Placeholder Image

字幕列表 影片播放

  • England, 1154, nearly a century after the Battle of Hastings.

  • The country has been torn apart by a savage civil war.

  • William the Conqueror was long dead.

  • For 30 years, his grandchildren had been locked

  • in a life or death struggle for the crown of England.

  • The realm was in ruins.

  • And then there appeared a young king, brave and charismatic,

  • who stopped the anarchy. His name was Henry,

  • and he would become the greatest of all our medieval kings.

  • He should be as well-known to us as Henry VIII or Elizabeth I,

  • but if he is remembered at all today

  • it is as the king who ordered the Murder in the Cathedral

  • or as the father of the much more famous, impossibly bad King John

  • and the impossibly glamorous Richard the Lionheart.

  • Henry II has no great monument to his name.

  • No horseback statue of him stands outside Westminster,

  • yet he made an indelible mark on our country.

  • The father of the Common Law. The godfather of the English state.

  • But Henry was cursed, brought down by the Church, his children,

  • and most of all by his queen, the older, beautiful,

  • all-powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine.

  • This is the story of Henry II and his family.

  • In all of British history, there has never been anything quite like it.

  • Henry II, his wife Eleanor and their children Richard and John

  • were the most astonishing of all the family firms

  • to have run the enterprise of Britain.

  • They did so with a furious energy

  • that either entranced or appalled their subjects.

  • Like many family firms, they had a capacity

  • for both creation and self-destruction.

  • What their intelligence built, their passions destroyed.

  • They were called the Angevins, after the French-speaking province of Anjou.

  • At the height of their power,

  • they were masters of all that counted in Christendom.

  • Their England was the linchpin of an empire that stretched

  • from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees.

  • Much bigger than France itself.

  • Not since the Romans, and never again,

  • has England been quite so European.

  • The dynasty had its roots in the civil war

  • that was being fought between two cousins, Stephen and Matilda,

  • the grandchildren of William the Conqueror.

  • Stephen seized the crown, but that wasn't the end of it,

  • for if Matilda couldn't beat him with an army,

  • she could beat him with a wedding,

  • a wedding that would found a dynasty

  • and reduce Stephen's ambitions to dust.

  • In 1128, Matilda married Geoffrey of Anjou,

  • nicknamed "Plantagenet", because he wore

  • a sprig of yellow broom or Planta Genista in his hat.

  • His family emblem was three lions.

  • Along with his money, power and territory

  • Geoffrey gave Matilda something even more important - a son, Henry.

  • As the boy Henry grew up, it became apparent

  • that from his mother he'd inherited steely single-mindedness,

  • lots of physical courage and a phenomenally foul temper.

  • From his father he'd got instinctive charm

  • and knife-sharp political and military intelligence.

  • But the quality that anyone who ever met Henry

  • most vividly remembered about him,

  • the overflowing tank of energy

  • that made him the most hyperactive king in British history,

  • this was all his own.

  • This was the age of chivalry, when the myth of Arthur and Camelot

  • was at its most popular.

  • Right from the start, he was being groomed by his ambitious parents

  • to take England away from Stephen, to become a new King Arthur.

  • And to do this, of course, he would need a Guinevere.

  • As it happened, the perfect candidate had just become available -

  • Eleanor of Aquitaine.

  • But the match was a gamble. He was 19, she was pushing 30.

  • He was relatively inexperienced,

  • Eleanor had seen as much of the ways of the world as it could offer.

  • And yet something rather surprising happened

  • between the teenage Arthur and the mercurial Guinevere,

  • something that wasn't supposed to happen in a marriage of political convenience.

  • The parties actually fancied each other.

  • Henry found himself at the altar in 1152, beside an older woman

  • described as a graceful, dark-eyed beauty,

  • disconcertingly articulate, strong-minded and jocular.

  • Hardly the veiled damsel in the tower.

  • One likes to think that Eleanor saw

  • not just the usual spur-clanking bonehead,

  • but beyond a stocky frame and barrel chest, an intriguing peculiarity;

  • the rare prince who looked right with a falcon on one hand

  • and a book in the other.

