By Cavendish, Richard
History Today , Vol. 54, No. 10
HISTORIANS HAVE NOT given King Stephen a good press. As his biographer David Crouch pointed out, he had the misfortune to come between two of England's most dynamic and successful kings, Henry I and Henry II. Stephen was an attractive character, chivalrous and brave, cheerful and affable and a fine soldier, but for most of his reign England was dragged through a civil war between him and his rival for the throne, Henry I's daughter Matilda, later succeeded by her son Henry Plantagenet of the Devil's brood of Anjou. Eventually Stephen and Henry met at Winchester in November 1153 and signed an agreement. Stephen was to rule the country for the rest of his life, and when he died Henry would succeed him. The treaty, which was formally promulgated at Westminster the following month, was guaranteed by the Church, which undertook to punish any breach of it with excommunication. At Oxford in January the English barons duly did homage to Henry, reserving their allegiance to Stephen.
Now in his late fifties, Stephen was at long last able to enjoy the throne unchallenged and the chronicler William of Newburgh said that 'it was as if he began to reign for the first time'. …