Post-classical history



Before Robert of Gloucester’s defiance in 1138, few men had cared to oppose Stephen openly. But there had been rebellions of the kind that were typical at the beginning of a new reign, borne out of frustrations built up under the previous monarch and now loosed to test out the new regime. However, in 1138 there was a different kind of rebellion, with the suggestion of some concerted plan. There can be no certainty about the motives of the new rebels, but circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that the supporters of Matilda were beginning to harden their intentions into action. Once Robert had made his declaration, the leading figures in the looming war, on the Angevin side, were prepared to come into the open. It was the formation of this Angevin party which made the civil war inevitable.

Before 1138, there had been a general acceptance of Stephen’s succession, but there was also latent resentment. The actions of the king during the years between 1135 and 1139 provoked some men to move into opposition. Some rebelled openly, others began preparations to join Matilda once she entered the country.

At the same time, although there was probably a majority of men who accepted Stephen with resignation rather than enthusiasm, there was also a hard core of strong royal supporters, those who were especially favoured by the new king and had gained from their association with him, those who had their own reasons for hostility to the old regime of Henry I, or dislike of his daughter or son-in-law.

The attitude of those only loosely committed to Stephen was crucial to the war which followed. For one reason or another, some of the most important among them would change sides and influence the direction of the war. Already, by 1139, some of these attitudes had been formed by the events of the early reign. Previous historians, notably Davis, have tended to see every move of Stephen in this period as a ‘mistake’, because it aroused some opposition. The fact is that any decisive act was bound to cause some opposition; this was hardly a new factor with Stephen. The hostility caused by Henry I’s ruthless and often harsh treatment of his leading barons had aroused far more resentment than Stephen’s measures ever would. But Henry had been more fortunate, at least in England, to have no leading figure who unified such resentment. The point is that Stephen did act decisively in the years before the war began, and that should not be viewed as mistaken policy, but it did provoke opposition and helps to explain the formation of the warring parties.


There were two early rebellions against Stephen, by Robert of Bampton and Baldwin de Redvers. Robert was ‘a knight not of the lowest birth or of small landed estate’.1 However, according to the same chronicler, he was a lover of wine and of food, given to drunkenness and gluttony. Robert of Bampton’s anger was directed not so much against the king as against Glastonbury Abbey, which won a dispute against him over land at Uffculme. But the Abbot of Glastonbury was of course Stephen’s brother, Henry of Blois. Robert felt desperate enough to turn to open rebellion immediately after Henry I’s death, acting with aggression and cruelty. When summoned to the new king’s court, he did turn up, albeit reluctantly and with a scowl on his face. Judgment was given that he must hand over his castle to the king, and the disposal of all he possessed should be put at the king’s discretion. Robert had at first accepted Stephen, and done homage to him. Now, in the presence of the king, he accepted the judgment of the court.

But immediately afterwards he stole away on horseback, strongly garrisoned Bampton, and plundered the countryside around. As a result his castle was declared forfeit. Stephen himself led a force to Bampton, in Devon.2 His troops blockaded the castle and captured a man trying to slip over the wall and get away. He was hanged before the castle wall, at which the garrison decided to surrender. Stephen therefore captured the castle and sent its garrison into exile; Robert himself had already fled. It was a relatively unimportant and isolated rebellion, but Stephen had dealt with it promptly, as was his wont, and effectively. The forfeited lands were awarded to Henry de Tracy, who remained a fervent and active supporter of the king. Robert of Bampton figures no more in history, except that the Gesta Stephani says he ‘met a dreadful end among strangers’.3 Some of Robert’s men found refuge at the court of the King of Scots.

The second, and more dangerous rebellion was that of Baldwin de Redvers. Although both rebellions preceded the outbreak of war, it is notable that the leaders were both west country barons. The civil war itself would take on something of a regional nature, and the west country would always be Matilda’s main base. This is well known, but is always assumed to be because of the role played by Robert of Gloucester. So far as is known, however, neither of these two early rebels had any close connection with the earl, though the Gesta Stephani makes a veiled hint that someone with the king’s own force at Exeter had encouraged Baldwin’s revolt. As the editors point out, Robert of Gloucester seems the most obvious candidate for this role.4 But there is no similar hint about Robert of Bampton. The two rebellions may just be coincidence, but possibly there might have been some particular cause for discontent in that area. Perhaps, for example, the famines and shortages of the period had hit that region hard. Regions where discontent against a given regime is especially strong have always been an important feature of English rebellions, and the regional discontent found in the west country and to a lesser degree in East Anglia, should not be ignored in this period.5

Baldwin de Redvers, ‘a man of eminent rank and birth’, was suspicious of the new king, and one of the few major lords not to come to his court or make any agreement with him.6 Perhaps the arrival of Robert of Gloucester at the court in 1136 swayed Baldwin; at any rate he made approaches to the king, but found that he had delayed too long. Stephen chose to make an example of him. It was probably not as bad a decision as it is usually represented. By this time Stephen had the declared allegiance of virtually the whole of the English baronage. To make an example of the one laggard would be commonly seen as sensible, and might be compared with Henry I’s treatment of Robert of Bellême. Stephen did crush Baldwin’s rebellion and capture his castles. It is true that Baldwin then joined the Angevins abroad and fought alongside them throughout the war, which incidentally is not so very unlike the conduct of Robert of Bellême against Henry. What if Stephen had made terms with him in 1136? Almost certainly Baldwin would still have been one of the first to join Matilda when she arrived. The conclusion must be that Stephen did not lose much by acting harshly.

The way in which Stephen’s actions in this episode have been treated is very strange. Stephen acted promptly, effectively and successfully. When Henry I had done much the same against Robert of Bellême, no one accused him of weakness. Stephen refused the approaches from Baldwin. The latter, not surprisingly, then fortified Exeter against the king, collecting provisions of all sorts in the castle, ‘a royal possession on which he had laid hands’.7 Stephen heard about this while still at Bampton, and came fresh to Exeter from his triumph there. The king at once sent ahead a considerable force of 200 cavalry, which rode fast through the night. Baldwin was annoyed because the citizens of Exeter had themselves sent an appeal against him to the king; yet another city which gave its support to Stephen. On the next morning Baldwin came out of the castle determined to plunder and burn the town, but the king’s advance force galloped in at that moment ‘with glittering arms and standards waving in the air’. Stephen himself arrived not long afterwards, and the citizens came out to welcome him with gifts and receive him within the walls of Exeter.

Exeter was an important city, seen then as the fourth in the kingdom, benefiting from local farming and fishing, and with its own flourishing trade. Baldwin, his family, and the garrison which was sworn to resist to the last, were shut up within the castle. From the walls they taunted the royal forces. They shot down arrows, and sometimes made sorties into the town. But Stephen wore them down. He captured an outpost, broke the bridge which gave access from the town to the castle, and built timber counter fortifications. Armed men crawled up the mound against the castle, stones were thrown against it using hired experts, and in the meantime miners set to work. Baldwin’s nearby castle at Plympton sent to the king, seeking terms for surrender, which Stephen willingly accepted. That castle was razed to the ground, and Baldwin’s lands were devastated, his sheep and cattle collected for the king’s use.

Alfred fitz Judhael, a man of Baldwin’s, came secretly into Exeter with men in disguise and managed to get a message through to Baldwin to give him encouragement. The garrison made a sortie and managed to carry Alfred and his men back inside the castle. It was a slight blow to the royalist force, but Stephen himself was not greatly concerned and remained in good humour. He said the more of his enemies who were locked up together in one place the better. But the siege had dragged on for some three months and was proving expensive.

Then suddenly things brightened for the king. It was a hot summer, and the springs which were the water supply of the castle, and which had always bubbled away merrily, dried up. The chronicler saw it as ‘the operation of divine power’.8 Men and horses within would not be able to survive. For a time the troops of the garrison were driven in desperation to drink wine; they had to make their bread using wine instead of water, and even used wine to boil food. When the royalists threw in lighted torches in the hope of burning the wooden throwing engines or the timber buildings within, even the torches were put out with wine, but eventually the wine gave out too.

The two leading men in the garrison then came out to seek terms from the king. Henry of Blois advised his brother to refuse an agreement, which he did. The bishop’s uncharitable feeling was that the two men looked thin and wasted, ‘their lips drawn back from gaping mouths’, suffering from thirst and must be close to surrender. When the king turned down the appeal, Baldwin’s wife came to him, barefoot, her hair loose over her shoulders and in tears begged for mercy. He received her with kindness, but still refused to give terms. There were relatives of Baldwin and his men in the king’s army, and those who had connived at the rebellion, and they now also approached the king and argued for mercy. They said it would be an act of royal clemency to accept surrender. They pointed out that Baldwin and his men had never sworn allegiance to him. They also said that everyone would be glad to see the end of the siege. The author of the Gesta Stephani, himself an ecclesiastic, is clearly of the opinion that the bishop was right and that no mercy should have been shown, and others agreed.9 This point could be debated ad infinitum, and most modern historians have taken the bishop’s side. However, looking at the matter from the angle of common practice in war at that time, let alone the merits of showing mercy, there seems no disgrace or mistake in agreeing terms. Whether vicious reprisals would have served Stephen’s cause better can only be a matter of opinion. To agree terms should normally be seen as the ideal victory for a besieger. The garrison could honourably be allowed to go, as was the case here, and in an internal disturbance, where the ruler wanted to become the authority over the defeated that was usually wise policy. In other words it was no doubt true that the garrison would have been forced to yield unconditionally before long, but whether that would have been a greater gain is dubious. Victory through agreed terms was a perfectly acceptable means of success. The main point is that Exeter Castle was now in the king’s hands.

Baldwin, who may not have been in Exeter himself all through the siege, had escaped to the Isle of Wight, where he possessed almost the whole island according to the Gesta Stephani, including the castle at Carisbrooke, whose defences he himself seems to have improved.10 He also had access to ships, referred to as a ‘huge pirate fleet’, with which he began to interfere with cross-Channel trade. Stephen was not dismayed. He left Exeter in the hands of his brother and moved on to Southampton, where he gathered a fleet to continue the fight against Baldwin.

