King Stephen / The Empress Matilda

Stephen gives up the throne

King Stephen (1135-1154)The young Henry II was born in 1133, just before the death of his grandfather Henry I (1135), and of his own initiative conducted an operation in England from 1147, audaciously resuming the struggle of his mother Matilda against King Stephen. This episode remained without consequence, but it was already the case that in the eyes of the Norman barons, Henry, son of Matilda, was a prince more easily accepted than his father Geoffrey, the Angevin, a former enemy. With the status of heir behind him and as holder of the Duchy of Normandy since 1150, Henry was to claim the English throne as his own.

Having come to pay homage to the King of France for the Duchy of Normandy in 1151, Henry II met Queen Eleanor whom he married in 1152 when she was repudiated by Louis VII having failed to give him a son. With this marriage Aquitaine, the land of Eleanor, was added to that of Anjou, Maine and Normandy. The vast feudal state of the Plantagenets was being mapped out. All that remained to be added was the crown of England.

Like his ancestor William the Conqueror, it was a prince with the weight of his continental domains behind him who set off for England in 1153. Progress was rapid from that point on. A truce followed the initial skirmishes. Then Eustace, son and heir to Stephen withdrew from the conflict. Stephen acknowledged Henry as his adoptive son and heir (the peace of Wallingford, 6 November 1153) and passed the crown to him on his death one year later (25 October 1154).

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