From the very beginning, the story of the Plantagenets is astonishing. Dan Jones opens the series with the first king of the dynasty, Henry II. A dashing and energetic warrior, Henry transformed England from a violent and lawless state into the heart of an empire that would become one of the greatest that Europe has ever seen. However, his success was undone by a series of bitter betrayals – first by his best friend, Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, and then by his wife and sons, who raised armies against him.
The root of the problem was Henry's obsessive desire to control every aspect of his empire. It caused a massive falling-out with Becket, who turned the church against the king. It also infuriated his family, who soon realised that while he was alive none of them would ever taste real power. When his knights murdered Becket in 1170, Henry's family used it as an opportunity to try to seize power.
Henry's wife Eleanor discovered that he was mortgaging parts of her personal duchy of Aquitaine to further his ambitions. Smart, politically shrewd and extremely well connected, she led her sons into an alliance with the king's mortal enemy, King Louis of France. The betrayal had one aim – to seize the crown and take control of the Plantagenet empire.
Henry saved his crown but his family now had the taste for betrayal and were increasingly hungry for power, which Henry refused to relinquish. The resulting conflict destroyed the family and thrust the new Plantagenet empire
into chaos and bloodshed.