The History of England From the Norman Conquest
George Burton Adams

Part 4 out of 9

should survive Henry, they would recognize William as king, and then do
homage to him in good faith. The incident is interesting less as an
example of this characteristic feudal method of securing the succession,
for this had been employed since the Conquest both in Normandy and in
England, than because we are told that on this occasion the oath was
demanded, not merely of all tenants in chief, but of all inferior
vassals. If this statement may be accepted, and there is no reason to
doubt it, we may conclude that the practice established by the Conqueror
at an earlier Salisbury assembly had been continued by his sons. This was
a moment when Henry was justified in expressing his will, even on a
matter of Church government, in peremptory command, and when no one was
likely to offer resistance. Thurstan chose to surrender the
archbishopric, and promised to make no attempt to recover it; but
apparently the renunciation was not long regarded as final on either
side. He was soon after this with the king in Normandy, but he was
refused the desired permission to go to Rome, a journey which Archbishop
Ralph soon undertook, that he might try the influence of his presence
there in favour of the cause of Canterbury and against other pretensions
of the pope.

From the date of this visit to Normandy, in the spring of 1116, Henry's
continental interests mix themselves with those of the absolute ruler of
the English Church, and he was more than once forced to choose upon which
side he would make some slight concession or waive some right for the
moment. Slowly the sides were forming themselves and the opposing
interests growing clear, of a great conflict for the dominion of northern
France, a conflict forced upon the English king by the necessity of
defending the position he had gained, rather than sought by him in the
spirit of conquest, even when he seemed the aggressor; a conflict in
which he was to gain the victory in the field and in diplomacy, but to be
overcome by the might of events directed by no human hand and not to be
resisted by any.

The peace between Henry and Louis, made in the spring of 1113, was broken
by Henry's coming to the aid of his nephew, Theobald of Blois. Theobald
had seized the Count of Nevers on his return from assisting Louis in a
campaign in the duchy of France in 1115. The cause was bad, but Henry
could not afford to see so important an ally as his nephew crushed by his
enemies, especially as his dominions were of peculiar strategical value
in any war with the king of France. To Louis's side gathered, as the war
developed, those who had reason from their position to fear what looked
like the policy of expansion of this new English power in north-western
France, especially the Counts of Flanders and of Anjou. The marriage of
Henry's son William with Fulk's daughter had not yet taken place, and the
Count of Anjou might well believe--particularly from the close alliance
of Henry with the rival power of Blois--that he had more to fear than to
hope for from the spread of the Norman influence. At the same time the
division began to show itself among the Norman barons, of those who were
faithful to Henry and those who preferred the succession of Robert's son
William; and it grew more pronounced as the war went on, for Louis took
up the cause of William as the rightful heir of Normandy. In doing this
he began the policy which the French kings followed for so many years,
and on the whole with so little advantage, of fomenting the quarrels in
the English royal house and of separating if possible the continental
possessions from the English.

On Henry's side were a majority of the Norman barons and the counts of
Britanny and of Blois. For the first time, also, appeared upon the stage
of history in this war Henry's other nephew, Stephen, who was destined to
do so much evil to England and to Henry's plans before his death. His
uncle had already made him Count of Mortain. The lordship of Belleme,
which Henry had given to Theobald, had been by him transferred to Stephen
in the division of their inheritance. It was probably not long after this
that Henry procured for him the hand of Matilda, heiress of the county of
Boulogne, and thus extended his own influence over that important
territory on the borders of Flanders. France, Flanders, and Anjou
certainly had abundant reason to fear the possible combination into one
power of Normandy, Britanny, Maine, Blois, and Boulogne, and that a power
which, however pacific in disposition, showed so much tendency to
expansion. For France, at least, the cause of this war was not the
disobedience of a vassal, nor was it to be settled by the siege and
capture of border castles.

The war which followed was once more not a war of battles. Armies, large
for the time, were collected, but they did little more than make
threatening marches into the enemy's country. In 1118 the revolt of the
Norman barons, headed by Amaury of Montfort, who now claimed the county
of Evreux, assumed proportions which occasioned the king many
difficulties. This was a year of misfortunes for him. The Count of Anjou,
the king of France, the Count of Flanders, each in turn invaded some part
of Normandy, and gained advantages which Henry could not prevent. Baldwin
of Flanders, however, returned home with a wound from an arrow, of which
he shortly died. In the spring of this year Queen Matilda died, praised
by the monastic chroniclers to the last for her good deeds. A month later
Henry's wisest counsellor, Robert of Meulan, died also, after a long life
spent in the service of the Conqueror and of his sons. The close of the
year saw no turn of the tide in favour of Henry. Evreux was captured in
October by Amaury of Montfort, and afterwards Alencon by the Count of

The year 1119, which was destined to close in triumph for Henry, opened
no more favourably. The important castle of Les Andelys, commanding the
Norman Vexin, was seized by Louis, aided by treachery. But before the
middle of the year, Henry had gained his first great success. He induced
the Count of Anjou, by what means we do not know,--by money it was
thought by some at the time,--to make peace with him, and to carry out
the agreement for the marriage of his daughter with the king's son. The
county of Maine was settled on the young pair, virtually its transfer to
Henry. At the same time, Henry granted to William Talvas, perhaps as one
of the conditions of the treaty, the Norman possessions which had
belonged to his father, Robert of Belleme. In the same month, June, 1119,
Baldwin of Flanders died of the wound which he had received in Normandy,
and was succeeded by his nephew, Charles the Good, who reversed Baldwin's
policy and renewed the older relations with England. The sieges of
castles, the raiding and counter-raiding of the year, amounted to little
until, on August 20, while each was engaged in raiding, the opposing
armies commanded by the two kings in person unexpectedly found themselves
in the presence of one another. The battle of Bremule, the only encounter
of the war which can be called a battle, followed. Henry and his men
again fought on foot, as at Tinchebrai, with a small reserve on
horseback. The result was a complete victory for Henry. The French army
was completely routed, and a large number of prisoners was taken, though
the character which a feudal battle often assumed from this time on is
attributed to this one, in the fact reported that in the fighting and
pursuit only three men were killed.

A diplomatic victory not less important followed the battle of Bremule by
a few weeks. The pope was now in France. His predecessor, Gelasius II,
had been compelled to flee from Italy by the successes of the Emperor
Henry V, and had died at Cluny in January, 1119, on his way to the north.
The cardinals who had accompanied him elected in his stead the Archbishop
of Vienne, who took the name of Calixtus II. Gelasius in his short and
unfortunate reign had attempted to interfere with vigour in the dispute
between York and Canterbury, and had summoned both parties to appear
before him for the decision of the case. This was in Henry's year of
misfortunes, 1118, and he was obliged to temporize. The early death of
Gelasius interrupted his plan, but only until Calixtus II was ready to go
on with it. He called a council of the Church to meet at Reims in
October, to which he summoned the English bishops, and where he proposed
to decide the question of the obedience of York to Canterbury. Henry
granted a reluctant consent to the English bishops to attend this
council, but only on condition that they would allow no innovations in
the government of the English Church. To Thurstan of York, to whom he had
restored the temporalities of his see, under the pressure of
circumstances nearly two years before, he granted permission to attend on
condition that he would not accept consecration as archbishop from the
pope. This condition was at once violated, and Thurstan was consecrated
by the pope on October 19. Henry immediately ordered that he should not
be allowed to return to any of the lands subject to his rule.

