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


28 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ Postscript: A Last Word on Stephen

• Postscript: A Last Word on Stephen and Contemporary Sources

The Peterborough Chronicle:

"Þa the suikes undergæton ðat he milde man was and softe and god, and na iustise ne dide, þa diden hi alle wunder"

"When the traitors understood that he was a gentle man, and soft and good, and did not execute justice, they committed all manner of atrocity."

"æuric rice man his castles makede and agænes him heolden; and fylden þe land ful of castles. Hi suencten suyðe þe uurecce men of þe land mid castelweorces; þa þe castles uuaren maked, þa fylden hi mid deoules and yuele men. Þa namen hi þa men þe hi wendan ðat ani god hefden, bathe be nihtes and be dæies, carlmen and wimmen, and diden heom in prisun and pined heom efter gold and syluer untellendlice pining; for ne uuaeren naeure nan martyrs swa pined alse hi waeron."

"Every chieftain made castles and held them against the king; and they filled the land full of castles. They viciously oppressed the poor men of the land with castle building work; when the castles were made, then they filled the land with devils and evil men. Then they seized those who had any goods, both by night and day, working men and women, and threw them into prison and tortured them for gold and silver with uncountable tortures, for never was there a martyr so tortured as these men were."

The chronicler writes that people said openly that Christ slept, along with His saints; this — and more than we can say — we suffered 19 winters for our sins.

The Gesta Stephani:
Authorship of Gesta Stephani is uncertain, possibly written by Robert, Bishop of Bath.
Gesta Stephani Online

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Henry of Huntingdon:
Henry of Huntingdon

William of Newburgh:
William of Newburgh

Miscellanea: Number of Surviving Charters
Stephen - 720
Matilda - 88

From a chronicler who wrote under the patronage of Robert of Gloucester:

"By his good nature and by the way he jested and enjoyed himself even in the company of his inferiors Stephen earned an affection that can hardly be described."

History writes that Stephen was an affable, easygoing and popular man who was a competent commander and a brave, chivalrous knight. However he lacked the judgement, skills, and ruthlessness needed to be an effective ruler, to control his barons and ensure their loyalty. Many illegal castles were built during his reign and private armies were recruited which enabled unruly barons to wage war on one another. It was the ordinary people who suffered when towns were looted and burnt and crops and livestock destroyed. Fortunately however, England and her people of course survived and recovered from the deeds of both Stephen and Matilda, The Empress, and went on to be ruled by Henry II, credited in the history books as one of England's most impressive kings.

27 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ Postscript: A Last Word on Matilda

• Postscript: A Last Word on Matilda, The Empress, Lady of the English

It seems historians haven't always been overly kind to Matilda, more often than not portraying her as imperious, haughty, and demanding. Her supposedly high handed treatment of the London citizenry during those brief few months when the crown of England was within her grasp after the capture of Stephen in the Battle of Lincoln in February 1141 is almost always held up as an example of her 'stubborn, wilful behaviour'. Admittedly it probably wasn't a smart move to anger them since Stephen had always been popular with the Londoners and perhaps she and her supporters underestimated the Queen's ability to muster support to Stephen's cause.

It is logical to assume that her first marriage to Emperor Henry V not only elevated her to a high position but would have taught her much about rulership during her formative years. In addition, it seems natural that as Henry I's only surviving legitimate child, but more importantly as his declared heir, she would have had certain expectations to rule England and pass the crown onto her own heir Henry II. Conversely, perhaps the early elevation to high status during her first marriage (she was only approximately 9 years old when she was sent to Germany and 21-23 years old at the Emperor's death in 1125) helped cultivate the haughtiness that the chroniclers accuse her of. Suffice to say this is just speculation on my part. Whatever the case, imperious and demanding is the default image of Matilda that writers have passed down to posterity.

However, that she fought courageously alongside her half brother and mainstay Robert of Gloucester for her inheritance and in her later years as Regent in Normandy for her son Henry II during his absences she showed great administrative skill and just decision making, makes me wonder how well she may have ruled England if she had been given the chance.