No further fighting proved necessary. Baldwin de Redvers came to the king and submitted. It seems that the water supply at Carisbrooke had also dried up in this exceptional summer. The original well of the castle may still be seen, but it is not the one shown to tourists which operated during the time of Charles I’s captivity there and which is driven by donkeys. The older well is a simple shaft protected by a plain iron grid. Baldwin had broken no oath to the king, but he was not able to persuade Stephen to recognize his holdings. He left, landless, for the continent, and sought refuge at the court of Geoffrey of Anjou. Execution of such opponents was not the common practice of that age, so there is no reason to condemn Stephen for leniency. He had achieved his ends in the manner normal to the time. Baldwin had twice been forced to move on, and all his lands were now at the king’s disposal, including the two vital castles at Exeter and Carisbrooke. Soon the embittered baron was active against Stephen, first in Normandy, and later when the opportunity offered, in England.

There was a second region which created problems for Stephen both before and after 1138, and that was East Anglia. To be more precise there was one troublesome prelate, Nigel, Bishop of Ely, and one troublesome lord in East Anglia, who was a constant source of difficulty. The latter was Hugh Bigod. After the death of Henry I, and after giving his important oath with regard to the king’s last wishes which had helped Stephen to gain the throne, Hugh took possession of the castle at Norwich at some time in 1136. However, when Stephen came to deal with it, he professed to have no intention of rebellion and handed the castle to the king, albeit reluctantly. Whether there was some genuine uncertainty about the possession of the castle, or whether Hugh had thoughts of rebellion and changed his mind, remains uncertain. Perhaps he believed the rumour of Stephen’s death, perhaps he hoped to receive a reward for his oath, but if so he was disappointed. He was to remain to the end of his long life a difficult and vexatious man, always feeling cheated of Norwich Castle, and never the happy subject of any king.

It was not Stephen but Matilda who rewarded Hugh with the earldom of Norfolk at a later date. At any rate, Stephen’s response had probably antagonized this volatile lord. According to The Book of Ely, which should be the best informed source on the subject, there was also a rebellion by Nigel, Bishop of Ely, before 1139, which the king put down. Nigel seems to have been involved in a northern plot involving the Scots, which he betrayed. The devious behaviour of Nigel underlines the wisdom of Stephen’s measures in 1139. It may also suggest a more widespread discontent in East Anglia, as in the west country; they were the two regions most consistently opposed to his rule. One notes that the narrations of most detail of sufferings in the period are found in East Anglian chronicles from Huntingdon and Peterborough. The cause of the regional discontent is quite possibly the most obvious; that it was a region suffering worse deprivations than others through natural and man-made causes.


There was also trouble for Stephen on the borders with both Wales and Scotland in the first years of his reign. This too was almost a traditional test for a new English monarch. There were raids over both borders. Stephen had mixed success in dealing with the two areas, but his actions in both cases determined certain positions of the local lords in the civil war, and are therefore important to our present concern.

The Welsh border was notoriously difficult to deal with. None of the kings since the conquest had really solved the problem, and none would completely, until Edward I at the end of the thirteenth century conquered the principality. William the Conqueror had established certain trusted lords on the marches, notably Roger of Montgomery, and given them greater powers of independent action than barons elsewhere. This policy had been followed ever since. These Norman lords had begun to take over areas in Wales under their own authority. One chronicler wrote of Wales, that ‘depopulations and depredations never cease’.11 Already therefore much of southern Wales was in the hands of Norman lords who operated without much reference to any overlord. But the independent Welsh were given to frequent raids across the border, destroying houses, killing people, capturing animals and taking plunder.12 They would then return to their own land. Retaliation was less effective, because of the problems of the Welsh countryside, and the Welsh custom of moving house from winter to summer lands. It was normally difficult, if not impossible, to bring the Welsh to battle. The usual consequence for the Norman lords and their kings was frustration. Both Rufus and Henry I had failed to achieve much against such methods. In 1095 Rufus lost men and horses in one expedition to Wales, and in 1097 failed to bring the enemy to book. Similarly in 1114 Henry I could get little satisfaction from his invasion. Stephen did no better, but probably no worse either. There were some minor defeats for Anglo-Norman forces in Wales, but these were almost certainly from the Welsh practice of ambushing armies, rather than from defeat in set battles. Under Stephen, as under previous kings, such advances as were made by the Normans in Wales were made by individual marcher lords on their own behalf.

At the very beginning of the new reign, and almost certainly from the action of marcher lords rather than Stephen, on 1 January 1136, the Worcester continuator says there was a battle in Wales in Gower in which 516 men were killed on either side. He does not say which side won, but it was probably a successful ambush by the Welsh. He says the bodies remained on the field and were left to the wolves. On 15 April, this time in what is described as an ambush, the Welsh, during a raid into English territory, caught and killed the Norman lord, Richard fitz Gilbert. The body was carried to Gloucester where it was buried. In the same year, in October, an English force was involved in another bloodletting, deeper into Wales, in Cardigan. Again the chronicler speaks of many deaths, but without specifying on which side.13 This must have been a force sent on a punitive expedition and probably by Stephen. The same chronicler suggests that the ‘English’ in 1137 had more success, when the Welsh suffered at the hands of Normans and Flemings, though the Flemings also suffered deaths, and Payn fitz John was killed and again buried in Gloucester. It reminds us that the west country barons often had a large interest on the nearby Welsh marches. Those in the area who opposed Stephen did not seem to do so because of any reaction to Stephen’s efforts or lack of them in Wales. So far as can be seen, they made progress with their own interests in much the same way as they had done for nearly a century past.

Stephen is generally accused of failure in Wales, but as pointed out already, it was similar to the failures of his predecessors, and in these cases early in the reign, the blame can hardly be laid against the king. Stephen’s attachment to the fitz Gilbert family stemmed from these disturbances, and they mainly remained loyal supporters. Richard fitz Gilbert’s brother Gilbert was made Earl of Pembroke in 1138, and a third brother, Baldwin, fought alongside Stephen at Lincoln and even made the battle speech for the king. Stephen in these years was winning loyal support as well as making enemies. Once the civil war began, Stephen was unable to take action in Wales, since his routes there were blocked by the swathe of Angevin territory in the west country. But men like Robert of Gloucester did not allow their interests to be neglected, and even made new gains.


Much the same might be said of the Scottish border, where, however, Stephen had more obvious success. David, King of Scots, raided over the border into England almost straight away, at Christmas 1135. He captured five towns in Northumbria: Carlisle, Wark, Alnwick, Norham and Newcastle, but failed to take Bamborough. He was probably surprised by the speed of Stephen’s response. The Scots had arrived before Durham, which they proceeded to besiege. The English king gathered a force together quickly and rode north. When David knew of this, he abandoned further aggression and made terms.

King David seems to have been one of the few early in Stephen’s reign who acted overtly in favour of the Empress Matilda: ‘he received from the chiefs and nobles of that locality vows and pledges of fidelity to his niece’.14 He was the brother of Edith-Matilda, the Empress Matilda’s mother. One notes that by the time of the Battle of the Standard, the king was advised by men who had fled from Stephen in England, including Eustace fitz John, who had taken with him control of the castles of Alnwick and Malton. By the Treaty of Durham of 1136, Stephen confirmed David’s son, Henry, as Earl of Huntingdon, and gave him Carlisle and Doncaster. The other captured towns were restored to Stephen. David was married to the daughter of the English Earl, Waltheof, which gave him the claim to Huntingdon.

Prince Henry of Scots now joined Stephen’s court and was present at the important Easter session, and later in London. Some English nobles were angered by the favour shown to the Scots, and later David ordered his son home after insults had been offered him. But Stephen’s first encounter with the Scots had shown firm military action, and a restrained statesmanlike settlement.

David showed little gratitude for the generous settlement. He pursued the typical raiding policy of the Scots into the border lands, which were not yet firmly attached to either kingdom. He invaded no less than three times in 1138. English chroniclers show the current national hatred for the raiders. Atrocities real or imagined are retailed in minute detail: the ripping open of pregnant women, the tossing of children’s bodies on the points of spears, the killing of priests, the rape of matrons and virgins.15

To face the third invasion of late July, with Stephen occupied in the south, a northern army was raised. It was called into being by Thurstan, the ageing Archbishop of York, and led by a group of northern nobles including Walter Espec, ‘an aged man full of days … huge, with black hair, bushy beard, large eyes, and a voice like a trumpet’.16 Before the battle the northern English army was joined by a force of household knights sent by the king and led by Bernard of Balliol. Forces also arrived from the midlands, from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, with Geoffrey Halsalin, Robert Ferrers and William Peverel. The English army took with it an Italian-style carroccio, a cart with a large pole fixed to it. To the pole, which was a ship’s mast, were attached the relevant banners of the northern churches, and at the top a shining silver pyx containing the host. It would be a rallying point in the battle, and was also a good propaganda symbol; the English were fighting for the church, indeed the archbishop had organized parish priests to lead their flocks to the fray. But this should not be allowed to give a false impression. There were local levies, but the English force contained the best trained forces of the day, mounted knights and trained archers, and proved better disciplined in the battle than their opponents.

The morning of 22 August saw a thick fog covering the low hills on the broad plain north of Northallerton, just east of the modern A167 where the battle monument is not quite accurately placed. The Cistercian monk Ailred, from nearby Rievaulx, gives a good balanced account of the battle which ensued. The patron of his monastery, Walter Espec, was one of the English commanders, but Ailred had also lived for a time at the court of the King of Scots and therefore had divided loyalties. According to him the Scottish force was larger. As they approached each other through the fog, the Scots to some extent panicked. Perhaps the king’s prestige had been dented by a recent scandal involving him with ‘a certain woman’.17 David had a sensible plan of battle, but when the tough Galwegians claimed it was their right to be in the van, he changed his mind and let them have their way. It was a serious error.


The Battle of the Standard, 22 August 1138. This is based on the proposition that Red Hill rather than Standard Hill was the rallying point for the English army.

