King Stephen Biography
King Stephen of England’s reign from 1135 until 1154 was characterized by continual civil war as his relatives fought for the throne.
Stephen, sometimes called Stephen Blois, was the grandson of William the Conqueror. Raised in the court of his uncle, King Henry I, he became the king’s favorite after the death of the king’s son William in a shipwreck in 1120.
King Henry wanted his daughter Matilda to succeed him, and solicited oaths of loyalty to her from other nobles, including Stephen. But when the king died in 1135, Stephen reneged on his promise and rushed to take the throne for himself.
Already one of England’s richest men, his early popularity among the king’s men — and Matilda’s political disadvantage (a foreigner, and no woman had held the throne before) — Stephen was crowned as king, but he spent his reign defending it. The period of his civil war under his rule is sometimes called The Anarchy.
Forces loyal to Matilda’s claim and led by her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, captured Stephen in battle in 1141.
The next dozen years saw prolonged negotiations; a final agreement was reached in 1153 that left Stephen on the throne, to be succeeded by Matilda’s son, Henry. Henry and Stephen had reached an agreement after Stephen’s son and heir died (Matilda was apparently left out of it).
Stephen died the next year and Henry became King Henry II.