At this council King Louis of France, defeated in the field and now
without allies, appealed in person to the pope for the condemnation of
the king of England. He is said, by Orderic Vitalis who was probably
present at the council and heard him speak, to have recited the evil
deeds of Henry, from the imprisonment of Robert to the causes of the
present war. The pope himself was in a situation where he needed to
proceed with diplomatic caution, but he promised to seek an interview
with Henry and to endeavour to bring about peace. This interview took
place in November, at Gisors, and ended in the complete discomfiture of
the pope. Henry was now in a far stronger position than he had been at
the beginning of the year, and to the requests of Calixtus he returned
definite refusals or vague and general answers of which nothing was to be
made. The pope was even compelled to recognize the right of the English
king to decide when papal legates should be received in the kingdom.
Henry was, however, quite willing to make peace. He had won over Louis's
allies, defeated his attempt to gain the assistance of the pope, and
finally overcome the revolted Norman barons. He might reasonably have
demanded new advantages in addition to those which had been granted him
in the peace of 1113, but all that marks this treaty is the legal
recognition of his position in Normandy. Homage was done to Louis for
Normandy, not by Henry himself, for he was a king, but by his son William
for him. It is probable that at no previous date would this ceremony have
been acceptable, either to Louis or to Henry. On Louis's part it was not
merely a recognition of Henry's right to the duchy of Normandy, but it
was also a formal abandonment of William Clito, and an acceptance of
William, Henry's son, as the heir of his father. This act was accompanied
by a renewal of the homage of the Norman barons to William, whether made
necessary by the numerous rebellions of the past two years, or desirable
to perfect the legal chain, now that William had been recognized as heir
by his suzerain, a motive that would apply to all the barons.

This peace was made sometime during the course of the year 1120. In
November Henry was ready to return to England, and on the 25th he set
sail from Barfleur, with a great following. Then suddenly came upon him,
not the loss of any of the advantages he had lately gained nor any
immediate weakening of his power, but the complete collapse of all that
he had looked forward to as the ultimate end of his policy. His son
William embarked a little later than his father in the White Ship, with
a brilliant company of young relatives and nobles. They were in a very
hilarious mood, and celebrated the occasion by making the crew drunk.
Probably they were none too sober themselves; certainly Stephen of Blois
was saved to be king of England in his cousin's place, by withdrawing to
another vessel when he saw the condition of affairs on the White Ship.
It was night and probably dark. About a mile and a half from Barfleur the
ship struck a rock, and quickly filled and sank. It was said that William
would have escaped if he had not turned back at the cries of his sister,
Henry's natural daughter, the Countess of Perche. All on board were
drowned except a butcher of Rouen. Never perished in any similar calamity
so large a number of persons of rank. Another child of Henry's, his
natural son Richard, his niece Matilda, sister of Theobald and Stephen, a
nephew of the Emperor Henry V, Richard, Earl of Chester, and his brother,
the end of the male line of Hugh of Avranches, and a crowd of others of
only lesser rank. Orderic Vitalis records that he had heard that eighteen
ladies perished, who were the daughters, sisters, nieces, or wives of
kings or earls. Henry is said to have fallen to the ground in a faint
when the news was told him, and never to have been the same man again.

But if Henry could no longer look forward to the permanence in the second
generation of the empire which he had created, he was not the man to
surrender even to the blows of fate. The succession to his dominions of
Robert's son William, who had been so recently used by his enemies
against him, but who was now the sole male heir of William the Conqueror,
was an intolerable idea. In barely more than a month after the death of
his son, the king took counsel with the magnates of the realm, at a great
council in London, in regard to his remarriage. In less than another
month the marriage was celebrated. Henry's second wife was Adelaide,
daughter of Geoffrey, Duke of Lower Lorraine, a vassal of his son-in-law,
the emperor, and his devoted supporter, as well as a prince whose
alliance might be of great use in any future troubles with France or
Flanders. This marriage was made chiefly in hope of a legitimate heir,
but it was a childless marriage, and Henry's hope was disappointed.

For something more than two years after this fateful return of the king
to England, his dominions enjoyed peace scarcely broken by a brief
campaign in Wales in 1121. At the end of 1120, Archbishop Thurstan, for
whose sake the pope was threatening excommunication and interdict, was
allowed to return to his see, where he was received with great rejoicing.
But the dispute with Canterbury was not yet settled. Indeed, he had
scarcely returned to York when he was served with notice that he must
profess, for himself at least, obedience to Canterbury, as his
predecessors had done. This he succeeded in avoiding for a time, and at
the beginning of October, in 1122, Archbishop Ralph of Canterbury died,
not having gained his case. An attempt of Calixtus II to send a legate to
England, contrary to the promise he had made to Henry at Gisors, was met
and defeated by the king with his usual diplomatic skill, so far as the
exercise of any legatine powers is concerned, though the legate was
admitted to England and remained there for a time. In the selection of a
successor to Ralph of Canterbury a conflict arose between the monastic
chapter of Christ church and the bishops of the province, and was decided
undoubtedly according to the king's mind in favour of the latter, by the
election of William of Corbeil, a canon regular. Another episcopal
appointment of these years illustrates the growing importance in the
kingdom of the great administrative bishop, Roger of Salisbury, who seems
to have been the king's justiciar, or chief representative, during his
long absences in Normandy. The long pontificate of Robert Bloet, the
brilliant and worldly Bishop of Lincoln, closed at the beginning of 1123
by a sudden stroke as he was riding with the king, and in his place was
appointed Roger's nephew, Alexander.

During this period also, probably within a year after the death of his
son William, Henry took measures to establish the position of one of his
illegitimate sons, very likely with a view to the influence which he
might have upon the succession when the question should arise. Robert of
Caen, so called from the place of his birth, was created Earl of
Gloucester, and was married to Mabel, heiress of the large possessions of
Robert Fitz Hamon in Gloucester, Wales, and Normandy. Robert of
Gloucester, as he came to be known, was the eldest of Henry's
illegitimate sons, born before his father's accession to the throne, and
he was now in the vigour of young manhood. He was also, of all Henry's
children of whom we know anything, the most nearly like himself, of more
than average abilities, patient and resourceful, hardly inheriting in
full his father's diplomatic skill but not without gifts of the kind, and
earning the reputation of a lover of books and a patron of writers. A
hundred years earlier there would have been no serious question, in the
circumstances which had arisen, of his right to succeed his father, at
least in the duchy of Normandy. That the possibility of such a succession
was present in men's minds is shown by a contemporary record that the
suggestion was made to him on the death of Henry, and rejected at once
through his loyalty to his sister's son. Whether this record is to be
believed or not, it shows that the event was thought possible.[23]

Certainly there was no real movement, not even the slightest, in his
favour, and this fact reveals the change which had taken place in men's
ideas of the succession in a century. The necessity of legitimate birth
was coming to be recognized as indisputable, though it had not been by
the early Teutonic peoples. Of the causes of this change, the teachings
of the Church were no doubt the most effective, becoming of more force
with its increasing influence, and especially since, as a part of the
Hildebrandine reformation, it had insisted with so much emphasis on the
fact that the son of a married priest could have no right of succession
to his father's benefice, being of illegitimate birth; but the teachings
of the sacredness of the marriage tie, of the sinfulness of illicit
relations, and of the nullity of marriage within the prohibited degrees,
were of influence in the change of ideas. It is also true that men's
notions of the right of succession to property in general were becoming
more strict and definite, and very possibly the importance of the
succession involved in this particular case had its effect. One may
almost regret that this change of ideas, which was certainly an advance
in morals, as well as in law, was not delayed for another generation; for
if Robert of Gloucester could have succeeded on the death of Henry
without dispute, England would have been saved weary years of strife and

The death of the young William was a signal to set Henry's enemies in
motion again. But they did not begin at once. Henry's position was still
unweakened. Very likely his speedy marriage was a notice to the world that
he did not propose to modify in the least his earlier plans. Probably
also the absence of Fulk of Anjou, who had gone on a pilgrimage to
Jerusalem soon after his treaty of 1119 with Henry, was a cause of delay,
for the natural first move would be for him to demand a return of his
daughter and her dowry. Fulk's stay was not long in the land of which he
was in a few years to be king, and on his return he at once sent for his
daughter, probably in 1121. She returned home, but as late as December,
1122, there was still trouble between him and Henry in regard to her
dowry, which Henry no doubt was reluctant to surrender.

