Henry was the eldest son of the Empress Matilda and her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. As grandson of King Henry I, he helped his mother in her armed attempt to take the English throne from her cousin, Stephen. Matilda eventually withdrew, but Henry continued the fight and forced Stephen to accept him as his heir. Henry was one of the greatest of English Kings. He and his wife ruled a vast Empire stretching from the Scottish Border to the Pyrenees. He even had a foothold in Ireland. He was quick to crack down on the Barons, improved his administration and the Exchequer and strengthened the law courts. His attempts to curb the power of the Church were met with opposition from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas A’Becket, who was eventually murdered by Henry’s well-meaning supporters. At the end of his reign, the King, unfortunately, faced an increasing number of rebellions from his many sons.
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