The Angevin Empire was not exactly an empire in the sense that it had never named itself as such.  Rather, it was a dynasty of acquired and inherited lands that existed from the twelfth to the thirteenth century.

Angevin Empire

Henry II, Plantagenet, became King of England in 1154, but this was only one part of what is often known as the ‘Angevin empire’ which included much of France including the south-west which he gained on marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. There was, however, continual friction between Henry and the King of France of whom he was by far the most powerful vassal.

Henry made a great impression on his contemporaries, most of whom disliked him, fearing both his ability and his temper. After the troubles of Stephen’s reign Henry was determined to assert the rights of the crown in respect of both the barons and the church. Henry also reformed the judicial system.

The Temple Pyx (height 92mm). [The Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums] Henry’s relations with the church were soured by the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Becket challenged Henry’s view of the rights of the church. A crisis was reached in 1170 when Henry had his son ‘Young’ Henry crowned joint king by the Archbishop of York. In a fit of temper Henry gave the impression of wanting to be rid of Becket altogether. Four knights took him at his word, murdering the archbishop in his cathedral.

In 1170 also Henry became concerned that Anglo-Norman barons were carving out territory for themselves in Ireland. In October 1171 Henry invaded and took the submission of both Irish and Anglo-Norman leaders in Dublin. This opened the way for a period of Anglo-Norman colonisation of the island.

Effigy of Henry II on his tomb at Fontevraud AbbeyHenry allowed his sons little share in power and in 1173 they staged a revolt in Normandy supported by their mother, Eleanor, and Louis VII, King of France. The next King of France Philip Augustus also tried to sow discord between father and sons which was made worse by the death of Young Henry in 1183. No resolution of the conflict had been reached by the time Henry died in 1189 when his sons, Richard and John, supported Philip Augustus against their father.