As history writes, Stephen claimed the throne basically by popular election and usurpation in a rare show of decisiveness and opportunism in the weeks after Henry I's death in Normandy in December 1135. It was made possible by the barons and clergy of England because of their distaste both for a female ruler and the fact that Matilda was married to the Count of Anjou. They were unable to see that Henry's farsightedness in marrying Matilda in 1127/1128 to an enemy, as Anjou was at the time, actually formed a bulwark against France.

Matilda not only enjoyed the support of Robert of Gloucester and Reginald of Cornwall. Other notable barons such as Brian (Brien) Fitzcount, the illegitimate son of the Count of Brittany and another of Henry I's favourites, and Robert D'Oyly the younger and Miles of Gloucester loyally supported her cause. King David of Scotland stood by her claim. Even Abbot Henry, Stephen's younger brother, briefly changed his alliance to her when he thought he was on the winning side.

Aside from the dreadful living conditions and destruction that 'The Anarchy' created for the ordinary people of England, which in any case was just as much Stephen's doing if not more so due to his inability to control his unruly barons, I find it difficult to think poorly of Matilda. In a way her decision to fight for her rightful inheritance paved the way for her son Henry to be finally named heir in the treaty of 1153, which was signed roughly 12 months before Stephen's death in 1154.

Matilda, The Empress, daughter of Henry I, died in September 1167 in Rouen. Some sources state she was buried at Fontevrault Abbey while others give her burial place as the Abbey of Bec. In the mid 1800's her remains were apparently moved to Rouen Cathedral. It is possible that her entrails were buried in her father's foundation abbey in Reading.

24 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1153 - 1154

• 1153 and 1154: Treaty and Death Comes

Henry returned to England in January 1153, his own situation much changed. He was now Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, and in the right of his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, ruler of the duchy of Aquitaine, and a skilled military tactician. Both clergy and barons alike seem to have accepted that peace would only come if Henry was recognised as Stephen's heir, even if Stephen himself didn't quite see it that way. The challenge was to convince the King. This task was made unexpectedly simple when Eustace suddenly died in August 1153 while he was pillaging church lands in Bury St Edmunds. Stephen's younger son, William, had not expected to be king and the way for negotiations had now been opened. In the Treaty of Wallingford it was agreed that Stephen would remain king until his death, William was to inherit all of his baronial lands, and Henry would be nominated (adopted) as Stephen's son and heir, effectively ending the dispute over the English throne and subsequent civil war.

Some credit is also due to William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel. Stephen had built counter castles near Wallingford in order to attack Brian Fitzcount, one of Matilda's key supporters, at Wallingford Castle. Henry had determined to launch attacks on Stephen's fortifications and a battle had been expected. William successfully argued that further fighting was futile and a truce was reached on the banks of the Thames which infuriated Eustace as he was opposed to a settlement. After his death it appears that the more formal agreement was written in November 1153 and signed in Westminster.

When Stephen died in October 1154 Henry wasn't immediately required to rush straight from Normandy to London for his coronation. Among Henry's first actions as King was to the demolish all of the unlicensed castles built in King Stephen's time. He also rewarded Wallingford for its loyalty and assistance by the issue of its royal charter in 1155.

King Stephen died on 25th October 1154 at Dover and was buried alongside his wife, Matilda of Boulogne, and their son Eustace in their foundation church, Faversham Abbey in Kent. Today next to nothing remains of the church. Like many others it suffered during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Years 1102-1154

20 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1142 - 1149

• Matilda's Escape and Henry of Anjou

In June 1142 Robert crossed from Wareham to Normandy to discuss matters with Geoffrey of Anjou. However, Geoffrey was still committed to the fight in Normandy and declined to supply the troops and resources Robert sorely needed. Surprisingly though, he did allow Robert to return to England in October with Henry, he and Matilda's eldest son.

In the meantime Stephen had taken advantage of Robert's absence and had, after a rather skilful diversionary tactic, besieged Matilda at Oxford Castle which was held by Robert D'Oyly who was the son of Nigel D'Oyly. He appeared determined not to let her escape this time and pressed the siege relentlessly. However, in a move that has become legendary, Matilda escaped after being lowered by rope from the castle walls at night. With four companions, all of them wrapped in white cloaks to disguise themselves against the snow, she escaped to Wallingford which was held by Brian Fitzcount.

