Stephen was crowned on 26 December. Shortly after, he had to go north to deal with Scotland. David I of Scotland (1084-1153) was laying claim to lands in the north of England, and Stephen dealt with this quickly and decisively. His court at Easter was lavish and well attended by the nobles of England. Stephen's position had been confirmed by Pope Innocent II. Later conflicts with Wales turned to victories for Stephen. All looked well.
Meanwhile, on the continent, Matilda and her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, were taking control of the lands that had been joined to England since William the Conqueror—the mutual grandfather to many of the players in this drama. By 1144, Geoffrey and Matilda were styling themselves Duke and Duchess of Normandy. By 1139, she had gathered sufficient armed forces in France to be able to cross the English Channel and begin the conquest of southwest England. In February 1141, Stephen's forces besieged Matilda in Lincoln Castle; unfortunately, Matilda's illegitimate half-brother, Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, brought up his forces behind the king. Robert was aided by the Stephen-hating Welsh. Many of Stephen's forces deserted him, and the king was captured and imprisoned in Bristol, a city currently in the hands of Matilda's forces.
|Matilda escaping Oxford|
Meanwhile, the imprisoned Stephen's wife, also named Matilda, succeeded in capturing Robert of Gloucester, and used him to arrange an exchange of prisoners. With the release of both Stephen of Blois and Robert, hostilities resumed. The following winter, Queen Matilda was almost captured at Oxford, but she fled across the frozen Thames, camouflaged against the snow in a white cloak. The future of England's throne was looking more uncertain than ever.
[to be continued]