~ the battle for England between Stephen of Blois and Matilda The Empress ~


17 August 2011

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: 1154

A.D.1154. In this year died the King Stephen; and he was buried where his wife and his son were buried, at Faversham; which monastery they founded. When the king died, then was the earl beyond sea; but no man durst do other than good for the great fear of him. When he came to England, then was he received with great worship, and blessed to king in London on the Sunday before midwinter day. And there held he a full court. The same day that Martin, Abbot of Peterborough, should have gone thither, then sickened he, and died on the fourth day before the nones of
January; and the monks, within the day, chose another of themselves, whose name was William de Walteville, a good clerk, and good man, and well beloved of the king, and of all good men. And all the monks buried the abbot with high honours. And soon the newly chosen abbot, and the monks with him, went to Oxford to the king. And the king gave him the abbacy; and he proceeded soon afterwards to Peterborough; where he remained with the abbot, ere he came home. And the king was received with great worship at Peterborough, in full procession. And so he was also at Ramsey, and at Thorney, and at --- and at Spalding, and at ---

This post concludes the material I have to share at this point in time but I hope you enjoy reading through it all. However, if something new should come to hand ...
until then Cheers for now!

16 August 2011

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: 1140-53

A.D. 1140. In this year wished the King Stephen to take Robert,
Earl of Gloucester, the son of King Henry; but he could not, for
he was aware of it. After this, in the Lent, the sun and the day
darkened about the noon-tide of the day, when men were eating;
and they lighted candles to eat by. That was the thirteenth day
before the kalends of April. Men were very much struck with
wonder. Thereafter died William, Archbishop of Canterbury; and
the king made Theobald archbishop, who was Abbot of Bec. After
this waxed a very great war betwixt the king and Randolph, Earl
of Chester; not because he did not give him all that he could ask
him, as he did to all others; but ever the more he gave them, the
worse they were to him. The Earl held Lincoln against the king,
and took away from him all that he ought to have. And the king
went thither, and beset him and his brother William de Romare in
the castle. And the earl stole out, and went after Robert, Earl
of Glocester, and brought him thither with a large army. And
they fought strenuously on Candlemas day against their lord, and
took him; for his men forsook him and fled. And they led him to
Bristol, and there put him into prison in close quarters. Then
was all England stirred more than ere was, and all evil was in
the land. Afterwards came the daughter of King Henry, who had
been Empress of Germany, and now was Countess of Anjou. She came to London; but the people of London attempted to take her, and she fled, losing many of her followers. After this the Bishop of Winchester, Henry, the brother of King Stephen, spake with Earl Robert, and with the empress, and swore them oaths, "that he
never more would hold with the king, his brother," and cursed all
the men that held with him, and told them, that he would give
them up Winchester; and he caused them to come thither. When
they were therein, then came the king's queen with all her
strength, and beset them, so that there was great hunger therein.
When they could no longer hold out, then stole they out, and
fled; but those without were aware, and followed them, and took
Robert, Earl of Glocester, and led him to Rochester, and put him
there into prison; but the empress fled into a monastery. Then
went the wise men between the king's friends and the earl's
friends; and settled so that they should let the king out of
prison for the earl, and the earl for the king; and so they did.
After this settled the king and Earl Randolph at Stamford, and
swore oaths, and plighted their troth, that neither should betray
the other. But it availed nothing. For the king afterwards took
him at Northampton, through wicked counsel, and put him into
prison; and soon after he let him out again, through worse
counsel, on the condition that he swore by the crucifix, and
found hostages, that he would give up all his castles. Some he
gave up, and some gave he not up; and did then worse than he
otherwise would. Then was England very much divided. Some held
with the king, and some with the empress; for when the king was
in prison, the earls and the rich men supposed that he never more
would come out: and they settled with the empress, and brought
her into Oxford, and gave her the borough. When the king was
out, he heard of this, and took his force, and beset her in the
tower*. And they let her down in the night from the tower
by ropes. And she stole out, and fled, and went on foot to
Wallingford. Afterwards she went over sea; and those of Normandy turned all from the king to the Earl of Anjou; some willingly,and some against their will; for he beset them till they gave uptheir castles, and they had no help of the king. Then went Eustace, the king's son, to France, and took to wife the sister
of the King of France. He thought to obtain Normandy thereby;
but he sped little, and by good right; for he was an evil man.
Wherever he was, he did more evil than good; he robbed the lands,
and levied heavy guilds upon them. He brought his wife to
England, and put her into the castle at... Good woman she
was; but she had little bliss with him; and Christ would not that
he should long reign. He therefore soon died, and his mother
also. And the Earl of Anjou died; and his son Henry took to the
earldom. And the Queen of France parted from the king; and she
came to the young Earl Henry; and he took her to wife, and all
Poitou with her. Then went he with a large force into England,
and won some castles; and the king went against him with a much
larger force. Nevertheless, fought they not; but the archbishop
and the wise men went between them, and made this settlement:
That the king should be lord and king while he lived, and after
his day Henry should be king: that Henry should take him for a
father; and he him for a son: that peace and union should be
betwixt them, and in all England. This and the other provisions
that they made, swore the king and the earl to observe; and all
the bishops, and the earls, and the rich men. Then was the earl
received at Winchester, and at London, with great worship; and
all did him homage, and swore to keep the peace. And there was
soon so good a peace as never was there before. Then was the
king stronger than he ever was before. And the earl went over
sea; and all people loved him; for he did good justice, and made


