Henry II of England (also Henry Fitz-Empress, "Empress's Son" or Henry Curtmantle from his short cloak) was the grandson of Henry I, and succeeded his cousin Stephen on the throne of England after having to fight Stephen. (Henry I had designated his daughter Matilda, Henry II's mother, as his heir; Stephen took over the throne and was supported by those who didn't want a female sovereign, but Matilda and later Henry invaded England and eventually got Stephen to sign a treaty saying that Henry would become king when Stephen died.)

Before Stephen died in 1154, Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former wife of Louis VII of France. The two had eight children, but a tempestous relationship. Between Aquitaine, a large area in southwestern France, and the areas of Normandy, Anjou, and Maine, Henry ruled more land on the continent of Europe than on the island of Great Britain. He spent his time shuttling between continent and island, but still managed to restore order to England, which Stephen had neglected.

Thomas à Becket was Henry's chancellor and was also appointed Archbishop of Canterbury; the two worked together at first but then argued, most notably over who had jurisdiction over clergy accused of crimes. Thomas was exiled, and only the Pope's threats made Henry relent and let Thomas back into England. The two still fought, and Henry's frustrated rhetorical comment, "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" incited some of Henry's knights to go and murder Thomas. (Henry was apparently aghast at what his words had caused and did public penance at Becket's tomb.)

Eleanor and Henry had separated, and Eleanor encouraged their sons to rebel against Henry; when he received the news that his youngest son John (his favorite) was siding with Henry's enemies, Henry was forced to name his other surviving son Richard as heir. Henry died on 6 July 1189 after taken a bad fall from a horse spooked by thunder.

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