About the same time, Henry's old enemy, Amaury of Montfort, disliking the
strictness of Henry's rule and the frequency of his demands for money,
began to work among the barons of Normandy and with his nephew, the Count
of Anjou, in favour of William Clito. It was already clear that Henry's
hope of another heir was likely to be disappointed, and Normandy would
naturally be more easily attracted to the son of Robert than England The
first step was one which did not violate any engagement with Henry, but
which was, nevertheless, a decided recognition of the claims of his
nephew, and an open attack on his plans. Fulk gave his second daughter,
Sibyl, in marriage to William Clito, and with her the county of Maine,
which had been a part of Matilda's dower on her marriage with Henry's son
William. Under the circumstances, this was equivalent to an announcement
that he expected William Clito to be the Duke of Normandy. Early in 1123,
Henry sent over troops to Normandy, and in June of that year he crossed
himself, to be on the spot if the revolt and war which were threatening
should break out. In September the discontented barons agreed together to
take arms. It is of interest that among these was Waleran of Meulan, the
son of the king's faithful counsellor, Count Robert. Waleran had
inherited his father's Norman possessions while his brother Robert had
become Earl of Leicester in England.

In all this the hand of Louis, king of France, was not openly seen.
Undoubtedly, however, the movement had his encouragement from the
beginning, and very likely his promise of open support when the time
should come. The death of the male heir to England and Normandy would
naturally draw Henry's daughter Matilda, and her husband the emperor,
nearer to him; and of this, while Henry was still in England, some
evidence has come down to us though not of the most satisfactory kind.
Any evidence at the time that this alliance was likely to become more
close would excite the fear of the king of France and make him ready to
support any movement against the English king. Flanders would feel the
danger as keenly, and in these troubles Charles the Good abandoned his
English alliance and supported the cause of France.

The contest which followed between the king and his revolted barons is
hardly to be dignified with the name of war. The forced surrender of a
few strongholds, the long siege of seven weeks, long for those days, of
Waleran of Meulan's castle, of Pont Audemer and its capture, and the
occupation of Amaury of Montfort's city of Evreux, filled the remainder
of the year 1123, and in March of 1124 the battle of Bourgtheroulde, in
which Ralph, Earl of Chester, defeated Amaury and Waleran and captured a
large number of prisoners, virtually ended the conflict. Upon the leaders
whom he had captured Henry inflicted his customary punishment of long
imprisonment, or the worse fate of blinding. The Norman barons had taken
arms, and had failed without the help from abroad which they undoubtedly
expected. We do not know in full detail the steps which had been taken to
bring about this result, but it was attributed to the diplomacy of Henry,
that neither Fulk of Anjou nor Louis of France was able to attack him.

Henry probably had little difficulty in moving his son-in-law, the
emperor Henry V, to attack Louis of France. Besides the general reason
which would influence him, of willingness to support Matilda's father at
this time, and of standing unfriendliness with France, he was especially
ready to punish the state in which successive popes had found refuge and
support when driven from Italy by his successes. The policy of an attack
on Louis was not popular with the German princes, and the army with which
the Emperor crossed the border was not a large one. To oppose him, Louis
advanced with a great and enthusiastic host. Taking in solemn ceremony
from the altar of St Denis the oriflamme, the banner of the holy defender
of the land, he aroused the patriotism of northern France as against a
hereditary enemy. Even Henry's nephew, Theobald of Blois, led out his
forces to aid the king. The news of the army advancing against them did
not increase the ardour of the German forces; and hearing of an
insurrection in Worms, the Emperor turned back, having accomplished
nothing more than to secure a free hand for Henry of England against the
Norman rebels.

Against Fulk of Anjou Henry seems to have found his ally in the pope. The
marriage of William Clito with Sibyl, with all that it might carry with
it, was too threatening a danger to be allowed to stand, if in any way it
could be avoided. The convenient plea of relationship, convenient to be
remembered or forgotten according to the circumstances, was urged upon
the pope. The Clito and his bride were related in no nearer degree than
the tenth, according to the reckoning of the canon law, which prohibited
marriage between parties related in the seventh degree, and Henry's own
children, William in his earlier, and Matilda in her later marriage, with
the sister and brother of Sibyl, were equally subject to censure. But
this was a different case. Henry's arguments at Rome--Orderic tells us
that threats, prayers, and money were combined--were effective, and the
marriage was ordered dissolved. Excommunication and interdict were
necessary to enforce this decision; but at last, in the spring of 1125,
Fulk was obliged to yield, and William Clito began his wanderings once
more, followed everywhere by the "long arm" of his uncle.

At Easter time in 1125, probably a few days before the date of the papal
bull of interdict which compelled the dissolution of the marriage of
William and Sibyl, a papal legate, John of Crema, landed in England.
Possibly this departure from Henry's practice down to this time was a
part of the price which the papal decision cost. The legate made a
complete visitation of England, had a meeting with the king of Scots, and
presided at a council of the English Church held in September, where the
canons of Anselm were renewed in somewhat milder form. On his return to
Rome in October, he was accompanied by the Archbishops of Canterbury and
York, who went there about the still unsettled question of the obedience
of the latter. Not even now was this question settled on its merits, but
William of Corbeil made application, supported by the king, to be
appointed the standing papal legate in Britain. This request was granted,
and formed a precedent which was followed by successive popes and
archbishops. This appointment is usually considered a lowering of the
pretensions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and an infringement of the
independence of the English Church, and to a considerable extent this is
true. Under a king as strong as Henry I, with an archbishop no stronger
than William of Corbeil, or, indeed, with one not exceptionally strong,
the papal authority gained very little from the arrangement. But it was a
perpetual opportunity; it was a recognition of papal right. Under it the
number of appeals to Rome increased; it marks in a legal way the advance
of papal authority and of a consciousness of unity in the Church since
the accession of the king, and it must have been so regarded at Rome. The
appointment gave to Canterbury at once undoubted supremacy over York, but
not on the old grounds, and that question was passed on to the future
still unsettled.

In the spring of 1125 also occurred an event which again changed the
direction of Henry's plans. On May 23, the emperor Henry V died, without
children by his marriage to Matilda. The widowed Empress, as she was
henceforth called by the English though she had never received the
imperial crown, obeyed her father's summons to return to him in Normandy
with great reluctance. She had been in Germany since her early childhood,
and she was now twenty-three years of age. She could have few
recollections of any other home. She loved the German people, and was
beloved by them. We are told even that some of them desired her to reign
in her husband's stead, and came to ask her return of Henry. But the
death of her husband had rendered her succession to the English throne a
matter of less difficulty, and Henry had no mind to sacrifice his own
plans for the benefit of a foreign people. In September, 1126, he
returned with Matilda to England, and in January following, at a great
council in London, he demanded and obtained of the baronage, lay and
spiritual, an oath to accept Matilda as sovereign if he should die
without a male heir. The inference is natural from the account William of
Malmesbury gives of this event, that in the argument before the council
much was made of the fact that Matilda was a descendant of the old Saxon,
as well as of the Norman, line. It is evident, also, that there was
hesitation on the part of the barons, and that they yielded reluctantly
to the king's demand.

The feudalism of France and England clearly recognized the right of women
to succeed to baronies, even of the first importance, though with some
irregularities of practice and the feudal right of marriage which the
English kings considered so important rested, in the case of female
heirs, on this principle. The king's son, Robert of Gloucester, and his
nephew Stephen, now Count of Boulogne, who disputed with one another the
right to take this oath to Matilda's succession next after her uncle,
David, king of Scots, had both been provided for by Henry in this way.
Still, even in these cases, a difference was likely to be felt between
succession to the barony itself, and to the title and political authority
which went with it, and the difference would be greater in the case of
the highest of titles, of the throne of such a dominion as Henry had
brought together. Public law in the Spanish peninsula had already, in one
case, recognized the right of a woman to reign, but there had been as yet
no case in northern Europe. The dread of such a succession was natural,
in days when feudal turbulence was held in check only by the reigning
king, and when even this could be accomplished only by a king of
determined force. The natural feeling in such cases is undoubtedly
indicated by the form of the historian's statement referred to above,
that Robert of Gloucester declined the suggestion that he should be king
out of loyalty to "his sister's son." It was the feeling that the female
heir could pass the title on to her son, rather than that she could hold
it herself.