Robert continued the struggle and Stephen slowly to pushed towards Robert's strongholds in Bristol and Gloucester, although the chance of either side gaining overall victory were slim. Matilda lost one of her supporters when Miles of Gloucester was killed in a hunting accident in 1143. At the end of 1145 Robert suffered a major blow when his son Philip changed his allegiance to Stephen. Philip took with him the strategic castles of Cricklade and Cirencester. Robert realised Gloucester and Bristol were under threat and in 1146 he opened negotiations which, given his unsuccessful attack on Farnham in Surrey in 1147, must have proven fruitless. It was when he returned to Bristol to gather new forces that he became ill and died on 31 October 1147.

At this point Matilda appears to have become disheartened and she returned to Anjou and Normandy, leaving the struggle to be taken up by her son Henry. However, unrest would continue throughout the remainder of Stephen's reign.

In 1149 Henry arrived in England with a small force but lacked the resources to change the situation. Oddly, it seems Stephen apparently met with Henry and gave him the necessary aid to return to Normandy after he had been refused assistance by his own supporters.

The last few years of Stephen's reign were dominated by his attempts to have his son Eustace crowned his in own lifetime. The clergy, particularly Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had stubbornly refused. He was prepared to recognise Stephen as king but it would seem he had no desire to prolong the civil war which surely would have continued on. In this decision Theobald had Papal backing, so he refused to grant Stephen's request.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Years 1102-1154

17 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1141: The Aftermath

• The Aftermath: Matilda's Flight from London; The Rout of Winchester

With the King now captive in Bristol, the opportunity for Matilda to secure the throne had come and events moved quickly.

Firstly Robert and Matilda secured the backing of Henry, Bishop of Winchester and now Papal Legate, Stephen's brother, and Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In addition she also had the support of other notable barons such as Brian (Brien) Fitzcount, the illegitimate son of the Count of Brittany, and Miles of Gloucester. King David of Scotland had also stood by her claim and made an appearance by her side in London.

It was here that it all went wrong. The Londoners were never particularly supportive at any rate, but Matilda apparently angered them with her demands and high handed treatment. When Stephen's wife, Matilda of Boulogne, rallied the king's supporters and raised an army with the help of William of Ypres and advanced on London, the Londoners took up arms. They besieged the Empress and her supporters were forced to flee to Oxford Castle on 24th June. Matilda, who had styled herself Lady of the English, was never crowned.

Further misjudgements, military routs, and misfortune followed. Henry, who as always seemed adept at reading the winds of change, opportunely switched his allegiance back to Stephen, and with a small force laid siege to Winchester castle. On 31st July a substantial army commanded by Robert arrived in Winchester. Henry and his men fled to Wolvesey castle which was in the southeast corner of the town, and it was promptly put under siege. On August 2, the bishop's men set fire to the city which destroyed a large portion of it.

Meanwhile Matilda of Boulogne had assembled a well provisioned army which included mercenaries hired by Henry, the mercenary cavalry of William of Ypres, a nearly 1,000 strong London militia, and a levy of the Queen's feudal tenants from Boulogne. The intention was to blockade Matilda's forces in the city and it was a tactic which proved to be very successful. Robert's forces soon began to suffer from lack of food and in an attempt to weaken the blockade Robert attempted to fortify Wherwell Abbey, six miles to the north of the city, but William of Ypres defeated them with heavy losses.

Now convinced that he must retreat from Winchester Robert planned their withdrawal. Brian Fitzcount and Reginald, Earl of Cornwall led an advance guard which protected Matilda. The main body and the baggage followed, with Robert commanding the rear guard. On 14 September 1141 they left the city and it was while Robert was fighting a rearguard action against the forces of Matilda of Boulogne at the river crossing of Stockbridge that he was captured. Robert's actions had allowed his half sister to escape but Robert was imprisoned for two months at Rochester Castle.

Henry and Matilda's successful defence of Winchester proved to be a crucial turning point in the civil war. With events once again at a stalemate, there was but little choice for both parties to agree to an exchange of prisoners, Stephen for Robert. The exchange took place on 1st November 1141 at Winchester.

