The Angevin Empire

Henry II King of England

The mid 12th century Jew's House, Lincoln [Photo: Patrick Ottaway]As King of England Henry II had the advantage of inheriting a peaceful country, but he was determined to establish a stable government and regain what he saw as his legitimate rights over the church and the barons which had been lost in the anarchy of Stephen’s reign. Henry was insistent on the enforcement of the law, especially as it applied to violent crime and theft of property. He ensured the crown’s will was carried out by demanding more regular contact between royal justices and juries of local men creating the basis for England’s present-day justice system. The restoration of law and order created an environment in which the economy flourished, especially in the towns.

The 12th century keep at Norham Castle, NorthumberlandOn the borders of his ‘empire’ Henry had the territorial ambitions of his enemies to repel in Wales, Scotland and Normandy. In north Wales, the local leader Owain Gwynedd, at the height of his power, was forced to yield while in south Wales Rhys ap Gryffydd was forced to give up territory seized during Stephen’s reign. In 1173, at the time of the revolt by Henry’s sons, William ‘the Lion’, King of Scotland, tried to seize Northumbria, but was captured at Alnwick and forced to abandon his claim. Fortification of the border lands continued, however, with castles newly-built in stone boasting great fortified keeps such as those at Newcastle and Norham.

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