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ENGLAND, 1087-1154.



Reign of William Rufus (1087-1100).


William Rufus set out for England even before the Conqueror expired, and made direct for Winchester to secure the royal treasury. That done he repaired next to Lanfranc, and on 26 September was crowned king at Westminster without overt opposition, just seventeen days after his father’s death. In spite of the general calm, men foresaw that the separation of England from Normandy must bring trouble, as it placed all the barons who had estates on both sides of the Channel in a dilemma, and meant that sooner or later they would be forced to choose between their allegiance to the duke and their allegiance to the king. For Robert, on returning from exile, naturally denounced William as a usurper, and found himself supported not only by those who honestly thought that the Conqueror s arrangement was a blunder, but also by a body of turbulent spirits both in England and Normandy who, knowing the characters of the two brothers, thought that the elder would prove the easier master and less likely than Rufus to stand in the way of their ambitions. The leader of this section was the Earl of Kent, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, who emerged from his five years’ imprisonment thirsting for vengeance on Lanfranc, whom he regarded as the instigator of his disgrace, and determined to upset the Conqueror’s dispositions and make himself again the chief man in England. He accordingly betook himself to his Kentish estates, and after some months spent in secret plotting put himself openly at the head of a league for deposing William in favor of Robert. It is usually alleged that Odo took the field supported by more than half the baronage, but the accounts that tell the story by no means bear out such a conclusion. Sporadic risings did indeed take place in districts as far apart as Norfolk, Somerset, and Herefordshire, led by Roger Bigod, Geoffrey Bishop of Coutances, and Roger de Lacy respectively; but these movements were isolated and easily suppressed, and the only real danger arose in Kent and Sussex, where Odo had the support of his brother Robert of Mortain, aided by Gilbert of Clare and Eustace of Boulogne, and could base his movements on four strongholds, Dover, Rochester, Pevensey, and Tonbridge. Rufus, on the other hand, was supported not only by the men of the royal demesnes and by all the prelates of the Church, except William of St Carilef, Bishop of Durham, but, so far as can be seen, by the greater part of the baronage in the Midlands and in Eastern England, headed by such magnates as the Earl of Chester, Count Alan of Richmond, William of Warenne, Walter Giffard, Geoffrey de Mandeville, Robert Malet, and Roger of Beaumont. From the very outset, in fact, it was clear that Odo had grievously miscalculated his influence. Even the native English were all on the royal side, so that Rufus was able to add largely to his forces by summoning foot-soldiers to his aid as well as the feudal levies, especially from London and the estates of the archbishopric of Canterbury. As a result the struggle, though sharp, was of brief duration. By the end of June the rebel fortresses had all fallen, and Lanfranc could congratulate himself that for a second time he had driven Odo out of England. Duke Robert, meanwhile, impecunious as ever, had hardly moved a finger to further his own cause beyond encouraging Robert of Bellême, the eldest son of Roger of Montgomery, and Robert of Mowbray, the nephew of Bishop Geoffrey of Coutances, who was now Earl of Northumberland, his former associates in his quarrels with his father, to join in the rising. It was to young men such as these, the duke’s special friends, that William was most severe after his victory, making them share Odo’s banishment; but all the other leaders were treated with great leniency, except the Bishop of Durham, who, having been one of Rufus’ confidential advisers, was put on his trial for “deserting his lord in time of need”. This trial is somewhat famous. The bishop pleaded that he could only be tried by an ecclesiastical court; William, on the other hand, backed by Lanfranc, insisted that he was charged not as a bishop but as a baron enfeoffed with extensive territories, and so must answer in the Curia Regis. The case dragged on for some months and in the end the bishop was allowed to appeal to the Pope on the point of jurisdiction, but had to surrender Durham Castle.

Odo’s rebellion, if hardly more formidable than the rebellion of the earls in 1075, at any rate served to show that Rufus had all the determination of his father and could not be trifled with. His subjects, however, were soon to learn that though he had his father’s strong will and plenty of energy he had neither his respect for religion nor any regard for justice. While Lanfranc lived, he did not show his true colors; but the aged archbishop passed away in 1089, and immediately there was a great change for the worse. Being now free to please himself and to indulge his rapacity, Rufus took for his favorite adviser Ranulf Flambard, the rector of Godalming, one of the royal chaplains, a self-made man who had held minor posts under the Conqueror, and who won Rufus’ attention by his skill in devising ways of raising money. This unscrupulous man, being made treasurer, soon became notorious for his ingenious and oppressive exactions, and earned the hatred of every class; but his extortionate methods only delighted William, who by degrees placed him in supreme control of all financial and judicial business. His first opportunity came when he advised the king to postpone filling the vacant see of Canterbury, and to take the revenues for his own uses; and soon this became the regular practice with all benefices in the royal gift, unless some cleric could be found willing to purchase the preferment. We are also told that he vexed all men with “unjust gelds”, that he levied excessive and novel feudal dues, both from the baronage and the clergy; that he “drove the moots all over England” to inflict excessive fines, that he increased the severity of the game laws, and that he even tried to re-assess the Danegeld, though this probably only means that he ignored the reductions of assessment that had been granted by King Edward and the Conqueror. Hated as all these measures were, William’s prestige was so great after his victory over Odo that he only once again was faced with armed opposition. This occurred in 1095 under the leadership of Robert of Mowbray, who had been permitted to return to Northumberland, backed by Roger de Lacy and William of Eu. This outbreak, however, only led to their ruin, William of Eu being sentenced to mutilation, Mowbray to life-long imprisonment, and Lacy to forfeiture.

William Rufus’ real preoccupations were not with feudal or popular unrest but with schemes for the enlargement of his dominions and especially for the recovery of Normandy. He wished to be a conqueror like his father, and he knew that if he succeeded he could snap his fingers at discontent. His first move against his brother in 1090 was designed to take advantage of the discontent of the barons of eastern Normandy with Robert’s feeble rule. Here he easily established himself; for the great men of the locality were the Counts of Eu and Aumale, William of Warenne, Walter Giffard, and Ralf of Mortimer, all of whom, having still larger interests in England, were afraid of his displeasure and willing to further his designs. Their men and their fortresses were consequently at his disposal, and even in Rouen a party was formed in his favor led by Conan, one of the richest citizens. In central Normandy, on the other hand, Duke Robert’s position was less precarious, for he could count on the loyalty of Caen and Falaise, while the chief landowners, such as the Bishop of Bayeux, the Count of Evreux, William of Breteuil, and Robert of Bellême, who had been put in possession of his mother’s Norman fiefs, had either little or no stake in England or had fallen out with Rufus. Here then opposition might be serious, and a struggle seemed probable. But William, in 1091, was quick to see that the position in western Normandy offered him a better alternative. There the leading man, since 1088, had been his younger brother Henry, the third surviving son of the Conqueror, who had purchased all Robert’s estates and ducal rights in the Cotentin and the Avranchin with the money that had been bequeathed to him by his father, and now called himself Count of the Cotentin. But Robert, shifty as ever, had quickly regretted this deal with his brother and wished to recover the ducal property. William, knowing this, instead of attacking Robert in central Normandy went to meet him at Caen and offered to assist him in attacking Henry and in recovering Maine, on the condition that the duke should cede to him Cherbourg and Mont-Saint-Michel as soon as Henry had been expelled from them, and also his ducal rights in Fécamp and parts of eastern Normandy. The terms offered were very one-sided, but Robert thought it safest to accept them; and shortly afterwards the two elder brothers advanced against Henry and having ousted him from all his purchases divided the spoils between them. With this result William might well feel satisfied. In eighteen months he had acquired a firm grasp on the duchy both in the east and the west, and what is more he had achieved his success by a treaty with Robert without any serious fighting.

Meanwhile news came through that Malcolm Canmore had again overrun Northumberland. Rufus accordingly left Normandy and hurried north to retaliate. On reaching the Forth, he found Malcolm repentant and willing to buy him off by doing homage and becoming his man on the same terms as the Conqueror had exacted in 1072. In 1092, however, Rufus broke the peace in his turn and overran the districts in Cumberland and Westmorland, which had been regarded as parcel of the Scottish kingdom ever since King Edmund had ceded them to Malcolm I in 945. Not unnaturally Malcolm protested, and came in person to Gloucester to treat with Rufus. But the English king refused to meet him and required him as a vassal to submit his case to the Curia Regis. At the same time he ordered English settlers to be planted in the valley of the Eden and founded a castle at Carlisle. Malcolm went home indignant and a year later again invaded England, but was slain in an ambush near Alnwick. Here, too, William must be credited with a distinct success. Henceforth the boundary of England was fixed for good at the Solway, and within a few years Cumberland and Westmorland came to be reckoned as English shires. Queen Margaret, who had done much to introduce English ways into her husband's kingdom, died of grief on hearing the news of his death, whereupon a struggle arose between the Celtic and the English factions in Scotland as to the succession. The Celtic party set Malcolm’s brother Donaldbane on the throne in preference to any of Margaret’s sons, hoping thereby to put an end to the spread of English influences; but four years later Rufus took up the cause of the English party and sent Edgar the Aetheling into Scotland with a force of Norman knights, who drove out Donaldbane and made Margaret’s son Edgar king. This prince made the Lowlands his favorite abode, and being largely dependent on Norman support never sought to deny that Rufus was his feudal superior.

