As was shown in the previous chapter the first king of England to be a Henry (not a Willy or a Sam- old British Musical Reference-check it yourself, if successful award yourself something and let The World know) died of eels and his son (actually a William, not a Sam) of drunken sailors (this has been left in as misleadingly salacious). Thus England in 1135 did not have a king’s son to take over. This was not really settled until 1154 and Henry the II. So turbulent was the period 1135-1154 that some Victorian historians who lived in a proper era were so upset they suggested the country was ruled by an Arky which it can only be surmised they thought was a very obscure and not very efficient medieval official. It is this period and the impact of the succession crisis had on all the Isles which will be covered in this chapter.
The crisis was caused by there being the not usual case of more than one claimant to the throne. These being:
Stephen of Blois (grandson of William The I & Conqueror)
Matilda (or Maude) (daughter of Henry The I &something of a conqueror)
Stephen was born in region of Blois which although only a county was a powerful one. Thus not being involved in the usual rebellions, disputes etc in Normandy allowed him to build up reserves of land, and marry well. When Henry (the I) died Stephen was encouraged by his brother Henry (a bishop) and several barons to come over and be king. Stephen was known as an affable and generous fellow and not wishing to appear rude took up the offer.
This was not appreciated by Maude (or possibly Matilda), and you have to see her point of view. For at the age of 8 she was married off to another Henry; he was a ‘V’ and such an emperor that folk thought he should be a roman. She took the role of empress quite well, trying her hand a bit of ruling while her husband was being holy. As he died young and empresses were not allowed to emperors Mauilda was packed off back to her father, who promptly married her off to a Geoffrey of Anjou as she was 28 and he was 15 she was far from happy; naturally as he was 15 he was obviously not happy anyway, and it took Henry the I of England and a pope to settle them down. Matudal’s father Henry had said she could probably be king if there was no one else around, but probably only to keep her from nagging him, so there was not much support for her, but that did not put her off. She having the support of Robert of Gloucester who being half a brother and not having had Stephen being very affable to him thought it was time for a change.
In addition, Maditla was assisted by David the I of Scotland. In his youth when escaping relatives, a few stubborn Vikings and probably some Moray eels he had been hidden at the court of her father. David thought that The Norman way of doing things, taking folk through the due processes of law then massacring them if that didn’t work was a much more civilised way and so when he became of king not only bought in Norman laws but also some Anglo-Normans who could teach the locals how to be legal or if they preferred massacred. Thus when Matilaud said she was going to be king he thought it was only rite he support her. He also managed to seize a large portion of north England and not give it back but offered to settle it by legal means. The Arch Bishop of York thought otherwise and there was a Standard Battle in 1138, although the Scots lost they stubbornly refused to go away.
In 1139 Matliadu used cunning strategy of getting her husband out of his room where he had been listening to very loud lute and discordant music and giving him the hobby of conquering Normandy, which hadn’t been for some time. This allowed her to build up resources to land in England the same year.
At this, still being new to kingship and still affable Stephen was very chivalrous to Mautilad, who as a woman didn’t have be in return. She was ruthless and having been an empress also understandably imperious; had she been a man this would have endeared to the barons, but being a woman she ended up being besieged; Stephen being a good sort let her go, so she could imperiously seize the south west of England and bits of Wales whose inhabitants didn’t see much difference anyway.
At this stage several nobles who although were not half or even quarter brothers, never mind being removed cousins to Maultilud thought Stephen had not been very affable to them either and thus became revolting. There were so many of them that by 1141 despite being noble, brave, chivalrous and astute in battle Stephen was captured at Lincoln. Thus to ensure folk knew who she was Matiulda said she was now Matilda and king of England.
Although probably king Matilda failed to crowned because she couldn’t find London, but more importantly she had overlooked Stephen’s wife. She was also called Matilda, her mother was a Scottish saint and she didn’t want to be king, but said her husband still was; thus she endeared herself to many barons and through her efforts Stephen was not forgotten, exiled, blinded or castrated.
As there were now two quite formidable Matildas loose in the kingdom, the barons became quite afraid they might end up supporting the wrong one, or annoying them both. Many of the barons adopted the solution of building very large castles and pretending they were not at home when a Matilda came calling. After either Matilda, had gone away the barons claimed they were actually quite strong and ruthless by terrorising the peasantry and lesser nobles who couldn’t afford castles.
Whereas he had not been nobly captured in a battle as Stephen had Robert of Gloucester nonetheless found himself imprisoned by Mrs Stephen’s forces. Although it is likely both Matildas found this rather amusing they decided it would be best for the general masculine pride of England if there was a simple exchange of prisoners, then the men could go back to doing what they were supposed to.
Stephen was not quite as affable as he used to be and on finding out that many castles had been built with royal permission began 1142 by attacking a lot of them. During one occasion on finding a Matilda was in one and thinking his wife might be held captive, he swam across river to romantically save her. On finding it was the wrong Matilda he allowed her to escape when she proved her true royal blood by skating across a frozen river in her nightclothes.
During the next few years both sides besieged each other in the remaining castles, while Geoffrey of Anjou (Mr Matilda, ex-empress) kept invading Normandy until everyone there said his wife should be King of England. Although this was of some significance, the situation in England was only resolved when various important nobles began to die of age, sieges, and Matlidas. Most importantly Stephen’s son Eustace died of circumstances, though there was some contemporary evidence he had actually been struck down by God’s Wrath in 1152; this distressed many of the surviving nobility as this was usually a fate reserved for far more memorable folk than someone who was just Eustace. (Although later studies Eustace may have died of Bishops; a common ailment in those times).
Since neither of Stephen’s daughters wanted to be king discussions were opened between Stephen and Matilda (The Not His Wife), she had a son called Henry, and since this had an air of continuity about it Stephen said he would think about it. As David (The I of Scotland) was now busy conquering or re-conquering the north of Scotland (and probably massacring in a pious way), Stephen tarried on the matter. He had a more promising son who was a William but inexplicably William caught a disease from the gates of Toulouse and died in 1159, since this showed a rather weak constitution Stephen was quite right to choose Henry who was known to be robust
Although peace had sort of seeped out after all these years Stephen was no longer affable and this showed as he constantly argued with the Church over who could appoint who and who should reform what and when, and if a Cistern should be installed. In addition, Matilda (The One in France)’s son Henry was nagging that he should be king now.
To prove he still had what it took to be king, in 1154 Stephen embarked on a busy schedule of reforming currency, travelling around the south of England, issuing royal writs then moving to York and even further north to remind the local nobility it was he and not David The I who was king and producing a writ to prove it. On learning David was also married to a Matilda Stephen’s health suffered and he travelled to Dover issuing royal writs as he went (probably decrying no one should be now named Matilda), He intended to visit with Theiry The Count of Flanders who was famous for recognising who was King of England. The strain of the journey proved too much for Stephen and he died in 1154, obviously of Matildas.
Sadly whereas we know of Alfred The Great and William The Conqueror, very people give much thought to Stephen The Affable.
Although there will be the very interesting Plantagents, it is important we next look at the other nations of These Isles and also how cultures evolved