Henry II ruled over an empire which stretched from the Scottish border to the Pyrenees.
One of the strongest, most energetic and imaginative rulers, Henry was the inheritor of three dynasties who had acquired Aquitaine by marriage; his charters listed them: 'King of the English, Duke of the Normans and Aquitanians and Count of the Angevins'.
The King spent only 13 years of his reign in England; the other 21 years were spent on the continent in his territories in what is now France.
Henry's rapid movements in carrying out his dynastic responsibilities astonished the French king, who noted 'now in England, now in Normandy, he must fly rather than travel by horse or ship'.
By 1158, Henry had restored to the Crown some of the lands and royal power lost by Stephen; Malcom IV of Scotland was compelled to return the northern counties. Locally chosen sheriffs were changed into royally appointed agents charged with enforcing the law and collecting taxes in the counties.
Personally interested in government and law, Henry made use of juries and re-introduced the sending of justices (judges) on regular tours of the country to try cases for the Crown. His legal reforms have led him to be seen as the founder of English Common Law.
Henry's disagreements with the Archbishop of Canterbury (the king's former chief adviser), Thomas à Becket, over Church-State relations ended in Becket's murder in 1170 and a papal interdict on England.
Family disputes over territorial ambitions almost wrecked the king's achievements. Henry died in France in 1189, at war with his son Richard, who had joined forces with King Philip of France to attack Normandy. Richard, known as 'Richard the Lionheart' succeeded his father as King.