The English army formed a defensive position on the slopes of a hill, and a battle speech was made by one of the leaders from this hill. But the battle was fought on the mainly flat land which dominates the area.18 We do not know who, if anyone, had command of the English force, but they were arrayed in an interesting and perhaps novel fashion. Given the shrewdness and awareness of current tactics, one might suggest the leader of the household force, Bernard of Balliol, as the mind behind the formation. Ailred emphasizes the role of Walter Espec, while Orderic suggests that William of Aumale, soon to be rewarded by Stephen with the earldom of York, was the commander. William was to be a loyal supporter of Stephen.19

It had already become customary in the armies of the preceding reign for English and Norman armies to dismount a considerable proportion of their mounted knights to fight on foot in battle.20 Here though, they seem to have been used in a different manner, interspersed with archers. It is possible that this was the way they had been used at Tinchebrai, Brémule and Bourg-Théroulde, but although dismounted knights were used in all those battles, and archers were certainly evident in the last two, the descriptions do not suggest exactly the same formation as at the Standard. Here they seem to have formed a front line across the field, though quite how the mixing was organized we cannot know. It is a pattern remarkably like that used by English forces much later on in the Hundred Years War. We should also understand that the bows at the Standard were almost certainly what we know as longbows. Given the composition of this particular army, it is not likely that they were primarily crossbowmen; they were most probably northern English levies. The planning of the English formation has further evidence of shrewdness. The standard on the carroccio, as suggested, made a good tactical point in the battle, and a good morale booster. It was not a novel idea, but so far as we know it had never been used in England before, and was not used again. It had been employed on the continent, and seems to have had an Italian origin. Why it appears in this particular battle is a mystery. The third point about the English force is its use of a tactical reserve. The horses of the dismounted knights were led to the rear, away from the battle, so they would not be disturbed by the noise and killing. But some men were still retained on horseback. This gave the force more than simply defensive power.21

With their recently altered battle plan put into effect, the Galwegians opened the battle by recklessly charging on foot against the English. It was an ill-disciplined infantry attack by less well-armed troops, and it proved disastrous. Men fell as they ran, hit by the archers confronting them in the English front line, so that they were ‘destroyed by arrows’.22 The Lothian chieftains were cut down. Their men fled ‘like hedgehogs with spines, so were the Galwegians with arrows’.23 Too late the king tried to emulate the English tactics by ordering the knights with him to dismount and halt the English; they could not turn the tide. Prince Henry of Scots did lead a flanking cavalry charge, but it proved a forlorn hope. They were beaten off. The battle had lasted a mere two hours. Only the infantry van of the English force had really been called upon to fight, except that the English cavalry may have played a part in holding off Henry, and certainly engaged in the pursuit. In any event the English tactics had succeeded brilliantly.

There is a tradition that the bodies of the dead Scots were buried on the field, and there is a modern track called Scotpits Lane. It is said that buried weapons have been found there. When I visited the battlefield with a group of students, we met an elderly local man who claimed that the story of findings was true. If the tradition is correct, it poses a problem for siting the battle, which is normally said to have occurred on the small hill just north of Standard Hill Farm, while Scotpits Lane is to the south. One would expect to find Scots killed on the field to be north of the hill, and further to the north beyond that if killed during the flight. It is just possible that the bodies of some of Prince Henry’s cavalry had fallen in the southern position and were buried there. But another possibility is that our tradition of the battle site is incorrect, and that the hill used in the battle was the slightly more southerly Red Hill, in which case Scotpits Lane could well mark the position where Scots died as they attacked the English line, or as they turned to flee. This also fits better with the distance from Northallerton of 2 miles, given by Richard of Hexham.24 Of the possibilities the second seems slightly to be preferred, but one always recognizes that any such tradition as that attached to Scotpits Lane or to Standard Hill Farm might be inaccurate.

The Battle of the Standard was a great success for the northern English. It was also a great relief to Stephen. From his point of view, his own absence from the field was a loss, as his prestige would surely have been much increased had he commanded such a victory. True he had sent the force under Bernard Balliol and thus played some part in the battle, but it did not have the same cachet as a personal part in the victory.

Nevertheless, the effects of the Standard were important on the formation of sides in the civil war. Following the victory, Stephen again showed his statesmanship in the settlement made with the Scots. As so often with Stephen, his best moves have been damned by historians. In this case he is condemned for his leniency in the second Treaty of Durham, of 1139, for not giving Carlisle to Ranulf, Earl of Chester. The earl did have a claim to the place, and obviously felt very strongly about it, but Stephen’s decision had much to recommend it. Ranulf’s claim in the first place was not watertight, and had already been turned down by Henry I. The claims of the Scots were stronger. In any case the king had to consider the settlement in a broader context. Stephen sought a permanent settlement, and the Scots were more likely to accept a long-term arrangement that was not vindictive. Therefore, despite the raid and the battle, Henry of Scots was confirmed as Earl of Huntingdon, and of Northumbria, including Lancashire north of the Ribble. This was sensible rather than weak; recognizing good Scottish claims to hold the areas, but stipulating that they were held from the English crown and would retain their English law. The barons of these areas were to do homage to Prince Henry, but saving their fealty to the English king. Stephen also demanded four hostages. He did make some alterations to the previous settlement, keeping Newcastle as well as Bamborough, and dividing the former earldom of Huntingdon. This latter was another statesmanlike move, intended to mollify Simon de Senlis who had a claim to the Huntingdon earldom. What was separated off were the lands of Northampton, of which Simon was made earl. It is odd how the successes are ignored. Simon remained loyal to Stephen for life, and proved there was wisdom in Stephen’s settlement.

In the event the settlement did not achieve all that Stephen hoped, but it was surely a commendable attempt to make a sound border peace. One is more inclined to blame David for not keeping to the new settlement. One cannot even give him the excuse of close kinship to the Empress Matilda as justification, though this is often done. He was in fact uncle to Stephen’s Queen Matilda as well as to the empress. He would later again link forces with the Angevins, particularly as the empress’ young son grew towards maturity. Nevertheless, the Scottish king was barely concerned in English events for several years, and through the whole of the reign the threat from north of the border was much diminished.

However, it remains true that Ranulf, Earl of Chester, was angered by the settlement and it drove him to oppose the king. Ranulf de Gernons (the mustachioed) was a vitriolic individual. He moved gradually into the Angevin fold, but was never greatly trusted there either. The springs of his attitude were his personal and family lands. He had never forgiven Henry I for taking the lordship of Cumberland and Carlisle from his father in 1120, even though on the reasonable grounds of rebellion against the king, and even though Henry I had restored the valuable earldom of Chester to him. Davis assumes that had Stephen given Carlisle to Ranulf all would have been well, and he would have fought for the king ‘with his life’. 25 It is unlikely that the temperamental earl would have stayed loyal for long to anyone, and such a move would have certainly antagonized the Scots, and almost certainly have caused greater conflict with them than was to be the case. For Stephen it was hardly an easy decision, but in the circumstances he had made the right choice, though its consequences were not as he hoped. Nevertheless, even if David proved an unreliable ally, and even if Ranulf eventually turned away from him, the Battle of the Standard had been an important success. Most of the northern barons in England would remain on Stephen’s side through the English war, and appreciated the regime which had brought one of the greatest English military victories against the old enemy, and something akin to peace to a very troubled frontier.


The other major border problem of the early part of Stephen’s reign was in the end probably the most vital. This was the conflict between Normandy and the territories commanded by Matilda’s husband, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. Geoffrey was still a young man, born in 1113, and was vigorous and ambitious. His father’s conquest of Maine, long a bone of contention with the Normans, had brought the Angevins to the Norman border.

The marriage to Matilda, the Angevins hoped, would bring control of Normandy to the house of the Plantagenets. Henry I had promised several castles on the southern Norman border as the empress’ dowry, but had refused to give them up while he lived. This, not surprisingly, had annoyed Geoffrey, who first demanded them, then sought to take them by force. In the last year of Henry I’s life, it had led to a border war between the king and his son-in-law, and this time Matilda had sided with her husband.

On Henry’s death, Matilda had not made a strong effort to gain England, but Geoffrey had made sure of his Norman castles, which from then onwards he strongly garrisoned. Probably Geoffrey calculated that gradually he would need to take a firm grip on individual Norman strongholds, and win over the hearts of their masters, before he could hope to rule Normandy. Such an explanation makes sense of the relative inactivity in 1135. The few castles he claimed and took, were to be the base for a remarkable effort at the conquest of the duchy over the next decade. He also gained the support of William Talvas, together with his castles, since the Bellême lands which William claimed for himself had been given to Stephen by Henry I. But at first Geoffrey’s hopes of success did not appear to be high. Even without Stephen’s assistance, the Norman lords seemed easily able to stop the Angevin.

On 21 September 1136 Geoffrey crossed the River Sarthe and entered Normandy. The war he had started against Henry I in 1134 would continue against his successor Stephen. Accompanying him was a large force, including William Talvas, William, Duke of Aquitaine, Geoffrey of Vendôme, and William, son of the Count of Nevers. They besieged Carrouges, which was taken in three days. Écouché was burned and destroyed, so that its inhabitants fled from the flames. At Asnebec, Robert of Neubourg made terms with Geoffrey and surrendered the castle. Geoffrey approached the castle at Montreuil, which Richard Basset had newly fortified with stone walls. The invaders attacked but failed to break in, and had to abandon the attempt. But at Les Moutiers-Hubert Geoffrey was again successful against the castellan, Paynel, who was defeated in a fight and captured along with his castle. Painel and thirty other captive knights were ransomed for a good profit.


Normandy in the twelfth century.

As the invading force advanced on Lisieux, the Normans, on Stephen’s behalf, sought to halt them with a hastily gathered army. Additional defenders were thrown into Lisieux under the command of Alan of Penthièvre. Waleran of Beaumont, Count of Meulan, led the field army to face the enemy. Orderic says that when the Angevins approached, the garrison at Lisieux, and especially the newly arrived ‘Bretons’ panicked and burnt the town.26 It seems more likely that it was done deliberately to deny its provisions and shelter to the invader. Orderic somewhat illogically continues in praise of Norman courage at being prepared to destroy their own town rather than ‘bowing their necks to the yoke of foreign dominion’.

