England under the Normans and Angevins, 1066-1272

By H. W. C. Davis | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
STEPHEN

ON the death of Henry I. there was hardly a man in his dominions who desired the accession of the Empress. Her sex, the arrogance of her temper, above all her Angevin marriage, were objections which in most minds overrode all scruples as to oaths and pledges.1 Henry, her eldest son, might have been more favourably regarded if his youth had not made it certain that the regency would remain for many years to come in the hands of his mother. But Henry's hereditary claim was hardly stronger than that of Theobald of Blois and Stephen of Boulogne, the grandsons of the Conqueror in the female line; the minds of Englishmen and Normans instinctively turned towards these brothers. As between Theobald and Stephen the choice was more difficult; and deliberations were impeded by the accident that, while the leaders of the territorial aristocracy were in Normandy with Henry at the moment of his death, the leaders of the Church and the Curia Regis had been left in England to represent their master in his absence. The interests of these two parties differed widely; the members of each hastened to settle the succession in the manner which appeared most suitable to themselves. Hence two sovereigns were simultaneously elected on the two sides of the Channel. While the leading men in Normandy were inviting Theobald to come and rule them, Stephen sailed hastily to England; while they were providing for the defence of the frontier against an Angevin army, which appeared as soon as the King's death was known, Stephen was negotiating with the Londoners, with Roger of Salisbury the Justiciar, and with William of Corbeil the Archbishop of Canter

Stephen and his Rivals

____________________
1
Rössler's defence of Matilda's character ( Kaiserin Mathilde, p. 28) rests upon the flimsiest arguments; and he admits that her conduct after 1141 is open to the charge of arrogance (ibid., p. 281).

-154-

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