Revolt of 1173–1174

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The Revolt of 1173–74 was a rebellion against King Henry II of England by three of his sons, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their rebel supporters. The revolt ended in failure after eighteen months; Henry's rebellious family members had to resign themselves to his continuing rule and were reconciled to him.

Revolt of 1173–74
DateApril 1173 – 30 September 1174

English royalist victory

  • Henry II maintains hold on his territories
  • Scottish castles, including Berwick and Edinburgh, transferred to Henry II
  • Belligerents
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg English royalists English rebels
    Arms of the Kings of France (France Ancien).svg Kingdom of France
    Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland
    Duchy of Brittany
    County of Flanders
    County of Boulogne
    Commanders and leaders
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg King Henry II
    Blason Lucy de Cockermouth (selon Gelre).svg Richard de Luci
    Ranulf de Glanvill
    Reginald de Dunstanville
    William FitzRobert
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg William d'Aubigny
    Arms of the House of de Bohun.svg Humphrey III de Bohun
    Geoffrey Fitzroy
    Coats of arms of alienor of aquitaine.svg Eleanor of Aquitaine (POW)
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg Henry the Young King
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg Richard, Duke of Aquitaine
    Royal Arms of England (1154-1189).svg Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany
    De Beaumont arms (Earl of Leicester).svg Robert de Beaumont (POW)
    Blason Guillaume le Maréchal.svg William Marshal
    Bigod.svg Hugh Bigod
    Arms of William de Ferrers, 5th Earl of Derby (d.1254).svg William de Ferrers (POW)
    Arms of Hugh of Cyfeiliog, 5th Earl of Chester.svg Hugh de Kevelioc (POW)
    Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg William the Lion (POW)
    Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg David, Earl of Huntingdon
    Arms of the Kings of France (France Ancien).svg Louis VII of France
    Blason pairie fr Flandre.svg Philip I of Flanders
    Blason Courtenay.svg Matthew of Boulogne 


    King Henry II ruled England, Normandy, and Anjou, while his wife Queen Eleanor ruled the vast territory of Aquitaine. In 1173 Henry had four legitimate sons (from oldest to youngest): Henry, called the "Young King", Richard (later called "the Lionheart"), Geoffrey, and John "Lackland", all of whom stood to inherit some or all of these possessions. Henry also had an illegitimate son named Geoffrey, born probably before the eldest of the legitimate children.[1]

    Henry "the Young King" was 18 years old in 1173 and praised for his good looks and charm. He had been married for a long time to the daughter of Louis VII, the King of France and Eleanor's ex-husband. Henry the Young King kept a large and glamorous retinue but was constrained by his lack of resources: "he had many knights but he had no means to give rewards and gifts to the knights".[2] The young Henry was therefore anxious to take control of some of his ancestral inheritances to rule in his own right.

    The immediate practical cause of the rebellion was Henry II's decision to bequeath three castles, which were within the realm of the Young King's inheritance, to his youngest son, John, as part of the arrangements for John's marriage to the daughter of the Count of Maurienne. At this, Henry the Young King was encouraged to rebel by many aristocrats who saw potential profit and gain in a power transition. His mother Eleanor had been feuding with her husband, and she joined the cause as did many others upset by Henry's possible involvement in the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, which had left Henry alienated throughout Christendom.

    In March 1173 Henry the Young King withdrew to the court of his father-in-law, Louis, in France and was soon followed by his brothers Richard and Geoffrey. Eleanor tried to join them but was stopped by Henry II on the way and held in captivity. The Young King and his French mentor created a wide alliance against Henry II by promising land and revenues in England and Anjou to the Counts of Flanders, Boulogne, and Blois; William the Lion, King of the Scots, would have Northumberland. In effect, the Young King would seize his inheritance by breaking it apart.

    The revoltEdit

    Hostilities began in April when the Counts of Flanders and Boulogne invaded Normandy from the east, the King of France and young Henry from the south, while the Bretons attacked from the west. Each of the assaults ended with failure: the Count of Boulogne was killed, Louis was defeated and kicked out of Normandy, and the Bretons were routed with great loss of life and treasure. William the Lion's attacks in the north of England were also a failure. Negotiations were opened with the rebels in Normandy between father Henry II and son young Henry, to no avail.

    The Earl of Leicester, a supporter of young Henry who had been in Normandy and was chief of the aristocratic rebels, took up the charge next. He raised an army of Flemish mercenaries and crossed from Normandy back to England to join the other rebel barons there, principally Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. The Earl of Leicester was intercepted by the English forces returning from the north in Scotland, led by Richard de Luci, and was completely defeated at Fornham. Henry II's barons supposedly said to him, "It is a bad year for your enemies."[3]

    Norwich Castle was captured by Hugh Bigod with a force of over 800 soldiers in July 1174.[4]

    In the spring of 1174 the rebellion continued. David, Earl of Huntingdon, brother of William the Lion, moved back south to attempt the conquest of northern England and took up the leadership of the rebel barons. William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby and one of the rebels, burned the royal burgh of Nottingham while Hugh Bigod likewise torched Norwich.

    Henry II, who had been in Normandy fighting his enemies, landed in England on 8 July. His first act was to do penance for the death of Thomas Becket, who was murdered by some of Henry's knights three years earlier and had already been canonized as a saint. The day following the ceremony at Canterbury, on 13 July, in a seeming act of divine providence for Henry II, William the Lion and many of his supporters were surprised and captured at the Battle of Alnwick by a small band of loyalists. In the aftermath Henry II was able to sweep up the opposition, marching through each rebel stronghold to receive their surrenders. With England taken care of, Henry returned to Normandy and set about a settlement with his enemies, and on 30 September "King Henry, the king's son, and his brothers, returned to their father and to his service, as their lord".[5]


    Thetford Castle in Norfolk belonged to Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, and was demolished on the king's orders after the rebellion ended.

    The revolt lasted eighteen months, played out across a large area from southern Scotland to Brittany. At least twenty castles in England were recorded as demolished on the orders of the king.[6] Many towns were destroyed and many people were killed. Blame was placed on young Henry's advisors, the rebel barons, who manipulated the inexperienced and rash princes for their own dreams of gain. William Marshal, who was loyal to young Henry during the revolt, said "cursed be the day when the traitors schemed to embroil the father and the son".[7]



    1. ^ Fryde et al. 1996, p. 36
    2. ^ Bartlett 2000, p. 55
    3. ^ Bartlett 2000, p. 56
    4. ^ Wareham 1994, p. 241
    5. ^ Bartlett 2000, p. 56
    6. ^ Brown 1959, p. 252
    7. ^ Bartlett 2000, p. 57


    • Brown, R. Allen (April 1959), "A List of Castles, 1154–1216", The English Historical Review, Oxford University Press, 74 (291): 249–280, doi:10.1093/ehr/lxxiv.291.249, JSTOR 558442
    • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996), Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.), Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-56350-X
    • Wareham, Andrew (1994), "The Motives and Politics of the Bigod Family, c.1066–1177", Anglo-Norman Studies, The Boydell Press, XVII, ISSN 0954-9927
    • Bartlett, Robert (2000). England under the Norman and Angevin Kings, 1075–1225. The New Oxford History of England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 55. ISBN 9780199564491.

    Further readingEdit