Geoffrey turned aside from Lisieux and went instead to Le Sap, where he attempted to capture the castle. Orderic says the place was named after a tall silver fir tree which had once stood near the church in the village. Fires were started by both sides, and in the confusion that same village church of Saint Peter was burnt down. The castle was stormed, and the garrison overwhelmed.

But the thirteen-day campaign, successful to this point, had been wearing. The invaders had faced constant harassment from the local people. The Angevins were accused of committing atrocities, attacking priests and churches, but in their turn were sniped at and sometimes killed. Orderic admits that Geoffrey tried to restrict the damage, and forbade the desecration of holy objects, but says that he could not keep his men in order. Then on 1 October Geoffrey himself was wounded at Le Sap, when a javelin thrown at him pierced his right foot. It was ironic that it occurred on the very day that his wife, the Empress Matilda, arrived with reinforcements. At dawn the next day, badly wounded, Geoffrey decided to return home.

Such a raid inevitably required that the invaders should live off the land. The Angevins had killed flocks and herds, and eaten the meat half cooked or raw, and without salt or bread. There was plenty of food from the harvest, but not enough cooks who knew how to prepare it properly. Also, it may have been plentiful, but it provided an unbalanced diet. The consequence was the common plague of medieval armies, dysentery. The result is best described in Orderic’s vivid account:

as a result of carelessly devouring uncooked food after desecrating consecrated buildings, by God’s just judgement almost all suffered from dysentery; plagued by diarrhoea, they left a trail of filth behind and many were barely capable of dragging themselves back home.

The Normans made some efforts to attack the retreating Angevins, who were presumably easy to trail. But the Normans were surprised by the speed of the march, which shows a disciplined retreat rather than the humiliating flight at which Orderic hints. A few knights tried to block the crossing of the Don, but failed, though they did take some captives and some of the baggage train. The campaign had generally been a success for Geoffrey, and one must not be misled by Orderic’s distortions, though his picture of the ailing Geoffrey catches the final miserable stages of the expedition ‘carried home pale and groaning, lying in a litter’, his baggage with his robes of state and precious vessels stolen along the way.

Normandy seems to have suffered more painfully, and for a longer time, from the death of Henry I than England. Probably the duchy had been less securely governed in any case. Henry’s rule may have brought peace to England through his last years, but it had seen almost constant warfare in Normandy. Geoffrey’s invasion and devastation had done damage to the districts he had traversed. Some Norman lords had taken matters into their own hands; and at least two, William Talvas and Roger of Tosny, had seen their lands put under an interdict for acts against the church. The year 1137 also proved to be one of drought, with a water shortage.27 It was certainly time for Stephen to intervene and restore ducal authority. Towards the end of March 1137 Stephen crossed to Normandy, landing at Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue. It may sound a long time, but in effect Stephen had taken a year to settle his English realm, not an unconscionable age, and prepare for a major Norman expedition, which was not an unreasonable amount of time.

Now Stephen raised a force, including chiefly Flemish mercenaries. He hoped to settle his relationship with Louis VI, King of France, and with his own brother, Theobald, Count of Blois. He also, of course, had to deal with Geoffrey of Anjou. One good sign was that Geoffrey’s ally during the 1136 invasion, William of Aquitaine, had undergone a change of heart. He had made terms with the King of France, arranging for his daughter Eleanor to marry Louis le Jeune, the son and heir of Louis VI. He then undertook a pilgrimage to Compostella where he died. Geoffrey had lost one important ally.

Following the itinerary of Stephen given by Robert of Torigny, which is preferable to that given by Orderic Vitalis, though the latter has generally been adopted by historians, we see Stephen undertaking several other tasks before attempting to engage with Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.28 The king’s first effort was to deal with rebellion by Rabel de Tancarville. Three strongholds belonging to the baron were attacked and taken: Lillebonne, Villers-Chambellan and Mézidon. Another rebel, described by Orderic as a brigand, was Roger le Bègue, in the Évreçin. Stephen attacked his castle at Grossoeuvre, and forced it to surrender, so ‘the region enjoyed peace for a little while after great oppression’.29 Others soon showed themselves ready to make their peace with him. Next to do so was his brother Theobald, whom he met at Évreux. The latter had harboured resentment over losing Normandy to his younger brother, but the two now met, and Stephen promised him a pension from his English revenues if Theobald would agree to give up any claim he had, and recognize his brother. Theobald accepted these terms.

Stephen then sought to make an agreement with the old King of France, Louis VI. They had a meeting on the Norman border, and it was agreed that Stephen’s son Eustace should do homage to Louis for the duchy. Stephen was now officially recognized by Normandy’s suzerain, and his position in the duchy seemed unassailable. In quick time, Stephen had settled two major relationships in a manner favourable to himself.

The expedition looked well on the way to being a triumphal success. But Geoffrey of Anjou was less tractable. Indeed, in 1137 he once again invaded Normandy, and it looked as if battle might determine their respective claims. However, while Stephen had been making the above arrangements, trouble had already been brewing between his own people. His chief military lieutenant was the Flemish noble, William of Ypres, and Flemish mercenaries made up a good proportion of the force brought from England. The Flemings, and probably the pretensions of William of Ypres in particular, seem to have irritated the Normans. The Norman nobility expected to be given priority at the duke’s court over an illegitimate Fleming and his mercenary following. Throughout the campaign there was bad feeling between the two groups. Some of the local nobility just packed up and went home.

We have reports of two incidents which fuelled a more serious break. The first, which we have already examined, saw Robert of Gloucester, probably contemplating desertion, being ambushed on the orders of William of Ypres. Robert escaped and for a time brooded over his future action. The second incident, which may have been related, saw a brawl between the Norman and Flemish troops which broke up the army.

Geoffrey of Anjou had come into Normandy in May 1137 with an even greater force in May, obviously meaning to provoke Stephen. He brought devastation to the Hiémois, and fired Bazoches-au-Houlme, where sixteen people sheltering in the church were burnt to death. Monasteries agreed to pay protection money to the Angevins to prevent themselves suffering a similar fate – which sounds not unlike the tenserie levied in England by individual barons later during the wars. With the king engaged in negotiation, William of Ypres had sought battle, but lacking support from the Normans, had turned back to join the king. Stephen was still attempting to win over Norman support, and had success at least with Rabel de Tancarville, Rotrou of Mortagne and Richer de l’Aigle.

Stephen still aimed to bring Geoffrey to battle and now moved southwards to Lisieux where he assembled his force again, ready to besiege one of the castles which Geoffrey had taken over, and where he hoped to bring the Count of Anjou himself. It was at this moment that the incident of the brawl occurred at Livarot, near Lisieux. For some reason one of the Flemings made off with a barrel of wine which belonged to a squire of the Norman lord, Hugh of Gournay.30 It was spark enough to fire the scarcely suppressed hostility between the Normans and the Flemings. There was a violent brawl in which men on both sides were killed. Various of the Norman nobles took this as sufficient excuse to collect their men and leave without a word to the king. Stephen of course was furious. He chased after them as far as Pont-Audemer and did persuade some to return to the army, including Hugh of Gournay and some other ‘hot-headed youths’. 31 But although he restored some sort of order, Stephen had to abandon the idea of a battle. How many men he had lost is not clear, but in any case he could hardly rely on the divided army. Given this situation, he made the best of it he could. There were negotiations with Geoffrey of Anjou, and a three-year truce was agreed, with Stephen to pay a pension to the count.32

The conclusion of the Norman expedition was disappointing, but by no means disastrous. Before leaving, Stephen dealt with further disturbers of the peace in the duchy. He destroyed the troublesome castle at Guitry in the Vexin, and caused the death of another troublemaker in Richard Silvanus in the Avranchin. This shows that during his visit, Stephen moved about widely, seeking to restore order; he was ‘extremely active and vigorous’ throughout the campaign.33 Stephen had made good terms with the King of France, and had reconciled his brother. As for the Angevin threat, the truce simply delayed any final outcome, but Geoffrey did not seem to have made much progress in 1137. Stephen’s arrival in Normandy had prevented the second invasion having as great a success even as the first. Geoffrey in two years had made a little progress, but not much beyond his initial base. Nor was he to make much for years yet to come. Stephen did not come back to Normandy, but until 1141, his position was well defended by those he appointed to the task, including William de Roumare, Roger of the Cotentin, and Waleran of Beaumont. Any threat for Stephen from France seemed further diminished when Louis VI died in the summer of 1137, leaving his mild mannered son to succeed as Louis VII, under the tutelage of Stephen’s brother Theobald. Through the rest of the reign Stephen would generally have the support of Louis VII against the Plantagenets. But the events in Normandy had begun to draw a line between opposing elements. Stephen had brought some sort of order, but what had occurred confirmed that the worst threat came from Geoffrey of Anjou, and those who opposed Stephen in Normandy were Geoffrey’s natural allies. The expedition had shown that if the Normans had little liking for Geoffrey of Anjou, they also felt little loyalty towards Stephen of Blois.


It was only when Robert of Gloucester made his defiance that Matilda’s support in England became clear, but those who then joined her cause had for the most part been already inclined towards her for her father’s sake, or had been alienated by the actions of Stephen in the early part of his reign. There were two main strands to the support: a personal support for those who were to remain loyal to her, and a support which depended largely on Robert of Gloucester’s affinity, whose ties to the earl brought them inevitably on to the side he supported in the war. Some of course fell into both categories. Outside of England there was also the important inclination towards her cause of her uncle, David, King of Scots, but for the time being that was not a very active support.