William of Malmesbury states, in his account of these events, that he had
often heard Bishop Roger of Salisbury say that he considered himself
released from this oath to Matilda because it had been taken on condition
that she should not be married out of the kingdom except with the counsel
of the barons.[24] The writer takes pains at the same time to say that he
records this fact rather from his sense of duty as a historian than
because he believes the statement. It has, however, a certain amount of
inherent probability. To consult with his vassals on such a question was
so frequently the practice of the lord, and it was so entirely in line
with feudal usage, that the barons would have had some slight ground on
which to consider themselves released from this oath, even if such a
specific promise had not been made, nor is it likely that Henry would
hesitate to make it if he thought it desired. It is indeed quite possible
that Henry had not yet determined upon the plan which he afterwards
carried out, though it may very likely have been in his mind, and that he
was led to this by events which were taking place at this very time in

Matilda's return to her father, and Henry's evident intention to make her
the heir of his dominions, of Normandy as well as of England, seem to
have moved King Louis to some immediate action in opposition. The
separation of the duchy from the kingdom, so important for the
interests of the Capetian house, could not be hoped for unless this plan
was defeated. The natural policy of opposition was the support of William
Clito. At a great council of his kingdom, meeting at the same time with
Henry's court in which Matilda's heirship was recognized, the French king
bespoke the sympathy and support of his barons for "William of Normandy."
The response was favourable, and Louis made him a grant of the French
Vexin, a point of observation and of easy approach to Normandy. At the
same time, a wife was given William in the person of Jeanne, half sister
of Louis's queen, and daughter of the Marquis of Montferrat. A few weeks
later William advanced with an armed force to Gisors, and made formal
claim to Normandy.

It was hardly these events, though they were equivalent to a formal
notification of the future policy of the king of France, which brought
Henry to a decision as to his daughter's marriage. On March 2, the Count
of Flanders, Charles the Good, was foully murdered in the Church of St.
Donatian at Bruges. He was without children or near relatives, and
several claimants for the vacant countship at once appeared. Even Henry I
is said to have presented his claim, which he would derive from his
mother, but he seems never seriously to have prosecuted it. Louis, on the
contrary, gave his whole support to the claim of William Clito, and
succeeded with little difficulty in getting him recognized by most of the
barons and towns as count. This was a new and most serious danger to
Henry's plans, and he began at once to stir up troubles for the new count
among his vassals, by the support of rival claimants, and in alliance
with neighbouring princes. But the situation demanded measures of direct
defence, and Henry was led to take the decisive step, so eventful for all
the future history of England, of marrying Matilda a second time.
Immediately after Whitsuntide of 1127, Matilda was sent over to Normandy,
attended by Robert of Gloucester and Brian Fitz Count, and at Rouen was
formally betrothed by the archbishop of that city to Geoffrey, son of
Fulk of Anjou. The marriage did not take place till two years later.

For this marriage no consent of English or Norman barons was asked, and
none was granted. Indeed, we are led to suspect that Henry considered it
unlikely that he could obtain consent, and deemed it wiser not to let his
plans be known until they were so far accomplished as to make opposition
useless. The natural rivalry and hostility between Normandy and Anjou had
been so many times passed on from father to son that such a marriage as
this could seem to the Norman barons nothing but a humiliation, and to
the Angevins hardly less than a triumph. The opposition, however, spent
itself in murmurs. The king was too strong. Probably also the political
advantages were too obvious to warrant any attempt to defeat the scheme.
Matilda herself is said to have been much opposed to the marriage, and
this we can easily believe. Geoffrey was more than ten years her junior,
and still a mere boy. She had but recently occupied the position of
highest rank in the world to which a woman could attain. She was
naturally of a proud and haughty spirit. We are told nothing of the
arguments which induced her to consent; but in this case again the
political advantage, the necessity of the marriage to the security of her
succession, must have been the controlling motive.

That these considerations were valid, that Henry was fully justified in
taking this step in the circumstances which had arisen, is open to no
question, if the matter is regarded as one of cold policy alone. To leave
Matilda's succession to the sole protection of the few barons of England,
who were likely to be faithful, however powerful they might be, would
have been madness under the new conditions. With William Clito likely to
be in possession of the resources of a strong feudal state, heartily
supported by the king of France, felt by the great mass of Norman barons
to be the rightful heir, and himself of considerable energy of character,
the odds would be decidedly in favour of his succession. The balance
could be restored only by bringing forward in support of Matilda's claim
a power equal to William's and certain not to abandon her cause. Henry
could feel that he had accomplished this by the marriage with Geoffrey,
and he had every reason to believe that he had converted at the same time
one of the probable enemies of his policy into its most interested
defender. Could he have foreseen the early death of William, he might
have had reason to hesitate and to question whether some other marriage
might not lead to a more sure success. That this plan failed in the end
is only a proof of Henry's foresight in providing, against an almost
inevitable failure, the best defence which ingenuity could devise.

William Clito's tenure of his countship was of but little more than a
year, and a year filled with fighting. Boulogne was a vassal county of
Flanders; but the new count, Stephen, undoubtedly carrying out the
directions of his uncle, refused him homage, and William endeavoured to
compel his obedience by force. Insurrections broke out behind him, due in
part to his own severity of rule; and the progress of one of his rivals
who was destined to succeed him, Dietrich of Elsass, was alarming. Louis
attempted to come to his help, but was checked by a forward move of Henry
with a Norman army. The tide seemed about to turn in Henry's favour once
more, when it was suddenly impelled that way by the death of William.
Wounded in the hand by a spear, in a fight at Alost, he died a few days
later. His father was still alive in an English prison, and was informed
in a dream, we are told, of this final blow of fortune. But for Henry
this opportune death not merely removed from the field the most dangerous
rival for Matilda's succession, but it also re-established the English
influence in Flanders. Dietrich of Elsass became count, with the consent
of Louis, and renewed the bond with England. Not long afterwards by the
influence of Henry he obtained as wife, Geoffrey of Anjou's sister Sibyl,
who had been taken from William Clito.

Geoffrey and Matilda were married at Le Mans, on June g, 1129, by the
Bishop of Avranches, in the presence of a brilliant assembly of nobles
and prelates, and with the appearance of great popular rejoicing. After a
stay there of three weeks, Henry returned to Normandy, and Matilda, with
her husband and father-in-law, went to Angers. The jubilation with which
the bridal party was there received was no doubt entirely genuine.
Already before this marriage an embassy from the kingdom of Jerusalem had
sought out Fulk, asking him to come to the aid of the Christian state,
and offering him the hand of the heiress of the kingdom with her crown.
This offer he now accepted, and left the young pair in possession of
Anjou. But this happy outcome of Henry's policy, which promised to settle
so many difficulties, was almost at the outset threatened with disaster
against which even he could not provide. Matilda was not of gentle
disposition. She never made it easy for her friends to live with her, and
it is altogether probable that she took no pains to conceal her scorn of
this marriage and her contempt for the Angevins, including very likely
her youthful husband. At any rate, a few days after Henry's return to
England, July 7,1129, he was followed by the news that Geoffrey had
repudiated and cast off his wife, and that Matilda had returned to Rouen
with few attendants. Henry did not, however, at once return to Normandy,
and it was two full years before Matilda came back to England.

