Instances have been given of the ungovernable fits of passion to which Henry in his younger days was subject; these appear to have been much less frequent as he grew past middle age. Without any self-control in moments of anger, he was at other times remarkable for acting with calm judgment and calculation. In his relations with women he was extremely licentious. Among his mistresses was one who has been celebrated in various romantic tales, most of which are without any foundation, in truth. "Fair Rosamond" was the daughter of Walter Clifford, a baron of Herefordshire, whose castle was situated on one of the heights overlooking the valley of the Wye, between the Welsh Hay and Hereford. Henry fell in love with her before he ascended the throne, and she bore to him two sons, who have been already mentioned as aiding their father at the time of the partial rebellion in England. One of these was William, called Longsword, from the size of the weapon which he carried, who married the daughter of the Earl of Salisbury, and succeeded to his estates; the other was Geoffrey, Bishop of Lincoln, and subsequently Archbishop of York. While Henry was still a young man, Rosamond retired to the convent of Godestow, near to Oxford, where, after a few years, she died. During her residence there, Henry bestowed many valuable presents upon the convent for her sake, and the nuns, who seem to have been actuated by a personal regard for her, as well as by a recollection of the benefits she had conferred upon them, buried her in their choir, burning tapers round her tomb, and showing to her remains other marks of honour. Henry, Bishop of Lincoln, disapproved of these proceedings, and gave the nuns to understand that one who had led an impure life, even though the mistress of a king, was not worthy to lie in the sacred edifice. The repentance of Rosamond, which appears to have been sincere, was not permitted to wipe away the shame of the past, and her body was removed and buried in the common cemetery. The nuns, however, feared no contamination from the poor remains of their frail sister, and they secretly collected he: bones, strewed perfumes over them, and buried them once more in the church. The story of the bower of Rosamond, and of the poisoned bowl forced upon her by the jealousy of Eleanor, cannot be traced to any contemporary source, and must be rejected as devoid of truth.
Whatever may be the view we take of the character of Henry as a man, there can be no doubt that, as a king, he deserves a high place in English history. In the stormy times of the Middle Ages, better were the wrongs inflicts by an ambitious monarch, than the national corruption and decay which attended the reign of a weak one. Under the rule of Henry Plantagenet, the country made rapid strides in power and influence, and reached that high position among the nations of Europe, which it was destined to maintain in later times.