Stephen once more took up his duties as King and retained his position until his death. The war continued but it soon become obvious that neither side were in a winning position.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Years 1102-1154

Notes: During the years 1142-44, in a further distraction and destabilisation of his kingship, Stephen was also called upon to deal with the rebellious activities of Geoffrey de Mandeville. He was another baron who switched sides at will. Stephen had made him Earl of Essex in late 1139 or during 1140 and then in 1141 appointed him custodian of the White Tower in London. He, like many barons, supported Matilda after Stephen's defeat at the Battle of Lincoln and she reconfirmed his possessions and granted him the Norman lands of his paternal grandfather, Eudo de Rie (Dapifer), and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London. After Stephen's release he turned his support back to the King but it must have been short lived because he rebelled and Stephen confiscated his castles in 1143. During 1143 and 1144 Geoffrey set up his headquarters in the fen country of East Anglia and used the Isle of Ely and Ramsey Abbey as a base for his rebel operations. From this position it was difficult for Stephen to effectively contain Geoffrey's activities, although he was eventually besieged by Stephen. Geoffrey died in September 1144, the result of an arrow wound he had received in a skirmish while attacking Burwell Castle in August 1144.

12 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1141: The Battle of Lincoln

• 1141: The Battle of Lincoln

Excerpt from Gesta Stephani:

Then when a very long time had passed and the earl obeyed the king no more loyally than usual and staying at the castle of Lincoln with his wife and sons issued harsh orders to the townsmen and the people of the neighbourhood, the townsmen privately and secretly sent messages to the king, urging him again and again, in very earnest terms, to come as quickly as possible with reinforcements to besiege the earl. The king, arriving suddenly and unexpectedly, was admitted by the townsmen and found the castle almost empty, except for the earl's wife and brother and a few of their adherents, whom the earl had left there when the king entered the town, just managing to escape by himself. So, as the king besieged the castle with resolution and spirit and most grievously afflicted the garrison with catapults and other engines of different sorts, the Earl of Chester sent to Robert Earl of Gloucester, Miles also, and all who had armed themselves against the king, and likewise brought with him a dreadful and unendurable mass of Welsh, all in agreement, in complete harmony, together to overthrow the king. It was the feast of the Purification When at early dawn they were celebrating the solemnity of the Mass and the king, according to the rite and office of the day, was carrying a lighted candle in his hand, the light suddenly went out and the candle too, they say, was broken for the moment but, kept in his hand, mended and relit, which of course was a sign that he would lose the dignity of the kingdom for his sin and at length, when penance had been rendered, by God's favour wondrously and gloriously get it back again. And that he still kept hold of the candle, though it had been broken in his hand, signifies that he did not utterly abandon the kingdom and did not even lose the name of king, though imprisoned, and it was wondrously brought about by God's providence that though he was kept among his bitterest enemies they still could not prevent his being king.

The king, on hearing that the enemy would arrive very shortly and fight that very day if he did not make his escape, refused to sully his fame by the disgrace of flight, and arraying his columns with care and in good order, as a soldier should, he boldly went to meet them outside the town. When he had sent forward a very strong body of knights and footmen to stop them as they emerged from a ford, they on the other side prudently drew up their line of battle, furiously charged the king's men, and seized the ford, and when they had scattered them with great vigour and put them to flight then with one mind and dauntless spirit they joined battle with the king's army and after killing some and taking others for ransom (but a great many, like the Count of Meulan and the famous William of Ypres, fled shamefully before coming to close quarters) at last they took the king, in spite of a strong and most resolute resistance. Then some pursued the townsmen as they retreated to the town and by slaughtering very many of them and likewise plundering and burning houses and churches on every side they created a piteous scene of devastation everywhere, others devoted their attention to the vast throng of prisoners they had captured, especially to the king. When at length they dis–armed him and he kept on crying out, in a humbled voice of complaint, that this mark of ignominy had indeed come upon him because God avenged his injuries and yet they were not innocent of a monstrous crime in breaking their faith, condemning their oath, caring nothing for the homage they had pledged him, and rebelling so wickedly and abominably against the man they had chosen of their own will as their king and lord, they were all so much softened by tender emotions of pity and compassion that they not only broke forth into tears and lamentations but repentance was very deeply imprinted on their hearts and faces.

• Other Sources for the Battle of Lincoln: The Battle of Lincoln
• Interested in Castle Warfare? The following link provides some fascinating insights into castle warfare from the Gesta Stephani, written in the time of King Stephen: Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani

After the flight of Stephen's earls the rest of his division fought on until they were killed or had surrendered. Stephen was eventually captured and taken to Bristol and imprisoned.

