The death of Henry I, William the Conqueror’s youngest son, in 1135 plunged
England into civil war, because he left no son to succeed him. Henry bequeathed
the throne to his daughter, Matilda, but it was seized by his nephew, Stephen of
Blois. Matilda who was married to Geoffrey of Anjou, failed to gain control of
England, but she did retain Normandy. In 1153 her son, Henry, invaded England
and forced Stephen to make him his heir.
Henry II, who became king when Stephen died in 1154, was ruler of a vast
empire. He had inherited Normandy from his mother and Anjou, Touraine, and Maine
from his father. In 1152 he married Eleanor, divorced wife of the French King
Louis VII. She brought him as her dowry the rich duchy of Aquitaine, so that
Henry then ruled more than half of France.
The dynasty founded by Henry is probably known as Angevin, from the
family estate of Anjou, but its popular name is Plantagenet. This name
comes from a nickname applied to Henry’s father who wore a sprig of broom,
planta genista, in his cap as a badge.