Stephen (of Blois, king of England 1135-1154)

 Born  1100   Born At  Blois, France
 Died  25 Oct 1154   Buried At  Faversham Abbey
 Father  Stephen (count of Blois)   Mother  Adela (Daughter of William the Conqueror)
Preceded by  Henry (I, King of England 1100-1135) Succeeded by  Henry (II, King of England 1154-1189)
 Royal House   Norman

Titles Include

King of England from 1135 to 1154; Earl of Mortain; Earl of Boulogne

Origins

tephen was the son of Adela, a daughter of William the Conqueror. Stephen's father was Stephen, Count of Blois. The Count was killed on Crusade and Stephen was looked after by his uncle, Henry I, the king of England. Stephen was bestowed with a great deal of land by Henry and he soon became extremely wealthy and powerful. In 1125 Stephen married Matilda of Boulogne, who was next in line to inherit the lands around Boulogne. This gave Stephen control of a major port on the Channel and control over trade between the two countries.

Claiming the throne

When King Henry I died the claimant to the throne was Matilda (also known as Maud) his daughter. Although it has been agreed that Matilda would rule with her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet Count of Anjou, the Barons neither wanted a female ruler or a ruler from Anjou. The decision was taken that Stephen's elder brother Theobald should become ruler, but Stephen, helped by Hugh Bigod, a powerful English baron crossed to England and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on the 22nd of December 1135. It seems that Theobald was content with his own lands and did not interfere with Stephen's claim.

This simplified family tree shows the relationship between Matilda and Stephen, both descended from William the Conqueror.

                                      
 
 
 
 William (I, the Conqueror, King of England 1066-1087)
b.1028
d.1087
   Matilda (of Flander)
d.1083
 
   
   
 
                       
 
Henry (I, King of England 1100-1135)
b.1068
d.1135
   Matilda Edith (of Scotland) Adela (Daughter of William the Conqueror)
d.1137
   Stephen (count of Blois) 
    
    
 
               
 
William (Adelin)
b.1103
d.1120
 Matilda (Daughter of Henry I)
b.1102
d.1167
 Stephen (of Blois, king of England 1135-1154)
b.1100
d.1154
 
   
   
 

Taking control

Stephen had the support from the barons in England who all transferred their allegiance to him from Matilda. In January 1136 David I of Scotland invaded the north of England capturing Carlisle and Newcastle. Stephen raised a huge army and marched north to deal with the Scottish king. The two rulers met at Durham and an agreement was reached whereby David would surrender Newcastle but keep Carlisle. David I was the uncle of Matilda (because Matilda was the daughter of David's sister) and he refused to recognise Stephen as the rightful heir to the English throne, but David's son did pay homage to Stephen and received the Earldom of Huntingdon in return. In 1137 Stephen returned to Normandy to continue his fight with his enemies in Normandy including Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. Although Stephen had come success he was not able to deal fully with the count. Stephen did come to an agreement with the French King Louis VII and Eustace, Stephen's son, paid homage to the French king for Normandy.

Civil War

Matilda was away from England at the time of her father's death, but she was not prepared to accept Stephen as king. Not all of the Barons were happy with their new king either and a few were willing to support Matilda's claim. Robert Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son of Henry I and step-brother to Matilda, was in a good position to claim the throne himself. Being illegitimate had not stopped William the Conqueror, but Robert was happy to assist Matilda in her cause to become Queen of England. Robert held lands around Bristol and the south west and in May of 1138 he declared his allegiance to Matilda.

Battle of Lincoln

At Lincoln in February of 1141, Stephen laid siege to Lincoln Castle owned by the Earl of Chester. A relief force led by the Earl and aided by Robert of Gloucester, captured Stephen and moved him to Bristol where he was held. In April Matilda was elected Queen and moved to London for her coronation, but her treatment of the citizens of London was poor and they drove Matilda and her followers out before she could be crowned. Stephen's wife sent an army to assist her husband who was still a captive and during a siege it was Robert, Earl of Gloucester who was captured. The captives, Stephen and Robert were exchanged and Stephen was resumed his position as King. Matilda and Robert escaped capture and moved to the west where Robert's forces were in control. Stephen was unable to force Matilda out and the country was effectively split down the middle. In 1147 Robert Earl of Gloucester died. Losing one of her most powerful allies was a major blow to Matilda and in the following year she returned to Normandy never to see England again.

Henry

Matilda had a son was called Henry. Henry, like his mother was not happy with Stephen as king and in 1147 and 1149 he attempted to invade England to drive Stephen out. Both attempts failed and Henry returned to Normandy where he concentrated on building a future for himself. In 1151 Henry became both the Count of Anjou and the Duke of Normandy giving him huge resources and power. In 1153 Henry invaded England again to attempt to get Stephen's agreement that he should become king after Stephen's death. Stephen wanted his own son Eustace to become king, but in the same year Eustace died and Stephen agreed to Henry's wishes. Stephen lived out the rest of his life as King of England, and after his death in October of 1154 Henry was crowned king.

Explore

Do you want to explore a Saxon Hall, a medieval church or a large stone keep? Click the images below to enter a medieval world.

Partial Personal Timeline

YearMonthAgeEvent
1124   24yrsFurness Abbey founded
 Founded by Stephen, the future King of England, this abbey is situated near Barrow in Furness. Initially the order was Savigniac but were later converted to Cistercians in 1147 when the orders were merged. [1] 
1135 Dec 1  35yrsHenry I dies
 Death of Henry I.[2]

Episode: Stephen's succession to the throne  
 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)[3]

Episode: Stephen's succession to the throne  
 Dec 26  Coronation of Stephen of Blois
 Stephen of Blois was crowned King Stephen of England at Westminster Abbey.

Episode: Stephen's succession to the throne  
1136   36yrsBaldwin de Redvers flees to Carisbrooke
 The Earl of Devon, Baldwin de Redvers takes refuge in Carisbrooke castle on the Isle of Wight after a defeat at the hands of King Stephen. 
   Buckfast Abbey founded
 The site of an early Benedictine abbey was taken over by the Cistercians with the permission of King Stephen. Monks from Savigny colonised the abbey.[1] 
   King Stephen captures Bampton
 Bampton Castle in Devon captured by King Stephen.

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
 Feb  Treaty of Durham
 A peace treaty signed by King David of Scotland and King Stephen. The Scottish King had invaded northern England in January and had captured many of the major towns including Carlisle and Newcastle. In response, Stephen had raised a large army and marched north to Durham. King David agreed to talk rather than fight and an arrangement was agreed allowing the Scots to keep Carlisle in return for stopping their advance. David refused to do homage to the English King as his loyalties rested with Matilda, King Henry's daughter. King David's son did pay homage to Stephen and received the Earldom of Huntingdon in return.

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
 Mar 22  Coronation of Matilda of Boulogne
 Queen Matilda, the wife of King Stephen, was crowned at Westminster Abbey. 
Please note that this area should be showing an interactive map of events. This area will not show if you are currently using an older version of web browser. The map viewer viewer has been tested on IE9 and the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.