13th January 1154. We nearly had a King Eustace!

King Stephen, Stephen of Blois, described as 'softe and  god', and blamed by the Peterborough Chronicle for the Anarchy.

King Stephen, Stephen of Blois, described as ‘softe and god’, and blamed by the Peterborough Chronicle for the Anarchy.


The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported: ‘In the days of this King [Stephen] there was nothing but strife, evil and robbery…Christ and his angels slept’.

Today in 1154 Henry Plantagenet and King Stephen met to ratify the terms of The Treaty of Winchester which confirmed Henry (later Henry II), as King Stephen’s heir.

The Treaty of Wallingford 1153 (or Winchester or Westminster) ended the Civil War which forced Stephen to recognise Matilda’s son Henry of Anjou as heir, but allowing Stephen to keep the throne until he died.(1)

The alternative names stem from the fact that more formal agreement came at Winchester and it was signed at Westminster. Henry II was later to reward Wallingford’s support by granting the Royal Charter of 1155.

However Stephen’s son Eustace had opposed the settlement but conveniently for the ease of succession, died in August 1153.

With the conflict between Stephen and Matilda resolved in 1153, which set the inheritance on Matilda’s son Henry, who when he became king in 1154, started razing the adulterine (unauthorized) castles of the earls who had supported the late King Stephen.

He then served notice on the great barons of England whose power had swollen in the chaotic struggles between the two royal houses, that they must now acknowledge his greater authority. Thus did strong kings survive in those days.

The razed castles would have been of the motte and bailey type, with the fortifications of the allies of Stephen concentrated round Cambridge protecting his lands at Swavesey, Caxton, Rampton, Lidgate, and Burwell, all on the edge of the Fens in East Anglia.

Matilda’s followers had built castles in the West Country at Winchcombe, Upper Slaughter and Bampton, a clear divide between Stephen’s eastern support.

The Treaty of Winchester might be seen as creating a direct line of the Crown’s heritability (inheritance), but also in establishing the great barons, whose influence had been increased by their alignment to conflicting power bases, as we see in later history.(2)

(1) Stephen was crowned on 26th December 1135 and had a 2nd coronation on 25th December 1141 at Canterbury. He died 25th October 1154 and was buried at the Cluniac Monastery he had founded at Faversham.

(2) J.C.Holtas quoted in oxford.scholarship.com Treaty of Winchester.

Ref: wikipedia.org/peterborough_chronicles.

Ref:Wikipedia.co.uk/Treaty of Wallingford and Adulterine Castles.

Ref: britainpress.com/history

Ref: Images of England-Report Images.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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