In England, initially, there were really only three great men who sided with Matilda, and an interesting trio they make. Robert of Gloucester’s position we have already discussed. He was perhaps the eldest of Henry I’s illegitimate sons, known first as Robert of Caen, or sometimes Robert fitz Roy. His mother may have been Sibyl, the daughter of a citizen of Caen. He had been made Earl of Gloucester by his father in 1120, on marrying the heiress Mabel, daughter of Robert fitz Hamon who was holder of the honor of Gloucester, becoming probably the wealthiest of all the English nobility. He also held considerable estates in southern Wales and western Normandy. There seems to have been mutual love and respect between father and son, and Robert did better than most bastards. He was strongly attached to Henry I, and was present at his father’s death. He is generally seen as a worthy man of his age, though his self-interest has become clearer more recently, and the rose-tinted view of his chronicler, William of Malmesbury, is more apparent. Even so, once he had committed himself to his half sister, his loyalty and devotion were admirable. And it is worth pointing out that, however biased, William of Malmesbury was one of our greatest historians, and he could admire Robert as his ‘well-beloved lord’.34

The other two, who would be loyal to Matilda throughout their lives were Miles of Gloucester and Brian fitz Count. Both had connections with Earl Robert, but both probably took their position from a loyalty to her in person. Brian fitz Count was also probably illegitimate, the son of Alan IV Fergant, Duke of Brittany. He was distantly related to the empress. He was an able and literate man, who corresponded with such as Gilbert Foliot and Henry of Blois. He even wrote a work justifying his actions in support of the empress, reported but unfortunately now lost.35 His fortune had been made by Henry I, who gave him in marriage the heiress, Matilda of Wallingford.36 Like several of the Empress Matilda’s supporters he had interests in Wales, being Lord of Abergavenny, as well as holding the honor of Wallingford in Berkshire. In May 1127 Brian and Earl Robert had escorted Matilda on her journey to Rouen in preparation for her marriage to Geoffrey, and it is tempting to think of their long-term alliance being forged on that occasion. There were some hints that Brian’s feelings for Matilda went beyond those of a loyal subject, but any embroidery of this suggestion can only be fictional. There is, though, a charter of Matilda referring to ‘the love and lawful service’ of Brian.37 So far as one can see, Brian had accepted Stephen’s accession, but was ready to join Matilda as soon as she made any move to claim her rights.

The third of the group was Miles of Gloucester. His motives are hidden from us. If anything one might have expected him to stay with Stephen, though like the others he owed a debt in his rise to prominence to the old king, Henry I. Stephen, so far as we know, had done nothing at all to antagonize Miles. Indeed, the reverse was true. Miles had done very well from Stephen and had every reason to be grateful. He continued, as his father had done, to act as sheriff of Gloucester. His possessions in Brecknock, Hereford and Gloucester were confirmed and he was given Gloucester Castle to hold, perhaps in the hope that he would prove a counter to Robert. In a dispute, Stephen favoured Miles and his son at the expense of Gilbert de Lacy and Geoffrey Talbot. In 1138 Miles acted as welcoming host to Stephen in Gloucester, and he had also been of military assistance to Stephen, notably at Shrewsbury. His position in relation to Robert of Gloucester was ambivalent. As castellan of Gloucester Castle he could be seen as a natural rival to Robert as much as an ally. He was powerful enough not to be forced into joining Matilda against his will, and cannot be seen therefore as simply being obliged to follow where Robert took the lead. Nor, so far as we can see, did Miles have any particular attachment to Matilda, though his initial rise had certainly been thanks to her father, and as we have seen he had been chosen as one of the men to escort her for her wedding. The Gesta Stephani says that Miles was ‘unquestioning in his loyalty to King Henry’s children’. After Matilda’s arrival in England, she spent most of her time at Gloucester under Miles’ protection.38

Whatever the reason, an attachment to Matilda existed. Miles, like Brian, had surely been in contact with Robert of Gloucester before Matilda arrived in 1139. We can take William of Malmesbury’s word for it, that Robert had been doing some secret canvassing before he made his move. He knew that he could expect help from certain quarters. His immediate actions on arrival in England in 1139, show that he anticipated the assistance of both Brian and Miles. The implication is that they had conspired in advance of Robert’s open declaration, and together had prepared plans of action. The Worcester continuator does indeed refer to such a connection, saying that Miles and Robert had conspired to invite the empress to England, though he is surely incorrect in stating that Miles made any open declaration at this time.39 Robert had not moved blindly and spontaneously. We may suspect that the plan was for Robert to bring Matilda to England, and then the others would come into the open, as indeed happened. Davis suggests that Miles may only have made up his mind to support Matilda because of the arrest of the bishops in 1139, but he had no particular connection to any of the bishops and was not an outstandingly religious man. A likely explanation is that Matilda, Robert, Brian and Miles respected each other and had bonded together in a determination to oust Stephen.40

Miles was perhaps the most able military leader of the trio, all of whom were good commanders. He was intelligent and decisive in his acts. The probability is that Robert of Gloucester knew his man and made efforts to ensure that Miles ended on the right side. This sort of persuasion is suggested by the later apparently unsolicited act of Brian fitz Count, who in return for Miles’ aid at Wallingford, made a gift to him of his lordship in Wales, a highly unusual act in this period. It looks as if Robert and Brian were both desperately keen to make sure that Miles stayed in the imperial camp. All three of these supporters of Matilda held considerable lands in Wales, which gave another strong motive for acting together.

At the opening of the war, Matilda’s support consisted of little more than these three men and their followings, though there were others in rebellion against Stephen for their own reasons, who would naturally side with Matilda, as well as men who were still uncertain which way to jump. Matilda’s support was relatively small, confined mainly to a group of barons whose chief holdings were in the west country and Wales. But they had the advantage of making a geographically compact group for military operations, and the perhaps greater advantage of being exceptionally able military leaders. Matilda was fortunate at least in the quality of the men she had attracted to her side.


Stephen apparently had a much broader support. He had the advantage of being the anointed and crowned king. Therefore, military action against him was rebellion; legally and morally unacceptable. But as war approached, men asked themselves narrower questions about their loyalties. There were many who hesitated to oppose a king, but who were not especially eager to fight for him either. Stephen, like Matilda, in the end, would have to rely on those who were really committed to his cause. More men stayed at Stephen’s court than joined the empress, but unlike her, he could be less sure in those around him – which of them were to be trusted.

As the reign progressed, certain men came to the fore in the royal circle as being especially favoured and trusted by the king. Stephen also worked to establish a rather different network of control to that of Henry I. Stephen’s preference was for placing great responsibility on the leading magnates. He did promote men, but he relied chiefly on top ranks of the existing nobility. Under Stephen there were not the type of ‘new men’ favoured by Henry I, often nobles but of small standing previously. The number of new creations of earls made by him, clarifies this policy. There has been some debate over the real strength of some of his appointments – were they really all earls or were some only given county territories? The likelihood seems to be that they were truly intended to be powerful men in their own regions, and that included being powerful militarily. Of course in some areas where he failed to establish full power his appointees failed to establish their authority too. But it is probably fair to say over all that Stephen’s earls were the backbone of his support. These men were all of existing high rank, though some had not previously held earldoms.

However, in the war which followed, Stephen’s chief military lieutenant was not an earl, but William of Ypres. William was, though, Earl of Kent in all but name. It is uncertain why he was not created an earl; perhaps because he was an outsider and virtually a mercenary, perhaps because it was felt the creation would antagonize the Count of Flanders. William of Ypres was to remain in something of an exceptional position throughout the reign. As an illegitimate descendant of the Counts of Flanders, son of Philip of Ypres and grandson of Count Robert the Frisian, he had twice sought to become Count of Flanders himself, and twice failed, during the period which saw the fall of one dynasty of counts and the rise of another. He had been imprisoned for a while, released and forced into exile in 1133, and became a captain in the employ of Stephen. His position as trusted adviser of the king made him an object of jealousy and scorn, and he seems to have aroused particularly strong feelings as we have already seen in Normandy. But he was an experienced and able military commander, a man of high noble rank in Flanders, and one of Stephen’s most loyal supporters.

At the heart of the new regime was a noble family which Stephen much favoured, and who like William of Ypres, aroused resentment and jealousy. These were the Beaumonts: the twin sons of Robert, Count of Meulan, and their relatives.41 Count Robert had been a faithful servant, almost a friend, of Henry I, and had become a wealthy and powerful baron in his own right. His broad estates were divided, when his twin sons came of age, the English section in the main going to Robert who became Earl of Leicester, the Norman part to Waleran, who succeeded to his father’s title as Count of Meulan. Their younger brother, Hugh, became Earl of Bedford through Stephen in 1137, while their cousin Roger had been Earl of Warwick since 1119. Gilbert of Clare, made Earl of Pembroke by Stephen in 1138, was their brother-in-law. A number of other relatives also held important posts in the church in England and Normandy. Although already holding a great deal of land, the Beaumonts still owed a debt to Stephen for various appointments and gifts, including the earldom of Worcester to Waleran, probably in 1138. The twins’ mother had remarried, to William of Warenne, Earl of Surrey, and her child by the new marriage became William III, Earl of Surrey.

They proved, at first, enthusiastic supporters of Stephen. Waleran had once, as a young man, rebelled against Henry I and fought a losing battle against the king’s men at Bourg-Théroulde. He had been defeated, captured and imprisoned, and though later released, could never have been entirely trusted by Henry I. He threw himself into supporting the new king. The twins gave invaluable aid to Stephen in the first years. Robert’s loyalty in the end outlasted Waleran’s, though from neither of them did it outlast the reign. But in the period before the civil war began, the Beaumonts seemed the mainstay of the regime, to such an extent that many believed they had undue influence over Stephen. It is clear that their position was resented by others, who felt the Beaumonts were usurping their own position, including Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the richest English magnate, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, the head of Henry I’s English administration, and probably Henry of Blois, the king’s brother. The English and Norman nobles who gave Stephen his central support proved to have less military ability than those supporting Matilda. Stephen’s war in England was conducted primarily by himself and William of Ypres, though others carried on the defence of Normandy, including Count Waleran.

At first the leading ecclesiastics in England, and the leading administrators, gave the king their services, but in few cases was this from outright loyalty. William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, who had crowned Stephen, only lived until 1136. The election that then occurred caused difficulties for Stephen. It is thought that his brother, Henry of Blois, desired the archbishopric. The election was delayed for some time. In the end it took place without Henry being present. This has generally been presented as a deliberate ploy to get him out of the way while it occurred. This view seems doubtful. Had Stephen ever attempted to get his brother elected as archbishop, there would certainly have been an outcry, and it is unlikely that the papacy would have approved. The election which took place in 1139 was perfectly proper, in the presence of the papal legate Alberic of Ostia, who outranked any churchman then in England and whose views must have been predominant in the procedure followed. An excellent candidate was chosen in Theobald, Abbot of Bec. The election was at Westminster, and Henry of Blois was only at Saint Paul’s nearby. To claim that the abbot of the prestigious house of Bec, which had already produced two great Archbishops of Canterbury in Lanfranc and Anselm, was a nonentity and unworthy is just ridiculous.42 It would be difficult to find a more deserving candidate, and he was undoubtedly a better choice than Henry of Blois in the circumstances. If Henry nevertheless resented his exclusion, as he may have done, the fault is with him and his ambitions. Henry’s actions in due course would demonstrate less than wholehearted support of his brother, though this did not become entirely apparent until after the arrest of the bishops.


