Friday, March 05, 2010

King Henry

The sceptre holding fellow above is one Henry Plantagenet, the second of the name, born this day 1133 in Le Mans, France. His mother was the Empress Matilda from which he got his claim to the throne of England. At the age of 19 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, and began producing children. It was those children, and his relationship with Eleanor that was to be the focus of one of my favourite movies of all time "The Lion in Winter." Like most movies, it does take some liberties with the actual truth, but all in all, it is an awesome movie. He "became" King of England in 1154 (the exact title he was the first to use, rather than King of the English), and proceeded to become one hell of a king. His major claim to fame that puts him on the hero stage, for me at least, is the Assize of Clarendon, held in 1166 that transformed English law. The major shift was one from trial by ordeal, or by combat to one based on evidence inspected by laymen. Given my chosen profession, and my lack of ability in swordplay, I owe a big, fat thank you to good, old King Henry. He did however, have his flaws, and a bit of a temper was one of them. His anger at his old friend Thomas Becket got the better of him, and four of his knights taking his angry outburst as a sign that he wanted Becket "rid of" did just that by murdering Becket. It was, and remains a blot on his reign, and a black spot on his legacy. He was the father of two future kings of England, Richard the Lion-Hearted and John. Neither would be able to hold a candle to their old man, and it was their rivalry along with a third son Geoffry that eventually broke old King Henry's spirit, and put him in the grave. But, for a fantastic character that Peter O'Toole brought to the big screen twice in two lovely films, and for being the King that helped bring law to England, Henry Plantagenet second of that name by the grace of god, Count of Anjou, and Maine, Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Nantes, and Gascony, Lord of Ireland, etc. etc. (March 5th, 1133-July 6th 1189, at the age of 56) you are my (191th) hero of the day.

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