In the last nine years of Henry's reign his work lay elsewhere than in his English kingdom. They were years spent in a passionate effort to hold together the unwieldy empire he had so laboriously built up. On the death of Louis in 1180 the peaceful and timid traditions of his reign were cast aside by the warlike Philip, who had from childhood cherished a violent hatred against Henry, and who was bent on the destruction of rival powers, and the triumph of the monarchy in France. Henry's absorbing care, on the other hand, was to prevent war; and during the next four years he constantly forced reconciliation on the warring princes of France. "All who loved peace rejoiced at his coming," the chroniclers constantly repeat. "He had faith in the Lord, that if he crossed over he could make peace." "As though always at his coming peace should certainly be made."

But in Britanny and in Aquitaine there was no peace. The sons whom he had set over his provinces had already revolted in 1173. In 1177 fresh troubles broke out, and from that time their history was one of unbroken revolt against their father and strife amongst themselves. "Dost thou not know," Geoffrey once answered a messenger of his father's, sent to urge him to peace, "that it is our proper nature, planted in us by inheritance from our ancestors, that none of us should love the other, but that ever brother should strive against brother, and son against father. I would not that thou shouldst deprive us of our hereditary right, nor vainly seek to rob us of our nature!" In 1182 Henry sought once more to define the authority of his sons, and to assert the unity of the Empire under his own supremacy by ordering Richard and Geoffrey to do homage to their brother for Aquitaine and Britanny. Richard's passionate refusal struck the first open blow at his father's imperial schemes, and war at once broke out. The nobles of Aquitaine, weary of the severe rule of Richard, had long plotted to set in his place his gentler brother Henry, and the young king, along with Geoffrey, lent himself openly to the conspiracy. In 1183 they called for help from Flanders, France, and Normandy, and a general revolt seemed on the point of breaking out, like that of ten years before. Henry II. was forced to march himself into Aquitaine. But in a war with his sons he was no longer the same man as when he fought with French king or rebel barons. His political sagacity and his passionate love of his children fought an unequal battle. Duped by every show of affection, he was at their mercy in intrigue. Twice peaceful embassies, which he sent to Henry and Geoffrey, were slain before their eyes without protest. As he himself talked with them they coolly saw one of their archers shoot at him and wound his horse. The younger Henry pretended to make peace with his father, sitting at meat with him, and eating out of the same dish, that Geoffrey might have time to ravage the land unhindered. Geoffrey successfully adopted the same device in order to plunder the churches of Limoges. The wretched strife was only closed at last by the death of the younger Henry in 1183.

His death, however, only opened new anxieties. Richard now claimed to take his brother's place as heir to the imperial dignity, while at the same time he exercised undivided lordship over an important state a position which the king had again and again refused to Henry. Geoffrey, whose over-lord the young king had been, sought to rule Britanny as a dependent of Philip, and his plots in Paris with the French king were only ended by his death in 1185. Philip, on his part, demanded, at the death of the young king, the restoration of Margaret's dowry, the Vexin and Gisors; when Geoffrey died he claimed to be formally recognized as suzerain of Britanny, and guardian of his infant; he demanded that Richard should do homage directly to him as sovereign lord of Aquitaine, and determined to assert his rights over the lands so long debated of Berri and Auvergne. For the last years of Henry's reign disputes raged round these points, and more than once war was only averted by the excitement which swept over Europe at the disastrous news from the Holy Land.

