Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Lion in Winter (1968)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Lion in Winter (1968, UK)

In director Anthony Harvey's literate Best Picture nominee and costume/period drama of ruthless politicial and sexual intrigue, treason, incest, and patricide:

  • the opening scene to frame the entire film - King Henry II (Oscar-nominated Peter O'Toole) was practicing swordplay with his youngest son: ("Come for me! You're gaining on it, Johnny... Off you go now. Run along and practice. He'll make a good king. He'll be ready"), and then his thoughts spoken to his pretty mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) who asked: ("Will you look down from heaven and see who's sitting on your throne?"); he prophetically spoke: ("I must know before I die. There's a legend of a king called Lear, with whom I have a lot in common. Both of us have kingdoms and three children we adore, and both of us are old, but there it ends. He cuts his kingdom into bits. I can't do that. I've bullt an empire, and I must know it's going to last. All of Britain, half of France. I'm the greatest power in a thousand years, and after me comes John")
  • King Henry II then he described his imprisoned, estranged wife Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine (Oscar-winning Katharine Hepburn): ("She is not among the things I love. How many husbands do you know who dungeon up their wives? I haven't kept the great bitch in the keep for ten years out of passionate attachment")
  • the dramatic arrival of prison-bound, iron-willed Eleanor released from jail by her husband King Henry II on Christmas Eve in 1183, after journeying on a barge to his lived-in, drafty castle-chateau; when she first greeted him, she noted: "How dear of you to let me out of jail!" - he quipped back: "It's only for the holidays"
The Dramatic Arrival of Estranged, Imprisoned Wife
Eleanor of Aquitaine at Henry's Castle-Chateau
  • the introduction of their three sons: Prince Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins in his film debut), Geoffrey (John Castle), and young John (Nigel Terry), and their continual feudings about who should inherit the throne
  • the scene of Eleanor's bargaining for her freedom, in exchange for a land deal: (Eleanor: "I give the richest province on the continent to John for what? You tell me, mastermind, for what?" King Henry: "Your freedom....Once Johnny gets the Aquitaine, you're free. I'll let you out. Think: On the loose in London, winters in Provence, impromptu trips to visit Richard anywhere he's killing people - all that for a signature"); she then described her pain at being imprisoned for ten years and the difficult deal being offered to her: ("Henry, I'm against the wall. To be a prisoner, to be bricked in when you've known the world. I'll never know how I survived. These ten years, Henry, have been unimaginable. And now, you offer me the only thing I want, if I give up the only thing I treasure"); then he complained about her torment of him, and she responded that she enjoyed it: (King Henry: "Is it rich, despising me? Is it rewarding?...Then stop!" Eleanor: "It's what I live for")
  • Eleanor's mournful monologue before a mirror about her desolate life: ("I've lost again. I'm done for this time. Well, there'll be other Christmases....They kissed sweetly, didn't they? I'll have him next time. I can wait. Ah, there you are. My comfort and my company. We're locked in for another year. Four seasons more. What a desolation. What a life's work!")
  • Eleanor's annoyed, despairing lecture to her three feuding sons about the origins of war -- and peace: ("...It's 1183 and we're barbarians. How clear we make it. Oh, my piglets, we are the origins of war - not history's forces, nor the times, nor justice, nor the lack of it, nor causes, nor religions, nor ideas, nor kinds of government, nor any other thing. We are the killers! We breed wars! We carry it, like syphilis, inside. Dead bodies rot in field and stream because the living ones are rotten. For the love of God, can't we love one another just a little? That's how peace begins. We have so much to love each other for. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world!")
  • King Henry's monologue about disowning his own sons: ("My life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. Henry Fitz-Empress, first Plantagenet, a king at twenty-one, the ablest soldier of an able time. He led men well, he cared for justice when he could, and ruled for thirty years, a state as great as Charlemagne's. He married out of love, a woman out of legend. Not in Alexandria, or Rome, or Camelot has there been such a queen. She bore him many children. But no sons. King Henry had no sons. He had three whiskered things, but he disowned them. You're not mine! We're not connected! I deny you! None of you will get my kingdom; I leave you nothing. And I wish you plague. May all your children breech and die! (To himself) My boys are gone. I've lost my boys")
  • the powerful sexually-manipulative scene between wily 21 year-old King of France Philip (Timothy Dalton in his screen debut) and Richard that revealed the eldest Prince's homosexual attraction to Philip
  • the film's best line of dialogue by Eleanor after Henry fled: "What family doesn't have its ups and downs?"
  • the joyous, crowd-pleasing ending in which Henry bid goodbye to Eleanor when she returned to her prison keep by barge and promised her return at Easter: (King Henry: "You know? I hope we NEVER die!" Eleanor: "So do I!" Henry: "Do you think there's any chance of it?")

King Henry II's Swordplay with Son John

Continual Family Feudings

Eleanor's Monologue Before Mirror

Eleanor: "We could change the world!"

Henry's Monologue About Disowning His Own Sons

Two Sons: Richard the Lionheart (Anthony Hopkins) and the King of France (Timothy Dalton)

Henry's Goodbye to Eleanor


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