Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
King Stephen

King Stephen

Edmund King
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    King Stephen
    Book Description:

    This compelling new biography provides the most authoritative picture yet of King Stephen, whose reign (1135-1154), with its "nineteen long winters" of civil war, made his name synonymous with failed leadership. After years of work on the sources, Edmund King shows with rare clarity the strengths and weaknesses of the monarch. Keeping Stephen at the forefront of his account, the author also chronicles the activities of key family members and associates whose loyal support sustained Stephen's kingship. In 1135 the popular Stephen was elected king against the claims of the empress Matilda and her sons. But by 1153, Stephen had lost control over Normandy and other important regions, England had lost prestige, and the weakened king was forced to cede his family's right to succession. A rich narrative covering the drama of a tumultuous reign, this book focuses well-deserved attention on a king who lost control of his destiny.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17010-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-ix)
    (pp. x-xi)
    (pp. xii-xv)
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  7. Chapter 1 FAMILY AND HONOUR
    (pp. 1-40)

    Everyone knew the story of the battle of Hastings. It had given the English a new ruling house. That much was clear as the dust settled on the battlefield, after a long engagement, on 14 October 1066. It would give the English a new ruling class. That was less clear on the day but it followed inexorably. New Norman lords brought their relatives and their followers. Among them were two clerks, who would marry English women, and whose sons would become the greatest historians of their day. The first of these was Ordelerius of Orléans, one of the learned clerks...

  8. Chapter 2 THE ACCESSION
    (pp. 41-81)

    Everyone knew the story of what had happened on the death of William the Conqueror.³ The greatest king in western Christendom, he had been left on his deathbed naked and neglected, bereft of basic decency. The great men immediately looked to their own interests. They mounted horse and rode away to their own castles. The king’s own servants stripped his corpse, stole his possessions, and then abandoned him. It was one of the local knights, Herluin,⁴ a man not bound to him by service, who arranged for the king to be laid out, and his body taken for burial in...

  9. Chapter 3 MIXED FORTUNES
    (pp. 82-114)

    The start of the year was distinctly low-key. At Christmas 1137, the second anniversary of his coronation, the king of England was at Dunstable, “a township in Bedfordshire.”² It was a town that Henry I had developed, and when he founded an Augustinian priory there he reserved “the houses in the town and the garden where I am accustomed to stay.”³ Stephen had come to stay because he was en route north, to face a renewed challenge from the Scots. He had stopped because the garrison of Bedford castle had refused to surrender to him when instructed to do so....

  10. Chapter 4 WAR AND PEACE
    (pp. 115-144)

    The empress Matilda, accompanied by her brother Robert, earl of Gloucester, landed at Arundel in Sussex on 30 September 1139.³ She would later speak of how she had come to England, “after the death of my father,”⁴ as though she had waited just a matter of days before she crossed the Channel. In fact it had been nearly four years. In the meantime Stephen had been crowned, and recently her appeal to the papacy had been diplomatically but nonetheless firmly rejected. She was forced to take direct action, hoping to establish a base in England and to fight Stephen from...

  11. Chapter 5 1141
    (pp. 145-174)

    Of all the great cities of England, in the seventy-five years since the Norman Conquest, Lincoln had perhaps seen the most change. It was the largest city in eastern England, and in recognition of this the diocesan centre was moved there from Dorchester on the Thames, soon after the Conquest.² The length of the move is one indication of the scale of the diocese: it was 115 miles from Dorchester to Lincoln, while from one end of the diocese to the other was 160 miles. In the north of the city of Lincoln there was an area of high-status housing,...

    (pp. 175-202)

    With the king of England in captivity it was difficult to tell the time. 1141 was the sixth year of Stephen’s kingship. The writers who structured their work in terms of the regnal year continued to do so,² even though the king himself was in captivity for nearly nine months of the year. It was his captivity that was the main news event of the year. When Simon Tuschet gave land to the new Gilbertine house at Haverholme he dated his grant to “the year in which a battle was fought between king Stephen and earl Ranulf of Chester, while...

  13. Chapter 7 A VARIETY OF COIN
    (pp. 203-235)

    Henry of Winchester, the papal legate, was never at a loss for words and in any situation he had a relevant text from the scriptures ready to hand. He would remind himself, when victorious in a lawsuit, that he should offer his adversary some compensation, since “a bruised reed should not be broken.”³ He expected constancy in those who had taken religious vows: they should not “take their hands from the plough” of divine service.⁴ As political events changed in the country which his brother ruled, he encouraged his contemporaries to move on and not dwell on the past. “Remember...

  14. Chapter 8 THE FAMILY
    (pp. 236-269)

    The Augustinian priory of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, was one of the most important religious houses within the walls of the city of London. It had been founded in the reign of Henry I and was particularly associated with his queen, Matilda, who was buried there.² The close relationship with the crown was continued by Stephen and his queen, and the house was no less a focus of their piety.³ Within the abbey church two of their children, Baldwin and Matilda, lay buried. In front of their tombs, at some point during the winter of 1147–8, grants were made for...

    (pp. 270-300)

    1153 was a decisive year. It was decisive in the history not just of England but of the British Isles, in the history not just of Normandy but of France. It was decisive in terms of a dynasty that might have been, that of Stephen and his sons; and of a dynasty in course of foundation, from the union of Henry of Anjou and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It was a decisive year for peace. That peace the two rival dynasties accepted rather than welcomed. It was forced on them by the political community of England. This made 1153 a year...

  16. Chapter 10 APPRAISAL
    (pp. 301-339)

    In December 1135 Stephen, count of Mortain, was chosen as king by the Anglo-Norman political community. Because he was chosen he came with a character reference. He was well known and well liked. Before his election, said William of Malmesbury, “because of his good nature and the way he would jest, sit and eat in the company even of the humblest, he had earned great affection, so great it can hardly be imagined.”³ He stood out amongst his peers, according to another authority, as being “rich and at the same time unassuming, generous and courteous.”⁴ He could be represented as...

    (pp. 340-356)
    (pp. 357-359)
    (pp. 360-382)