Stephen’s standing in the church was to be greatly diminished by his action in 1139 of arresting three of the English bishops; those of Salisbury, Ely and Lincoln. We are moving towards the opening of the war, and this was an event which very much helped to draw the lines for that conflict. The three bishops were virtually in control of Henry I’s administration by the time of that king’s death. Their adherence to Stephen in 1135 was vital, but their loyalty thereafter was open to question. Many at the time saw them as overpowerful, and even William of Malmesbury, no friend of Stephen, thought that in 1139 they got what they deserved.

This is not a case where one can determine finally rights and wrongs. We shall never know for certain how far the bishops had involved themselves in the conspiracy of Robert of Gloucester, but Stephen certainly believed they were so far in that they constituted a serious danger. The Gesta Stephani, whose author was either a bishop or close to one, seems to accept that the suspicion is correct, and writes that Roger ‘was suspected of betraying his king and lord, and giving support to the Angevin party’.43 His action against them, therefore, had the intention of gaining control of the valuable castles they held between them. He afterwards claimed that he acted against them as holders of castles and not as bishops. He won his case to the extent that the papacy never took direct action against him over the matter.

The leader of the bishops was Roger, Bishop of Salisbury. He had long been a valuable servant to Henry I. In his earlier career he had been a poor priest at Caen in Normandy. It was said he had first come to the king’s attention when Prince Henry was campaigning in Normandy, and had turned aside for mass at the church where Roger was priest, and the latter had shown how quickly he could get through the service so that Henry could continue with his hunting: ‘they claimed that a more suitable chaplain for military men could not be found’. He was then taken on in the prince’s entourage, and ‘although he was practically unlettered, he nevertheless so shrewdly managed things by his natural astuteness, that within a short time he became dear to his master and conducted his most confidential affairs’.44 Other evidence associates him as a priest with Avranches in western Normandy. He soon became Henry’s chancellor, benefiting from his master’s rise to the royal throne, and was made Bishop of Salisbury in 1101. During the king’s absences in Normandy, Roger was at times responsible for the government of England, acting as a viceroy. Roger was certainly one of those rather worldly clerics whose abilities lay in efficient administration rather than spiritual example. We know that in 1139 he had a mistress, Matilda of Ramsbury, who was holding Devizes Castle in his name. The bishop also had an illegitimate son, Roger, by Matilda of Ramsbury, who was employed within the administration as a chancellor. He is called Roger the Poor, though the reason for the nickname is not known. From his age it seems likely that he was conceived after Roger became a bishop. It is possible they had a second son, called Adelelm, who was also a royal servant as a treasurer.45 Both Roger the Poor and Adelelm were given archdeaconries in Salisbury, so Bishop Roger was guilty of yet another ecclesiastical abuse, that of nepotism.

The two other bishops involved in the 1139 incident were also relatives of Bishop Roger; his nephews Nigel and Alexander. The word nephew in the twelfth century was often a euphemism for son, but in this case they probably were genuinely nephews, the sons of the bishop’s brother, Humphrey. They had both been excellently educated, and had attended the cathedral school at Laon. They also benefited from the patronage of their uncle, both gaining archdeaconries in Salisbury, before going on to their bishoprics. Alexander became bishop of the large and wealthy see of Lincoln in 1123, and Nigel, having been a royal treasurer, was then appointed to the bishopric of Ely in 1133. Nigel is also thought to have been the author of the work known as the Constitutio Domus Regis(The Composition of the Royal Household), written probably early in Stephen’s reign. To complete the circle of this amazing family group, we must mention Bishop Nigel’s son, Richard fitz Nigel, who also became a treasurer, and Bishop of London, and was author of the famous Dialogus de Scaccario (Dialogue of the Exchequer).46

Stephen inherited the services of this powerful family group. They virtually ran the English administration, and had enriched themselves further during Henry I’s reign, possessing between them great wealth, and some of the most important castles in the country, including Sherborne, Devizes, Malmesbury, Salisbury, Ely, Sleaford and Newark. Although Henry I had received good service from the group, there is the possibility of some change in Bishop Roger’s standing, and he may have lost something of his apparently unassailable position. One could also suggest that Henry I was mistaken in allowing such a tight-knit group so much power at the head of affairs. It certainly posed a serious problem for his successor. Stephen had not the same reasons to receive their gratitude, and would never be able to trust them as Henry had. It would have been in his interests to break up their hold on government, even if they gave him no obvious cause. In the event they gave him very good cause indeed, by conspiring with the pro-Angevins before the civil war broke out. Evidence was brought to Stephen on this account, and it was good enough to convince him. It is inconceivable that he would have acted without good grounds, as he is often accused of doing. We cannot prove the matter either way, as is so often the case with conspiracies, but the evidence strongly hints at the intention of Roger to join the Angevin party. It was also said that, although he had the favour of King Henry I, his own affection had been more for the king’s children; one assumes by that meaning Matilda and Robert. The chronicler also suggests that Roger avoided offending Stephen on the surface, but secretly kept faith with Henry’s offspring. At the same time he was surrounded by a ‘numerous bodyguard of troops’, and was filling his strong and newly fortified castles with weapons and supplies ‘on a very lavish scale’, which suggests preparations for immediate use.47 Orderic writes that ‘he was suspected of betraying his king and lord, Stephen, and giving support to the Angevin party. He was backed by his kinsmen and accomplices’.48 William of Malmesbury reports that a group of laymen, who resented the bishops’ power and wealth, came to Stephen and told him the three were planning to hand over their castles to Matilda when she arrived. William says that Stephen was slow to be convinced because he had previously favoured them.49 The Gesta Stephani identifies Waleran of Meulan as the spokesman of the lords against the bishops, and says that the bishops were plotting ‘against the majesty of the crown’.50 The author, in a somewhat obscure passage, seems to condemn the Beaumont twins as being like ‘the sons of Korah’ (a good match perhaps for a daughter of Zelophehad), who would be swallowed up for opposing properly constituted authority.51It has also been seen as significant that a cleric patronized by the Beaumonts, Philip of Harcourt, became chancellor after the fall of the Salisbury group, but it only demonstrates the favour in which they were held, not the motive for the arrest.

Both Orderic and the author of the Gesta Stephani suggest that what followed was set up deliberately, but the incident sounds like a spontaneous event of which the king took advantage. It is notable that, despite their accusations, the various sources cannot agree on who was responsible for starting the trouble. An assembly of magnates, an interesting constitutional meeting, met at Oxford in June 1139.52 The three bishops also set out to attend, though Roger had experienced some foreboding of evil and been reluctant to go. A quarrel broke out between the men of Bishop Roger and those of Alan of Penthièvre over their respective lodgings. Others suggest that the Beaumont twins were also involved. It started off with the followers shouting abuse at each other, and ended with swords being drawn. In the fight several men on both sides were killed, but by William of Malmesbury’s account, Alan’s men suffered most and ‘the bishop’s men did not gain their victory without loss of blood’. The king, on the legally justified grounds that the peace of his court had been broken, demanded that named castles be handed over as guarantees of their future behaviour. The bishops refused, and therefore he arrested the two who were present, for breaking the peace. Although the author of the Gesta Stephanisays the court was made up of the ‘ill-disposed’, he nevertheless shows that the king did not act hastily, but first called a council to determine action against the bishops, and the result suggests that there must have been quite a wide consensus of opinion against them.53Roger of Salisbury and Alexander of Lincoln were taken into custody; Roger arrested in the court, Alexander rooted out of his lodgings. Bishop Nigel had not reached Oxford, and was lodging in a nearby village. News of the affray was brought to him and he immediately rode for a safer haven in Devizes Castle, which was held for his uncle, Bishop Roger. There Nigel prepared to defend himself, even devastating the country round about in true military fashion. If there were no conspiracy involving the empress, it seems odd that he should have chosen to go to this west country fortress, which was Bishop Roger’s and not his own, since Oxford was not particularly close to it, and that he should act in such a provocative manner. After all, there could be no charge against Bishop Nigel with regard to the affair at court. Orderic says he fled because he was ‘conscious of his own guilt’.54 The charge against him was rather open rebellion against the king.

Stephen then pursued Bishop Nigel to Devizes. He took with him Roger the Poor in chains, and his father Bishop Roger not chained. Salisbury, Sherborne and Malmesbury Castles were surrendered to the king, but Devizes prepared to resist. William of Malmesbury says that Bishop Roger undertook voluntary fasting to persuade his nephew to surrender.55 However, Orderic says it was the king who threatened to starve him unless the castle was handed over. Stephen also set up a gallows and threatened to hang Roger the Poor before the walls, knowing that his mother, Matilda of Ramsbury was within. A rope was fastened around the unfortunate chancellor’s neck and he was led towards the gallows. She reacted immediately, jumping up and calling out: ‘I gave him birth, and it can never be right for me to cause his destruction’.56 She at once sent a messenger to Stephen and agreed to surrender the castle ‘she was holding’. Stephen then took Bishop Alexander off to his own area, where he handed over the keys to Newark and Sleaford Castles after Stephen threatened to starve him unless he gave them up. It took prayers and tears from the bishop before his garrison at Newark gave way.57

Stephen claimed that he had arrested the three not as bishops, but as ‘sinners against the pacific office of a bishop and suspected enemies of his peace and public order, until by the restoration to Caesar of their castles and those things that belonged to Caesar, the king was safer from suspicion of rebellion [the charge alleged against the bishops] and his country was more tranquil’, though the author himself clearly opposed such action against bishops.58 Henry of Blois criticized his brother for his action against the church, and shows how little Stephen could expect from Henry. The bishop spoke in support of the freedom of the church, but perhaps with the bitterness of a man disappointed in not getting the archbishopric. He said of the arrested bishops, ‘it was not for the king to judge them, but for the canon law’.59 Bishop Henry then called a council at Winchester for the church to debate the question. There he condemned his brother of a ‘lamentable crime’, in a speech given in Latin, and sought to get a general condemnation.60Stephen did not turn up in person, but sent representatives. His case was put by Aubrey de Vere ‘a man practised in many kinds of cases’, in a mild and restrained manner, though others present shouted insults at Bishop Roger.61 Aubrey said that it was not the first time that Bishop Roger’s men had caused trouble at court. It does indeed seem odd that these bishops were accustomed to coming to court accompanied by their own private armies. Aubrey said that it was the bishops’ men who had attacked the others in the brawl, inspired by Bishop Alexander’s long-held hatred for Alan of Penthièvre. He now openly accused Roger of favouring ‘the king’s enemies’, and said that when Matilda arrived ‘he would take her side together with his nephews and his castles’.62 He said that Roger had already refused entry at Malmesbury to a royal force under Roger Mortimer.