  • It was Eleanor's homeland, Aquitaine, that was the greatest prize.

  • A vast stretch of land between Anjou and the Pyrenees.

  • A place where wine-steeped Latin culture

  • had been polished anew by Provencal sensuality.

  • Its capital, here in Poitiers, the home of troubadours and courtly love.

  • No wonder Eleanor grew up, as her contemporaries put it...

  • (MEDIEVAL FRENCH) ...welcoming, vivacious,

  • her head perhaps turned by all those lovelorn lyrics

  • of knights enslaved by beauties and bent on besieging their virtue.

  • So this is what Eleanor brought to the match:

  • Grandeur, territory, wealth - a lot of wealth -

  • and the glamour of Aquitaine.

  • No wonder Henry thought that with this marriage he'd got,

  • well, pretty much everything.

  • Everything that is, except the crown of England.

  • In 1153, Henry Plantagenet crossed the Channel.

  • His father, Geoffrey, had already taken Normandy from Stephen,

  • so now it was up to Henry to take England.

  • Faced with an exhausted nation and defecting barons, Stephen caved in.

  • A deal was struck. Stephen would be allowed to die on the throne

  • on condition he named Henry as his heir.

  • Within a year, Stephen was dead

  • and Eleanor and Henry were crowned at Westminster Abbey,

  • King and Queen of England.

  • When they emerged from the vivats and incense,

  • they were the French-speaking sovereigns of an enormous realm

  • which stretched from the Pyrenees through to the vineyards of Gascony,

  • along the cod-fish run coastal waters of Brittany,

  • over the Channel to England, along the length and breadth

  • of the country to the Welsh borders and the windy moors

  • of Cumbria and Northumbria.

  • And it was a perfect time to come into this colossal inheritance.

  • For the mid-12th century really was the springtime of the Middle Ages.

  • Literacy and learning were spreading

  • from the cathedral schools in Paris and Canterbury.

  • Monasteries were being founded at a record pace,

  • and although they were supposed to be purged of worldliness,

  • before long they were the engines of economic power,

  • producers of wool, master of the mills and rivers.

  • So if this was indeed springtime, Henry and Eleanor

  • had just got themselves the fattest and the ripest fruit.

  • It's unlikely they ever thought of it as a true empire

  • in the Roman sense of a single realm.

  • Its many regions were treated separately, according to their customs.

  • While Westminster was increasingly at the heart of administration,

  • Rouen in Normandy, Chinon in Anjou

  • and Poitiers in Aquitaine were just as important.

  • It was the greatest and grandest family estate in all Christendom.

  • That surely was enough to be going on with.

  • It was one thing to stand around counting off one's possessions.

  • It was quite another to know what to do about being king.

  • Especially king of a country so promising but peculiar as England,

  • with all its Anglo-Saxon names and institutions

  • like shire, courts, writs and sheriffs.

  • What did Henry Plantagenet know of Huntingdonshire,

  • or what did Huntingdonshire know of Henry Plantagenet?

  • Henry of course spoke virtually no English at all.

  • What he would have grasped, if only from his coronation oaths,

  • was that kings of England were supposed to be both judge and warlord.

  • In fact, the coronation oath, preserved intact from Edward the Confessor,

  • who was increasingly being held up as some sort of ideal monarch,

  • pretty much spelled out the job description of the king of England.

  • One - protect the Church.

  • Two - preserve intact the lands of your ancestors.

  • Three - do justice.

  • Four - most sweeping of all,

  • suppress evil laws and customs.

  • Fulfilling one and two went without saying.

  • But what was surprising about Henry was he took

  • vows three and four just as seriously.

  • Before Henry, justice was, "Do what I want, I'm the king."

  • By the end of Henry's reign, getting the king's justice

  • didn't depend on the king being there in person.

  • Henry had established permanent, professional courts,

  • sitting at Westminster or touring the counties,

  • acting reliably in his name.

  • Now law became, "Listen to what my judges have to say."

  • By 1180, those judges could consult England's first legal textbook

  • full of precedents on which to base their decisions.