As you can see from reading through this entry in the chronicle, although dated for 1140, it covers all the years from 1140-53 in a very condensed form.

* The tower referred to is Oxford which was originally built by Robert D'Oyly. By this time, 1141/42, it was held by his nephew Robert D'Oyly, the son of Nigel D'Oyly.

15 August 2011

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: 1135

A.D. 1135. In this year went the King Henry over sea at the
Lammas; and the next day, as he lay asleep on ship, the day
darkened over all lands, and the sun was all as it were a three
night old moon, and the stars about him at midday. Men were very
much astonished and terrified, and said that a great event should
come hereafter. So it did; for that same year was the king dead,
the next day after St. Andrew's mass-day, in Normandy. Then was
there soon tribulation in the land; for every man that might,
soon robbed another. Then his sons and his friends took his
body, and brought it to England, and buried it at Reading. A
good man he was; and there was great dread of him. No man durst
do wrong with another in his time. Peace he made for man and
beast. Whoso bare his burthen of gold and silver, durst no man
say ought to him but good. Meanwhile was his nephew come to
England, Stephen de Blois. He came to London, and the people of
London received him, and sent after the Archbishop William
Curboil, and hallowed him to king on midwinter day. In this
king's time was all dissention, and evil, and rapine; for against
him rose soon the rich men who were traitors; and first of all
Baldwin de Redvers, who held Exeter against him. But the king
beset it; and afterwards Baldwin accorded. Then took the others,
and held their castles against him; and David, King of Scotland,
took to Wessington against him. Nevertheless their messengers
passed between them; and they came together, and were settled,
but it availed little.

1st August is Lammas Day, "the feast of first fruits". A blessing was performed annually in the church on the 1st or 6th of August. From this we can reasonably conclude that Henry I left for Normandy in early August.

St. Andrew's day is 30th November, dating Henry's death to 1st December.

Midwinter day is usually around 21st - 22nd December

Wessington is a village in the county of Derbyshire, England

12 August 2011

Stephen Meddles in Church Affairs

As already noted in previous blog entries Stephen's actions toward the clergy in England had dire consequences for his kingship particularly his treatment of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury in the year 1139. In addition, his appointment of Theobald of Bec as Archbishop of Canterbury caused further ill feeling between the king and his brother, Bishop Henry. We also know that the last few years of Stephen's reign were dominated by his unsuccessful attempts to have his son Eustace crowned his in own lifetime.

Two letters, one written by Bernard of Clairvaux in about 1140 and one by Pope Eugene III in 1147, provide further evidence of Stephen's sometimes awkward handling of church affairs. Both letters were addressed to his queen, Matilda of Bolougne, and both requested her intervention with the king.

