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Henry II’s Challenge. Restoring Stability to England An Introduction. When Saints Slept. Stephen’s reign generally seen as anarchy Mainly due to overmighty subjects

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henry ii s challenge

Henry II’s Challenge

Restoring Stability to England

An Introduction

when saints slept
When Saints Slept...
  • Stephen’s reign generally seen as anarchy
    • Mainly due to overmighty subjects
    • They had done their homage and sworn oaths of fealty to him, but not one of their oaths was kept ... For every great man built him castles and held them against the king ... They filled them with devils and wicked men ... They seized those whom they believed to have any wealth ... And in order to get their gold or silver, they ... Tortured them with unspeakable tortures ...Anglo Saxon Chronicle
  • Henry II became known as “Castle-Breaker”
    • Within a year Henry II “spectacularly successful” start to his reign according to David Starkey.
    • He broke the strength of barons such as Welsh Marcher lord Hugh Mortimor, destroying or taking their castles from them.
      • Besieged his castles, captured them simultaneously and received his public homage
henry s men
Henry’s Men
  • Henry II had talent for talent
    • Picked able men, even if not of Anglo-Norman aristocracy
      • Richard de Lucy, justiciar
      • Richard Beaumont, justiciar
      • Thomas Becket, chancellor of England
henry s early rule
Henry’s Early Rule
  • Henry II dealt swiftly and decisively with overmighty subjects
cartae baronum
  • Made in 1166
  • Survey of feudal dues owed to Henry II
  • Tenants-In-Chief to tell King
    • How many under-tenants they had
    • How many knights they had given land to
    • And how many knights fees they wed the king
  • New survey important because ...
    • Many barons had given land to more knights than king knew
    • King could then get oaths of allegiance from these men
    • Scutage = tax paid in lieu of military service – so important to know how many knights each tenant-in-chief had to pay for
    • King was aware of full extent of feudal rights such as wardship
  • Is the giving of lands, privileges and bestowing of offices (official posts or jobs) by a king or lord
    • Henry appointed men to office on ability, not birth
    • Rarest and best was grant of royal land (and title)
    • Under Stephen there were 24 earldoms
    • Henry II reduced this: 12 by 1189; he re-took the lands
      • Important because made him by far most important landlord in England and thus most powerful
      • Other earldoms trimmed
        • e.g. Robert Earl of Leicester not allowed control of that city, nor its castle and lost Herefordshire
        • E.g. Hugh Bigod, powerful in East Anglia, allowed to buy back castle he had built but was denied possession of Norwich.
reasserting the king s authority
Reasserting the King’s Authority
  • Barons’ local influence being eroded
    • Activities of royal officials, many not of noble birth
      • Especially within King’s Household – e.g. Chancery / Exchequer clerks
    • New legal procedures took focus of law away from baronial courts
    • Military success against rebels made barons wary
    • Development of towns and cities
      • Based on trade and commerce
      • Leading citizens = merchants, tradesmen, craftsmen – not nobles
      • King could confer rights and privileges
      • Henry II did not let earls have control of towns or cities
        • Tended to remain loyal to him in Great Rebellion
        • Good source of revenue – wealth = strength