07 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1139

• 1139: Matilda Comes to Claim her Throne

Matilda and Geoffrey had not been idle in Anjou after the death of Henry I and documentation shows they were active in gathering support for their cause. Once Anjou was secure Geoffrey turned his attention to Normandy in 1138 and fought staunchly there for his wife and son's inheritance. He finally secured the duchy in 1144, assuming the title Duke of Normandy until he and Matilda ceded it to their son, Henry, in 1149. Conversely, Stephen only visited Normandy once in his reign, in 1137, and it was at this time that his son Eustace paid homage to the French King Louis for Normandy.

Meanwhile, although Robert of Gloucester had attended Stephen's Easter Court in 1136 he eventually grew disappointed and withdrew. Perhaps he was alarmed at the favour being bestowed on the Flemish mercenary, William of Ypres, and at the rising power of the Beaumont brothers, Waleran, 1st Earl of Worcester, and Robert, 2nd Earl of Leicester, and no doubt he had also witnessed some of the leniency Stephen had shown to his unruly barons. In 1138 Robert raised the flag of rebellion against Stephen and declared for his half sister Matilda. Brian Fitzcount, who was a staunch supporter of her claim, promptly followed suit in 1139 as did Miles of Gloucester, who as Sheriff put Gloucester at her disposal. Reginald of Cornwall, another illegitimate son of Henry I, could have possibly declared for her as well at this time.

The year 1139 would prove to be disastrous for Stephen. He raised the enmity and resentment of his brother Henry when Theobald of Bec was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry suspected the influence of Waleran was at work in this decision because Waleran was a lay patron of Bec. In an attempt to pacify Henry he was appointed Papal Legate. Furthermore, Stephen, who had grown irritated by the overwhelming influence of Roger of Salisbury and his nephews, found a pretext for demanding the surrender of Roger's and the Bishops of Ely and Lincoln castles. When they refused to surrender them Stephen had them arrested and after a short struggle all Roger's wealth and possessions were seized. Stephen's attack on Roger incensed the clergy, including his brother Henry the Bishop of Winchester, who perceived it as an attack on the church itself. When Stephen was summoned to a church council to answer for the seizure of castles held by Roger it was Aubrey de Vere who represented the King. The appalling treatment of Roger proved to be a poor decision that would come to cost Stephen dearly.

Having created an immense amount of ill feeling and resentment among his clergy and barons, Stephen now faced the arrival of Matilda who landed in England in September 1139 and sought refuge with Adelica, the former queen of her father Henry, at Arundel Castle. (Her second husband William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, although a supporter of Stephen, would in time became instrumental in arguing for a peace settlement between Stephen and Henry of Anjou). Amazingly, Stephen allowed Matilda to go free and travel onto Bristol under escort and join forces with her brother, Robert of Gloucester. Perhaps such chivalrous gestures were important to Stephen - surely it couldn't be another example of his poor judgement skills due to his reportedly easygoing nature! - but whatever his reasoning, the upshot of this decision meant that there were now two rival courts in England - Stephen primarily in the south east and Robert/Matilda in the south west.

Robert promptly commenced a campaign to dispossess landholders within his area who were loyal to Stephen. He also commanded raids against possessions of the Beaumont brothers including Wareham in Dorset and Worcester, taking Robert of Leicester's lands in Dorset for himself. Although Robert was now secure in his heartlands he did not find it an easy task to recruit wider support and Stephen succeeded in containing him in the West Country and Severn valley. It was a stalemate of sorts and in August 1140 both sides sent representatives to an unsuccessful peace conference held at Bath.

