Stephen's succession to the throne

Matilda

Matilda was the daughter of Henry I. Henry I had realised there would be a problem if he died without leaving a male heir and had sought assurances from the barons that they would accept Matilda as Queen of England when he died.

Henry I, King of England died in 1035 leaving only Matilda, his daughter, as heir to the English throne. William Adelin, Henry's son had been killed in 1120 when his ship ran aground.

William Adelin was heir to the English throne but died in 1120 in the sinking of the White Ship.

Stephen of Blois

Stephen of Blois was the grandson of William the Conqueror and the nephew of Henry I, King of England. Stephen's mother was Henry's sister. When Henry died Stephen rushed to England to claim the throne for himself.

Disputed succession

William Rufus, the King of England since 1087 died in 1100 and because he died without having any children his younger brother Henry claimed the English throne and became the next King of England. In Normandy, William and Henry had another brother called Robert. Robert was older than Henry and the Normans in England wanted Robert to become King instead of Henry. Henry had been born in England at Selby in Yorkshire and the English people regarded him as a Englishman. The English nobles preferred to see an Englishman on the throne rather than another Norman like William Rufus. Robert was returning from the Crusades when William died and was unable to prevent Henry becoming King of England.

Henry married Matilda Edith, the great-grandchild of Edmund Ironside who was King of England for a few months in 1016. The marriage strengthened the English peoples' support for Henry but it was not liked by the Norman barons living in England.

The Charter of Henry I, King of England

When Henry was coronated he promised to abolish the unpopular laws that had been brought in by William. The charter made it fairer for the rightful heirs of nobles to claim the property of their deceased fathers without having to pay large sums as they did before. Fines for illegal acts would be paid based on the severity of the act, and the laws of the land would be properly upheld.

Robert defeated

In 1101 Robert crossed the English Channel from Normandy with an army intent on taking the English throne from Henry. In July Robert landed at Portsmouth and marched north to Alton on the way to London. He was met by a strong English army and decided the best course of action would be to sign a peace treaty. Henry and Robert both signed The Treaty of Alton and Robert gave up his claim to the English throne in return for 3,000 marks a year from Henry. The agreement also ensured that Robert's supporters in England would not be punished. In 1106 Henry crossed to Normandy attacking and capturing Robert. Robert was transported back to England and then to Wales where he was imprisoned in Cardiff Castle until his death. Henry added the lands of Normandy to his domain.

The Tragedy of the White Ship (1120)

Henry and Matilda Edith had a son called William Adelin. William was heir to the English throne until the tragedy of the sinking of the White Ship. It should have been a straight forward sea crossing from Normandy to England and the weather was good, but the young prince and his young friends had delayed the sailing with their merrymaking in Normandy. The crew of the White Ship were supplied with beer and were in no state to handle the ship safely. Shortly after leaving harbour the ship hit rocks and began to sink. Prince William was initially saved and placed in a small boat but on his orders he tried to rescue his sister and the boat was overwhelmed by others desperate to be saved. The small boat tipped over and the prince was drowned.

Matilda nominated as heir

Henry's only son was now dead but he did have a daughter named Matilda. Henry chose Matilda as heir to the English throne, but choosing a woman rather than a man to rule the country was not popular and the choice was opposed by the Norman barons. Henry managed to get the agreement of the barons but this agreement would only last while Henry was alive.

Henry dies and the agreement is broken

Henry died on December 1st of 1135 and the agreement with his barons to make Matilda Queen of England was ignored. The barons choose Stephen, Henry's nephew and grandson of William the Conqueror. Stephen was a Norman like the barons and unlike Matilda who the barons considered English because her mother was an English woman. Matilda was also married to a Frenchman, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, and enemy of Normandy. If Matilda became Queen it was possible that Geoffrey would become king of England if Matilda died. Stephen became King of England on December 22nd of 1135 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on the 26th. Matilda and Geoffrey left England for their own safety but they planned how to overthrow Stephen and claim the English their own safety. The resulting conflict between Stephen and Matilda would become a civil war.

Related Information

Henry I
Reign FromAugust 5, 1100
Reign ToDecember 1, 1135
SucceededWilliam 'Rufus'
PrecededStephen
Royal HouseNorman
Stephen of Blois
Reign FromDecember 22, 1135
CoronationDecember 26, 1135
Reign ToOctober 25, 1154
SucceededHenry I
PrecededHenry II
Royal HouseNorman
Notes:
Between April and November of 1141, Matilda became Queen of England but she was not crowned.

Timeline

1120 Nov William Adelin is drowned
   The son of Henry I was drowned attempting a crossing from Normandy to England. It should have been a straight forward sea crossing from Normandy to England and the weather was good, but the young prince and his young friends had delayed the sailing with their merrymaking in Normandy. The crew of the White Ship were supplied with beer were in no state to handle the ship safely. The ship his rocks and began to sink. Prince William was initially saved and placed in a small boat but on his orders he tried to rescue his sister and the boat was overwhelmed by others hoping to be saved. The small boat tipped over and the prince was drowned.
1127 Jan Barons swear allegiance to Matilda
   With Matilda the rightful heir to the English throne, Henry I had the barons swear allegiance to her to ensure she became Queen of England when he died.
1128 May 22 Matilda marries Geoffrey Plantagenet
   Henry I arranged a marriage between his daughter Matilda and the son of Fulk V of Anjou, Geoffrey Plantagenet. He had previously arranged a marriage between his son William Adelin to Fulk's daughter also called Matilda, but William had died when the 'White Ship' sank returning the Prince from Normandy. Geoffrey and Matilda were married in St. Julien's Cathedral in Le Mans, Maine (France).
1135 Dec 1 Henry I dies
   Death of Henry I.
Dec 22 Stephen succeeds Henry I
   Stephen becomes king of England. (Builds a chapel at Westminster, now the House of Commons. Finished under the direction of Gilbert De Clare, Marquis of Pembrokeshire)
Dec 26 Coronation of Stephen of Blois
   Stephen of Blois was crowned King Stephen of England at Westminster Abbey.
 

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