was a time of great transformation and development for England. Henry II’s reign played a vital role in shaping the country’s political, legal, and cultural landscape, making him one of the most significant monarchs in English history.


In conclusion, King Henry II of England played a significant role in shaping the history of England during the 12th century. As a monarch, he introduced political and legal reforms that had a lasting impact on the country’s development. His military campaigns also helped to expand England’s territory and influence on the continent.

Despite his achievements, King Henry II’s reign was not without controversy. His complex relationship with Thomas Becket and Becket’s eventual martyrdom continues to be a topic of interest and debate among historians. The succession crisis that occurred towards the end of his reign also had significant political implications for England’s future.

Despite these challenges, King Henry II’s legacy as a medieval king of England endures. His reign marks a pivotal moment in English history, and his influence can be seen in subsequent monarchs and developments in the country’s political and legal systems.