Robert's next opportunity came late in the year 1140 when Ranulf, Earl of Chester seized Lincoln castle in a scene reminiscent of Baldwin de Redvers several years before. Ranulf allied himself with Robert, his father in law, and pledged fealty to Matilda in exchange for Robert's agreement to provide a force to help defeat Stephen's army which had laid siege to Lincoln. They united their forces, which included a host of Welsh mercenaries allied to Robert, at Donington castle in January 1141. On 2nd February 1141 the Earl's army met King Stephen's at the Battle of Lincoln.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Years 1102-1154

• From the chronicle of Orderic Vitalis: Countess Matilda and Robert, Earl of Gloucester, land at Arundel

"In the autumn, Matilda, countess of Anjou, crossed the sea to England, with her brother Robert of Caen, Guy de Sable, and several others; and being well received at Arundel, she obtained leave from the king to pass without interruption to the castles which belonged to her partisans. It may be remarked that this permission given by the king was a sign of great simplicity or carelessness, and prudent men regret that he was regardless of his own welfare and the kingdom's security. It was in his power at this time to have easily stifled a flame which threatened great mischief, if, with a policy becoming the wise, he had at once driven away the wolf from the entrance of the fold, and, for the safety of the flock, nipped the growth of malignancy in the bud, and, like his fathers, crushed the deadly efforts of those whose enterprise threatened the country with pillage, slaughter, and depopulation, by smiting them with the sword of justice."

Aubrey de Vere seems to be one baron who was loyal to the institution of the monarchy and to the administration of state in England rather than to a particular figure or 'side'. He was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain by Henry I in 1133 and served both him and Stephen as well as being appointed Sheriff of several Shires. Aubrey died in 1141 and eventually his son would be created 1st Earl of Oxford.

04 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ 1135 - 1138

• 1135-1138: A Coronation and Unrest Grows; Battle of the Standard

It was perhaps inevitable that a disputed succession would follow the death of Henry I in December 1135 given his unprecedented decision to nominate his daughter as his heir. One group of barons including Robert of Gloucester were in Normandy with Henry at the time of his death and they had been charged with the task of accompanying his body to Reading for burial, while Matilda and Geoffrey were in Anjou soothing their ruffled feathers after Henry's stubborn refusal to grant them custody of some key Norman castles which may have been helpful to their cause.

In the aftermath of Henry's demise a group of barons had been giving consideration to electing Count Theobald of Blois to the kingship but their deliberations were cut short when the news arrived of Stephen's stunning coup. Acting with a rare decisiveness and ruthlessness which belied his normally easygoing and affable nature, Stephen had hastily sailed for England and on his arrival in London, had been popularly elected king by the townspeople. It is thought that Henry of Blois, Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester, advised his brother and helped him to secure the treasury at Winchester. Perhaps they had plotted together in the years before Henry's death and had organised some sort of plan but without evidence this is just speculation. At any rate, they had promptly grabbed the opportunity which had presented itself, and with the support of Roger, Bishop of Salisbury and a landholder in East Anglia, a certain Hugh Bigod, the son of Roger Bigod, who claimed that he had been present at Henry's deathbed and the dying king had released the barons and the bishops from their oath of fealty to Matilda, Henry of Blois persuaded William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury to crown Stephen as king which took place on 22nd December 1135. The Archbishop would not live long enough to witness the ensuing difficulties this decision created. He died in 1136 and the position remained vacant until the appointment of Theobald of Bec in 1138. Stephen of Blois, with the help of the English clergy, had effectively usurped the throne of England.

For the first two years everything seemed to go well for Stephen. With the coronation over, Stephen gained the support of the majority of the barons, and he won the endorsement of Pope Innocent II. The clergy wrung a 'Charter of Liberties' from him as the price of their support. There were skirmishes in the north with King David of Scotland which ended with Stephen mistakenly ceding Carlisle which was held by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, and there was some unrest on the Welsh borders, but on the whole things had gone relatively smoothly. Doubt about Stephen's rulership abilities first appeared in an incident involving Baldwin de Redvers, who never accepted Stephen as king. He had seized Exeter and while Stephen's army had been able to take possession of the town the castle garrison held firm and Baldwin himself had escaped. It took three months to resolve this dispute and ended with Stephen raising the siege and allowing the rebels, including Baldwin's wife and children, to make submission and go unpunished. The result of this episode was that the clemency the King had shown horrified most of the barons who were present and Baldwin fled to Anjou and joined Matilda and Geoffrey's cause. Indeed, Matilda would eventually go on to create him 1st Earl of Devon, most likely in 1141 after the Battle of Lincoln. It was a prime indicator to the unruly barons that Stephen was too lenient and they could get away with quite a good deal. Unlicensed castles sprung up across the countryside and many barons waged private wars against one another with little regard for the effects that the destruction caused to ordinary people.