After the death of the young king a precarious peace was established in Aquitaine, and Henry returned to England. In March 1185 he received at Reading the patriarch of Jerusalem and the master of the Hospital, bearing the standard of the kings of the Holy Land, with the keys of the Holy Sepulchre, of the tower of David, and of the city of Jerusalem. "Behold the keys of the kingdom," said the patriarch Heracles with a burst of tears, "which the king and princes of the land have ordered me to give to thee, because it is in thee alone, after God, that they have hope and confidence of salvation." The king reverently received them before the weeping assembly, but handed them back to the safekeeping of the patriarch till he could consult with his barons. He had long been pledged to join the holy war; he had renewed his vow in 1177 and 1181. But it was a heavy burden to be now charged with the crown of Jerusalem. Since the days of his grandfather, Fulk of Anjou, the last strong king of Jerusalem, there had been swift decay. Three of his successors were minors; Antone was a leper; the fifth was repudiated by every one of his vassals. The last forty years had been marked by continual disaster. The armies of the Moslem were closing in fast on every side. A passion of sympathy was everywhere roused by the sorrows of the Holy City. All England, it was said, desired the crusade, and Henry's prudent counting of the cost struck coldly on the excited temper of the time. Gerald of Wales officiously took on himself, in the middle of a hunting party, to congratulate the king on the honour done to him and his kingdom, since the patriarch had passed by the lands of emperors and kings to seek out the English sovereign. Talk of this kind before all the court at such a critical moment much displeased the prudent king, and he answered in his biting way, "If the patriarch, or any other men come to me, they seek rather their own than my gain." The unabashed Gerald still went on, "Thou shouldst think it thy highest gain and honour, king, that thou alone art chosen before all the sovereigns of the earth for so great a service to Christ." "Thus bravely," retorted Henry, "the clergy provoke us to arms and dangers, since they themselves receive no blow in the battle, nor bear any burden which they may avoid!"

Henry's council, however, held firm against the general tide of romantic enthusiasm. In the weighty question of the eastern crown the king had formally and openly pledged himself to act by the advice of his wise men, as no king before him since the Conquest had ever done. An assembly was summoned at Clerkenwell on the 18th of March. No councillors were called from Anjou or Normandy or Aquitaine; the decision was made solely by the advice of the prelates and barons of England. "It seemed to all," declared the council, "to be more fitting, and more for the safety of his soul, that he should govern his kingdom with moderation and preserve it from the irruptions of barbarians and from foreign nations, than that he should in his own person provide for the safety of the eastern nations." The verdict showed the new ideal of kingship which had grown up during Henry's reign, and which made itself deeply felt over the whole land when in the days of his successor the duties of righteous government were thrown aside for the vainglories of religious chivalry. But the patriarch heard the answer with bitter disappointment, and was not appeased by promises of money and forces for the war. "Not thus will you save your soul nor the heritage of Christ," he declared. "We come to seek a king, not money; for every corner of the world sends us money, but not one a prince." And in open court he flung his fierce prophecy at the king, that as till now he had been greatest among the kings of the earth, so henceforth, forsaken by God and destitute of His grace, until his latest breath his glory should be turned into disaster and his honour into shame. Henry, as he rode with the patriarch back to Dover, listened with his strange habitual forbearance while Heraclius poured forth angry reproaches for the iniquities of his whole life, and declared at last that he had almost with his own hands slain St. Thomas. At this the king fiercely turned, with his eyes rolling in a mad storm of passion, and the patriarch bent his head. "Do with me," he cried, "what you did to Thomas. I would rather have my head cut off by you in England than by the Saracens in Palestine, for in truth you are worse than any Saracen!" The king answered with an oath, "If all the men of my kingdom were gathered in one body and spoke with one mouth they would not dare to say this to me." Heraclius pointed scornfully to the train of followers. "Do you indeed think that these men love you - these who care only for your wealth? It is the plunder, and not the man, that this crowd follows after!" Henry spoke of the danger from his sons if he should quit his dominions. "No wonder," was the parting taunt of Heraclius; "from the devil they came, and to the devil they will go."

