Claiming the throne
When King Henry I died the claimant to the throne was Matilda (also known as Maud) his daughter. Although it has been agreed that Matilda would rule with her husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet Count of Anjou, the Barons neither wanted a female ruler or a ruler from Anjou. The decision was taken that Stephen's elder brother Theobald should become ruler, but Stephen, helped by Hugh Bigod, a powerful English baron crossed to England and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on the 22nd of December 1135. It seems that Theobald was content with his own lands and did not interfere with Stephen's claim.
This simplified family tree shows the relationship between Matilda and Stephen, both descended from William the Conqueror.
|William (I, the Conqueror, King of England 1066-1087)
|Matilda (of Flanders)
|Henry (I, King of England 1100-1135)
|Matilda Edith (of Scotland)
|Adela (of Normandy)
|Stephen (count of Blois)
|Matilda (Empress Maud)
|Stephen (of Blois, king of England 1135-1154)
Stephen had the support from the barons in England who all transferred their allegiance to him from Matilda. In January 1136 David I of Scotland invaded the north of England capturing Carlisle and Newcastle. Stephen raised a huge army and marched north to deal with the Scottish king. The two rulers met at Durham and an agreement was reached whereby David would surrender Newcastle but keep Carlisle. David I was the uncle of Matilda (because Matilda was the daughter of David's sister) and he refused to recognise Stephen as the rightful heir to the English throne, but David's son did pay homage to Stephen and received the Earldom of Huntingdon in return. In 1137 Stephen returned to Normandy to continue his fight with his enemies in Normandy including Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. Although Stephen had come success he was not able to deal fully with the count. Stephen did come to an agreement with the French King Louis VII and Eustace, Stephen's son, paid homage to the French king for Normandy.
Matilda was away from England at the time of her father's death, but she was not prepared to accept Stephen as king. Not all of the Barons were happy with their new king either and a few were willing to support Matilda's claim. Robert Earl of Gloucester, an illegitimate son of Henry I and step-brother to Matilda, was in a good position to claim the throne himself. Being illegitimate had not stopped William the Conqueror, but Robert was happy to assist Matilda in her cause to become Queen of England. Robert held lands around Bristol and the south west and in May of 1138 he declared his allegiance to Matilda.
Battle of Lincoln
At Lincoln in February of 1141, Stephen laid siege to Lincoln Castle owned by the Earl of Chester. A relief force led by the Earl and aided by Robert of Gloucester, captured Stephen and moved him to Bristol where he was held. In April Matilda was elected Queen and moved to London for her coronation, but her treatment of the citizens of London was poor and they drove Matilda and her followers out before she could be crowned. Stephen's wife sent an army to assist her husband who was still a captive and during a siege it was Robert, Earl of Gloucester who was captured. The captives, Stephen and Robert were exchanged and Stephen was resumed his position as King. Matilda and Robert escaped capture and moved to the west where Robert's forces were in control. Stephen was unable to force Matilda out and the country was effectively split down the middle. In 1147 Robert Earl of Gloucester died. Losing one of her most powerful allies was a major blow to Matilda and in the following year she returned to Normandy never to see England again.
Matilda had a son was called Henry. Henry, like his mother was not happy with Stephen as king and in 1147 and 1149 he attempted to invade England to drive Stephen out. Both attempts failed and Henry returned to Normandy where he concentrated on building a future for himself. In 1151 Henry became both the Count of Anjou and the Duke of Normandy giving him huge resources and power. In 1153 Henry invaded England again to attempt to get Stephen's agreement that he should become king after Stephen's death. Stephen wanted his own son Eustace to become king, but in the same year Eustace died and Stephen agreed to Henry's wishes. Stephen lived out the rest of his life as King of England, and after his death in October of 1154 Henry was crowned king.