William’s advance in the North had its counterpart also in Wales; but there the lead was taken by various barons independently and not by the Crown. The Conqueror’s general policy had been to leave all responsibility for dealing with the Welsh in the hands of the three specially privileged earls who had been granted the marcher lordships of Chester, Shrewsbury, and Hereford. At the Conqueror’s death, as Domesday shows, his lieutenants had already pressed into northern and mid Wales beyond the line of Offa’s dyke at several points, especially in Gwynedd where Robert of Rhuddlan had established his outposts on the Conway, and in Powys where Roger of Montgomery had reached the sources of the Severn near Plynlimon. In South Wales on the other hand there had been little advance since the death of William Fitz Osbern in 1071. The frontier still ran roughly along a line from Radnor through Ewyas to Caerleon; and though the Conqueror himself in 1081 had ridden west as far as St David’s, he had been content to leave Deheubarth and Glamorgan in the hands of a Welsh prince called Rhys ap Tewdwr, exacting from him only an annual tribute of £40. It was in 1088 that new advances began. In that year Robert of Rhuddlan, soon after returning from the siege of Rochester, fell a victim to a Welsh attack. But almost immediately afterwards the Earl of Chester got possession of the districts round Snowdon. Thence he advanced into Anglesey, and in 1092 we find a Breton named Hervé appointed to be Bishop of Bangor. It was also in 1088 that the Normans under Bernard of Neufmarche, the son-in-law of the lord of Richard’s Castle, first advanced against Brecknock, while a year or two later they overran Glamorgan led by Robert Fitz Hamon of Evrecy near Caen, a Kentish landowner who had come to the front in the struggle against Bishop Odo, and who had been rewarded for his services to the Crown by a grant of nearly all the lands which had once belonged to Queen Matilda. In 1093 came another wave of conquest. In that year Rhys ap Tewdwr was killed near Brecknock. In the confusion which followed Roger of Montgomery dashed into Deheubarth, and having established himself at Cardigan pushed on thence into Dyfed, where his son Arnulf soon built a castle for himself at Pembroke. About the same time William of Braiose, a Sussex baron, acquired a lordship at Builth on the upper Wye, and William Fitz Baldwin, coming from Devon, erected a fort on the Towy near Carmarthen. Such persistent encroachments led in 1094 to a furious counter-attack by the Welsh, which brought about the withdrawal of the Normans from Anglesey and the destruction of a great many of the new castles. Next year the Welsh even took Montgomery Castle and repulsed a royal army which Rufus himself led into Gwynedd. In 1096 they besieged Pembroke, but the castle held out bravely under Gerald of Windsor, and thenceforth the marcher barons in South Wales nearly always held the upper hand. In Gwynedd on the other hand the Normans failed to recover the ground lost in 1094, in spite of serious efforts made by Rufus in 1097 and by the Earls of Chester and Shrewsbury in 1098. North Wales never was reduced but remained an independent principality under a Welsh prince named Gruffydd ap Cynan.

At home the chief event during these years of external expansion was William’s quarrel with the Church. Irreligious and venal, the king saw no reason at first for putting any curb on Flambard’s systematic spoliation of Church revenues. But in 1093 he fell ill, and fancying himself face to face with death was seized with remorse. In this mood he gave way to the general desire that the see of Canterbury should not remain vacant any longer, and offered the archbishopric to Anselm of Aosta, a saintly Italian scholar, who had been Lanfranc’s favorite pupil and who for the last fifteen years had been Abbot of Bec. Anselm himself in no way desired the appointment; but as it was clearly the desire of the English magnates both lay and clerical, as well as of the king, he eventually consented, stipulating however that the lands of the archbishopric must all be restored to the see and that he himself should be free to recognize Urban II as Pope rather than his rival Clement III, the imperial candidate. But William, as soon as he was well again, forgot his repentance, and not only retained a good deal of the property of the archbishopric but made heavy demands on Anselm for aids and refused to allow him to initiate any Church reforms or hold any synods. Anselm refused to pay the aids in full, and in 1095 exasperated the king by asking leave to go to Rome to obtain his pallium from Urban. William did not wish to be committed to either claimant for the Papacy, and like his father he claimed that no Pope should be recognized in England without his permission. The matter was referred to a council of magnates held at Rockingham. The lay barons took Anselm’s side and Rufus had to give way. William next tried to negotiate with Urban for Anselm’s deposition; but he was outwitted by the Pope’s legate, who obtained the king’s recognition of Urban and then refused to move against Anselm. Two years later, in 1097, William again attacked the archbishop, charging him with breach of his obligations as a tenant-in-chief. Realizing that he could do no good in England, Anselm again preferred his request to be allowed to visit Urban. At first William refused to acquiesce, but finally he changed his mind; and, as soon as Anselm had sailed, once more took possession of the revenues of the archbishopric. Anselm remained abroad for the rest of William’s reign, universally regarded as a martyr, though at Rome he got little active support. By his firmness, however, he had set up a new standard of independence for the English clergy, and had made the opening move in the struggle between Church and State in England.

To return to secular affairs, William’s desire to acquire Normandy had only been whetted by the gains made in 1091. He therefore took no pains to observe his treaty with Robert, and three years later resumed hostilities. His forces invaded central Normandy, hoping to acquire Caen, but they had little success; for King Philip of France came to Robert’s aid, with sufficient men to enable him to drive William’s captains out of Argentan and the neighboring district of Le Houlme. They then together crossed the Seine to attack William in eastern Normandy, but the king saved himself by bribing Philip to desert his ally. In 1095, William, being too much occupied in England with Mowbray’s rebellion and the quarrel with Anselm to come to Normandy, opened negotiations with his brother Henry, who had two years before found an asylum at Domfront, and persuaded him to take up the struggle for him. This move, however, proved to be unnecessary; for in 1096 the adventure-loving Robert, carried away by Pope Urban’s call for volunteers to deliver the Holy Sepulchre, took the Cross regardless of his ducal interests, and to obtain funds offered to mortgage his ducal rights in Normandy to his brother for 10,000 marks. William quickly found the money, and in September Robert set out for the East, taking Odo of Bayeux and Edgar the Aetheling with him.

Being at last in temporary possession of Normandy, but fully convinced that Robert would never be in a position to repay the loan and redeem his patrimony, William applied himself with a will not only to the task of restoring the ducal authority, but also to the recovery of Maine. That county, owing to Robert’s weakness, had fallen completely into the hands of Hélie, lord of La Flèche; but in 1098 William captured Hélie and soon afterwards, in spite of the opposition of Fulk le Rechin of Anjou, took possession of Le Mans. He had, however, to conquer the town a second time in 1099. He also undertook operations for the recovery of the French Vexin. In 1100, growing still more ambitious, he began negotiations with the Duke of Aquitaine, who wished to go on crusade, for taking over the ducal rights in Poitou on the same kind of terms as had been arranged in the case of Normandy. But this fanciful scheme was destined to remain a dream. On 2 August, while hunting in the New Forest, William fell, shot by an arrow from an unknown hand. He was buried next day in Winchester Cathedral, some of the churches in the city refusing to toll their bells. A brother-in-law of Gilbert of Clare, Walter Tirel, lord of Langham near Colchester and of Poix in Picardy, was thought to be responsible. But no inquiry was ever made. Men were just content to know that their oppressor was dead. And yet William, despite all his vices and violence, had done a great work. As a man he had been detestable; but as a king he had known how to make himself obeyed, and though he pressed his feudal claims too far, he had maintained unflinchingly his father’s two great principles, that peace and order must be respected and that the king's will must be supreme.



Reign of Henry I (1100-1135).


The sudden removal of William Rufus at the age of forty, leaving no children behind him, gave his brother Henry an easy opening for making himself King of England. Not only was he on the spot, having been one of the hunting party in the New Forest, but he was well acquainted with the state of opinion in England, having lived, since 1095, on friendly terms with Rufus and his various ministers. He was, moreover, confident in himself. He knew w ell that all men had a contempt for his eldest brother; and he could urge, like Rufus before him, that if the magnates set Robert’s claims aside a second time they would only be carrying out the Conqueror’s wishes. Duke Robert, on the other hand, was still far away in Sicily, and though he had somewhat redeemed his character by his prowess in Palestine, had no supporters in England ex­cept a turbulent section of the baronage who hated peace and order and saw in the duke’s weakness a golden opportunity to attack their neighbours. Henry knew that this section was not formidable, if boldly confronted. He therefore made straight for Winchester as soon as he heard that Rufus was dead, and seized the royal treasury. Here the Treasurer opposed him, but William Giffard, the Chancellor, took his side, and also the Count of Meulan and the Earl of Warwick, that is to say, the two brothers Robert and Henry of Beaumont, the only barons of importance who seem to have been present. These greeted him as king, whereupon he started with them for Westminster, and two days later had himself crowned by the Bishop of London without any opposition.

To strengthen his position he next issued a manifesto intended for publication in all the shire-courts, in which he promised redress of grievances, and as a sign that he was in earnest ordered the arrest of Ranulf Flambard, who only a year earlier had been made Bishop of Durham by Rufus as a reward for his zealous services. This manifesto, usually known as Henry’s “Charter of Liberties,” contains many specific promises to the Church and the baronage, as for example that benefices should not be kept vacant or sold for the benefit of the Crown, or that baronial demesnes should be exempt from Danegeld: but its main gist is simply that Henry would restore his father’s system of government and abolish the evil innovations introduced by his brother in the matter of reliefs, wardships, marriages, and murder fines. This programme he knew would be popular, and the list of witnesses to the document shews that in advancing it he had the support of the bishops and of such leading barons as Walter Giffard, now Earl of Buckingham, Robert Malet of Eye, Robert de Montfort, and Robert Fitz Hamon. Nor was Henry himself altogether insincere in his professions. Though only thirty-two, he had been well schooled in adversity and had grown up the very antithesis of his two brothers. Cool-headed, clear-sighted, and patient, a methodical man of business, and for a prince well educated, he hated all waste, violence, and disorder, and he honestly wished to revert to the methods which had made his father’s reign the wonder of Western Europe. Foremost among these was the maintenance of harmony between Church and State, to promote which Henry not only began to make appointments to the sees and abbacies kept vacant by Rufus, but also sent messengers to Anselm requesting him to return to England. The archbishop was at Cluny and at once obeyed the summons; but no sooner did he meet Henry than his actions quickly shewed that peace between himself and the king was hardly to be expected, and that he was in no mood to play the part of Lanfranc.

Meantime Henry decided that the time had come for him to marry, and gave out that the lady of his choice was Edith, the sister of the King of Scots. This alliance was doubly advantageous, as it would secure him the friendship of Scotland and also please the native English, Edith being descended through her mother Margaret, from the royal house of Wessex. Some Normans of course scoffed at the idea of an English-speaking queen, and also tried to make out that Edith had been professed a nun; but Anselm brushed this latter objection aside, and himself officiated at the wedding ceremony. To please the Normans, Edith’s name was changed to Matilda; but the king’s example must have done something to encourage intermarriage between the Normans and the English and so helped to bring about the eventual fusion of the two races.