But Henry was never to come back to England. One day in June a certain Walter of the royal household was terrified by a vision of St. Thomas, who appeared bearing a shining sword which he declared had been newly forged to pierce through the king himself. Walter hurried to the chapel, where Henry was at mass, to tell his tale. Three times the king bent before the altar and signed himself devoutly as though he prayed to the Lord, and then passed to his council chamber. The next day he called Walter to his presence, and sadly shaking his head, spoke with deep sighs, "Walter, Walter, I have felt how cruelly thy sword can strike, for we have lost Chateauroux!" War had in fact broken out in Aquitaine. Toulouse had risen against Richard. Philip, in violation of his treaty, invaded Berri and marched into Auvergne. Hastily gathering an army, Henry crossed to France in a terrible storm. He met Philip at Gisors on the 30th of September, but after three days' bitter strife the kings parted. In November they met again at Bonmoulins in the presence of the Archbishop of Reims, and a great multitude of courtiers and knights. Richard, outraged by the rumour that Henry proposed to give Aquitaine to John, turned suddenly to Philip, while the people crowded round wondering, ungirt his sword, and stretched out his hands to do homage to him for all his father's lands from the Channel to the Pyrenees. His unhappy father started back, stunned by this new calamity, "for he had not forgotten the evil which Henry his son had done to him with the help of King Louis, and this Philip was yet worse than his father Louis." As father and son fell apart the people rushed together, while at the tumult the outer ring of soldiers laid their hands upon their swords, and thus Philip and Richard went out together, leaving Henry alone.

A great solitude had indeed fallen on the old king. His wife was still guarded as a prisoner. Two of his sons had died traitors to their father. A third was in open rebellion. All his daughters were in far-off lands, and one of them was soon to die. Only one son remained to him of all his household, and to him Henry now clung with a great love - the fierce tenacity of an affection that knew no other hope. The king himself was only fifty-six; but he was already an old man, worn out by the prodigious labours and anxieties of forty years. There were moments when a passionate despair settled down on his soul. One day he called his two friends, Baldwin and Hugh, out from the crowd of courtiers to ride beside him, and the bitterness of his heart broke forth, "Why should I revere Christ!" he cried, "why should I think Him worthy of honour who takes from me all honour in my lands, and suffers me to be thus shamefully confounded before that camp follower?" as he called the king of France. Then, as if beside himself, he struck spurs into his horse, and dashed back again into the throng of courtiers.

In the eyes of the world, however, Henry was still the most renowned among the kings of the earth in his unassailable triumph and success. For forty years his reign had been one long triumph. From every difficulty conquered he had gained new strength; every rebellion had left him more unquestioned master. He had never yet known defeat. The Church was now earnest in his support. Papal legates won for him a truce of two months after the conference at Bonmoulins, and when at its close Britanny broke out in revolt, and Richard led an army against his father's lands, the legates again procured peace till after Easter. From February to June of 1189 Henry waited at Le Mans, still confident, it would seem, of peace. Once more legates were appointed to bring about a settlement between the two kings at La Ferte Bernardon the 4th of June. With a fierce outburst of anger Henry passionately refused the demands of Philip. The legate threatened to lay France under an interdict if Philip persisted in war, but Philip only retorted that the Roman Church had no right to interfere between the king of France and his rebel vassals, and added with a sneer that the cardinals already smelt English gold. Then at last Henry abandoned the hope of peace. His treasury was empty, and his lands on both sides of the water had been taxed to the last penny. His troops had melted away in search of more abundant pay. He was shut in between hostile forces - Breton rebels to westward, and the allied armies of Philip and Richard to eastward. The danger roused his old defiant energy. Glanville hurried to England "to compel all English knights, however exhausted and poor, to cross to France," while the king himself, with a few faithful barons and a small body of mercenaries, fell back on Le Mans, swearing that he would never forsake the citizens of the town where he had been born.

The French army, however, followed hard after him. On the 9th of June Philip and Richard halted fifteen miles off Le Mans, on the 11th of June they encamped under its walls. The next day they broke through the handful of troops who desperately held the bridge. A wealthy suburb which could no longer be defended was set on fire, so that it should not give shelter to the enemy, the wind swept the flames into the city, and Henry saw himself shut in between the burning town and the advancing Frenchmen. Then for the first time in his life he turned his back upon his enemies. At the head of 700 horsemen he rode out over a bridge to the north, and fled towards Normandy. As he mounted the spur of a hill two miles off, he turned to look at the flames that rose from the city, and in the bitterness of his humiliation he cursed God - "The city which I have loved best on earth, the city in which I was born and bred, where my father lies buried, where is the body of Saint Julian - this Thou, O God, to the heaping up of my confusion, and to the increase of my shame, hast taken from me in this base manner! I therefore will requite as best I can; I will assuredly rob Thee too of the thing in me which Thou lovest best!"