Bishop Roger blustered in his own defence, and said if he did not get satisfaction from this court, he would go to a higher one. Bishop Henry demanded that Stephen reinstate the bishops and abide by church law. But the Archbishop of Rouen arrived at the council and spoke in the king’s defence. He subtly undermined the bishops’ defence of the three prelates, saying that ‘he would allow the bishops to have their castles if they could prove by the canon law that they were entitled to have them’. 63 Of course it was clear to all that canon law provided no defence for such a position. The archbishop added a further telling point: that even if the bishops should hold the castles, yet they ‘ought to hand over the keys of their fortifications to the disposal of the king, whose duty it is to fight for the peace of all’; it was the right of the king to have castles rendered to him.64 The bishops, having handed over their castles, were released, ‘downcast and stripped of all their empty and ostentatious splendour, to hold their church property in the simple fashion that befits a churchman’.65

Bishop Roger was a broken man who played little further part in affairs. Bishop Alexander seemed reformed by the episode and henceforth acted as a loyal bishop to the king; Bishop Nigel on the other hand, bided his time before openly joining the Angevin party. A further council was held which ruled that all the military possessions of the bishops should properly now be in the king’s hands. Stephen had survived the incident. He was not censured officially, and not excommunicated. Apparently voluntarily, when it was all over, he put off his rich royal robes, and ‘with a contrite heart, humbly accepted the penance enjoined for his fault’.66 The bishops’ castles remained in his hands. As the civil war loomed, the possession of these vital fortifications was a boon to his position. It also meant that Stephen could reconstruct his government. This has always been seen as a disastrous moment because he lost the services of so many experienced administrators. In practice it also had many advantages. It was not difficult to find trained administrators, men like Philip of Harcourt. What Stephen was now able to ensure was that his administrators were loyal men, dependent upon himself. At the same time there was a purge of sheriffs, and those with connections to the Salisbury group were removed. It has often been argued that Stephen’s sheriffs were military as well as administrative appointments, as were his earldoms. Given the critical nature of the situation, it seems a very wise move to make sure that these vital positions were filled by men who could be trusted.


Although the civil war did not begin properly until Matilda and Robert of Gloucester arrived in England, the fighting had already started in a series of spontaneous rebellions against the king. At least this is how the disturbances are usually seen, and no doubt some of them were purely coincidental risings. But a different picture can be presented over the majority of the rebellions which began in 1138 and 1139. Robert of Bampton, the earlier rebel, was a west country lord, and indeed his fortification of Castle Cary, became a bone of contention in the new wave of revolts. Even the rebellion of Baldwin de Redvers might come into this same category, with his strong attachment to Henry I which was transferred to his daughter Matilda. It was said that his revolt in the first place had been encouraged by the Angevin party, who then let him loose on Normandy. The Gesta Stephani saw the rebellions as like the hydra of Hercules: ‘when one head was cut off two or more grew in its place’. Yet this gives a misleading picture of the period, as if it is all confusion without any coherence. The rebellions can be viewed as part of the conspiracy in favour of Matilda which predates even Robert’s declaration of defiance in 1138, let alone his arrival in England in 1139. The suggestion is that most of these risings were coordinated as the first efforts in the war for Matilda’s succession.

This thesis seems underlined by a study of the people and places of revolt. The vast majority of the places concerned were in the west country, and the vast majority of the rebels had strong connections with Robert of Gloucester. The view can also be contested that Stephen’s reaction to this outburst of trouble was a meaningless rushing about hither and thither. He was well aware of the significance of the risings, and his reaction was militarily competent. In fact, during the period of more than a year between Robert’s defiance and his appearance at Arundel, Stephen had virtually crushed the opposition which had raised its head to that point. What he was doing was seeking to enforce the forfeiture of Robert of Gloucester’s lands in England, and he had very nearly succeeded. Only Bristol stood out strongly in defiance, and by 1139 Stephen had isolated it. In many ways what we are examining here is the first campaign of the civil war, and certainly the rebels of 1138 to 1139 were declaring their stance for that combat.

The revolt at Bedford was early, and rather outside the group we are looking at, but worth a moment of our time, because of the men involved. Stephen had made the youngest Beaumont brother, Hugh, Earl of Bedford, and obviously meant him to have Bedford Castle, which he saw as royal. It was held for the king by Miles Beauchamp, and Stephen made a placatory offer to him of honours and gifts, which was refused. Miles saw Bedford as an hereditary possession. Although it was Christmas, Stephen mounted a force and angrily went against Bedford. Stephen used archers to attack the vulnerable points, harassing their lookouts. Royal guards were posted by the exits, and ordered to keep watch at night. Engines were built and used to throw stones against the stockade and the wall. Having set up the blockade, Stephen left his men to carry it through. It was a model siege, lasting five weeks, by which time the garrison was prepared to surrender.

The reason that Stephen was not in the north for the Battle of the Standard was the outbreak of serious revolt in the west, initiated by Geoffrey Talbot. Robert made his defiance in May; and as Henry of Huntingdon says: ‘after Easter the treason of the English nobles burst forth with great fury’.67 This outbreak almost coincided with Robert’s defiance, and the timing is surely no accident. Geoffrey Talbot took over Hereford and defied the king. As so often, the citizens of the town welcomed Stephen, who recaptured the castle when the garrison, seeing the size of his army, surrendered. Geoffrey had fled to Weobley, and Stephen followed and captured that also. Both places were then garrisoned by the king. After Stephen had gone from Hereford, Geoffrey returned and fired the town. John of Worcester says that he then joined Robert of Gloucester at Bristol. Robert cannot have been there in 1138, but there is little reason to doubt that Geoffrey Talbot aligned himself with the Angevin party.

A little later he appeared at Bath:

where little springs through hidden conduits send up waters heated without human skill or ingenuity from deep in the bowels of the earth to a basin vaulted over with noble arches … [where] the sick from all over England gather to wash away their infirmities in the health-giving waters … to see the wondrous jets of hot water and bathe in them’.68

The wonders of Roman Bath had not altogether vanished by the twelfth century. Geoffrey, accompanied by his relative Gilbert de Lacy, attacked the city with scaling ladders. A surprise sortie by the bishop’s men captured Geoffrey; they fettered him, and threw him in a dungeon. Under a guarantee the bishop came for talks, but they treacherously took him prisoner and threatened to hang him unless Geoffrey was released. This was done, much to the chagrin of Stephen.

Meanwhile, on the Welsh border, four castles at Overton, Whittington, Bryn and Ellesmere were held against the king by William Peverel, but although we lack narrative detail of the events, they were also taken over by the king. Nearby Shrewsbury also revolted under William fitz Alan, who was a nephew by marriage to Robert of Gloucester, having married his niece Christina. Shrewsbury was besieged by the king in August, and was stormed. William fitz Alan and his wife and children had escaped, leaving the siege to his unfortunate uncle, who refused the offered terms. When Stephen captured Shrewsbury, as allowed by the laws of war to a victor who had taken a castle by force, he hanged or otherwise executed the garrison of some 93 men and its commander, Arnulf de Hesdin.69As a result of this ruthless treatment, other castellans came to the king at once to hand over their keys. Again, this region of rebellions is consistent with our thesis, being in the west country and on the Welsh marches.

A whole host of smaller castles, dependent on Bristol and Robert of Gloucester, joined the revolt: Castle Cary now under Ralph Lovell, Harptree under William fitz John, Dunster under William de Mohun, and Wareham under Robert fitz Alured; and another group associated with the Welsh marches, including Dudley and Ludlow. There can be little doubt given the geographical positioning of these places, and the political, feudal and personal links between most of them and Robert of Gloucester, that this was no accidental rash of rebellions, but a declaration in arms to accompany the defiance in words by their absent leader in Normandy.

Stephen chose to deal with the western rebellion, while leaving his wife to look after the more isolated problem at Dover. He went to Bath and ordered some improvements in the defences. Then he went on to Bristol on what was clearly part of a reconnaissance expedition. Some advised him to besiege the place immediately, but it was very much a matter of opinion which strategy was best. Stephen’s choice was probably the wisest, and came near to success. Bristol was a powerful place and would not be easy to take. Stephen’s decision was to capture the surrounding hostile fortifications one by one and gradually isolate Bristol. A siege of Bristol would have much more chance of success if friendly fortifications nearby were neutralized, so that supply and reinforcement would be that much more difficult. Therefore, the king attacked the important castles at Castle Cary and Harptree. These were held by Ralph Lovell and William fitz John, whom the Gesta Stephani says:

were bound to the earl [Robert] by ties of friendship, firmly united with him by pledge and oath, and so much his allies by compact and homage that as soon as they learned he wished to rebel against the king’s power, they joined in his rebellion promptly and by agreement.70

They ravaged the country around in order to obstruct Stephen.