While Henry was thus making himself popular in England, Normandy was slipping back into disorder. Robert reached home in September, bringing with him a Sicilian bride, but men soon learnt that the duke was as easy-going as ever. Partly from laziness, partly from lack of funds, he took no steps to prevent the re-establishment of Hélie de la Flèche as Count of Maine; and so that county fell once more under the influence of Fulk le Rechin of Anjou, who two years earlier had affianced his son to Hélie’s only daughter. Nor did Robert shew much desire to intervene in England until he was persuaded by Ranulf Flambard, who had escaped from his English prison, that there was a party in England who wished to make him king. In this belief he sailed for England in the summer of 1101, helped by William of Warenne whom Rufus had made Earl of Surrey, and by Count Eustace of Boulogne who, though he had just become Henry’s brother-in-law, had fallen out with him about his English fief. Robert soon found that the mass of the English baronage had no intention of helping him openly, and that his only course was to make the best terms he could with his brother. Accordingly, by a treaty made at Alton, he surrendered his claim to England in return for a promised pension of £2000 a year. Henry on his side gave up all claim to be Count of the Cotentin under his earlier bargain with Robert in 1088, restored Eustace of Boulogne to his estates in England, and promised his assistance against Hélie de la Flèche. This arrangement probably suited Robert, who was desperately in need of money; but it is typical of Henry’s duplicity, as he had no real intention of paying the pension and meant himself to make a bid for Normandy as soon as the duke’s misgovernment should afford him a colourable excuse. Meantime the task immediately before him was that of humbling the restless ele­ments in the English baronage and of finding pretexts for ridding himself of those who had secretly favoured Robert, though they had not dared to support him openly. The chief example of this class was Robert of Bellême. That vicious, cruel, turbulent man had succeeded in 1098 to the wide estates in Shropshire, Sussex, and elsewhere which formed the  earldom of Shrewsbury, and was also the greatest of the feudatories in Normandy, being the possessor of the extensive lordships of Alençon and Montgomeri, and in addition Count of Ponthieu in right of his wife, Vicomte of Argentan and Falaise, and lord of a score of castellanies in the borderlands of Perche and Maine. With Bellême near at hand, Henry knew that he never could feel really safe; and so in 1102 he deliberately picked a quarrel with him and summoned him to stand his trial before the Curia Regis on some forty-five separate charges. As Henry no doubt expected, the Earl of Shrewsbury preferred to fight rather than to plead, and was supported in his revolt by his two brothers Roger of Poitou and Arnulf of Montgomery, lords respectively of Lancaster and Pembroke, and also by the Welsh of Powys. This combination, though formidable, was quite unable to withstand Henry, who within a month captured the earl’s castles at Arundel and Bridgnorth and forced the earl himself to surrender at Shrewsbury. This was the end of feudal risings in England in Henry’s lifetime. Bellême and his brothers were allowed to leave the country, but their fiefs were all con­fiscated, and for the next thirty-three years no baron ever ventured to take the field against the Crown. Several, indeed, fell out with the king, as for example his cousin the Count of Mortain, who was outlawed on trivial pretexts in 1104; but even he, wealthy and proud as he was, with his four castles of Pevensey, Berkhampstead, Montacute, and Trematon, never attempted any armed resistance to Henry in England.

With nothing to fear in his kingdom, Henry was free to turn his attention to the acquisition of his father’s duchy. Like Rufus he utilised the disorder prevailing in Normandy as a pretext for intervention, posing not so much as a rival to Robert as the champion of the English barons who had estates on both sides of the Channel. In particular he claimed that his friends must be protected from the outrageous violence of Robert of Bellême, who was venting his wrath upon them to avenge himself for his English losses. The duke, however, was quite powerless to do anything of the kind, and so in 1104 Henry himself crossed the Channel attended by a formidable array of Anglo-Norman barons and sought out his brother to remonstrate with him personally. At his wits’ end to know how to satisfy Henry, Robert offered to cede to him the overlordship over the Count of Évreux, and thus for the moment put off an open quarrel. But only for the moment. In 1105 the situation became more strained than ever, as Robert of Bellême joined his forces with those of the Count of Mortain, and the pair then deliberately ravaged the Cotentin where Henry had many trusted friends. Worse still, Duke Robert connived at the arrest of Robert Fitz Hamon, the lord of Evrecy and Glamorgan, and imprisoned him at Bayeux. This act determined Henry to make war in earnest. He accordingly invited Hélie de la Flèche to attack Robert from Maine, and himself crossing to Barfleur burnt Bayeux and occupied Caen. All men could now guess that he meant to dispossess his brother, but it was not till 28 September 1106 that the decisive encounter took place not far from Tinchebrai, a castle belonging to the Count of Mortain and situated some twelve miles north of Domfront. In this battle, fought exactly forty years to a day after the Conqueror’s landing at Pevensey, Henry utterly routed the duke and took him prisoner, whereupon the duke himself gave orders to Falaise and Rouen to surrender and formally absolved his vassals from their allegiance. Such a complete collapse can hardly have been expected even by Henry’s adherents; but no one seems to have doubted that it was irretrievable, so that even Robert of Bellême abandoned his hostility and for a time acknowledged Henry as his lawful overlord. As for Duke Robert, he never regained his freedom, though he survived for another twenty-eight years; but his claims passed to his infant son William, usually called “the Clito,” who, being left at liberty, became, when he grew up, a centre for renewed intrigues and disaffection.

Throughout the years spent in driving Bellême from England and in acquiring his father’s duchy, Henry was continuously engaged at home in a stubborn controversy with Anselm over the question of clerical immunities. While in Rome, in 1099, Anselm had taken part in the council held at the Lateran by Pope Urban in which bishops and abbots had been forbidden either to receive investiture from laymen or to do homage to them. As a result he came back from his exile holding more extreme views on the relations of Church and State than he had previously held, and began at once to put them into practice by refusing to do homage to Henry for his temporalities, though he had not scrupled to do homage to Rufus; and a little later he went further and refused to consecrate the new bishops and abbots whom Henry had appointed, on the double ground that they had not been freely elected by their chapters and had received investiture with the symbols of their office from the king. To these challenges Henry had replied that, while he could not abandon the ancient customs of the realm, he was willing to refer the matter to Rome and see if the new Pope, Paschal II (1099-1118), would modify his predecessor’s decrees. Meantime, he allowed Anselm to hold a synod and issue canons with regard to the celibacy of the clergy and other disciplinary matters of such a sweeping nature that they created consternation in all ranks of society. Nothing, however, came of the application to Paschal, and so in 1103 it was agreed, at the king’s suggestion, that Anselm himself should go on a mission to Rome to see if he could not arrange some way round the difficulty. Again Paschal proved obdurate, with the result that Anselm remained abroad, while Henry appropriated the revenues of Canterbury’ to his own uses. For two years after that matters remained in suspense; but in 1105 Paschal began to threaten Henry with excommunication, a move which so alarmed Henry’s sister, the Countess of Blois, that she persuaded him to meet Anselm at L’Aigle, near Évreux, and reopen negotiations. Once more envoys from  the king went to Rome, and this time they found Paschal ready for a compromise, but it was not till April 1106 that he notified Anselm of his new intentions, and not till the very eve of the Tinchebrai campaign that Henry met Anselm at Bee and, adopting a scheme worked out by Lanfranc’s famous pupil, the great canonist Ivo of Chartres, effected a common-sense settlement satisfactory to both parties. The terms of the compromise were briefly as follows: bishops and abbots were for the future to be canonically elected by cathedral or monastic chapters and were no longer to receive the ring and staff on investiture from lay hands; but the elections were to take place in the king’s presence, and those elected were to do homage to the king for their temporalities like the lay barons. This arrangement, which was finally ratified by an assembly of magnates in 1107, might seem to embody distinct concessions by both sides; but in practice Henry retained nearly all that he really wanted, the prelates being relieved of none of their feudal obligations, whereas the king was left with a sufficient power of influencing the electors to secure that his nominees would usually be elected. Anselm, on the other hand, by forcing the king to negotiate with the Pope had established a striking precedent for appeals to Rome, and so made it easier for future Popes to interfere in England, and for future bishops to resist the royal supremacy. Despite all his tenacity Anselm had not gained his immediate point; but he had demonstrated to the world that the English Church could not and would not be the obedient servant of the State.


The settlement with the Church, followed two years later by the death of Anselm, brings to an end the first phase of Henry’s reign, during which he was winning his spurs as a ruler. The rest of his reign, which was to last for over a quarter of a century, has a totally different character in England, being notable not so much for exploits in the field or for brilliant strokes of policy, as for the measures which the king took to improve the system of government and set up a routine of law in the place of an ill-regulated despotism. Not that Henry can be credited with any lofty motives in pursuing these ends. He pursued them, both in England and Normandy, chiefly because he hated waste and loved money, and had the wit to perceive that the surest way to fill his coffers was by methodical pressure applied by well-trained agents in accordance with definite rules, and not by handing over his subjects to rapacious farmers and tax-gatherers, each acting as a law to himself. Henry was probably quite as unscrupulous and quite as avaricious as Rufus; but he had the temper of a shrewd, calculating, self-controlled man, and put his faith from the outset in the wise selection of subordinates, in recourse to liti­gation rather than to force, in the suppression of robbery and disorder, in the development of trade and industry, and in the maintenance of a business-like administration of justice and finance.

To attain these ends Henry had perforce to work either through the superior officers of his household or else through the agency of the Curia Regis, that elastic advisory council being the only central organ of government as yet in existence. When, however, he became duke as well as king, the affairs of Normandy and the intrigues of Louis VI, the new King of France (1108-1137), frequently prevented him for months or even for years together from being present at the sessions of the Curia or giving any attention to the supervision and control of the household officers; and so he was obliged to make use of a deputy or confidential chief minister to preside over the administration in his absence, and to issue writs in his name and deal with urgent matters. The man whom Henry chose for these important duties, and who, as long as Henry lived, occupied the position of regent, whenever the king was absent, with the title of iusticiarius totius Angliae, that is to say, “president of the Curia,” or “justice-in-chief,” was Roger his sometime chaplain, a native of Caen, whom he had promoted to be chancellor on his accession, and who two years later was made Bishop of Salisbury (1102-1139). On his appointment to the bishopric, Roger, in obedience to precedent, ceased to be chancellor, but became treasurer, a significant change of office, as it placed him in the shoes of Flambard and gave him control of the revenue; but exactly when he became permanent deputy for the king is not recorded. It seems probable, however, that for some time Roger combined the offices of regent and treasurer with such success that Henry came to regard a permanent deputy as indispensable on both sides of the Channel, and appointed John, Bishop of Lisieux (1107-1141), to hold a similar position in Normandy.

