Who was Henry II? What was significant about him?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The great-grandson of William the Conqueror, Henry II aka Henry Curtmantle (1133-1189) was the King of England from 1154-1189 and the first British monarch from the House of Plantagenet. Henry may be best remembered for his feud with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett. When Henry attempted to gain firmer control over the church and clergy, he decreed 16 new constitutions meant to reduce the power of the Pope in Rome. Beckett, however, refused to endorse Henry's proposals, and the Archbishop was forced to flee to France. When the Pope threatened to excommunicate all of England, Henry agreed to allow Beckett to return safely to his homeland. However, about one month after Beckett's return, four of Henry's knights travelled to Canterbury and assassinated Beckett inside the cathedral. Three years later, Beckett was declared a saint by Pope Alexander III. With Henry's popularity and reputation tainted by his part in Beckett's death, his sons fought for the right to be his successor. Upon Henry's death, he was succeeded by one of England's greatest warrior-kings, Richard I--Richard the Lionheart.