The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Vergil's Account of Henry II - The Coronation of His Son in 1170.

Source: Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 version). A hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton, The University of California, Irvine (both Latin and English). The text on this page is from Book 13, Henry II.

See: Notes On The Boar's Head Carols

This page is a companion to the version given by Rafael Holinshed's Chronicles. See: The Boar's Head Feast for Young Henry, 1170 (From Raphael Holinshed, Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. Volume Two of Six. (London: J. Johnson, et al., 1807), page 130). Also see The History of England by William of Newburgh, Joseph Stevenson (1861).

Note: The first edition of his Anglica Historia, consisting of twenty-six Books and concluding with the death of Henry VII, was printed at Basel in 1534, and an enlarged version was printed there in 1546. In 1555 there appeared a posthumous third edition, also printed at Basel, adding a twenty-seventh Book covering the reign of Henry VIII down to the birth of Edward VII in 1538. This last version was subject to a number of reprints (Basle 1556, Ghent 1556/7, Basle 1570/1, and Leiden, 1651).

References to Vergil in other texts may appear as "Polyd. V." or at "Polyd. Virg. Hist."

Ed: This section was preceded by this text from Section 5:

For the next two years there was a rest from external wars, and lest he fritter away his time joining his soldiers in banquets and luxury, he went over to Britanny with his son Geoffrey, and by surveying that region he laid, in a way, a new foundation for its affairs, spending most of his time in fortifying its castles, fortresses and cities, and in greeting all its nobles affably. Then, returning to Normandy, he settled his domestic affairs there. When these things had been arranged to his satisfaction, at the beginning of spring he returned to England, being troubled by a bad storm on his journey and with the loss of one ship which capsized and sank, in which there were three hundred men who perished to a man. And returning that year, which was the year of human salvation 1169, he passed his Christmas at Windsor Castle, where he was joined by all the Peers of the realm. Likewise William King of Scots with his brother David came there to congratulate Henry about his happy accomplishments in France. He received them with kindness and gave them various gifts.


Polydore Virgil, Anglica Historia. Book 13, Henry II., Section 6. (1544)

At this time, while other men were gathering to witness the games, which the English always celebrate with magnificent pomp at this season, since they think it is lawful then to devote themselves to honest pleasures (in contrast to the custom of other nations, which are at their most playful a little before the beginning of Lent), King Henry himself, eager to perpetuate his government among his sons began to entertain a plan that that caused him anxiety and great harm, as the sequel later showed. Thinking to himself that life is not so precarious for any other living thing as for Man, and that men have an innate desire for domination, so that as often as they set their minds on gaining power they become reckless and violate and pervert all right and justice acquisition’s sake, he thought he would not be doing any harm if he were to fear what might come to pass, namely if by some happenstance he were to give up the ghost when his sons were not yet of fighting age, they might be cheated out of the kingdom.

Therefore, to counter fortune’s mischances, he thought that in his own lifetime he should share the throne with his eldest son Henry, then seventeen years of age. Thus he could deliver the throne to the young man with his own hands. And so he came to London as soon as he could, and in a parliament of bishops and nobles he pronounced Henry his partner in the kingship. Then, on June 14 he was crowned by Roger Archbishop of York. This office traditionally belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but since Thomas was still in exile, the king assigned the responsibility to Roger, a request with which he should not have complied without the express permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas of Canterbury’s complaint to Pope Alexander so moved him that in a letter he forbade Roger Archbishop of York, Gilbert Bishop of London, and Joscelin Bishop of Salisbury to administer the sacraments, for they not only attended this ceremony but also presided over it. Which thing aroused Henry’s wrath against Thomas more than can be expressed.

On the very same day his son received the royal insignia, he gave a banquet, in which for honor’s sake he himself, boyishly rejoicing, served his son while he was at table. Because of this gesture the young man became somewhat more arrogant, staring at the bystanders more insolently than was his custom. And the Archbishop of York, who was sitting nearby, turned to him and said jokingly, “Rejoice, my excellent son, there is no prince in the whole world who has such an attendant.” And he, irritated, replied, “Why are you surprised? My father should not think this beneath his dignity, since he is high-born only on his mother’s side, whereas I am born of a king and a queen.” Thus the younger Henry, being endowed with a bad, depraved character, improvised this insult against his father. But the elder Henry, hearing these words, was overcome with great pain, and said to the archbishop in lowered tones, “I regret it, I tell you. I regret having promoted this man.” From this incident he already foresaw that his son was destined to become his adversary. But still, even if it troubled him that he had acted amiss, since he saw he could not undo what was done, he ensured that all the Peers of the realm, and also the King of Scots, swore the traditional oath of fealty towards the boy, but refused to free them from their former oath.

I have some authorities who write that Henry did not share rule with his son, but had previously abdicated his royal dignity and then arranged for the boy’s coronation, but in an uncertain matter that version is more probable which most agrees with the chronology of events. For Henry the father, as long as his son lived, conducted himself now as a partner, and now as a king. And after the son’s death he continued in his government, which he could not have done by any right if he had previously resigned that power.

But let me return to the point from where I digressed. King Louis of France, when he learned that his son-in-law had been crowned, but that his daughter, Henry’s wife, had not, was vehemently irate and wrote an acid letter to Henry the father, threatening to declare war if Margaret were not endowed with the regal insignia at the earliest possible moment. Learning of this thing, Henry hastily sailed over to Normandy. Here, while both sides were preparing for war, thanks to the singular effort of Count Theobald of Blois, the kings conferred at Verneuil. There, after a lengthy speech, Henry, already harboring suspicions about young Henry’s character, and who wanted nothing less than to be faced with the necessity of fighting Louis, promised that he would guarantee that his son Henry would soon have a second coronation, together with his wife. Louis was content with this promise and retired from the conference. But Henry returned to Verneuil, where a few days later he fell into a serious sickness which so quickly weakened him that a sudden rumor filled all France that he had died, and he himself, thinking his health was ruined, wrote a testament in which he left Aquitaine to his son Richard, designating this place for his burial. Meanwhile in England his wanton son Henry had fallen from an upright and honorable style of life into pleasure-seeking, and was squandering his father’s goods. When his father (who had by now recuperated) heard this, he hastened back to England. But after a few days he returned to Normandy, together with his son.

Editor's Note:

This account would seem to indicate that the storm that prompted the actions by Henry II occurred in the spring of 1169, and that the coronation of Young Henry occurred in 1170. This probably needs to be compared to Holinshed's account seems to place both events in 1170, although this is perhaps my misreading of the text.

Online Source: Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 version). A hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton, The University of California, Irvine (both Latin and English). This text is from Book 13, Henry II.

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