The year is 1183. Like many a modern-day politician, Britain's King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) finds it occasionally useful to take his wife out of mothballs and parade her before the public. Henry's Queen Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), long exiled to a faraway castle, is invited to join Henry and their three sons for a family reunion.
In this way, Henry hopes to maintain a stronghold on his Empire and to prevent the balance of power from shifting to Eleanor or to one of his sons: Richard the Lion-Hearted (Anthony Hopkins in his movie debut), Prince Geoffrey (John Castle), or Prince John (Nigel Terry).
Also on hand for the get-together is Henry's mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) -- who covets the King's influence -- and the Princess' brother, King Philip of France (Timothy Dalton).
Despite Henry's efforts to keep his wife and offspring at arms' length (and away from the throne), Eleanor successfully reunites the brood, assuring that her power will not only be restored, but will last long after her death.