The disagreement between Geoffrey and Matilda ran its course as a family
quarrel. It might endanger the future of Henry's plans, but it caused him
no present difficulty. His continental position was now, indeed, secure
and was threatened during the short remainder of his life by none of his
enemies, though his troubles with his son-in-law were not yet over. The
defeat of Robert and the crushing of the most powerful nobles had taught
the barons a lesson which did not need to be repeated, and England was
not easily accessible to the foreign enemies of the king. In Normandy the
case was different, and despite Henry's constant successes and his
merciless severity, no victory had been final so long as any claimant
lived who could be put forward to dispute his possession. Now followed
some years of peace, in which the history of Normandy is as barren as the
history of England had long been, until the marriage of Matilda raised up
a new claimant to disturb the last months of her father's life. During
Henry's last stay in Normandy death had removed one who had once filled a
large place in history, but who had since passed long years in obscurity.
Ranulf Flambard died in 1128, having spent the last part of his life in
doing what he could to redeem the earlier, by his work on the cathedral
of Durham, where in worthy style he carried on the work of his
predecessor, William of St. Calais. Soon after died William Giffard, the
bishop whom Henry had appointed before he was himself crowned, and in his
place the king appointed his nephew, Henry of Blois, brother of Count
Stephen, who was to play so great a part in the troubles that were soon
to begin. About the same time we get evidence that Henry had not
abandoned his practice of taking fines from the married clergy, and of
allowing them to retain their wives.

The year 1130, which Henry spent in England, is made memorable by a
valuable and unique record giving us a sight of the activities of his
reign on a side where we have little other evidence. The Pipe Roll of that
year has come down to us.[25] The Pipe Rolls, so called apparently from
the shape in which they were filed for preservation, are the records of
the accounting of the Exchequer Court with the sheriffs for the revenues
which they had collected from their counties, and which they were bound to
hand over to the treasury. From a point in the reign of Henry's grandson,
these rolls become almost continuous, and reveal to us in detail many
features of the financial system of these later times. This one record
from the reign of the first Henry is a slender foundation for our
knowledge of the financial organization of the kingdom, but from it we
know with certainly that this organization had already begun as it was
afterward developed.

It has already been said that the single organ of the feudal state, by
which government in all its branches was carried on, was the curia
regis. We shall find it difficult to realize a fact like this, or to
understand how so crude a system of government operated in practice,
unless we first have clearly in mind the fact that the men of that time
did not reason much about their government. They did not distinguish one
function of the state from another, nor had they yet begun to think that
each function should have its distinct machinery in the governmental
system. All that came later, as the result of experience, or more
accurately, of the pressure of business. As yet, business and machinery
both were undeveloped and undifferentiated. In a single session of the
court advice might be given to the king on some question of foreign
policy and on the making or revising of a law; and a suit between two of
the king's vassals might be heard and decided: and no one would feel that
work of different and somewhat inconsistent types had been done. One
seemed as properly the function of the assembly as the other. In the
composition of the court, and in the practice as to time and place of
meeting, there was something of the same indefiniteness. The court was
the king's. It was his personal machine for managing the business of his
great property, the state. As such it met when and where the king
pleased, certain meetings being annually expected; and it was composed of
any persons who stood in immediate relations with the king, and whose
presence he saw fit to call for by special or general summons, his
vassals and the officers of his household or government. If a vassal of
the king had a complaint against another, and needed the assistance of
the king to enforce his view of the case, he might look upon his standing
in the curia regis as a right; but in general it was a burden, a
service, which could be demanded of him because of some estate or office
which he held.

In the reign of the first Henry we can indeed trace the beginnings of
differentiation in the machinery of government, but the process was as
yet wholly unconscious. We find in this reign evidence of a large
curia regis and of a small curia regis. The difference had probably
existed in the two preceding reigns, but it now becomes more apparent
because the increasing business of the state makes it more prominent.
More frequent meetings of the curia regis were necessary, but the
barons of the kingdom could not be in constant attendance at the court
and occupied with its business. The large court was the assembly of all
the barons, meeting on occasions only, and on special summons. The
small court was permanently in session, or practically so, and was
composed of the king's household officers and of such barons or bishops
as might be in attendance on the king or present at the time. The
distinction thus beginning was destined to lead to most important
results, plainly to be seen in the constitution of to-day, but it was
wholly unnoticed at the time. To the men of that time there was no
distinction, no division. The small curia regis was the same as the
larger; the larger was no more than the smaller. Who attended at a
given date was a matter of convenience, or of precedent on the three
great annual feasts, or of the desire of the king for a larger body of
advisers about some difficult question of policy; but the assembly was
always the same, with the same powers and functions, and doing the same
business. Cases were brought to the smaller body for trial, and its
decision was that of the curia regis. The king asked advice of it,
and its answer was that of the council. The smaller was not a committee
of the larger. It did not act by delegated powers. It was the curia
regis itself. In reality differentiation of old institutions into new
ones had begun, but the beginning was unperceived.

It was by a process similar to this that the financial business of the
state began to be set off from the legislative and judicial, though it
was long before it was entirely dissociated from the latter, and only
gradually that the Exchequer Court was distinguished from the curia
regis. The sheriffs, as the officers who collected the revenues of the
king, each in his own county, were responsible to the curia regis.
probably from early times the mechanical labour of examining and
recording the accounts had been performed by subordinate officials; but
any question of difficulty which arose, any disputed point, whether
between the sheriff and the state or between the sheriff and the
taxpayer, must have been decided by the court itself, though probably by
the smaller rather than by the larger body. Certainly it is the small
curia regis which has supervision of the matter when we get our first
glimpse of the working of this machinery. Already at this date a procedure
had developed for examining and checking the sheriff's accounts, which is
evidently somewhat advanced, but which is interesting to us because still
so primitive. Twice a year, at Easter and at Michaelmas, the court met
for the purpose, under an organization peculiar to this work, and with
some persons especially assigned to it; and it was then known as the
Exchequer. The name was derived from the fact that the method of
balancing accounts reminded one of the game of chess. Court and sheriff
sat about a table of which the cloth was divided into squares, seven
columns being made across the width of the cloth, and these divided by
lines running through the middle along the length of the table, thus
forming squares. Each perpendicular column of squares stood for a fixed
denomination of money, pence, shillings, pounds, scores of pounds,
hundreds of pounds, etc. The squares on the upper side of the table
stood for the sum for which the sheriff was responsible, and when this
was determined the proper counters were placed on their squares to set
out the sum in visible form, as on an abacus. The squares of the lower
side of the table were those of the sheriffs credits, and in them
counters were placed to represent the sum for which the sheriff could
submit evidence of payments already made. Such payments the sheriff was
constantly making throughout the year, for fixed expenses of the state or
on special orders of the king for supplies for the court, for transport,
for the keeping of prisoners, for public works, and for various other
purposes. The different items of debt and credit were noted down by
clerks for the permanent record. When the account was over, a simple
process of subtracting the counters standing in the credit squares from
those in the debit showed the account balanced, or the amount due from
the sheriff, or the credit standing in his favour, as the case might be.

