The Anglo-Norman Territories


King Stephen / The Empress Matilda


Silver penny of King Stephen [Yorkshire Museum, York]Just like his uncles before him, Stephen, Count of Mortain, seized the throne of England by rapid and decisive action, crossing the channel as soon as he heard of King Henry’s death. He failed, however, to keep control over his new realm. The first challenge to Stephen’s rule came from the King of Scotland who coveted Northumbria and in 1138 a Scottish army was defeated in Yorkshire at the Battle of the Standard. Much more serious for Stephen was that from 1139 - 1148 he had to contend with the supporters of Henry I’s daughter Matilda - the ‘Empress’ - led by her half brother Robert of Gloucester.

A turning point in the civil war between Stephen and Matilda was the battle of Lincoln when the king was defeated and Seal of King Stephencaptured. Matilda was, however, unable to get enough support to take the crown. Her forces were defeated at Winchester which was defended by its bishop Stephen’s brother, Henry of Blois. Robert of Gloucester was captured and freed in exchange for the king.

In 1143-6 Stephen faced a series of rebel barons in a period of serious unrest in much of England. Meanwhile Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, took control of Normandy and, after capturing Rouen in 1144, was recognised as duke by the King of France.

Geoffrey re-established order in Normandy on behalf of his son Henry who took up his mother’s claim to the throne of England. In 1152 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Angevin ‘empire’ began to take shape. Once Stephen’s son Eustace had died Stephen recognised Henry as his heir. Stephen died in October 1154 leaving Henry unchallenged.

Stephen's wars with Scotland and Wales
Anarchy in England
Geoffrey Plantagenet and the conquest of Normandy
Stephen gives up the throne

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