Very little detailed information is forthcoming as to Bishop Roger’s activities year by year during his long tenure of the post of chief minister, but such glimpses as we do get, coupled with the veneration in which we know his name was held by the officials of the next generation, shew that he must have been a very able man, and that he may be credited with several innovations of permanent value. The one among them which perhaps struck the imagination of his successors most was the development, within the Curia Regis, of a board or group of barons specially charged with the duties of auditing the sheriffs’ accounts and trying causes which concerned the collection of the various items of the king’s revenue. This board sat for auditing purposes twice a year, at Lady Day and Michaelmas, and was known as the Scaccarium or “Exchequer.” It acquired its curious name from the chequered table­cloth which was spread before the board to facilitate the reckoning of the sheriffs’ accounts by means of counters, the system employed being an adaptation of the abacus method of working sums which had recently come into vogue in Germany and France at the schools of Liege and Laon. The permanent members of the board, known as “barons of the Exchequer,” were Roger himself, who was the presiding officer, the treasurer, the chancellor, the constable, the marshal, and two chamberlains, assisted by the keeper of the king’s seal and sundry clerks, one of whom had to keep a written record of all the sums of money accounted for, the wording of the enrolments being dictated by the Treasurer. This annual record, known as the rotulus de thesauro, and in later days as the magnus rotulus pipae, or “Pipe Roll,” may be taken to be one of Roger’s most practical and important innovations, for it not only gave Henry a handy means of checking his officials, but served as the model for nearly all English account-keeping for several centuries. Unfortunately only one roll compiled under Roger’s supervision survives, namely the Pipe Roll for the financial year ended Michaelmas 1130, but from it can be seen all the items of the revenue and how very carefully they were collected, and what a great amount of detail had to be furnished each year to the barons of the Exchequer by the sheriffs and other local officials before they could obtain their discharge.

Besides developing the Exchequer, Bishop Roger surrounded himself by degrees with a group of assistant justiciars, in whom we may see the rudiments of the future bench of judges, though at this date they were not in any sense professional lawyers. Some of them, like Roger himself, owed their elevation entirely to their own abilities. Of this class were Ralph Basset and his son Richard, the latter of whom is sometimes called capitalis iusticiarius. Some of them on the other hand were undertenants, like Geoffrey de Clinton, who became a chamberlain in the king’s household, and some were barons of medium rank like Walter Espec of Malton or William de Albini of Belvoir. At first these justiciars confined themselves to hearing causes in which the king’s interest was concerned, but as time went on their reputation as skilled and experienced judges attracted other litigation to the king’s court, and great men found it worth their while to pay the king considerable sums to be allowed to bring their grievances before them. By degrees, too, the practice grew up of sending the justiciars on circuit round the shires to try the so-called “pleas of the Crown”; and here too they gradually extended their jurisdiction by the simple device of maintaining that all matters which endangered the king’s peace were matters that concerned the king and so came into the category of pleas that should come before a royal official. By this means a beginning was made towards bringing the local courts into touch with the Curia Regis, and towards disseminating through the land a common standard of law based on the practices of the king’s court. But it must not be thought that there was any intention as yet that the justiciars should supersede the local courts. On the contrary, the king’s court was far too irregular in its sessions and the king’s justice far too expensive to be of much service to ordinary suitors. For their suits and the repression of everyday crime, the shire and hundred courts remained the regular tribunals, and the only surviving ordinance of Henry’s reign is in fact one which strictly enjoins all men to attend the local courts at the same times and in the same localities as in the days of King Edward. So far as the local courts were in danger, it was not from the interference of the king’s justiciars, but from the rivalry of the baronial and manor courts; and here too Henry protected the ancient communal tribunals, laying it down that suits between the tenants of different lords must be tried in the shire courts and not in the court of either lord. We can also see that throughout Henry’s reign quite serious attempts were being made to state the old English law, which was enforced in these courts, in an intelligible and rational way. Both the Conqueror and Henry had confirmed the laga Eadwardi, but the Norman sheriffs had great difficulty in ascertaining what that law was. To help them, divers men set themselves to work not only to translate the old English dooms but also to systematise them, and as a result produced a number of very curious legal tracts which purport to harmonise the old English customary rules and set them forth in practicable form. The two most important examples are the tract called Quadripartitus and the so-called Leges Henrici. These were compiled apparently between the years 1113 and 1118 by anonymous French writers; and, though their authors had set themselves tasks which were quite beyond their powers, they nevertheless tell us many things of great value and shew especially that the Norman sheriffs were still gallantly attempting to maintain the old English ideas as to sake and soke.

If the foregoing fiscal and judicial measures may probably be ascribed to Bishop Roger, there were many other developments during the reign in which we can trace the hand of the king. It is impossible to specify them all, but a selection may be mentioned to indicate their width of range. Such are the creation of the new dioceses of Ely and Carlisle in 1109 and 1133; the appointment of the first Norman bishop to St David’s in 1115; the acceptance of Scutage from the Church fiefs, that is to say, of money contributions in lieu of the render of military service; the restoration of capital punishment; the settlement of a colony of Flemings in Pembrokeshire; the reform of the coinage, first in 1108 and then a second time in 1125; the institution, recorded in the famous Constitutio Domus Regis, of a new scale of stipends and allowances for the officials of the king’s household; and finally the supersession in 1129 of the sheriffs of eleven counties and the appointment of two special commissioners in their place to act as temporary custodes or joint sheriffs, so that the king might be made acquainted with all the details that went to make up the farms of the counties and be in a position to insist on his dues being paid to the uttermost farthing.

Varied as were these developments, there yet remain two matters which cannot be altogether passed over, if we wish to outline Henry’s chief activities. The first is the king’s dealings with the baronage, the second his dealings with the merchants and craftsmen. As to the former, the view usually held seems to be that Henry always looked upon the mass of the barons as his enemies, and that, so far as he did make grants of land, he deliberately endowed a class of ministerial nobles “to act as a counter­poise to the older Conquest nobility.” This view, however, fails to take account of a number of facts which point to other conclusions. It has of course some truth if applied to the first five years of Henry’s reign. In those years Henry without doubt had reason to suspect quite a number of the barons. But this early period is very distinct in character from the remaining thirty years of the reign, and after 1105 it is really a misconception to picture either England or western Normandy as scenes of baronial insubordination. In eastern Normandy, in the Vexin, and round Évreux, Henry had trouble enough, culminating in open rebellions in the years 1112,1118, and 1123; but in these districts he had to contend not only with a “perpetual pretender” in the person of his disinherited nephew William Clito, but also with persistent intrigues fomented by Louis VI. These factors kept the valleys of the Seine and Eure in a state of constant unrest. But the disaffection in these districts was not really formidable; for the men who proved disloyal were not the men with great fiefs on both sides of the Channel like the Giffards or Mortimers or the house of Warenne, but were either French counts whose territorial possessions were only partly in Normandy, such as Amaury de Montfort, the claimant to the county of Evreux, or Waleran Count of Meulan, or else the owners of border fiefs such as Hugh of Gournay or Richer of L’Aigle, whose position as marcher lords made them specially liable to be seduced from their allegiance. How far these two classes were made use of by Louis VI in his endeavours to arrest the expansion of Henry’s power can be read at length in the contemporary French and Norman chronicles; but their double dealing had little effect in the long run, and their treacheries are mainly of interest because the repeated failure of their schemes made it plain to Henry that he need not fear his vassals or abstain for fear of ulterior consequences from the normal feudal practice of creating fiefs to reward his favourites. His feudal policy, at any rate in England, lends itself best to this interpretation. For hardly had he seized on the wide­spread fiefs held by the Malets and the Baignards, the Count of Mortain, and the houses of Grantmesnil and Montgomery, than he set to work to establish fresh baronies in their place which were just as extensive and just as formidable. Leading examples of such creations are the baronies given to the brothers Nigel and William de Albini; to Alan Fitz Flaald of Doi, the ancestor of the famous house of Stuart; to Humphry de Bohun and to Richard de Redvers; the honour of Wallingford conferred on Brian Fitz Count; the honour of Huntingdon made over to David of Scotland; and the still more important honour of Gloucester created for the king’s eldest illegitimate son, Robert of Caen. This latter fief, which had for its nucleus the English and Welsh lands of Robert Fitz Hamon, was erected into an earldom in 1122. It fairly dominated the south­western counties and was as widespread and valuable as any barony created by the Conqueror. It was not, however, unique among Henry’s grants, but was matched in splendour by a rival barony which he built up in the east and north as an appanage for his favourite nephew Stephen of Blois, by throwing together the three great honours of Eye, Boulogne, and Lancaster, in addition to creating him Count of Mortain in Normandy and securing for him the hand of the heiress of the county of Boulogne in France. It may perhaps be argued that family affection blinded Henry to the dangers involved in making Robert and Stephen so powerful; but no such plea can be advanced to account for his policy as a whole which included many grants to the Giffards and the Beaumonts and to the great houses of Clare and Bigod. Evidently his practice was founded on the conviction that the traitor barons had learned their lesson and that the Crown had grown powerful enough to be indifferent to would-be rivals. Other signs that point the same way are the restoration of Ranulf Flam­bard to the see of Durham and a marked relaxation of the Conqueror’s rule about the building of castles.

