Stephen, the last Norman King of England

Stephen, the last Norman King of England

Stephen was born in or around 1097; anyway it is safe to assume his birth took place at the end of the 11th century. His mother was Adela, a daughter of William I, a.k.a. ‘The Conquerer’, and his father was Stephen, Count of Blois in France. Stephen had promised to accept a daughter of Henry I King of England as Queen of that country. She was the Empress Matilda, ‘Empress’ because she was the widow of Emperor Henry V of Germany (also known as Maud, which brings on the problems we have with confusing Maud with Maud!)

When Henry I died in 1135 Stephen became Duke of Normandy and seized the crown of England in a sudden surge of ambition, but was defeated and captured in the Battle of Lincoln in 1141. His opponent was of course the Empress Matilda; instead of shortening him by a head which might have been wiser from her point of view, she had him released from captivity 9 months later, after she had been routed at Winchester by Stephen’s loyal supporters – the barons as usual.

Most of Stephen's adult life was spent in scenes like this

Most of Stephen’s adult life was spent in scenes like this

While Matilda strengthened her hold over the West Country, David I of Scotland entered the fray as Scots tend to do, by annexing most of the English northern counties, despite tepid opposition from marcher lords. Meanwhile Matilda’s spouse Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, was busy conquering Normandy, which he had achieved by 1145. Ordinary people in England and Normandy sat in their bothies transfixed by the murderous outrages committed in both places in the name of Power, but there were no real civil wars as such, merely battles between mercenaries hired by both sides.

Stephen was King for eighteen years, constantly interrupted by attempts to oust him. In 1153 the barons forced him to accept Empress Matilda’s (or Maud’s) son the future Henry II as his rightful heir. Meanwhile he married Matilda, also known as Maud of Boulogne, a determined lady who supported him as a good wife. Hence the confusion over Matildas and Mauds.

Historians have mostly described Stephen as incompetent, but he does not deserve this reputation. He certainly was tenacious in securing what he thought of as kingly rights, and one could find few holes in his battle strategy. He could not manage to defend the Norman Empire as he would have liked, because of the weight of his military burdens – the Scots for example – who were already, in the early Middle Age, always prepared to cause trouble if they thought they would succeed. Stephen also had a great deal of trouble with the Angevins (q.v.). He died in 1154, worn out with strain, at nearly fifty years of age.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

2 Comments

  1. Dale Rice October 22, 2013 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    The American Branch of this Lordly Group still lives in the United States descended from the Churchills and their connection to Elizabeth Lyons 1324 and the Henry III is a proved fact on the site GENI FYI. My Father Samuel G. RICE sister was named Maud and that’s the last one in the family, born 1884 in Nebraska. It was startling and disconcerting to discover this link and confirms his assertion prior to his death in 1978 at age 93 that we FARM kids were descended from ancient line of KINGS….and he was telling the truth….Hard as it is to believe….Proved back to 30 AD in Eastern Europe vis a vis Joquetta of Luxembourg. FYI

    • Dean Swift October 28, 2013 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Dale Rice, thank you for your Comment. In fact genealogy tells us we are all descended from noted people in history. Both Prince Charles AND his unlucky first wife Diana descended directly from the Stuart Kings. My Spanish wife descends from the third son of Edward III of England, but also from Moctezuma and Lucretia Borgia! I descend from a long line of English West Country pirates and wreckers, a line of which I am not proud. Virtually everybody with an English name living on the East Coast of the USA descends from the pilgrims on the Mayflower, and many were Signers of the Declaration. The Queen of Great Britain descends from Stuarts, Vikings, Scots border bandits and Plantagenets, but also from historical charmers such as Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. The Duke of Edinburgh descends from virtually every royal family in Europe, regnant or outlawed. And we all descend from Adam (the first Gentleman) and Eve (the first Lady).
      Very best wishes, Dean S.

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