For twenty miles the king, with his son Geoffrey the chancellor, and a few faithful followers, rode furiously under the burning sun through narrow lanes and broken roads till knights sank and died on the way. Once he was only saved from capture by the breaking of a bridge over a stream which was too deep for the pursuers to ford. Once Count Richard himself followed so hard upon them that he came up with the flying troop. William the marshal turned and raised his lance. "God's feet, marshal, do not kill me!" cried Richard; "I have no hauberk!" William struck his spear into the count's horse, so that it fell dead. "No, I will not kill you. Let the devil kill you!" he shouted with a fierce memory of the old prophecy. By nightfall Henry reached La Frenaye, within a day's ride of the Norman border. He threw himself on a bed, refusing to be undressed, and would scarcely allow Geoffrey to cover him with his own cloak. The next morning he sent his friends forward into Normandy to gather its forces and renew the war. But he himself, in spite of all prayers and warnings, declared that he would go back to Anjou. His passionate emotion threw aside all cold calculations of reason. Every fortress on the way was in the hands of enemies; hostile armies were pressing in on every side; the roads were held by foreign troops, - French and Poitevin, Flemish mercenaries and Breton rebels - as the stricken king rode through the forests and along the trackways he had learned to know as a hunter in earlier days. Never had his indomitable will, his romantic daring, been so great as in this last desperate ride to reach the home of his race. He started on the 13th of June. Before the end of the month Geoffrey had hurried back from Normandy, and together they went to Chinon.

Henry was now shut in on every side. Poitou and Britanny were both in revolt. The forts along the Sarthe, the Loir, and the Loire had fallen into the hands of Philip. On the 30th of June his army was seen under the walls of Tours. Henry himself was on the same day suddenly struck down by fever; unable to meet the French king, he fell back down the river to Saumur. The great French princes, aghast at the swift catastrophe which had fallen, men scarcely knew how, on the Angevin king, trembling lest in this strange victory of the French monarchy his ruin should be the beginning of their own destruction, made a last effort for peace. But Philip stood firm, "seeing that God had delivered his enemy into his hand." On Monday, the 3d of July, the walls of Tours fell before his assault, and he sent a final summons to Henry to meet him at Colombieres, a field near Tours. The king travelled as far as the house of the Templars at Ballan. But there he was seized with intolerable agony in every nerve of his body from head to foot. Leaning for support against a wall in his extreme anguish, he called to him William the marshal, and the pitying bystanders laid him on a bed. News of his illness was carried to the French camp. But Richard felt no touch of pity. His father was but feigning some excuse to put off the meeting, he told Philip; and a message was sent back commanding him to appear on the next day. The sick king again called the marshal, and prayed him at whatever labour to carry him to the conference. "Cost what it may," he vowed, "I will grant whatever they ask to get them to depart. But this I tell you of a surety, if I can but live I will heal the country from war, and win my land back again." With a final effort of his indomitable will he rode on the 4th of July through the sultry summer heat to Colombieres. The great assembly gathered to witness the triumph of France was struck with horror at the marks of suffering on his face, and Philip himself, moved by a sudden pity, called for a cloak to be spread on the ground on which the king might sit. But Henry's fierce temper flashed out once more; he would not sit, he said; even as he was he would hear what they asked of him, and why they cut short his lands. Then Philip stated his demands. Henry must do homage, and place himself wholly at the French king's mercy to do whatever he should decree. Richard must receive, as Henry's heir, the fealty of the barons of the lands on both sides the sea. A heavy sum was to be paid to Philip for his conquests in Berri. Richard and Philip were to hold Le Mans and Tours, and the other castles of Maine and Touraine, or else the castles of the Vexin, until the treaty was completely carried out. Henry's barons were to swear that they would force him to observe these terms.