To appreciate Henry’s dealings with the craftsmen and trading classes it is necessary to obtain some notion of the number and size of the urban communities—“ports” as the English termed them—which existed in England in his day. When the Domesday survey was compiled in 1086, there were just about one hundred localities—styled for the most part “boroughs”—in which portmen (burgenses) or chapmen (mercatores) were to be found. Such particulars as can be gleaned from the survey about their organisation and customs are unfortunately difficult to interpret, owing to the scantiness of many of the returns and their entire lack of uniformity. But they are sufficient to shew that the word burgus stood indifferently for several types of trading centre, including on the one hand walled “ports” of ancient fame, such as London, Oxford, and Stafford, and on the other tiny urban hamlets recently planted by Norman barons near their newly-built castles, as at Wigmore and Rhuddlan. The cardinal fact to be grasped is that the average burgus at the beginning of the twelfth century was quite an insignificant community and often largely agricultural in character. In more than fifty instances the number of portmen (burgenses) is returned in the Domesday survey as less than a hundred, and in some thirty of these instances as less than fifty. On the other hand there are only some twenty boroughs where the record reports’ the existence of more than 500 portmen; and even boroughs of the rank of Gloucester and Chester were probably not much more populous than the small market-towns of today having populations of 3000 to 4000 souls. From the territorial point of view the lands and houses (masurae) comprised within the urban areas were in most boroughs held by a number of different lords, a feature which has been described by the term “tenurial heterogeneity”; but as the Conqueror had arranged the distribution of the spoils, the king had the lion’s share, being possessed usually of not only the haws (hagari) and messuages (mansiones) which had formerly belonged to King Edward but also of those which had belonged to the earls. We may in fact think of some seventy of the burgi as king’s boroughs, in so far as the king had the largest share of the house-rents (gafol), and the king’s officers the control of their government. And from these urban properties the Crown was receiving in 1086 a revenue whose yearly value was round about £2400. The sums at which the profits of London and Winchester were let to farm are nowhere recorded; but York, Lincoln, and Norwich, the three boroughs next in importance, were farmed for £100 a year each, Thetford and Bristol for about £80 each, Oxford, Wallingford, Gloucester, and Hereford for £60 each, Canterbury, Wilton, and Stamford for £50 each, Ipswich for £40, Colchester, Huntingdon, Nottingham, and several others for £30, Yarmouth for £27, Hertford for £20, Buckingham for £16, and so on. There were also considerable sums derived from the mints, and various casual profits. The collection of this urban revenue was entrusted to the sheriffs and portreeves, who further were charged with the holding of the borough courts (portmanmoots) and with the maintenance of law and order. Of the “ports” in which the king had no interests the most important in 1086 were Sandwich, Hythe, Lewes, Chichester, Bury St Edmunds, Dunwich, Shrewsbury, and Chester.

During the next fifty years a few new boroughs were founded by the barons on their fiefs, and one by Henry himself at Dunstable; but the Pipe Roll of 1130 shews that the relative importance of the boroughs as a whole did not change much, except that Wallingford and Thetford somewhat decayed. The king, however, handed over his interests in Leicester and Warwick to the Beaumonts but, on the other hand, he recovered control of Shrewsbury and Chichester. The real interest of the Crown always lay in developing the boroughs as sources of revenue. That most of them did develop in population and trade under Rufus and Henry there can be little doubt; otherwise it would have been impossible for them to support the very heavy taxes which were imposed upon them. But it is not easy to point to any very definite measures undertaken by Henry for the benefit of the towns as a whole, other than his strict maintenance of peace and order. There is ample evidence, on the other hand, as to his schemes of taxation, his chief measure being the abolition of the practice of taking Danegeld from the more important boroughs and the imposition in its place of much heavier levies known as “aids.” In 1130 these aids varied in amount from £3 in the case of Winchcombe up to £120 in the case of London. Here and there, however, Henry did do a little to encourage the beginnings of municipal self-government. He allowed the men of York and Wilton for example, and perhaps of Salisbury and Lincoln, to form merchant gilds, or voluntary societies, for the regulation of trade; he sold the right of farming the revenues of their borough to the men of Lincoln, thereby exempting them from the control of the sheriff in financial matters; and he issued charters confirming the men of Bury St Edmunds, Leicester, and Beverley in the privileges which they had obtained from their immediate overlords. These measures would seem to have been tentative, and can hardly be construed as evidence of a definite policy pursued systematically throughout the reign. But just at its close Henry did in the case of London grant its burghers some extraordinary political privileges, which at any rate showed that he did not regard them as a danger to his authority. London was in the peculiar position of being the largest borough in the kingdom but situated in the smallest shire, and in one moreover where the king had no rural demesne manors. The sheriff of Middlesex, on the other hand, except for his duties with regard to London, had very little to do. It seemed therefore obvious, if the Londoners were to farm the revenues of their borough like the men of Lincoln, as they wished to do, that there was little to be gained by maintaining a separate shire organisation. Henry, accordingly, leased to the Londoners the shrievalty of Middlesex en bloc and made them farmers of both Middlesex and London at an inclusive rent of £300 a year. At the same time he permitted them to appoint their own sheriff and their own justices, who were to keep and try the pleas of the Crown to the exclusion of every other justice. The Londoners thus acquired a very privileged and a very exceptional position, but one that they were not destined to maintain.

The sketch just attempted of Henry’s domestic measures in England will have indicated how important they were in view of the future development of English institutions. To Henry himself, however, this side of his activities probably did not seem as important as his relations with his French neighbours; for out of the twenty-nine years which elapsed between 1106 and his death, he spent no less than seventeen years in Normandy. His contest with Louis VI dragged on intermittently till the death of William Clito in 1128; but already in 1119 by a victory at Bremule, in the Vexin, Henry had virtually got the upper hand, and after that he only encountered minor troubles in the regions round Evreux and Breteuil. Even before his triumph at Bremule he had come to terms with Fulk V of Anjou, and arranged a match between his eldest son, who was just sixteen, and Fulk’s daughter. By this means he hoped eventually that the Norman house might recover the possession of Maine, as it was agreed between their parents that that county should be settled on the young pair. But in 1120 this cherished design was wrecked by a sudden catastrophe, which left the whole future of Henry’s dominions in complete uncertainty. This was the tragic death of the young William, who was drowned with his brother Richard and a number of other nobles while crossing the Channel. As the loss of the two princes left Henry without a legitimate male heir and as his wife Matilda had died in 1118, Henry’s thoughts naturally turned to a second marriage, and early in 1121 he contracted an alliance with Adelaide, the daughter of the Duke of Lower Lorraine. But this marriage proved childless, and for four years the question of how to provide for the succession still vexed the king, as he was loth to see it pass to his nephews of the house of Blois. He still had one legitimate child, his daughter Matilda, but she had been married in 1114 to Henry V of Germany, which seemed an insuperable bar to any plan of making her his heiress. To Henry’s relief this bar was removed by the death of the Emperor in 1125; whereupon Henry summoned Matilda back to England, and in 1127 he held a great council at which he required all the prelates and chief barons of England, headed by David of Scotland, Stephen of Blois, and Robert of Gloucester, to swear to accept her as their future sovereign. This arrangement many of them very much disliked, as it was unprecedented that England or Normandy should be ruled by a woman; nor was it yet disclosed what plans Henry had for providing her with a second husband. On this point Henry himself had unpopular but far-sighted views. He still desired to recover Maine, and so he approached the Count of Anjou again and proposed that the Empress should be married to Fulk’s son and heir, Geoffrey, nicknamed in later days Plantagenet. This of course was acceptable to Fulk, for it meant that on Henry’s death Geoffrey would not only unite Normandy to Anjou and Maine but would also become King of England and so be one of the most powerful princes in Western Europe. This prospect quite gratified Henry’s dynastic ambition, but it was viewed with extreme dislike both in England and Normandy, as most men of Norman blood regarded it as a disgrace that they should have to accept the rule of their hereditary foe. Henry, however, would not listen to any protests, and in June 1128 he brought his daughter to Le Mans, where she was married to Geoffrey in the presence of a brilliant assembly. Even then his anxieties for the future were not at an end. Geoffrey was not yet fifteen; and Matilda, who was twenty-five, and of a haughty disposition, soon quarrelled with her boy-husband. Many of the barons also declared that, as they had not given their consent to the match, they were no longer bound by the oaths as to the succession. Henry met this objection by demanding, in 1131, a renewal of their oaths; but it was not till 1133 that he had the satisfaction of hearing that the Empress had borne a son, whom she duly christened Henry and whose advent seemed to place the question of the succession at length beyond dispute. Henry was now at the close of his sixty-fifth year. As he was still apparently quite vigorous, he hoped to see his young grandson reach an age when he might be accepted as king under his mother’s guardianship, and so obviate any opposition arising to a female succession. But this was not to be. In August 1133 the king crossed once more to Normandy anxious to see his little heir, but soon found himself involved in troubles with Geoffrey, who was now the reigning Count of Anjou, having succeeded his father in 1129, when Fulk had withdrawn to Palestine to become King of Jerusalem. We are told that Geoffrey wanted castles in Normandy; and as Henry would not accede to his wishes, he provoked William Talvas of Bellême to revive his hereditary grievances and stir up trouble in the country round Séez. Henry replied by outlawing Talvas, and in 1135 laid siege to his castle at Alençon. The fortress did not hold out long against him, but the expedition was Henry’s last effort. A few weeks later he was taken suddenly ill while hunting in the Vexin, and died on 1 December at Lions-le-Foret, having reigned a little over thirty-five years.


Reign of Stephen (1135-1154).

