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Stephen of Blois
King of the English (1st Reign; more...)
Reign 22 December 1135 – April 1141
Coronation 26 December 1135
Predecessor Henry I Beauclerc
Successor Matilda
King of the English (2nd Reign; more...)
Reign November 1141 – 25 October 1154
Predecessor Matilda
Successor Henry II Curtmantle
Consort Matilda of Boulogne
Issue
Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne
William I of Blois
Marie I, Countess of Boulogne
House Norman dynasty
Father Stephen II, Count of Blois
Mother Adela of Normandy
Born c. 1096
Blois, France
Died 25 October 1154
Dover, Kent
Burial Faversham Abbey, Kent

Stephen (c. 1096 – 25 October 1154), often referred to as Stephen of Blois, was a grandson of William the Conqueror. He was the last Norman King of England, from 1135 to his death, and also the Count of Boulogne jure uxoris. His reign was marked by civil war with his cousin and rival the Empress Matilda and general chaos, known as The Anarchy. He was succeeded by Matilda's son, Henry II, the first of the Angevin or Plantagenet kings.

Contents

Early life

Stephen was born at Blois in France, son of Stephen, Count of Blois, and Adela of England, the daughter of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. One of ten children, his surviving brothers were Count Theobald II of Champagne, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, and William of Sully. He also had four sisters, including Eléonore of Blois.

Stephen was sent to be raised at the English court of his uncle, King Henry I, in 1106. He became Count of Mortain in about 1115, and married Matilda, daughter of the Count of Boulogne, in about 1125, who became Countess of Boulogne. Their marriage was a happy one and his wife was an important supporter during the struggle for the English crown. Stephen became joint ruler of Boulogne in 1128.

Reign

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King of England

There were several principal contenders for the succession to Henry I. The least popular was the Empress Matilda, Henry I's only legitimate surviving child, not only because she was a woman, but also because her husband Geoffrey, Count of Anjou was an enemy of the Normans. The other contenders were Robert, Earl of Gloucester, illegitimate son of Henry I; Stephen; and Stephen's older brother, Theobald, Count of Blois. However, Theobald did not want the kingdom, at least not enough to fight for it.[1] Before his death in 1135, Henry I named his daughter Matilda his heir and made the barons of England swear allegiance to her. Stephen was the first baron to do so. However, upon King Henry's death, Stephen claimed the throne, saying Henry had changed his mind on his deathbed and named Stephen as his heir. Once crowned, Stephen gained the support of the majority of the barons as well as Pope Innocent II. The first few years of his reign were peaceful, notwithstanding insurgences by the Welsh, King David I of Scotland, and Baldwin de Redvers.

The Anarchy: War with Matilda

By 1139, Stephen had lost much support and the country sank into a civil war, commonly called The Anarchy. Stephen faced the forces of the Empress Matilda at several locations, including Beverston Castle and Lincoln. Bad omens haunted him before the Battle of Lincoln, at which Stephen faced Matilda's illegitimate half-brother Robert and Ranulph, Earl of Chester. According to chroniclers, Stephen fought bravely but was captured by a knight named William de Cahaignes (a relative of Ranulph, ancestor of the Keynes family). Stephen was defeated and brought before his cousin Matilda, and was imprisoned at Bristol.

Stephen's wife rallied support amongst the people of London and the barons. Matilda was, in turn, forced out of London. With the capture of her most able lieutenant, her half-brother the Earl of Gloucester, she was obliged to trade Stephen for him, and Stephen was restored to the throne in November the same year.

In December 1142, the Empress was besieged at Oxford, but managed to escape, dressed in white, across the snow to Wallingford Castle, held by her supporter Brien FitzCount.

In 1147, Empress Matilda's teenage son, the future King Henry II of England, decided to assist in the war effort by raising a small army of mercenaries and invading England. Rumours of this army's size terrified Stephen's retainers, although in truth the force was very small. Having been defeated twice in battle, and with no money to pay his mercenaries, young Henry appealed to his uncle Robert for aid but was turned away. Desperately, and in secret, the boy asked Stephen for help. According to the Gesta Stephani, "On receiving the message, the king...hearkened to the young man..." and bestowed upon him money and other support.

Reconciliation and death

Stephen maintained his precarious hold on the throne for the remainder of his lifetime. However, after a military standoff at Wallingford with Henry, and following the death of his son and heir, Eustace, in 1153, he was persuaded to reach a compromise with Matilda (known as the Treaty of Wallingford or Winchester), whereby Stephen's son William of Blois would be passed over for the English throne, and instead Matilda's son Henry would succeed Stephen.

Stephen died in Dover, at Dover Priory, and was buried in Faversham Abbey, which he had founded with his wife in 1148.

Besides Eustace, Stephen and his wife had two other sons, Baldwin (d. before 1135), and William I of Blois (Count of Mortain and Boulogne, and Earl of Surrey or Warenne). They also had two daughters, Matilda and Marie I of Boulogne. In addition to these children, Stephen fathered at least three illegitimate children, one of whom, Gervase, became Abbot of Westminster.

