How did the expansion of royal authority affect the traditional ruling institutions during the reigns of Henry II and Philip II Augustus?
MA Medieval and Renaissance Studies, The University of Liverpool, Department of History, December 14 (2012)
When Henry II came to the throne in 1154, England had been weakened by nineteen yearsof civil war, King Stephen and Empress Matilda had dispersed royal lands piecemeal to buysupport, and had endowed many nobles with high titles. As the war raged on theproliferation of senior vassals and lack of royal authority created a situation which resultedin many of these men creating their own personal feudal power blocs. In 1154 after the treaty of Winchester and the death of King Stephen, the Empress Matilda’s son Henry II ascended to the throne. Although young, this native of Anjou was one of the greatestterritorial princes of the period, through inheritance and marriage his rule included thegreater part of western France and his latest acquisition only increased his power. Henry II,the new king of England would have to re-establish royal control over his new kingdom;fortunately his accession was eased by the war weariness within the kingdom and no lord of any real standing resisted the new king. ‘ The Church was on his side; the greater baronscared little who was king so long as their titles and revenues were assured to them; thelesser lords and the peasantry, exhausted and impoverished by the twenty years of anarchy,welcomed a ruler strong enough to curb the lawless feuds of semi-independent chieftains ’ .
As the Angevin princes expanded their possessions to encompass half of continental France and the British isles, the Capetian Kings of France began to realise the insignificance of their own personal power. The divorce of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her resultant marriage to Henry II had left the Capetians territorially weaker than when Louis VII had ascended to thethrone in 1137. The achievements of Louis VI and the Abbot Suger, however, had left animprint on his successor Louis VII, who sought to cultivate the image and power of the Capetian kingship. Lou is VII’s military attempts to expand the Capetian holdings provedmixed at best, so to counter this Louis VII had to rely on his position as feudal overlord inFrance and his good relations with the church and papacy to maintain Capetian authority against the over-mighty French Princes and the Angevins. His heir, Philip II, would be the first Capetian King to successfully expand the kingship outside of the borders of the royaldemesne; his reign would establish the Capetian King’s dominance over the Princes of theFrench counties.