As soon as Henry’s death was known, it rapidly became apparent that his cherished schemes for his daughter’s succession were not likely to be carried out. Had his little grandson been older, a considerable party would no doubt have favoured his accession and been willing to risk the dangers of a long minority; but, as things were, hardly anyone wanted the crown to pass to the Empress, not only because there were no prece­dents for the accession of a woman, but because she was personally disliked for her arrogance and because men of Norman blood hated the idea of having to submit to her Angevin husband. Even the Earl of Gloucester made no move, so far as we know, in favour of his half-sister; and such magnates as were gathered at Rouen began openly to discuss whether the succession should not be offered to Theobald, Count of Blois, as being the Conqueror’s eldest male descendant and the person best able to withstand the claims of the Count of Anjou. This discussion, however, led to no decision; and meanwhile Theobald’s brother Stephen, who was at Boulogne when Henry died, without consulting his fellow-magnates, made up his mind to bid for the crown himself, and embarked for England with the intention of playing the same part as his uncle Henry had done thirty-five years before. There can be no denying that, if the oaths of allegiance taken to Matilda in 1127 and 1131 were to be disregarded, Stephen’s territorial position as Count of Mortain and lord of the wealthy honours of Boulogne, Eye, and Lancaster made him a much more suitable candidate for the throne than Theobald. For Theobald, though prominent in France, was practically a stranger in England; whereas Stephen had lived among the English for some thirty years and had married a lady who, like the Empress, could claim descent from the old Saxon kings. Stephen, too, was known as a brave and affable prince, who was quite a favourite with the Londoners; and he had also gained credit with the Church by establishing a band of monks from Savigny at Furness on his Lancashire fief, thereby introducing a new monastic order into England. It is not surprising then that, when he presented him­self in London and no other candidate’s name was put forward, the citizens, alarmed at the prospect of an interregnum, at once declared in his favour and encouraged him to hurry on to Winchester to win over the officials of the Exchequer and secure the royal treasury. At Winchester  he was welcomed by the citizens, as he had been in London, and also by his younger brother Henry of Blois, the powerful bishop of the diocese, who was not only prepared to disregard his oath to the Empress, but also eagerly lent his aid in persuading others and especially William of Corbeil, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to do likewise. The archbishop was full of scruples, but was at last persuaded to accept Stephen in re­turn for a promise that he would restore to the Church its liberties; and so also were the Bishop of Salisbury and the chamberlain, William de Pont de l’Arche, the heads of the administration, who placed the royal treasure and the castle of Winchester at his disposal. Thus strengthened Stephen returned to London and was duly crowned at Westminster within three weeks of receiving the news of his uncle’s death. The attendance of barons at the coronation was small, but no one challenged its propriety; and as soon as the news of it reached Rouen, the barons who were in Normandy, such as the Earls of Leicester and Surrey and the Count of Meulan together with all the Norman bishops acquiesced in the decision. Count Theobald too, bearing his brother’s success with equanimity, took up his cause and negotiated a truce on his behalf with Count Geoffrey of Anjou. The Empress, however, was not at all content, and at once appealed to Pope Innocent II against Stephen’s usurpation; nor did the Earl of Gloucester give in his adhesion. For the time, however, Stephen had clearly triumphed, and a little later he was also successful at the Curia, his emissaries backed by the influence of the King of France getting the better of those sent by the Empress and obtaining a letter from Innocent in which he recognised Stephen as King of England and Duke of Normandy. As the oaths of fealty which had been sworn to Matilda were Stephen’s greatest stumbling-block, this recognition by the power which could absolve men from their oaths was a great feather in Stephen’s cap, and for the time made him feel fairly secure as regarded the future. And so no doubt he would have been, had he possessed the cunning of his predecessor, or even sufficient foresight and tenacity to strike at his probable enemies before their preparations were matured. Such ideas were, however, entirely foreign to Stephen’s nature; and hence, instead of making good his initial success, and devising means to remove all supporters of the Empress’ cause, as King Henry in his day had removed Robert of Bellême, which would have impressed his subjects, he merely rested content with the position he had so recklessly snatched, or at best tried to win over those whom he sus­pected of being disloyal by concessions. Even this timid policy, though expensive, might have succeeded, had Stephen only had men of his own calibre to fight against. In the Empress, however, he had opposed to him a most tenacious woman, who had at her side in the persons of her husband Geoffrey and her half-brother Robert two very sagacious captains, who knew how to wait and scheme and take advantage of Stephen’s difficulties. The result was that before two years were gone by Stephen’s influence began to wane, and on both sides of the Channel men began to whisper that he was a mild and soft ruler, and to realise that he was quite incapable of maintaining the good peace which had persisted so long under his predecessor.

The first persons to oppose Stephen openly were the vicomte of the Hiesmois who admitted the Empress to Argentan and Exmes, William Talvas of Ponthieu and Bellême who regained Alençon, and David of Scotland who made a raid into Cumberland and Northumberland nominally in the interest of his niece but really to secure those districts for his son Henry. Leaving Normandy to be dealt with later, Stephen promptly hurried to Durham, and in February 1136 came to an agreement with David by the simple process of granting half his demands. The terms agreed were that David should acknowledge Stephen as king, and that Stephen in return should grant Cumberland to Henry as a fief, and also put him in possession of the honour of Huntingdon, which had long been held by the King of Scots in right of his wife. Stephen seems to have considered this settlement a good bargain, and in a way it was something of a family arrangement, Henry being Stephen’s nephew; but as Stephen was soon to discover it had two drawbacks. It did not really satisfy David, and it offended the powerful Earl of Chester who, having himself claims on Cumberland, was converted into a life-long adversary. Returning to London, Stephen celebrated his first Easter as king by holding a magnificent court, at which his wife Matilda was crowned. This court was attended by no fewer than nineteen bishops, English and Norman, and by at least forty barons drawn from all parts of the kingdom. The paucity of magnates at his own coronation was thus fully made good; and a little later even the Earl of Gloucester crossed the Channel and outwardly came to terms with him. The only overt opposition to his rule during the rest of this year came from Hugh Bigod in Norfolk, and from a petty rising in Devon headed by Baldwin de Redvers and Robert of Bampton. These troubles however were easily met, and in 1137 Stephen found himself free to cross to Normandy, where he remained for nine months.

Though the Empress was still in possession of Argentan and some other castles, Stephen, had he played his cards well, ought to have had no difficulty in dispossessing her; for he had the support of Louis VI of France, who in May invested him with the duchy, while Geoffrey of Anjou had bitterly incensed the inhabitants of central Normandy in the previous year by a futile raid on Lisieux in which his men had been guilty of many outrages. Unfortunately, Stephen brought with him a band of Flemings led by his personal friend William of Ypres, and in resisting a renewed invasion by Count Geoffrey he gave great offence to the Norman leaders by entrusting the chief command to this Flemish knight. This act was a far-reaching blunder, as it not only alienated such important men as William of Warenne and Hugh of Gournay, but led to fresh quarrels with Robert of Gloucester, who accused the Fleming of suspecting his loyalty and of attacking him treacherously. Gloucester was thus thrown once again on to the side of his half-sister, which meant that Stephen was unable to dislodge the Empress and consequently his position in Normandy, especially in the Bessin where Gloucester’s Norman fiefs lay, was left even more insecure when he re-embarked for England than when he had landed. When he departed he left the government of Normandy in the hands of William of Roumare, lord of the honour of Bolingbroke in England, a half-brother of the Earl of Chester, who is spoken of as justiciar. Under him the ducal administration was maintained in eastern Normandy for some time longer, but Stephen himself never returned to his duchy.

The year 1138 must be reckoned the turning-point in Stephen’s for­tunes. Left to his own devices in Normandy, Robert of Gloucester soon formed a definite alliance with Count Geoffrey, and in May sent a formal defiance to Stephen, declaring him a usurper and renouncing his allegiance. This action almost immediately brought about in England the defection of a number of west-country barons who were Gloucester’s neighbours or kinsmen, such as William Fitz Alan of Oswestry, Ralph Paganel of Dudley, and several Somerset and Dorset landowners, headed by William de Mohun, lord of Dunster. Nor were these the only malcontents whom Stephen found himself called upon to meet. For quite early in the year Miles de Beauchamp, a Bedfordshire knight, provoked by a decision to confer the Beauchamp barony on a cadet of the house of Beaumont, had fortified Bedford castle against him, while in the north King David once more invaded Northumberland. As before, David’s main object was to secure Northumberland as an earldom for his son; but this time he was much more bent on his scheme than in 1136, having gauged Stephen’s character. Foiled in his first attack in the spring, he renewed his inroads in the summer, and having been joined by Eustace Fitz John of Alnwick pressed forward through Durham into Yorkshire. By this time Stephen had too many troubles to meet in the south to come north himself; but the general alarm, coupled with the exhortations of Thurstan, the venerable Archbishop of York, led nearly all the important northern barons, with the exception of the Earl of Chester, to take the field and join their forces to the levies of the archbishop in order to bar David’s farther progress. The battle which ensued in August near Northallerton, known as the battle of the Standard because the English had in their midst a waggon bearing the consecrated banners of the archbishop’s three minster churches —St Peter of York, St John of Beverley, and St Wilfrid of Ripon—ended in a rout for the over-audacious Scots. But there was no pursuit. David merely retreated to Carlisle, and in the following spring his niece, Queen Matilda, negotiated a permanent peace with him, acting on her husband’s behalf, under which Henry, the heir to Scotland, who was already Earl of Huntingdon, was created Earl of Northumberland as well and was invested with the Crown lands in that county with the exception of the castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle. Meanwhile Stephen had done his best to cope with the risings in the south and west; but though he had reduced Shrewsbury and several castles in Somerset, he had hesitated to attack Bristol, which was the chief stronghold of the Empress’s party. His efforts were consequently ineffective; nor were his lieutenants in Normandy any more successful in coping with the Earl of Gloucester, who went so far as to invite Count Geoffrey to Caen and Bayeux. In fact by December 1138 men could see that Stephen’s initial luck was deserting him, and that it was certain that the Empress would not abandon her claims without a severe struggle.

In the spring of 1139 Stephen’s position was still comparatively advantageous. He had settled with the Scots. The wealthiest districts of England and Normandy favoured his cause, and so did the Church, whose liberty he had publicly confirmed by a charter granted in accordance with his coronation promises. As for the control of the Church, he had quite recently secured the archbishopric of Canterbury for Theobald, Abbot of Bec, his own nominee, and he had obtained the still higher post of legate for his brother Henry. He had control of the exchequer and the judicial system. His revenues were still ample, and the Empress and Gloucester had not ventured to cross the Channel. But in June Stephen by his own act, perhaps to please the Beaumonts, forfeited the Church’s support by requiring the Bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln to surrender their castles. Roger of Salisbury, the old justiciar, and his nephew Alexander had no doubt grown exceedingly arrogant, and in time of peace it might have been politic to curtail their pretensions. But it was unwise to attack them just when the real struggle for the throne was beginning, and stupid to submit them to indignities and throw them into prison when they refused to comply with the royal demands. It was in vain that Stephen urged the familiar plea that they were arrested as barons and not as bishops. Immediately all the English prelates were up in arms, led by the Bishop of Winchester who, acting under his commission as legate, called together a synod at which he denounced his brother’s actions. Stephen, however, would give no redress, and three months later, on the death of Bishop Roger, seized all his plate and treasures.

