The Treaty of Winchester

So it was provided and firmly established that, arms having been completely laid down, peace should be restored everywhere in the kingdom.

Gesta Stephani

The peace treaty, ratified on 6 November 1153, probably originated from private discussions at Wallingford. Under its terms, Stephen would be allowed to rule as King of England for the rest of his natural life and on his death the succession would pass to Henry of Anjou, Matilda’s son, and Stephen’s newly adopted heir. There were other important clauses too; castles built during the civil war, for example, would be demolished and any foreign mercenaries sent home. For the first time since the death of Henry I, England’s future looked stable.

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King Henry II of England

When Henry returned to Normandy in March 1154, he may well have harboured concerns about Stephen’s commitment to the treaty. After all, adopting Henry as his heir meant disinheriting his children; an act that few fathers would carry out. There was little that Henry could do but sit back and wait. In the meantime Stephen’s royal authority was restored and he enjoyed complete control of his kingdom, even in the southwest. However, on 25 October Stephen was ‘seized violently with a pain in the gut’ at Dover Priory and died. Henry left Normandy on 7 November and was crowned King Henry II in a ceremony at Westminster on 19 December 1154.

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