The first letter concerned the appointment of William Fitzherbert to the See of York. He was a relative of Stephen's and the king had not only suggested his appointment but invested him after an election which was fiercely contested. This caused a long running dispute that continued for six years. During this episode Bernard also wrote a strongly worded letter to Stephen which appears to have gone unheeded.

The subject of the second letter was in regard to the episcopacy of London. Matilda, The Empress, had selected Robert de Sigillo and he had been canonically elected in 1141. After Stephen had been restored to his position as king he demanded an oath of fealty from Robert which he refused to give. Stephen persecuted him and in his letter the Pope urged the queen to intervene and persuade the king to accept a promise instead of the oath.

10 August 2011

Talking about Legacies

Of the two, Stephen's legacy was more obsure, via his daughter Mary (Marie) and his connection to Philippa of Hainault, the wife of Edward III, while Matilda's was direct and obvious, via her son Henry II. After his coronation Matilda continued to act as Regent in Normandy during his absences and Charters were issued in both of their names. For his own part Henry, in addition to all of the lands and titles he already held, managed to gain a foothold in Ireland. How did this happen?

Although I'm going off on a tangent and diverging from the original intent of the blog somewhat, the events of this period represent an important convergence point in the histories of England, Wales, and Ireland, and I think it's a story worth telling.

As mentioned in the blog entry "Stephen and the Welsh", Henry conducted largely successful campaigns in Wales in 1157, 63, and 65, and the Norman presence was fairly well established despite various rumblings and revolts. And what has this to do with Ireland you ask? Well ...

Ferns (Fearna) is a small historic town in the north of County Wexford and much of the history of modern Ireland begins here. It was the base of Diarmait Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, who appealed to Henry II of England for aid after he was ousted from his lands by Tairrdelbach mac Ruaidri Ua Conchobair, the High King of Eire, in 1166. Diarmait fled first to Wales and then followed Henry to Aquitaine to seek his support and consent to recruit soldiers. For Henry, who had first given thought to an invasion of Ireland soon after his coronation*, it was an opportunity too good to pass up. He agreed to help Diarmait reassert control in Leinster and eventually made men, knights, and nobles available for this purpose.

By 1167 Diarmait had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and the first Norman knight, Richard Fitz Godbert de Roche, landed in Ireland in that year. In 1168 after several appeals to Rhys ap Gruffydd, the Prince of Deheubarth, Diarmait secured the release Fitz Gerald's half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen from captivity so that he could also take part in the Irish campaign. Fitz-Stephen helped Diarmait organise a mercenary army of Norman and Welsh soldiers. In something of a coup Diarmait also obtained the support of Richard de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke, nicknamed Strongbow*.

In May 1169 the main body of Norman and Welsh forces landed in Wexford near Bannow strand. After a two day siege during which all the ships in the town's harbour were burnt, the defenders sent envoys to Diarmait. A bishop (or maybe two) in the town had persuaded them to surrender. The defenders renewed their allegiance to him and the Siege of Wexford was over.

Not content with this victory Mac Murchada sought vengeance for past ills, assembled an army, and prepared to march towards Dublin. His ambitious plans apparently also included eventually marching on Tara. Over-reaching himself Diarmait lost a battle and had to retreat. Strongbow had not been in the initial invasion force and after appeals from Diarmait, who was facing new threats to his position, he finally arrived in Ireland in August 1170. Within a short time Leinster was settled and Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait's control. Strongbow’s support came at a price though and in exchange for his loyalty Diarmait offered Richard his daughter Aoife in marriage, to which she agreed, and made him heir to his kingdom.

Of far greater consequence though was the fact that Diarmait had, by his appeals for help, invited the Normans to invade Ireland.

Henry II had kept a watchful eye on these events. He grew concerned that Strongbow and his supporters would become independent from him and perhaps even establish of a rival Norman state in Ireland. In 1171 Henry arrived in Leinster with an army in order to establish his authority. He stayed for six months and declared himself Lord of Ireland. During this time many Irish princes and all of the Normans took oaths of homage to him. In 1177 he named his youngest son, John, Lord of Ireland. The domination of Ireland by the English had begun.