At the Easter session of the court the accounts for the whole year were
not balanced, the payment then made by the sheriff being an instalment
on account, of about one-half the whole sum due for the year. For this
he received a tally stick as a receipt, in which notches of different
positions and sizes stood for the sum he had paid. A stick exactly
corresponding was kept by the court, split off, indeed, from his, and
the matching of the two at the Michaelmas session, when the year's
account was finally closed, was the sheriff's proof of his former
payment. The revenue of which the sheriff gave account in this way
consisted of a variety of items. The most important was the firma
comitatus, the farm or annual sum which the sheriff paid for his
county as the farmer of its revenue. This was made up of the estimated
returns from two sources, the rents from the king's lands in the county,
and the share of the fines which went to the king from cases tried in
the old popular courts of shire and hundred. The administration of
justice was a valuable source of income in feudal days, whether to the
king or to the lord who had his own court. But the fines which helped
to make up the ferm of the county were not the only ones for which the
sheriff accounted. He had also to collect, or at least in a general way
to be responsible for, the fines inflicted in the king's courts as held
in his county by the king's justices on circuits, and these were frequent
in Henry's time. If a Danegeld or an aid was taken during the year, this
must also be accounted for, together with such of the peculiarly feudal
sources of income, ward-ships, marriages, escheats, etc., as were in the
sheriffs hands. On the roll appear also numerous entries of fees paid by
private persons to have their cases tried in the king's courts, or to
have the king's processes or officers for the enforcement of their

Altogether the items were almost as numerous as in a modern budget, but
one chief source of present revenue, the customs duties, is conspicuously
absent, and the general aspect of the system is far more that of income
from property than in a modern state, even fines and fees having a
personal rather than a political character. A careful estimate of all the
revenue accounted for in this Pipe Roll of 1130 shows that Henry's annual
income probably fell a little short of 30,000 English pounds in the money
of that day, which should be equal in purchasing power, in money of our
time, to a million and a half or two million pounds.[26] This was a large
revenue for the age. Henry knew the value of money for the ends he wished
to accomplish, and though he accumulated large store of it, he spent it
unsparingly when the proper time came. England groaned constantly under
the heavy burden of his taxes, and the Pipe Roll shows us that there was
ground for these complaints. The Danegeld, the direct land-tax, had been
taken for some years before this date, with the regularity of a modern
tax, and as it was taken at a rate which would make it in any age a heavy
burden, we can well believe that it was found hard to bear in a time
when the returns of agriculture were more uncertain than now, and when
the frequently occurring bad seasons were a more serious calamity.
Economically, however, England was well-to-do. She had enjoyed during
Henry's reign a long age of comparative quiet. For nearly a generation
and a half, as the lives of men then averaged, there had been no war,
public or private, to lay waste any part of the land. In fact, since
early in the reign of Henry's father, England had been almost without
experience of the barbarous devastation that went with war in feudal
days. Excessive taxation and licensed oppression had seemed at times a
serious burden. Bad harvests and the hunger and disease against which the
medieval man could not protect himself had checked the growth of wealth
and population. Yet on the whole the nation had gained greatly in three

Especially is this to be seen in the development of the towns, in the
growth of a rich burgher class containing many foreign elements, Norman,
Flemish, and Jewish, and living with many signs of comfort and luxury, as
well as in the indications of an active and diversified commercial life.
The progress of this portion of the nation, the larger portion in numbers
but making little show in the annals of barons and bishops whose more
dramatic activities it supported is marked in an interesting way by a
charter granted by Henry to London, in the last years of his reign.[27]
His father had put into legal form a grant to the city, but it was not,
strictly speaking, a city charter. It was no more than a promise that law
and property should be undisturbed. Henry's charter goes much beyond this,
though it tells us no more of the internal government of the city. In
return for a rent of L300 a year, the king abandoned to the city all his
revenues from Middlesex, and because he would have no longer any interest
in the collection of these revenues the city might choose its own sheriff,
and presumably collect them for itself. The king's pleas were surrendered,
the city was to have its own justiciar, and to make this concession a real
one, no citizen need plead in any suit outside the city walls. Danegeld
and murder fines were also given up, and the local courts of the city were
to have their regular sittings. Behind a grant like this must lie some
considerable experience of self-government, a developed and conscious
capacity in the citizens to organize and handle the machinery of
administration. But of this there is no hint in the charter, nor do we
know much of the inner government of London till some time later. Of the
wealth and power of the city the charter speaks still more plainly, and of
this there was to be abundant evidence in the period which follows the
close of Henry's reign.

Henry's stay in England at this time was not long. Towards the end of the
summer he returned to Normandy, though with what he was occupied there we
have little knowledge. A disputed election to the papacy had taken place,
and the pope of the reform party, Innocent II, had come to France, where
that party was strong. The great St. Bernard, the most influential
churchman of his time, had declared for him, and through his influence
Henry, who met Innocent in January, 1131, recognized him as the rightful
pope. In the following summer he returned to England, and brought back
with him Matilda, who had now been two full years separated from her
husband; but about this time Geoffrey thought better of his conduct, or
determined to try the experiment of living with his wife again, and sent a
request that Matilda be sent back to him. What answer should be given him
was considered in a meeting of the great council at Northampton, September
8, almost as if her relationship with Geoffrey were a new proposition; and
it was decided that she should go. A single chronicler records that Henry
took advantage of this coming together of the barons at the meeting of the
court to demand fealty to Matilda, both from those who had formerly sworn
it and from those who had not.[28] Such a fact hardly seems consistent
with the same chronicler's record of the excuse of Roger, Bishop of
Salisbury, for violating his oath; but if it occurred, as this repetition
of the fealty was after Matilda's marriage with Geoffrey and immediately
after a decision of the baronage that she should return to him, it would
make the bishop's argument a mere subterfuge or, at best, an exception
applying to himself alone. Matilda immediately went over to Anjou, where
she was received with great honour.

Few things remain to be recorded of the brief period of life left to the
king. He had been interested, as his brother had been, in the extension
of English influence in Cumberland, and now he erected that county into a
new bishopric of Carlisle, in the obedience of the Archbishop of York. On
March 25, 1133, was born Matilda's eldest son, the future Henry II; and
early in August the king of England crossed the channel for the last
time, undoubtedly to see his grandson. On June 1, of the next year, his
second grandson, Geoffrey, was born. A short time before, the long
imprisonment of Robert of Normandy closed with his death, and the future
for which Henry had so long worked must have seemed to him secure. But
his troubles were not over. The medieval heir was usually in a hurry to
enter into his inheritance, and Geoffrey of Anjou, who probably felt his
position greatly strengthened by the birth of his son, was no exception
to the rule. He demanded possessions in Normandy. He made little wars on
his own account. Matilda, who seems now to have identified herself with
her husband's interests, upheld his demands. Some of the Norman barons,
who were glad of any pretext to escape from the yoke of Henry, added
their support, especially William Talvas, the son of Robert of Belleme,
who might easily believe that he had a long account to settle with the
king. But Henry was still equal to the occasion. A campaign of three
months, in 1135, drove William Talvas out of the country and brought
everything again under the king's control, though peace was not yet made
with his belligerent son-in-law. Then came the end suddenly. On November
25, Henry, still apparently in full health and vigour, planning a hunt
for the next day, ate too heartily of eels, a favourite dish but always
harmful to him, and died a week later, December 1, of the illness which
resulted. Asked on his death-bed what disposition should be made of the
succession, he declared again that all should go to Matilda, but made no
mention of Geoffrey.

Henry was born in 1068, and was now past the end of his sixty-seventh
year. His reign of a little more than thirty-five years was a long one,
not merely for the middle ages, when the average of human life was short,
but for any period of history. He was a man of unusual physical vigour.
He had been very little troubled with illness. His health and strength
were still unaffected by the labours of his life. He might reasonably
have looked forward to seeing his grandson, who was now nearing the end
of his third year, if not of an age to rule, at least of an age to be
accepted as king with a strong regency under the leadership of Robert of
Gloucester. A few years more of life for King Henry might have saved
England from a generation that laboured to undo his work.

With the death of Henry I a great reign in English history closed.
Considered as a single period, it does not form an epoch by itself. It is
rather an introductory age, an age of beginnings, which, interrupted by a
generation of anarchy, were taken up and completed by others. We are
tempted to suspect that these others receive more credit for the
completed result than they really deserve, because we know their work so
well and Henry's so imperfectly. Certainly, we may well note this fact,
that every new bit of evidence which the scholar from time to time
rescues from neglect tends to show that the special creations for which
we have distinguished the reign of Henry's grandson, reach further back
in time than we had supposed. To this we may add the fact that, wherever
we can follow in detail the action of the king, we find it the action of
a man of political genius. Did we know as much of Henry's activity in
government and administration as we do of the carrying out of his foreign
policy, it is more than probable that we should find in it the clear
marks of creative statesmanship. Not the least important of Henry's
achievements of which we are sure was the peace which he secured and
maintained for England with a strong and unsparing hand. More than thirty
years of undisturbed quiet was a long period for any land in the middle
ages, and during that time the vital process of union, the growing
together in blood and laws and feeling of the two great races which
occupied the land, was going rapidly forward.