The Battle of the Standard:

On 22nd August 1138 at Cowdon Moor near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, the forces of King David's army met the English army led by William, Earl of Aumale in battle. In The Battle of the Standard the Scots were defeated and David and his surviving nobles and army retired to Carlisle. From here David was able to regroup and this enabled him to go on the offensive again. The siege of Wark continued until it was captured in November. David continued to occupy Cumberland and much of Northumberland.

Both sides would eventually meet each other at Durham and broker a settlement. In an agreement which, in effect, fulfilled David's ambitions it was decided that King Stephen would retain possession of the strategically important castles of Newcastle and Bamburgh while David would retain Carlisle and Cumberland. His son Henry was restored to the Earldom of Huntingdon and Lordship of Doncaster, and given the earldom of Northumberland. So in the end, what firstly appeared to be defeat turned out to be a satisfying victory in a different kind of way.

Despite these acquisitions King David stayed true to his word and continued to loyally uphold Matilda's claims to the throne after her arrival in England in 1139. He also appeared by her side during the months in London when the crown was tantalisingly within her grasp in 1141.

• Richard of Hexham's account of the Battle of the Standard

• UK Battlefields Resource Centre: Battle of Northallerton

02 August 2010

The Anarchy ~ Introduction

• Introduction: The Seeds Are Sown

At years' end in 1119 the state of politics in Normandy and England must have looked very promising for always careful and methodical Henry I. He had been victorious in the Battle of Bremule against Louis VI of France, and he had successfully negotiated the marriage of William, his son and heir, to Isabella (or Alice) of Anjou, the daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou, which took place in June 1119. It was a diplomatic match that secured peace between Henry and the Angevins.

• Battle of Bremule, according to Orderic Vitalis: Battle of Bremule

However, Henry's carefully crafted diplomacy was destined not to last. On 25th November 1120 William and his wife, who had adopted the name Matilda after the marriage, boarded separate ships for the journey to England. William and all his companions onboard except one, a butcher from Rouen, drowned when the White Ship struck rocks off Barfleur and sank on its maiden voyage. William's widow did not remarry and took vows at Fontevrault Abbey and eventually became its Abbess. In an ironic and fateful twist, Stephen of Blois had also made plans to travel on the doomed vessel but disembarked before it set sail. For the next 15 years the problem of the succession dominated the political machinations of Henry's reign.

He married his second wife, Adelica of Louvain, in hope of producing another male heir. Although Henry acknowledged more than 20 illegitimate children it wasn't to be and his daughter Matilda remained is only legitimate child. Henry had married her to the Emperor Henry V and when he died in 1125 the King recalled her from Germany and, escorted by Robert of Gloucester and Brian Fitzcount, she returned to Normandy and then England. In the same year, 1125, Stephen of Blois had wed Matilda, the Countess of Boulogne, adding her inheritance and the port of Wissant to his already considerable estates. Stephen, the son of Stephen, Count of Blois, and Adela, a daughter of William the Conqueror, had been sent to Henry's court after the death of his father and he had been well provided for by the King with estates in Lancaster, England, and Mortain, in north western Normandy. He had also supported Stephen's younger brother Henry of Blois, creating him Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester which made Henry the wealthiest clergyman in England.

Henry I's next move in 1126 was to have all the barons swear an oath of fealty to his daughter and uphold her claim to the throne should he die without a male heir. In an effort to renegotiate the deal he had struck with the Angevins once before Henry then married Matilda to the youthful Geoffrey, son of Count Fulk, who was some 11 years her junior in 1127/8. This angered the Norman barons, who were unenthusiastic at the prospect of being ruled by a woman with an Angevin husband. Apparently Matilda herself was just as reluctant as the barons and her marriage to Geoffrey was particularly stormy. However, their first son Henry duly arrived on 25th March 1133, and the barons were again required to pledge their allegiance to Matilda and her heir.

Henry's decisions and actions during these years would have far reaching and unforeseen consequences for the English realm after his death in Normandy in December 1135.

• The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis: Henry I

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Years 1102-1154

• Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy by William of Newburgh: Henry I

• Warfare between Henry I and Robert Curthose according to Wace: Warfare between Henry I and Robert Curthose