This is evidence that Britain has had some really useless kings!
Fascinating Facts: Stephen [1135-1154]
- Nephew of William I and cousin of William Rufus and Henry I, he was a lovely man but a useless king.
- When his father died, Henry was a surrogate father to him, and everyone thought Stephen would be his heir. But, knowing he was not aggressive or tough enough to rule, Henry named his daughter Matilda and forced all his barons to swear loyalty to her.
- When Henry died Stephen rushed to gather the support of the barons and the clergy, and was crowned only a few weeks later.
- When the Scots rebelled and Geoffrey of Anjou threatened Normandy, instead of fighting them, Stephen bought them off.
- When Matilda landed in England, he made no attempt to stop her gathering an army, which led to civil war. Stephen was a great soldier, but in 1141 he was captured, deposed, and Matilda took the throne.
- The barons would not accept a queen and the civil war continued. Stephen's reign is often called 'the Anarchy'. The government fell apart and every landowner built a castle to protect his own interests.
- When Matilda's fourteen-year-old son Henry came to England to fight for his mother, he didn't have the money to pay his soldiers – so Stephen paid his debts and helped him return home!
- Henry grew up to hold vast lands in France and have great skill in war, so in 1153 Stephen agreed to make Henry his heir as long as Stephen could continue to reign. Stephen died only a year later.