English Royalty
House of Normandy
Stephen
   Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne
   William, Count of Boulogne
   Marie, Countess of Boulogne

An unfavourable thumbnail sketch of Stephen is given by Walter Map (who wrote during the reign of Matilda's son Henry II): "A man of a certain age, remarkably hard-working but otherwise a nonentity [idiota] or perhaps rather inclined to evil."[2]

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (the Peterborough Chronicle, second continuation) provides a more favourable picture of Stephen, but depicts a turbulent reign:-

"In the days of this King there was nothing but strife, evil, and robbery, for quickly the great men who were traitors rose against him. When the traitors saw that Stephen was a good-humoured, kindly, and easy-going man who inflicted no punishment, then they committed all manner of horrible crimes . . . And so it lasted for nineteen years while Stephen was King, till the land was all undone and darkened with such deeds, and men said openly that Christ and his angels slept".

The monastic author said, of The Anarchy, "this and more we suffered nineteen winters for our sins."

Ancestors

Fictional portrayals

Stephen is a prominent character in Sharon Kay Penman's novel When Christ And His Saints Slept, portrayed as a loving husband and good warrior, but an indecisive monarch who cannot control his barons.

King Stephen is often mentioned in all books of Ellis Peters' historical detective series Brother Cadfael, which take place during The Anarchy. He actually appears in two of them. One Corpse Too Many (1979), set in August 1138, takes place against the background of Stephen's conquest of Shrewsbury and his decision - described as "uncharacteristically harsh" - to execute all members of the former garrison which had held the city for Empress Maud. In Brother Cadfael's Penance (1994) much of the plot takes place during and in the immediate aftermath of an abortive peace conference organised by the Church in November 1145 in an effort to reconcile Stephen with Maud and end the civil war.

Cecelia Holland's 1971 novel The Earl, also published as Hammer for Princes, depicts the old and quite tragic King Stephen, facing the death of his own son Eustace and the inevitability of recognising Prince Henry, his rival's son, as his heir. He is also a character in Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth.

Stephen has rarely been portrayed on screen. He was played by Frederick Treves in the 1978 BBC TV series The Devil's Crown, which dramatised the reigns of Henry II, Richard I and John, and by Michael Grandage in "One Corpse Too Many", the first episode of the television adaptation of the Cadfael novels (1994).

English royal descendants

Philippa of Hainault, the wife of Edward III, was a descendant of Stephen, and he was thus ancestor of all subsequent kings of England.[3]

Notes

  1. ^ Davis,R.H.C King Stephen: 1135-1154, 1967, p14-15
  2. ^ Walter Map, De nugis curialium 5.6.
  3. ^ That is, of England until 1707 and of Great Britain since.

Bibliography

  • Crouch, David. The Reign of King Stephen, 2000
  • Davis, R H C. King Stephen, 1135-1154, 1967

External links

Stephen of England
Born: 1096 Died: 25 October 1154
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry I
King of England
22 December 1135 – April 1141
Succeeded by
Disputed
Claimed by Matilda
Preceded by
Disputed
Claimed by Matilda
King of England
November 1141 – 25 October 1154
Succeeded by
Henry II
French nobility
Preceded by
Henry I
Duke of Normandy
1135–1144
Succeeded by
Geoffrey
Preceded by
William
1190 – 1106
Count of Mortain
1113(?) – 1135
Succeeded by
William of Blois
1154 – 1159
Preceded by
Eustace III
Count of Boulogne
1125 – 1147
with Matilda I
Succeeded by
Eustace IV
Family information
Theobald III of Blois
House of Blois
Stephen II
Count of Blois
Stephen of England
Gersende of Maine
House of Maine
William I of England
House of Norman
Adela of Normandy
Matilda of Flanders
House of Flanders
Notes and references
1. Tompsett, Brian, Directory of Royal Genealogical Data (Hull, UK: University of Hull, 2005).
2. Ross, Kelley L., The Proceedings of the Friesian School (Los Angeles, US: Los Angeles Valley College, 2007).

Simple English

Stephen of Blois
King of the English (more...)
[[Image:_|218px|]]
King of the English (more...)
Reign 22 December 1135 – April 1141
Coronation 26 December 1135
Predecessor Henry I
Successor Matilda
King of the English (more...)
Reign November 1141 – 25 October 1154
Predecessor Matilda
Successor Henry II
Consort Matilda I of Boulogne
Issue
Eustace IV of Boulogne
William of Blois
Marie of Boulogne
Titles and styles
The King of English, Duke of the Normans
The Count of Boulogne (jure uxoris)
The Count of Mortain
Royal house Norman dynasty
Father Stephen II, Count of Blois
Mother Adela of Normandy
Born c. 1096
Blois, France
Died 25 October 1154
Dover, Kent
Burial Faversham Abbey, Kent

Stephen of England (c. 109625 October 1154) was King of England from 1135 until 1154. He became the King after the death of his uncle Henry I. Stephan was the King until his own death in Dover, Kent. Stephen was crowned at Westminster Abbey on the 26 December 1135. Stephen is buried at the Clunaic Monastery in Faversham, Kent.

King Stephan was born in Blois, France, in 1096[1]. He was the son of Stephen, Count of Blois and Adela of Normandy. His mother, Adela, was the daughter of William I of England and Matilda of Flanders. Stephen married Matilda of Boulogne in about 1125. They had five children. He fought a civil war with Henry I's only daughter, Matilda, from 1139-1153. This ended with the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153 after the death of Stephen's son and heir, Eustace IV. The treaty said that Stephen would be King for the rest of his lifetime. After his death, the throne passed to Henry, son of Matilda, and not Stephen's other son William.

References

  1. Note: There is some doubt about his year of birth. He may have been born in 1097. 1096 is the commonly listed date.


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