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Stephen - 1135-1154

Key Facts about Stephen

Though Matilda was to have been Queen on the death of her father, Stephen usurped the throne with the support of the barons. He had been brought up at the court of Blois and his uncle Henry I had favoured him by giving him extensive estates which strengthened his conviction that he had a claim to the throne. He also had a claim through his parents the Count of Blois and his mother Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror.

This was no more substantial a claim than Matilda's, however, but the English lords decided to back him. After a while, however, some lords, acknowledging that they had picked the wrong sovereign, switched their allegiance and thus created a civil war situation which lasted for nineteen years.

The first clash between the supporters of each claimant occurred in 1138 when David I, King of Scotland, invaded England to support his niece Matilda. He was defeated by Stephen's forces at the battle of the Standard in Yorkshire.

After several other encounters, the issue was undecided for neither side could muster the strength, or the money, for an outright victory.

After several defeats and victories for each side Matilda gave up the struggle in 1148, and returned to France to join her husband Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and her son Henry Plantagenet.

This was not the end of the conflict between the rivals, however, for there was the matter of the succession to be decided. Matilda had full support from the Normandy dukes, and from Robert of Gloucester in England.

Meanwhile, Matilda's son Henry had received the support of the Pope and had become Duke of Normandy. He now felt that he had a strong claim to the English throne.

He invaded England in 1153 to assert his claim and met Stephen at Wallingford, on the Thames, where an agreement was reached by which Henry would become King on Stephen's death.

This agreement brought the civil war, sometimes called the Nineteen Long Winters, to an end.

Key Events during the Reign of Stephen

1135 - Henry I dies near Rouen. Coronation of King Stephen, followed by civil war between supporters of Stephen and supporters of Matilda.

1136 - The first baronial revolts against Stephen begin in Norfolk and Devon.

1138 - David I of Scotland invades England to support the cause of Matilda, but he is defeated at the Battle of the Standard in Yorkshire.

1139 - Theobold of Bee becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. Matilda leaves France and lands in England.

1141 - Matilda's forces defeat and capture Stephen at Lincoln. Matilda is made Queen.

1147 - Earl Robert of Gloucester dies. The Second Crusade begins.

1148 - Matilda abandons the fight and leaves England.

1151 - King Stephens wife Matilda dies.

1152 - Henry of Anjou, later Henry II, marries Eleanor of Aquitaine.

1154 - Stephen dies and is given an 'iron age' river bural at Faversham, Kent.



 
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