[23] Gesta Stephani (Rolls Series), p. 10.

[24] William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, sec. 452.

[25] Edited by Joseph Hunter and published by the Record Commission
in 1833.

[26] Ramsay, Foundations of England, ii, 328.

[27] Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 347 ff.

[28] W. Malm., Historia Novella, sec. 455, and cf. sec. 452.



Earls and barons, whom the rumour of his illness had drawn together,
surrounded the death-bed of Henry I and awaited the result. Among them
was his natural son Robert of Gloucester; but his legal heiress, the
daughter for whom he had done so much and risked so much, was not there.
The recent attempt of her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, to gain by force
the footing in Normandy which Henry had denied him, had drawn her away
from her father, and she was still in Anjou. It was afterward declared
that Henry on his death-bed disinherited her and made Stephen of Boulogne
heir in her place; but this is not probable, and it is met by the
statement which we may believe was derived directly from Robert of
Gloucester, that the dying king declared his will to be still in her
favour. However this may be, no steps were taken by any one in Normandy
to put Matilda in possession of the duchy, or formally to recognize her
right of succession. Why her brother Robert did nothing and allowed the
opportunity to slip, we cannot say. Possibly he did not anticipate a
hostile attempt. At Rouen, whither Henry's body was first taken, the
barons adopted measures to preserve order and to guard the frontiers,
which show that they took counsel on the situation; but nothing was done
about the succession.

In the meantime, another person, as deeply interested in the result, did
not wait for events to shape themselves. Stephen of Boulogne had been a
favourite nephew of Henry I and a favourite at his uncle's court, and he
had been richly provided for. The county of Mortain, usually held by some
member of the ducal house, had been given him; he had shared in the
confiscated lands of the house of Belleme; and he had been married to the
heiress of the practically independent county of Boulogne, which carried
with it a rich inheritance in England. Henry might very well believe that
gratitude would secure from Stephen as faithful a support of his
daughter's cause as he expected from her brother Robert. But in this he
was mistaken. Stephen acted so promptly on the news of his uncle's death
that he must already have decided what his action would be.

When he heard that his uncle had died, Stephen crossed at once to
England. Dover and Canterbury were held by garrisons of Earl Robert's and
refused him admittance, but he pushed on by them to London. There he was
received with welcome by the citizens. London was in a situation to hail
the coming of any one who promised to re-establish order and security,
and this was clearly the motive on which the Londoners acted in all that
followed. A reign of disorder had begun as soon as it was known that the
king was dead, as frequently happened in the medieval state, for the
power that enforced the law, or perhaps that gave validity even to the
law and to the commissions of those who executed it, was suspended while
the throne was vacant. A great commercial city, such as London had grown
to be during the long reign of Henry, would suffer in all its interests
from such a state of things. Indeed, it appears that a body of
plunderers, under one who had been a servant of the late king's, had
established themselves not far from the city, and were by their
operations manufacturing pressing arguments in favour of the immediate
re-establishment of order. It is not necessary to seek for any further
explanation of the welcome which London extended to Stephen. Immediately
on his arrival a council was held in the city, probably the governing
body of the city, the municipal council if we may so call it, which
determined what should be done. Negotiations were not difficult between
parties thus situated, and an agreement was speedily reached. The city
bound itself to recognize Stephen as king, and he promised to put down
disorder and maintain security. Plainly from the account we have of this
arrangement, it was a bargain, a kind of business contract; and Stephen
proceeded at once to show that he intended to keep his side of it by
dispersing the robber band which was annoying the city and hanging its

It is unnecessary to take seriously the claim of a special right to fill
the throne when it was vacant, which the citizens of London advanced for
themselves according to a contemporary historian of these events.[29] This
is surely less a claim of the citizens than one invented for them by
a partisan who wishes to make Stephen's position appear as strong as
possible; and no one at the time paid any attention to it. Having secured
the support of London, after what can have been only a few days' stay,
Stephen went immediately to Winchester. Before he could really believe
himself king, he had to secure the royal treasures and more support than
he had yet gained. Stephen's own brother Henry, who owed his promotion in
the Church, as Stephen did his in the State, to his uncle, was at this
time Bishop of Winchester; and it was due to him, as a contemporary
declares, that the plan of Stephen succeeded, and the real decision of the
question was made, not at London, but at Winchester.[30] Henry went out
with the citizens of Winchester to meet his brother on his approach, and
he was welcomed as he had been at London. Present there or coming in soon
after, were the Archbishop William of Canterbury, Roger, Bishop of
Salisbury, the head of King Henry's administrative system, and seemingly a
few, but not many, barons. On the question of making Stephen king, the
good, though not strong, Archbishop of Canterbury, was greatly troubled by
the oath which had been sworn in the interest of Matilda. "There are not
enough of us here," his words seem to mean, "to decide upon so important a
step as recognizing this man as king, when we are bound by oath to
recognize another."[31]

Though our evidence is derived from clerical writers, who might
exaggerate the importance of the point, it seems clear from a number of
reasons that this oath to Matilda was really the greatest difficulty in
Stephen's way. That it troubled the conscience of the lay world very much
does not appear, nor that it was regarded either in Normandy or England
as settling the succession. If the Norman barons had been bound by this
oath as well as the English, as is altogether probable, they certainly
acted as if they considered the field clear for other candidates. But it
is evident that the oath was the first and greatest difficulty to be
overcome in securing for Stephen the support of the Church, and this was
indispensable to his success. The active condemnation of the breaking of
this oath survived for a long time in the Church, and with characteristic
medieval logic the fate of those few who violated their oaths and met
some evil end was pointed to as a direct vengeance of God, while that of
the fortunate majority of the faithless is passed over in silence,
including the chief traitor Hugh Bigod, who, as Robert of Gloucester
afterwards declared, had twice sworn falsely, and made of perjury an
elegant accomplishment.[32]

If the scruples of the archbishop were to be overcome, it could not be
done by increasing the number of those who were present to agree to the
accession of Stephen. No material increase of the party of his adherents
could be expected before the ceremony of coronation had made him actual
king. It seems extremely probable that it was at this crisis of affairs,
that the scheme was invented to meet the hesitation of the archbishop; and
it was the only way in which it could have been overcome at the moment.
Certain men stepped forward and declared that at the last Henry repented
of having forced his barons to take this oath, and that he released them
from it. It is hardly possible to avoid the accumulated force of the
evidence which points to Hugh Bigod as the peculiarly guilty person, or to
doubt it was here that he committed the perjury of which so many accused
him. He is said to have sworn that Henry cut off Matilda from the
succession and appointed Stephen his heir; but he probably swore to no
more than is stated above.[33] That Matilda was excluded would be an
almost necessary inference from it, and that Stephen was appointed heir in
her place natural embroidery upon it. Nor can there be any reasonable
doubt, I think, that his oath was deliberately false. Who should be made
to bear the guilt of this scheme, if such it was, cannot be said. It is
hardly likely that Henry of Winchester had any share in it. Whether true
or false, the statement removed the scruples of the archbishop and secured
his consent to Stephen's accession.

With this declaration of Hugh Bigod's, however, was coupled another
matter more of the nature of a positive inducement to the Church. Bishop
Henry seems to have argued with much skill, and very likely to have
believed himself, that if they should agree to make his brother king, he
would restore to the Church that freedom from the control of the State
for which it had been contending since the beginning of the reign of
Henry I, and which was now represented as having been the practice in the
time of their grandfather, William the Conqueror. Stephen agreed at once
to the demand. He was obliged to pay whatever price was set upon the
crown by those who had the disposal of it; but of all the promises which
he made to secure it, this is the one which he came the nearest to
keeping. He swore to "restore liberty to the Church and to preserve it,"
and his brother pledged himself that the oath would be kept. Besides the
adhesion of the Church, Stephen secured at Winchester the royal treasure
which had been accumulated by his uncle and which was not small, and the
obedience of the head of the administrative system, Roger of Salisbury,
who seems to have made no serious difficulty, but who excused his
violation of his oath to Matilda by another pretext, as has already been
mentioned, than the one furnished by Hugh Bigod.

