In the atmosphere of political intrigue that surrounds the selection of King Henry's heirs, each of Henry's living sons proves to be interested only in securing the kingdom for himself. The sons have no loyalty towards their father, and when they believe they have not been chosen to become the heir, they have no problem plotting against their patriarch.
Henry has four sons by his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The oldest, named Henry after his father, is dead. Of the three sons remaining, Richard is twenty-six, Geoffrey is twenty-five, and John is sixteen. Eleanor wants Richard to be heir to the kingdom, while Henry wants John. Henry tells Eleanor that he will name Richard as his heir if he can give the Aquitaine, land which is controlled by Eleanor, to John in compensation. Eleanor agrees, but Richard learns of the deal made between his parents, and does not agree to the conditions, opting instead to go to war to secure the throne and the land for himself. Because of his insubordination, Henry throws Richard into prison.
Meanwhile, when John thinks that Richard is going to be the heir, he joins up with King Phillip II of France to go to war against Henry. Geoffrey asks his father why he has never been considered for the throne, and Henry cruelly dismisses him, saying he never thinks about him at all. Henry then learns of John's treachery in plotting against him, and also finds out that Richard has had a homosexual affair with Phillip, which is considered scandalous.
So, to sum up, of Henry's four sons, the oldest, Henry, is dead. Richard has defied him and has also brought disgrace to his family by having a homosexual affair. Henry has alienated Geoffrey by blatantly declaring that he is insignificant in his estimation. John has plotted to go to war against him. There is no love in the relationships between sons and father. In an atmosphere of political maneuvering and greed, Henry has lost all his sons.