Henry II is the most imposing figure among the medieval kings of England. His fiefs and domains extended from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and his court was frequented by the greatest thinkers and men of letters of his time, besides ambassadors from all over Europe. Yet his is a reign of paradoxes: best known for his dramatic conflicts with his own wife and sons and with Thomas Becket, it was also a crucial period in the evolution of legal and governmental institutions.
Here experts in the field provide significant reevaluations of its most important aspects. Topics include Henry's accession and his relations with the papacy, the French king, other rulers in the British Isles and the Norman baronage; the development of the common law and the coinage; the court and its literary milieu; the use of Arthurian legend for political purposes; and the career of the Young King Henry, while the introduction examines the historiography of the reign.