Stephen, King of England (1135-1154)

by on February 25th, 2011
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Stephen was the youngest son of Stephen Count of Blois and Champagne and of Adela daughter of William the Conqueror. He was born in 1096 and by 1130 because of his uncle King Henry I, was the richest man in his uncle’s empire. By 1135, Henry’s death was followed by many disputes one who would rule England. Matilda, Henry’s daughter was Stephen’s biggest problem while he reigned.

For two years Stephen had little trouble but in 1138, Geoffrey of Anjou invaded Normandy, King David of Scotland (Matilda’s uncle) invaded the north, Robert of Gloucester (Matilda’s half-brother) and Matilda rebelled against him. Stephen and she battled and Matilda was very close because in 1141 Stephen rashly accepted battle at Lincoln and was captured and taken to Bristol. Matilda had everything going in her favor because Henry of Blois (his brother) openly went on her side and she was able to enter London.

Though things turned on Stephen’s side because of how she offended the Londoners and Stephen’s wife and queen, Matilda of Boulogne went to London with her forces and the Londoners were on her side thus Matilda was drove out of London. Few months later Robert of Gloucester had been captured, and Stephen was a tradeoff and that was the end of Matilda. She had left England in 1148 and never returned. So you can say that his wife saved England and Stephen.

Stephen’s worries were not over yet even though Matilda was gone she had a son named Henry fitzEmpress whom is known as Henry II. In January 1153, Henry was a Lord of Normandy and Anjou, he came back to England after he had been defeated at age 16 but now was richer and ready to battle. Lucky for him there was no battle he was generally accepted because the barons were tired of these civil wars. Their estates were in danger and they wanted peace. So the Treaty of Westminster happened and it was simple Stephen would adopt Henry as his son and heir. Now at last Stephen could rule unchallenged though it didn’t last long he died in October 1154 and was buried next to his wife and elder son Eustace in Faversham.

A chronicler during his time wrote this about the King, “by this good nature and by way he jested and enjoyed even company of his inferiors, Stephen earned an affection that can be hardly imagined.” (Fraser, The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England) His life wasn’t that easy and maybe he was too brave for his own good. He had ruled for 19 years and those years were full of trials. One of them more personal was his eldest son Eustace died unexpectedly.

Stephen had lacked masterfulness that Kings before him had and without that he was unable to dominate either his court or kingdom. Yet he was no fool and occasionally made the mistake of being overly confident and too clever. But we can see that from the chronicler of his time that he was a kind and an amiable man who had friends and a wife that would support him.

Antonia Fraser, The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England

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