Castle Cary stood on an impressive mound, and had a stone keep. Stephen starved it into submission. Nowadays it is a quiet and ignored site, the mound remaining, but only grassy heaps marking what was once a great castle. Stephen moved against Castle Cary more rapidly than its garrison expected. He set up engines and shot in fire and stones. Food ran short and the garrison surrendered on terms. They were also disappointed that despite his defiance, there was no sign of Robert of Gloucester. This comment in theGesta Stephani, is probably the secret behind the rash of rebellions at this time.71 The rebels of 1138 had expected, and probably been promised help from Normandy, but nothing had arrived so far. They had put themselves out on a limb. Then Stephen turned on Harptree. He considered building a counter castle, but decided it was not necessary, since his force at Bath could deal with it. Later, when the king was passing nearby Harptree, en route to Bristol, the garrison decided to make a sortie and attack his army on the march. They tracked him on his flank, thinking he did not realize. Then suddenly, Stephen turned his force and attacked Harptree with a cavalry force which reached the gates quickly. They took the remnants of the garrison by surprise, set fire to the gates, and placed ladders against the walls. The small rump of a garrison could not hold off the energetic attack, and Harptree succumbed. The king garrisoned it with his own men. Stephen also seems to have captured the four castles of William Peverel, as well as Wareham.

In 1139 Ludlow was taken. It was here that Henry, Prince of Scots, who had been brought to England by Stephen and was assisting the king at the siege, was nearly captured by a crow. This was an engine consisting of a sort of large fishing rod on a balance, with a hook on the end, which caught hold of the prince. However, he seems to have escaped its clutches. Henry of Huntingdon says that Stephen himself rescued the prince.72

Dover also fortified itself against Stephen. This would seem to be well beyond the pattern suggested above, but in fact it was not. Dover was Robert of Gloucester’s, and held for him by Walkelin Maminot. Stephen’s Queen, Matilda, blockaded the castle from the land side, and sent to Boulogne for aid from the sea. The blockade was thus closed. Stephen, meanwhile, had persuaded Robert of Ferrers, whom he had made Earl of Derby, to intervene. He was Walkelin Maminot’s father-in-law, and managed to get the castellan to yield. Henry of Huntingdon says that Walkelin surrendered when he heard the news of Stephen’s success and harshness at Shrewsbury.73 In the south-east region, Leeds Castle in Kent had also revolted, but was taken for the king by Gilbert of Clare.

In 1139 a new rebel emerged in the west country in William de Mohun, who ‘stirred up a mighty rebellion against the king’. 74 He held, and indeed had built, Dunster Castle, which he had filled with armed infantry and cavalry. He raided around with his troops. Stephen realized that it was a strong site, and built a counter castle to contain it. When the king needed to move on, he delegated command of the siege to Henry de Tracy, to whom Stephen had granted Barnstaple. The details of what followed are not given in any source, or we might have an additional battle to add to the few we know of in the period. At any rate Henry seems to have defeated a sizeable force of the Angevin supporters, and captured 104 knights, in a ‘cavalry battle’.75 The effect of that battle was to settle the problems caused by William de Mohun, and by other opponents of the king, including William fitz Odo. Henry also probably captured Torrington Castle for the king.76

The pro-Angevin castles around Bristol had been systematically reduced. The pro-Angevin rebels had been defeated in turn. Geoffrey Talbot was at large, but had suffered severe setbacks. The expected arrival of Robert of Gloucester had been too late to coincide with the outburst of rebellions in 1138 to 1139. Almost certainly, Robert’s delay of some sixteen months between his defiance and his arrival, had been due to his need to see to his interests in Normandy and to persuade the empress to come to England, rather than to any dilatoriness on his own part, but Angevin interests were at a very low ebb by the time Matilda arrived at Arundel in 1139. As Davis says, Robert ‘had lost nearly all his lands in southern England’.77 It seemed only a matter of time before the last stronghold, Bristol, also fell into the king’s hands. Stephen seemed to have little to fear. The first stage in the conflicts of the reign had been a very definite royal victory. As a result, Stephen probably became over confident.


  1.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 28–9.

  2.  J.H. Round, ‘Robert of Bampton’, EHR, v, 1890, p. 746; Gesta Stephani, pp. 28–9, n. 1.

  3.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 30–1.

  4.  Ibid., pp. 40–1 and n. 1.

  5.  There is an interesting regional parallel with rebellions in the sixteenth century, though it is more difficult to show the causes for twelfth-century discontent.

  6.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 30–1.

  7.  Ibid., pp. 32–3.

  8.  Ibid., pp. 38–9.

  9.  Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 265; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 259; Gesta Stephani, pp. 40–1.

10.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 44–5; no source mentions the name of the castle concerned, but it is almost certainly Carisbrooke.

11.  John of Worcester, ed. Weaver, p. 40: ‘depopulatio et depredatio minime cessat’; John of Worcester, in Stevenson, p. 350.

12.  For the general methods of these raids, see F.C. Suppe, Military Institutions on the Welsh Marches, Shropshire 1066–1300, Woodbridge, 1994.

13.  Worcester continuator in Stevenson, ii, pt, I, p. 350; Florence of Worcester, Chronicon ex Chronicis, ed. B. Thorpe, 2 vols, EHS, 1848–9, ii, p. 97.

14.  Richard of Hexham, ‘Chronicle’, in Stevenson, iv, pt. I, pp. 33–58, p. 57; Richard of Hexam, in Howlett, iii, p. 145.

15.  Richard of Hexham, in Howlett, p. 159; John of Hexham, continuation of Symeon of Durham, Historia Regum, ed. T. Arnold, RS no. 75, 2 vols, 1882–5, ii, p. 290; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 261.

16.  Ailred of Rievaulx, ‘Relatio de Standardo’, in Howlett, iii, pp. 181–99, p. 183.

17.  Richard of Hexham, in Howlett, p. 156; Richard of Hexham, in Stevenson, p. 45.

18.  Ailred of Rievaulx, p. 182: ‘in campo latissimo’.

19.  Orderic, vi, pp. 522–3.

20.  J. Bradbury, ‘Battles in England and Normandy, 1066–1154’, ANS, vi, 1983, pp. 1–12.

21.  Ailred of Rievaulx, pp. 181–99; Richard of Hexham, in Howlett, p. 163; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 263; Richard of Hexham, in Stevenson, p. 45.

22.  John of Hexham, in Howlett, p. 294.

23.  Ailred of Rievaulx, p. 196.

24.  Richard of Hexham, in Howlett, p. 162.

25.  Davis, Stephen, p. 47.

26.  Orderic, vi, pp. 468–9.

27.  Orderic, vi, pp. 480–1.

28.  R. Helmerichs, ‘King Stephen’s Norman itinerary, 1137’, HSJ, v, 1993, pp. 98–97.

29.  Orderic, vi, pp. 490–1.

30.  Robert of Torigny, in Stevenson, p. 48; Torigny, in Howlett, p. 132: ‘facta est discordia magna in exercitu ejus apud Livarrou propter unam hosam vini … magna dissension inter Normannos et Flandrenses’.

31.  Orderic, vi, pp. 486–7.

32.  Robert of Torigny, in Howlett, p. 132. Orderic, pp. 486–7 makes it two years.

33.  Helmerichs, ‘King Stephen’, p. 96.

34.  William of Malmesbury, p. 1.

35.  Chibnall, Matilda, p. 84.

36.  K.S.B. Keats-Rohan, ‘The devolution of the honour of Wallingford, 1066–1148’, Oxoniensia, liv, 1989, pp. 311–18, p. 315 shows that she was the daughter and heiress of Miles Crispin, not his widow.

37.  Keats-Rohan, ‘Wallingford’, p. 317.

38.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 96–7; Chibnall, Matilda, p. 83.

39.  John of Worcester, ed. Weaver, pp. 51, n. 1; Worcester, ed. Thorpe, ii, pp. 110–11; Chibnall, Matilda, p. 80, n. 66.

40.  Davis, Stephen, p. 40.

41.  On the Beaumonts see D. Crouch, The Beaumont Twins, the Roots and Branches of Power in the Twelfth Century, Cambridge, 1986.

42.  Davis, Stephen, p. 27 is less immoderate, but calls him ‘almost unknown’.

43.  Orderic, vi, pp. 530–1; R.H.C. Davis suggested that the author was the Bishop of Bath, see below.

44.  E.J. Kealey, Roger of Salisbury, Viceroy of England, Berkeley California, 1972, p. 4; William of Newburgh, i, pp. 35–6.

45.  Kealey, Roger, p. 23.

46.  Ibid., p. 24.

47.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 72–3.

48.  Orderic, vi, pp. 530–1.

49.  William of Malmesbury, p. 26.

50.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 74–5.

51.  Ibid., pp. 76–7; the biblical reference is to Numbers 26 v. 9–11, which is itself rather confusing saying the earth opened up and swallowed them, but they did not die.

52.  William of Malmesbury, p. 26: ‘facto conuentu magnatum’.

53.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 76–7.

54.  Orderic, vi, pp. 532–3.

55.  William of Malmesbury, p. 27.

56.  Orderic, vi, pp. 532–5; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 271; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 265: ‘laqueo collum circumnectens ut suspenderetur’.

57.  Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 266; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 271.

58.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 74–7.

59.  William of Malmesbury, p. 28.

60.  Ibid., p. 29.

61.  Ibid., p. 30.

62.  Ibid., p. 31.

63.  Ibid., p. 33.

64.  Ibid.

65.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 78–9.

66.  Ibid., pp. 80–1.

67.  Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 267; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 261: ‘Post Pascha vero exarsit rabies proditorum nefanda’.

68.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 58–9.

69.  Orderic, vi, pp. 522–3. Orderic says ‘about 93’ which allowed Ellis Peters some poetic licence, (in ‘One Corpse Too Many’, 1979).

70.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 66–7.

71.  Ibid., pp. 68–9.

72.  Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 270; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 265; ‘ubi idem Henricus unco ferreo equo abstractus poene captus est, sed ipse rex eum ab hostibus splendide retraxit’.

73.  Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Forester, p. 267; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold, p. 261.

74.  Gesta Stephani, pp. 80–1.

75.  Ibid., pp. 82–3.

76.  Ibid. and n. 4.

77.  Davis, Stephen, p. 37.

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