Matilda, The Empress, of course had not lived to see the outcome of her son's ambitions in Ireland but in an interesting footnote she had opposed Henry's original plan. (see notes below)

* Soon after his coronation in 1154 Henry had sent an embassy to Pope Adrian IV led by Bishop Arnold of Lisieux. The group of clerics requested authorisation for Henry to invade Ireland. Some historians suggest that this resulted in the issue of the papal bull Laudabiliter in 1155, although the authenticity of this has been questioned. Henry may have acted under the influence of a plot in which English clerics sought to dominate the Irish church, perhaps he was simply ambitious and greedy for more, or it’s possible that he may have intended to secure Ireland as a lordship for his younger brother William who died soon after the plan was devised. Whatever the case may be, any plans for Ireland that Henry may have had were laid aside at this time.

* To his contemporaries Richard de Clare, Strongbow, was known as Earl of Striguil

* Maurice Fitz Gerald had fought at the Battle of Crug Mawr in 1136 (again see the post Stephen and the Welsh for more information)

* More About Robert Fitz-Stephen:
Robert Fitz-Stephen was the illegitimate son of Stephen, Constable of Cardigan. His mother was Nest ferch Rhys, a Welsh princess of Deheubarth renowned for her beauty. Robert succeeded his father in the office of Custos Campe Aberteifi and first appears in history in 1157. That year Henry II invaded Gwynedd and while the main army faced the forces of Owain east of the River Conwy another force, which included Robert and his half-brother Henry Fitzroy, attacked Anglesey by sea. This force was defeated in battle. Robert was wounded and his half-brother killed.

Robert pops up again when he was captured by Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1165. He was released after appeals by Diarmait, King of Leinster, the first in 1167 and again in 1168.

As already mentioned Robert Fitz-Stephen helped organise an army for Diarmait and in May 1169 led the vanguard of Welsh-Norman auxiliaries to Ireland with a force of 30 knights, 60 men-at-arms and 300 archers. Maurice Fitz Gerald landed at the same bay with 10 knights and 60 archers the next day. This force merged with about 500 soldiers commanded by Diarmait. After their victory at the Siege of Wexford, Mac Murchada granted Fitz-Stephen and Fitz Gerald a share in two cantreds, Bargy and Forth. This comprised all the land between Bannow and the town of Wexford.

From the writing of Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales or Gerald de Barri):

"Mac Murchard was much delighted and encouraged by the tidings of this new arrival, and calling to mind, with the desire of vengeance, the deep injuries which the people of Dublin had done both to his father and himself, he assembled an army and prepared to march towards Dublin. In the meantime, Fitz-Stephen was building a fort upon a steep rock, commonly called the Karrec, situated about two miles from Wexford, a place strong by nature, but which art made still stronger."

Robert received a further grant for services rendered in 1177 - the kingdom of Cork from Lismore to the sea with the exception of the city of Cork. This one was made by Henry II and shared jointly with Miles de Cogan. However things did not go quite so smoothly this time. The Irish princes disputed the king's right to dispose of the territory, arguing that they had not resisted the king or committed any act that justified the forfeiture of their lands. Consequently, Fitz-Stephen was nearly overwhelmed by a rising in the Kingdom of Desmond in 1182 and experienced great difficulty in maintaining his position. Philip de Barri, the second son of his half-sister Angharad, came to Ireland in 1185 and together with yet another relative, Raymond FitzGerald (Raymond Le Gros), they recovered the lands and reached a compromise agreement. The barons held seven cantreds near Cork while the remaining twenty four were retained by the Irish princes. Fitz-Stephen would eventually cede these territories to Philip de Barri as he had no living male heirs. The date of his death is uncertain.

Oh, what a tangled web this family weaves!
Henry Fitzroy was the illegitimate son of Nest and King Henry I
Rhys ap Gruffydd was the nephew of Robert’s mother Nest
Nest was also the mother of Maurice and Angharad
Robert de Barri was present at the Siege of Wexford. He was the eldest son of Robert’s half-sister Angharad
Miles de Cogan was the son of Robert’s half-sister Gwladys