As Henry hesitated for a moment at these crushing demands, a sudden terrible thunder broke from the still air. Both kings fell back with superstitious awe, for there had been no warning cloud or darkness. After a little space they again went forward, and again out of the serene sky came a yet louder and more awful peal. Henry, half fainting with suffering, was only prevented from falling to the ground by the friends who held him up on horseback while he made his submission to his rival and accepted the terms of peace. Then for the last time he spoke with his faithless son Richard. As the formal kiss of peace was given, the count caught his father's fierce whisper, "May God not let me die until I have worthily avenged myself on thee!" The terrible words were to Richard only a merry tale, with which on his return he stirred the French court to great laughter.

Henry was carried back the same day in a litter to Chinon. So sudden and amazing a downfall was to the superstitious terror of the time, evident token that the curse of Thomas had come to rest on him. The vengeance of the implacable martyr seemed to follow him through every act of the great drama. In Philip's scornful refusal to allow Henry to swear obedience, "saving his honour and the dignity of his kingdom," the zealots of the day saw a just retribution. At Chinon a deputation of monks from Canterbury met him. "Trusting that in his affliction he might pity the affliction of the Church," and grant demands long urged by the convent, they had sought him out, "going through swords." "The convent of Canterbury salutes you as their lord," they began, as they forced their way into the sick king's presence. Henry broke in with bitter indignation, "Then lord I have been, and am still, and will be yet - small thanks to you, ye evil traitors!" he added in a lower voice, which just caught the ears of the furious monks. But he listened patiently to their complaint. "Now go out," he said, "I will speak with my faithful servants." As the monks passed out one of them stopped and laid his curse on the king, who trembled and grew pale at the terrible words. "The omnipotent God of His ineffable mercy, and for the merits of the blessed martyr Thomas, if his life and passion has been well pleasing to Him, will shortly do us justice on thy body." Tortured with suffering, Henry still summoned strength for his last public act. He called his clerk and dictated a letter to Canterbury, to urge patience till his return, when he would consider their complaint and find a way out of the difficulty. The same evening his chancellor, whom he had sent to Philip at Tours, returned with the list of those who had conspired against him Henry bade him read the names. "Sire," he said, "may Jesus Christ help me! the first name which is written here is the name of Count John your son." The king started up from his pillow. "Is it true," he cried, "that John, my very heart, whom I have loved beyond all my sons, and for whose gain I have brought upon me all this misery, has forsaken me?" Then he laid himself down again and turned his face to the wall. "Now you have said enough," he said. "Let all the rest go as it will, I care no more for myself nor for the world." From this time he grew delirious. But still in the intervals of his ravings the great passionate nature, the defiance, the unconquered will broke out with inextinguishable force. He cursed the day on which he was born, and called down Heaven's vengeance on his sons. The great king's pride was bowed in the extremity of his ruin and defeat. "Shame," he muttered constantly, "shame on a conquered king." Geoffrey watched by him faithfully, and the dying king's last thoughts turned to him with grateful love. On the 6th of July, the seventh day of his illness, he was seized with violent hemorrhage, and the end came almost instantaneously. The next day his body was borne to Fontevraud, where his sculptured tomb still stands. To the astonished onlookers at the great tragedy, the grave in a convent church, separated from the tombs of his Angevin forefathers and of his Norman ancestors, far from his English kingdom, seemed part of the strange disasters foretold by Merlin and inspired messengers. But no ruler of his age had raised for himself so great a monument as Henry. Amid the ruin that overwhelmed his imperial schemes, his realm of England stood as the true and lasting memorial of his genius. Englishmen then, as Englishmen now, taught by the "remembrance of his good times," recognized him as one of the foremost on the roll of those who have been the makers of England's greatness.