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Stephen of Blois was king of England from 1135 until his death in 1154. His reign was characterized by an intractable civil conflict known as "the Anarchy."
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Stephen of Blois was born around 1097 in Blois, France. He claimed the throne of England after the death of Henry I in 1135. Stephen's reign was dominated by a long period of civil war, known as "the Anarchy." A year before his death, Stephen agreed to name Henry FitzEmpress as his heir. He died in Dover, England, on October 25, 1154.
Stephen of Blois was born around 1097 in Blois, France. He was a grandson of William the Conqueror. His parents were Count Stephen-Henry, who died when Stephen was young, and Adela of Normandy. Stephen rose through the ranks in the court of his uncle, Henry I, and was given the county of Mortain when he was 18. Several years later, he married Matilda of Boulogne, acquiring extensive land through the partnership.
In 1120, Stephen survived the sinking of the vessel White Ship off the coast of Normandy. William Adelin, the son of Henry I, died in the disaster. William's death left the line of English succession in doubt, and after Henry I died in 1135, Stephen crossed the English Channel to assert his claim to the throne, essentially ignoring that of Henry's daughter, Matilda. Stephen's coronation took place on December 26, 1135, and his wife was crowned queen the following year.
Stephen was able to maintain stability during his first few years as king, successfully defending his land in England and France from incursions by David I of Scotland and Geoffrey of Anjou. In 1139, however, Stephen faced a major military challenge when Empress Matilda (who had gained her title through her marriage to Henry V), with the support of her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, led an invasion of England in an attempt to wrest the crown from Stephen. This period of conflict between the Empress and Stephen would come to be known as "the Anarchy."
Stephen was unable to tamp down the resulting civil conflict, and many of his supporters abandoned him after his capture at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, effectively ending his rule over Normandy. But Stephen's forces engineered the capture of Robert at the Rout of Winchester, and he was subsequently freed in exchange for Stephen's release. This did not end the conflict, however, and it was not until 1148 that Empress Matilda finally gave up her fight and left England.
With his kingdom in chaos and his throne in jeopardy, Stephen attempted to reinforce his position through the church. He requested that Pope Eugene III crown Stephen's oldest son, Eustace, to ensure that he would inherit his father's position. The pope denied Stephen's request.
In 1153, Stephen faced another attack, this time led by Empress Matilda's son, Henry FitzEmpress. FitzEmpress invaded England and constructed an alliance of local lords to support his claim to the throne. Following the death of his son, Eustace, Stephen decided to negotiate peace, and late in the year 1153 agreed to the Treaty of Wallingford, also known as the Treaty of Winchester, ending what had essentially been a 15-year war. According to the terms of the agreement, Stephen retained the throne until his death on October 25, 1154, in Dover, England. After his death, Henry FitzEmpress inherited the throne, ruling as Henry II.
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