  • The law now had its own kind of majesty.

  • It was vow number one though, the protection of the Church,

  • which quite unpredictably would cause Henry II the greatest grief.

  • It was to provoke a kind of spiritual civil war,

  • in its way every bit as unsettling as the feudal civil war,

  • and which in its most dreadful hour

  • would end with bloodshed in the Cathedral.

  • This was especially ironic since at the outset it seemed to be the Church

  • that was the strongest pillar of Henry's administration.

  • Its literate clerics initiated him into the mysteries of governing England.

  • When the Archbishop of Canterbury offered one of his brightest proteges,

  • Thomas Becket, for the office of Chancellor,

  • Henry listened, looked and gave him the job.

  • So who exactly was this Becket?

  • He was the first commoner of any kind

  • to make a mark on British history.

  • The possibility that someone like Becket, a merchant's son,

  • with an impoverished Norman knight clanking around in the family closet,

  • could end up as the king's best friend,

  • said something about the possibility of the great swarming city itself.

  • At the heart of the emerging capital was the great church of St Paul,

  • and around it, upriver from the grim pile of the Conqueror's Tower,

  • were wharves thick with ships loaded with wool going out,

  • wines, furs or silks coming in.

  • In this teeming world, Becket's father strutted,

  • owner of one of the grandest houses in Cheapside.

  • The truth is Becket was a real Londoner,

  • with a natural flair for doing what Londoners like doing most -

  • the getting and spending of money,

  • spectacle, costume and, despite his notoriously delicate gut,

  • Becket seems to have enjoyed good food and drink.

  • He was street smart and he was book smart.

  • In short, from the get go, Becket was a big league performer.

  • He was a player.

  • They were in a way, a match of opposites.

  • Becket was older by a decade and, as Chancellor,

  • willing to deal with the administrative detail that bored the king.

  • Becket was tall, self-contained, his forehead creased with frown lines.

  • The king was square-shaped, packed with hectic passion,

  • a real Plantagenet powerhouse.

  • Becket was able to keep up with the relentless pace set by Henry.

  • Medieval courts were itinerant affairs,

  • travelling 20 - 30 miles a day,

  • eating in a royal forest or by the roadside.

  • But Henry, who made a fetish of exercise

  • out of a fear of growing fat, never seemed to slow down,

  • barely arriving at one of his palaces before chasing off again.

  • Clarendon Palace was the most magnificent hunting lodge in England.

  • All that's left now is this raw, ivy-covered stump of stone.

  • In Henry's time, it would have been full

  • of courtiers and dogs and hawks and horses.

  • That's the way the king liked it -

  • a kind of scruffy power to his entertainment.

  • Becket saw right through Henry's game of studied informality,

  • his avoidance of wearing the crown, his ordinary riding clothes.

  • Becket knew that when Henry extended the hand of friendship,

  • he was capable of following it by frosty withdrawals of affection,

  • unpredictable explosions of carpet biting, incendiary fury.

  • It was this pseudo-sibling relationship

  • that gave Becket the confidence later on

  • to treat the king as a virtual equal

  • with catastrophic results for all concerned.

  • Time and again he would tell his dwindling band of followers,

  • "I know this looks bad but trust me.

  • "I know the way this man operates."

  • Even in the early days, beneath the jesting, there was,

  • if Thomas looked for it, a kind of ominous tension.

  • When, for example, the king and Chancellor rode through London,

  • Henry pointed to the countless destitute,

  • and, eyeing Thomas's gorgeous scarlet and grey minever-edged cloak,

  • let it be known "How charitable it would be

  • "to clothe the poor man's nakedness."

  • "Well, yes," said Becket, "You should attend to it right away."

  • "Oh, no, no, no, you should have the credit," insisted the king,

  • pulling at Becket's cape.

  • An undignified tug of war then followed,

  • with both men trying to pull the capes off each other.

  • At last the Chancellor had no alternative

  • but to allow the king to overcome him and give his cape to the poor man.

  • If Henry suspected Thomas of getting above himself -

  • and if he did, he wasn't alone -

  • it didn't get in the way of Becket coming to mind