It was in the midst of these dissensions that the Empress and the Earl of Gloucester decided to come to England. They landed in the autumn at Arundel, bringing 140 knights with them. This was the signal for civil war to break out in earnest. At once Miles of Brecknock, who was also constable of Gloucester, and Brian Fitz Count, the lord of the honour of Wallingford, threw off the mask and joined the Earl of Gloucester at Bristol, two adhesions which gave the Empress control of the upper Thames region; and soon the whole south-west from Wiltshire to Cornwall was practically lost to Stephen, together with Herefordshire. But elsewhere very few barons joined Matilda’s standard openly, the most notable man to do so being Nigel, Bishop of Ely, who had shared in the indignities meted out to his uncle Bishop Roger and who was eager for revenge. The main object of the Empress was to expand her influence eastwards and get possession of London and Winchester, the acknowledged seats of government; for it was idle to proclaim herself queen until she could see her way to secure coronation at Westminster. Events were to shew, however, that her military forces were too weak for this purpose, unless she could win over one or more of the greater magnates in the eastern counties and so undermine Stephen’s hold on that side of England. But this she never really accomplished, in spite of some momentary successes; and so the struggle, after dragging on for some eight years, was, in 1148, dropped without achieving anything beyond a pitiful devastation of the countryside and the total disorganisation of Henry I’s elaborate system of government. In 1140 the chief fighting was in Wiltshire and was characterised by many excesses and cruelties on the part of the Empress’ men. But the raids and sieges had no marked effect on Stephen’s defences and did not even deter Louis VII, who had become King of France in 1137, from betrothing his sister Constance to Stephen’s eldest son. It would seem, however, that Stephen’s confidence was shaken, for the year is marked by the creation of three new earldoms in favour of Hugh Bigod, William of Roumare, and Geoffrey de Mandeville. These three barons became respectively Earls of Norfolk, Lincoln, and Essex; and as they all later on played Stephen false, it certainly looks as if these new dignities were conferred in the hope of binding men to his side whose allegiance was known to be wavering. If so, Stephen’s action may be criticised as unwise and weak and as shewing his want of foresight. At the same time it should be noted that the recipients of his favour were all magnates of the first rank and quite able to support these dignities out of their own resources; nor was the policy of creating additional earls a novelty in 1140. Both Rufus and Henry I had adopted it sparingly; and Stephen himself in 1138, before he was in any danger, had made William of Aumale and Robert de Ferrers Earls of York and Derby respectively, to reward them for their services in repelling the Scots, and had further set up a marcher earldom of Pembroke for Gilbert of Clare in the hope of providing a leader to repel the Welsh princes who, in 1136, had slain Clare’s elder brother Richard Fitz Gilbert and overrun the cantrefs of Cardigan and Dyfed and the vale of Towy.

The first of the magnates advanced by Stephen to comital rank to desert his cause was the Earl of Lincoln, who was dissatisfied because his Norman estates were in danger and because the custody of the royal castle at Lincoln, which he claimed as heir of the house of Tailbois, had not been entrusted to him by the king as well as the earldom of the county. To shew his displeasure the earl, with the help of his half­brother Ranulf, Earl of Chester, who had equally large interests in Lincolnshire and his own grievances to avenge, seized Lincoln Castle at Christmastide 1140; and, when Stephen hurried thither with a royal force to drive them out, sent messages to the Earl of Gloucester asking him to come and assist them. Naturally Earl Robert seized so favourable an opportunity to obtain a footing in the eastern counties; and on 2 February 1141 a battle was fought outside the gates of Lincoln, in which Stephen, though he had the assistance of six earls, was beaten and himself captured. So unexpected a stroke of fortune, after a period of almost stalemate lasting some sixteen months, seemed at first a deci­sive triumph for the Empress. Not that the victory gave her the control of Lincolnshire. The brother earls were merely fighting for their own hands and had no more desire to see her in real authority than the easy-going Stephen. Nor were the citizens of Lincoln and the minor landowners of the shire won over. But still the possession of Stephen’s person seemed everything; and Earl Robert, to whom he had surrendered, at once carried him off to Gloucester and a few days later lodged him in Bristol Castle for safe keeping.

The Empress herself, on hearing her good fortune, was intoxicated with joy, and at once started for Winchester with the object of securing the royal treasure and the king’s crown, which were kept in the castle. It was at this juncture that Stephen’s folly in offending the churchmen made itself felt. Instead of opposing the Empress, Henry of Winchester, the legate, came to meet her at Wherwell and agreed to recognise her as “Lady of England” (Domina Angliae), on the condition that he should have his way in all ecclesiastical matters. This conditional adhesion of Stephen’s brother was followed by the surrender of Winchester Castle, and on 3 March the Empress was able to have herself proclaimed Queen of England in Winchester market-place. But she had yet to be elected and to secure London, before she could be crowned with the traditional rites in Westminster Abbey. A month later, in the absence of the Empress, the legate called another synod together at Winchester and in the name of the Church declared her elected, but it was only towards the end of June that she was able to enter London. Meantime she had been acting as de facto sovereign, appointing a bishop of London, and creating new earldoms of Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset for her half­brother Reginald and her well-tried supporters, Baldwin de Redvers and William de Mohun. Oxford, too, had been surrendered to her and the Earl of Essex brought over to her side by the grant of a number of valuable Crown estates, and by his appointment as hereditary sheriff and justiciar of his county. The Empress, however, was not destined to be actually crowned. During her brief tenure of power she had excited general disgust by her intolerable arrogance; and she reached London with only a small following to find herself almost immediately threatened by the advance of Stephen’s queen on Southwark with a considerable force. This marks the turn of the tide. Immediately the Londoners rose and forced the Empress, who had tried to tax them, to an ignominious flight, whereupon Henry of Winchester went back to his brother’s side. To avenge this the Empress besieged him at Winchester, but Queen Matilda, with the Londoners and many barons, came to the rescue and not only routed the Empress1 forces but took the Earl of Gloucester prisoner. The Empress’ cause was at once ruined. On 1 November Stephen was released in exchange for Gloucester, and at Christmas he was re-crowned at Canterbury by Archbishop Theobald.

The restoration of Stephen to power in eastern and central England in no way put an end to the civil war. All through the spring and summer of 1142 the Empress remained in possession of her advanced post at Oxford, eager to march again to London, and it was not till the Earl of Gloucester had departed to Normandy to seek help from the Count of Anjou that Stephen renewed his attacks. Meantime, both leaders had been bargaining for support. Stephen, for example, late in 1141 created two more earls, making the head of the great house of Clare Earl of Hertford, and giving the earldom of Sussex to William of Albini, who, as husband of Henry I’s widow, had possession of the honour of Arundel in addition to his extensive Norfolk fief. These grants seem to have been made in reply to the Empress, who somewhat earlier had created Miles of Gloucester and Brecon, her staunchest supporter, Earl of Hereford. Stephen also journeyed north to York and came to terms with the Earls of Chester and Lincoln. The stiffest bargaining, however, was over the allegiance of the crafty Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was hereditary Constable of the Tower of London. He had at once deserted the Empress when the Londoners expelled her, and at Christmas 1141 had obtained an extraordinary charter from Stephen which made him hereditary Sheriff’ and Justiciar of Middlesex and Hertfordshire as well as of Essex, and bestowed upon him and his son lands worth no less than £500 a year. But even this enormous endowment at the expense of the Crown did not keep the earl faithful for many months. In June the Empress again won him over by yet more lavish promises and by conferring an English earldom on Aubrey de Vere, Count of Guisnes and Chamberlain of England, his wife’s brother, who took Oxfordshire for his county though his lands lay near Colchester. Such preposterous bids and counterbids apparently shew that both sides considered Mandeville’s support the key to victory, carrying as it did the control of the Tower of London; but the extravagance of these concessions should not be regarded as typical of the methods of either leader. If they had been, neither Stephen nor the Empress would have retained any resources. Only one other person, in fact, is known to have received exceptionally large grants of land. This was the Fleming, William of Ypres; but he received no offices and well repaid Stephen’s generosity by his devoted services.

The pause for negotiations was followed in the autumn of 1142 by a determined attack on Oxford. The town was easily occupied, but the Empress held out in the castle for three months, and eventually escaped on a snowy night by climbing down a rope hung from the battlements, and got away to Wallingford. By this time the Earl of Gloucester had returned from Normandy bringing the Empress’ little son Henry with him and a force of 360 knights. But this reinforcement was inadequate to restore his sister’s fortunes and only enabled him in 1143 and 1144 to maintain his hold on Dorset and Wiltshire. Meantime Stephen took heart, and late in 1143 forced the Earl of Essex to surrender his castles. This move gave Stephen undisputed control of London and Essex, but Mandeville himself set up his standard in the fenlands, and having seized Ramsey and the Isle of Ely, held out there, plundering the surrounding country like a brigand until his death from a wound nine months later. A terrible account of his cruelties, especially of his pitiless attacks on villages and churches and of his extortions and use of torture, can be read in the Peterborough Chronicle; for there can be little doubt that the much-quoted picture of Stephen’s reign, with which the Chronicle ends, though it professes to be a picture of all England, was really inspired by memories of the outrages which the monks had seen enacted in their own neighbourhood in 1144. With the removal of Mandeville and the return of Vere to his allegiance the Empress’ chances of success finally faded away. For three years more the Earl of Gloucester kept up a desultory struggle; but he too died in 1147, and early the next year Matilda, convinced that all hope of gaining her inheritance was gone, left England for good, her little son Henry having departed some time previously.

