Geoffrey II, Duke of Brittany, was the third surviving son of King Henry II of England and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. He died on September 19, 1186, predeceasing both his parents and two of his brothers.
Geoffrey was born in September 1158. At the time of his birth, King Henry and Queen Eleanor were already parents to two sons, Henry and Richard, and a daughter, Matilda. Geoffrey was named after his paternal grandfather, Geoffrey Plantagenet, the Count of Anjou who lent his name to the English dynasty.
Since Geoffrey was the only son of Henry and Eleanor to not be crowned (Henry the Young King was crowned alongside his father at Westminster Abbey, and Richard and John both ascended the throne after King Henry’s death), he remains neglected by historians. As a result, not much is known about his childhood.
In 1181, Geoffrey married Constance of Brittany and was granted the title of Duke of Brittany. They had two children; a daughter, Eleanor, and a son, Arthur, who was born six months after Geoffrey’s death.
Tragedy struck the Plantagenets in 1183 when Henry the Young King died of dysentery. While he had been alive, Henry had campaigned against his father, the King, on numerous occasions in order to gain more political control, and Geoffrey had often sided with his older brother. After the Young King’s death, Geoffrey formed an alliance with Philip Augustus, the young King of France. King Philip’s father, Louis VII, had been married to Eleanor of Aquitaine and had been at loggerheads with Henry II since she married him. As a result, Philip was more than happy to help Geoffrey plot against King Henry.
However, Geoffrey’s bid to gain more power was short lived. In 1186, he was in Paris, planning another rebellion with King Philip, when he fell off his horse during a jousting tournament and was trampled to death. He was buried in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
The loss of his third son greatly affected Henry II’s relationship with his two surviving sons. Richard and John, who had previously sided with their father, now formed an alliance with King Philip of France, and repeatedly launched campaigns against King Henry until his death in 1189. He was succeeded by King Richard, who died childless and was in turn succeeded by King John.
In the meanwhile, Geoffrey’s widow Constance had given birth to a son, Arthur. Arthur eventually succeeded his father as Duke of Brittany, but is presumed to have been killed in 1203 while trying to claim the throne from King John. As Geoffrey was the third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and John’s older brother, his son should have been King Richard’s heir. However, when Richard was on his deathbed, he proclaimed his younger brother as his heir, fearing that his nephew was too young to rule the country. Had Geoffrey survived, the situation would have been very different.
Since neither of Geoffrey’s children married, his line ended with the death of his daughter Eleanor in 1241.