Freed of his rival’s presence, Stephen had a second chance of making himself master of England. The Angevin party was at a very low’ ebb, and had he made a determined effort to secure Wallingford, Gloucester, and Bristol, he might have reduced it to submission. He was, however, much too easy-going to seize the opportunity, and allowed five years (1147-1152) to pass away, during which no active operations are recorded, except a half-hearted attempt to take Worcester from the men of the Count of Meulan, who had declared definitely for the Empress to escape losing his Beaumont patrimony in Normandy. Even when the young Henry reappeared in England in 1149 to rally his depressed friends, Stephen made no attempt at all to interfere with his movements, but allowed the youth to journey unmolested all the way to Carlisle to visit his great-uncle King David. When he heard that the Earl of Chester, who desired to secure Lancaster, had also gone to Carlisle, he was indeed obliged to take some notice; but his action took the unwise form of bribing the earl to remain loyal by extravagant grants of land in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and by allowing him once more to take possession of Lincoln Castle. This undignified move achieved its purpose for the moment; and Henry, who was only sixteen, retired to Normandy having effected nothing. That Henry’s visit was so peaceful shews that both sides were tired of fighting; and evidently Stephen, provided he was left in peace, was quite content to let south-western England alone. It did not seem to matter to him that his writs did not run there. In the bulk of England on the other hand, where the popular sentiment was on his side, he still maintained his predecessor’s forms of government, appointing sheriffs and justices and holding the royal and communal courts; but such scraps of evidence as we have shown that his revenues were carelessly collected, and that the standard of order which he maintained was a very low one, each petty baron being allowed to build himself a stronghold and pursue his private feuds with his neighbours without much hindrance. The simple explanation is that Stephen was fast ageing. In 1147 he must have been nearly sixty, and it was only in ecclesiastical matters, where fighting was not needful, that he seems still to have desired to get his way. But even this display of will was unfortunate, as it led him into a serious quarrel with Pope Eugenius III over filling the archbishopric of York and into a rash attempt to prevent the Archbishop of Canterbury from attending a council held by the Pope at Rheims in 1148. In both matters Stephen could plead that he was following in the footsteps of Henry I; but the ecclesiastical world regarded his actions as breaches of his promise that the Church should be free. The result was that both the Papacy and Archbishop Theobald became his declared enemies; and when in 1151 Stephen desired to have his son Eustace crowned and formally recognised as his successor, they both refused to permit any prelate to perform the ceremony, even though Stephen gave way in the matter of the archbishopric of York. In spite of this rebuff, as he had survived so many difficulties, and as the Count of Anjou and his wife continued to leave him in peace, Stephen at this time probably considered his son’s succession reasonably certain. But the reality was different. The real danger lay not in England but in Normandy, where the Count of Anjou had been steadily gaining power year by year ever since Stephen had turned his back on the duchy in 1138. As a prudent man, Count Geoffrey had never shown any desire to help his wife in England; but in the duchy he had made the most of every opportunity for establishing her claims, and by patience had not only conquered the land but by his good government had almost brought the inhabitants to forget their anti-Angevin bias and become supporters of his family interests. He had first begun to make progress in 1141 when he got possession of Falaise and Lisieux. In 1142 he acquired the Avranchin and the Cotentin. By the end of 1143 the majority of the Norman prelates and fief-holders joined him, led by the Count of Meulan; and in 1144 even the capital and the Archbishop of Rouen submitted, whereupon Geoffrey publicly assumed the title of duke. A little later Louis VII formally invested him with the duchy, and by 1145 only the castle of Arques still held out for Stephen. Having conquered the duchy, Geoffrey at once set to work to restore it to order, but he was wise enough to make it clear that he held his prize for his son Henry and not for himself. Wherever he could, he continued the institutions and policy of Henry I, and made no attempt to introduce Angevin customs. He suppressed the justiciarship and made Rouen much more the capital than it had been before, but he retained all the traditions of the Anglo-Norman chancery, and when he wanted new officials drew his recruits from Normandy and not from Anjou. He had his son instructed by the most famous Norman scholar of the time, William of Conches, and in issuing charters, though he ignored the Empress, frequently joined the young Henry’s name with his own, and declared that he was acting with his advice and consent. Finally, as soon as his son, in 1150, reached the age of seventeen, he invested him with the duchy and himself withdrew to Anjou. The very next year Count Geoffrey in the prime of his manhood died suddenly of a fever, and the young Henry unexpectedly found himself Count of Anjou and Maine as well as Duke of Normandy, and secure at any rate on the continent in the position which his grandfather Henry I had so ardently desired should be in store for him. The sudden elevation of the young Henry to a position of power and prestige was a threat to Stephen which he could not well have anticipated; and the menace became even greater in May 1152, when the young duke was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the divorced wife of Louis VII, and in her right became Count of Poitou and overlord of all the fiefs in south-western France from Limoges to the Pyrenees. At a stroke Henry had become feudal head of territories as large as Stephen’s, and it was only to be expected that, as soon as he possibly could, he would make a serious attempt to regain his mother’s English inheritance.

The imminence of the danger woke up Stephen. As soon as he heard of Henry’s doings, he renewed his demand that Eustace should be crowned and also ordered an attack on Wallingford, the unsubdued stronghold whence Brian Fitz Count had defiantly upheld the cause of the Empress in the Thames valley for nearly fourteen years. The resumption of active measures, however, came too late. Rather than obey Stephen, Archbishop Theobald fled across the Channel, and before the resistance of Wallingford could be overcome Henry himself arrived in England with a small force of knights and foot-soldiers. He landed in January 1153 and at once received an offer of support from the Earl of Chester. A few weeks later he captured Malmesbury and relieved Wallingford. But the desire for peace was so general that a truce was agreed upon for negotiations. This enabled Henry to visit Bristol, whence he set out on a march through central England, visiting in turn Warwick, Leicester, Stamford, and Nottingham. The reception he met with was a mixed one, but clearly the midlands were wavering. Meantime Stephen was detained in East Anglia, having to face the Earl of Norfolk who had seized Ipswich in Henry’s interest. So matters stood six months after Henry’s landing, when suddenly England was startled by the news that Stephen’s heir Eustace had died at Bury St Edmunds. Only a year before Stephen had lost his devoted wife, and this second family catastrophe seems to have deprived him of all desire to prolong the dynastic struggle, even though he had another son in whose interest he might have gone on fighting. He accordingly permitted his brother the Bishop of Winchester to join with Archbishop Theobald in mediating a peace, by which it was arranged that he should remain King of England for his life but that Henry should be recognised as his successor and should in future be consulted in all the business of the realm. This settlement, which was ratified in November by Henry and his partisans doing homage to Stephen at Winchester before an assembly of magnates, was welcome to all parties; to Stephen because he was old and broken, to Stephen’s heir William because he was unambitious and was guaranteed the earldom of Surrey in right of his wife and also the succession to all his father’s private fiefs, to the barons because it freed them from the fear of the rule of the Empress and secured them the restoration of their Norman estates, to the leaders of the Church and the Papacy because it meant the humiliation of a prince who had tried to thwart them, and to the mass of the people because it promised the return of order after fifteen years of license and the destruction of the mushroom castles which had been dominating the country-side. To the young Henry the slight concessions made to Stephen were unimportant. He was still under twenty-one and could well afford to wait for an undisputed succession. Besides he had plenty of problems to occupy his attention in his continental duchies and could not afford to remain indefinitely in England. As it turned out, Henry had not to stand aside for long. Having set the work of restoration on foot he withdrew about Easter 1154 to Normandy, but six months later Stephen died and in December Henry returned to London for his coronation at Westminster, determined to re-establish his grandfather’s system of government in every particular.

The years which witnessed the struggle for the throne between Stephen and Matilda form a dismal and barren period when compared with the thirty years of peace and progress enjoyed under the elder Henry. It is doubtful, however, whether historians have not been inclined to paint them in too sombre colours, indulging in generalisations which seem to assume that all parts of England were plunged into anarchy for fifteen years. So far as fighting is concerned, this clearly was not the case. At times and in certain districts, chiefly in the valley of the upper Thames and in the fens round Ely and Ramsey, there was no doubt serious havoc; but in the greater part of England the fighting was never very serious or prolonged. What the people had to complain of was the failure to put down ordinary crime and robbery and the ineffectiveness of the courts of justice. They could see the feudal lords constantly arrogating new powers to themselves, and attempting new exactions. But it is impossible to suppose that the feudal lords as a whole were guilty of the crimes and outrages which undoubtedly were committed by some of the Empress’ captains in Wiltshire and by Geoffrey de Mandeville. The pictures painted in the Peterborough Chronicle and by monastic writers generally are certainly overdrawn. If some feudal lords were turbulent and cruel, it cannot be overlooked that a considerable number of the magnates from Stephen downwards were remarkable at this period for their works of piety. It was in Stephen’s reign that the only English monastic order was founded by Gilbert of Sempringhara, that the canons of Premontré first came to England, and that the Orders of Savigny and Citeaux spread over the country. In all more than fifty religious houses were founded and en­dowed by the baronage at this time. Castle building and priory building in fact go very much together. Another point to be remembered is that for the most part the boroughs were free from exactions throughout the reign. A few were the scenes of fighting, but none had to pay the heavy aids which Henry had imposed. It was the same with the Danegeld. So far as is known Stephen never attempted to levy it. The charge against him is, not that he was avaricious but that he failed to get in his revenues. All accounts agree that he was genial and generous. He had no ambition to play a part on the continent or to be an autocrat; and so he let the powers of the Crown be curtailed, and lived on his own revenues. His reign in fact was disastrous for the autocratic ideal of government set up by the Conqueror and elaborated by Henry; it also witnessed a growth in the pretensions of the clergy, and the practice of appealing to the Pope. But to those who do not place order above every thing and who realise how oppressive Henry’s government was becoming in spite of its legality, it must always remain a moot question whether Stephen’s reign was such a total set-back for the mass of the people as the ecclesiastical writers of the day would have us believe. At any rate, in the sphere of the arts, of learning, and of manners there were movements which are hard to reconcile with an age given over to anarchy. In architecture, for instance, the activity, which under Henry’s orderly rule had perhaps culminated in Flambard’s buildings at Durham, by no means ceased. On the contrary, it was under Stephen that the great naves were erected at Norwich and Bury St Edmunds by Bishop Eborard and Abbot Anselm, that the minster arose at Romsey and the noble hospital of St Cross at Winchester, that the pointed arch was introduced at Fountains and Build was, that stone vaulting began to be used for large spans in place of the Hat painted wooden ceilings, and that sculptured doorways became numerous. In literature and learning it was the period when Geoffrey of Monmouth published his epoch-making romances and was rewarded by Stephen with the bishopric of St Asaph; when Adelard, the pioneer student of Arabic science and philosophy, wrote his treatise on the astrolabe at Bath and dedicated it to the young Henry Plantagenet; when Robert of Cricklade abridged Pliny’s Natural History, and when John of Salisbury acquired his love of the classics. It was the period when the ideas of chivalry began to take hold of the baronage, and when tournaments first became popular. Finally, it was a period when no attempt was made to debase the coinage, and when the two races, French and English, began to be blended into one nation.