With the new adherents whom he had gained, Stephen at once returned from
Winchester to London for his formal coronation. This took place at
Westminster, probably on December 22, certainly within a very few days of
that date. His supporters were still a very small party in the state.
Very few of the lay barons had as yet declared for him. His chief
dependence must have been upon the two cities of London and Winchester,
and upon the three bishops who had come to his coronation with him, and
who certainly held positions of influence and power in Church and State
far beyond that of the ordinary bishop. At his coronation Stephen renewed
his oath to respect the liberty of the Church, and he issued a brief
charter to the nation at large which is drawn up in very general terms,
confirming the liberties and good laws of Henry, king of the English, and
the good laws and good customs of King Edward, but this can hardly be
regarded as anything more than a proclamation that he intended to make no
changes, a general confirmation of existing rights at the beginning of a
new reign. The Christmas festival Stephen is said to have celebrated at
London with great display. His party had not yet materially grown in
strength, but he was now a consecrated king, and this fait accompli, as
it has been called, was undoubtedly a decided argument with many in the
next few weeks.

Throughout the three weeks that had elapsed since he had learned of his
uncle's death, Stephen had acted with great energy, rapidity, and
courage. Nor is there anything in the course of his reign to show that he
was at any time lacking in these qualities. The period of English history
upon which we enter with the coronation of Stephen is not merely a dreary
period, with no triumphs abroad to be recorded, nor progress at home,
with much loss of what had already been gained, temporary, indeed, but
threatening to be permanent. It is also one of active feudal strife and
anarchy, lasting almost a generation, of the loosening of the bonds of
government, and of suffering by the mass of the nation, the like of which
never recurs in the whole of that history. But this misery fell upon the
country in Stephen's time, not because he failed to understand the duty
of a king, nor because he lacked the energy or courage which a king must
have. The great defect of Stephen's character for the time in which he
lived was that he yielded too easily to persuasion. Gifted with the
popular qualities which win personal favour among men, he had also the
weakness which so often goes with them; he could not long resist the
pressure of those about him. He could not impress men with the fact that
he must be obeyed. His life after his coronation was a laborious one, and
he did not spare himself in his efforts to keep order and to put down
rebellion; but the situation passed irrecoverably beyond his control as
soon as men realized that his will was not inflexible, and that swift and
certain punishment of disobedience need not be feared. Stephen was at
this time towards forty years old, an age which promised mature judgment
and vigorous rule. His wife, who bore the name of Matilda, so common in
the Norman house, was a woman of unusual spirit and energy, and devotedly
attached to him. She stood through her mother, daughter of Malcolm and
Margaret of Scotland, in the same relationship to the empress Matilda
that her husband did, and her descendants would therefore be equally near
akin to the old Saxon dynasty as those of the Empress.

If Stephen had seized the earliest opportunity, his cousin Matilda had
been scarcely less prompt, but she had acted with less decision and with
less discernment of the strategic importance of England. As soon as she
learned of her father's death, she entered Normandy from the south, near
Domfront, and was admitted to that town and to Argentan and Exmes without
opposition by the viscount of that region, who was one of King Henry's
"new men" in Normandy, and who recognized her claims at once. In a few
days she was followed by her husband, Geoffrey, who entered the duchy a
little farther to the east, in alliance with William Talvas, who opened
to him Sees and other fortified places of his fief. So far all seemed
going well, though as compared with the rapidity of Stephen's progress
during those same days, such successes would count but little. Then, for
some unaccountable reason, Geoffrey allowed his troops to plunder the
Normans and to ravage cruelly the lands which had received him as a
friend. The inborn fierceness of the Normans burst out at such treatment,
and the Angevins were swept out of the country with as great cruelties as
they had themselves exercised. Whether this incident had any influence on
the action of the Norman barons it is not possible to say, but it must
have been about the same time that they met at Neubourg to decide the
question of the succession. We have no account of what they did or of
what motives influenced their first decision. Theobald, Count of Blois
and of Champagne, Stephen's elder brother, was present apparently to urge
his own claim, and him they decided, or were on the point of deciding, to
recognize as duke. At this moment a messenger from Stephen arrived and
announced that all the English had accepted Stephen and agreed that he
should be king. This news at once settled the question for the Norman
barons. The reason which we have seen acting so strongly on earlier
occasions--the fear of the consequences if they should try to hold their
lands of two different suzerains--was once more the controlling motive,
and they determined to accept Stephen. Theobald acquiesced in this
decision, though unwillingly, and retired to his own dominions, to show
but little interest in the long strife which these events began.

In England the effect of Stephen's coronation soon made itself felt.
Immediately after the Christmas festivities in London he went with his
court to Reading, whither the body of King Henry had now been brought
from Normandy. There it was interred with becoming pomp, in the presence
of the new king, in the abbey which Henry had founded and richly endowed.
There Stephen issued a charter which is of especial historical value. It
records a grant to Miles of Gloucester, and is signed among others by
Payne Fitz-John. Both these were among Henry's "new men." Miles of
Gloucester especially had received large gifts from the late king, and
had held important office under him. Such men would naturally support
Matilda. They might be expected certainly to hesitate until her cause was
hopeless. Their presence with Stephen, accepting him as king so soon
after his coronation, is evidence of great value as to the drift of
opinion in England about the chance of his success. The charter is
evidence also of one of the difficulties in Stephen's way, and of the
necessity he was under of buying support, which we have seen already and
which played so great a part in the later events of his reign. The
charter confirms Miles in the possession of all the grants which had been
made him in the late reign, and binds the king not to bring suit against
him for anything which he held at the death of Henry. The question
whether a new king, especially one who was not the direct heir of his
predecessor, would respect his grants was a question of great importance
to men in the position of Miles of Gloucester.

At Reading, or perhaps at Oxford, where Stephen may have gone from the
burial of Henry, news came to him that David, king of Scotland, had
crossed the border and was taking possession of the north of England,
from Carlisle to Newcastle. David professed to be acting in behalf of his
niece, Matilda, and out of respect to the oath he had sworn to support
her cause, and he was holding the plundering habits of his army well in
check. We are told that it was with a great army that Stephen marched
against him. He had certainly force enough to make it seem wise to David,
who was on his way to Durham, to fall back and negotiate. Terms were
quickly arranged. David would not conform to the usual rule and become
Stephen's man; and Stephen, still yielding minor matters to secure the
greater, did not insist. But David's son Henry did homage to Stephen, and
received the earldom of Huntingdon, with a vague promise that he might be
given at some later time the other part of the possessions of his
grandfather, Waltheof, the earldom of Northumberland, and with the more
substantial present grant of Carlisle and Doncaster. The other places
which David had occupied were given up.

From the north Stephen returned to London to hold his Easter court. He
was now, he might well believe, king without question, and he intended
to have the Easter assembly make this plain. Special writs of summons
were sent throughout England to all the magnates of Church and State;
and a large and brilliant court came together in response. Charters
issued at this date, when taken together, give us the names of three
archbishops--one, the Archbishop of Rouen--and thirteen bishops, four
being Norman, and thirty-nine barons and officers of the court who were
present, including King David's son Henry, who had come with Stephen from
the north. At this assembly Stephen's queen, Matilda, was crowned, and so
brilliant was the display and so lavish the expenditure that England was
struck with the contrast to the last reign, whose economies had in part
at least accumulated the treasure which Stephen might now scatter with
a free hand to secure his position. The difficulties of his task are
illustrated by an incident which occurred at this court. Mindful of the
necessity of conciliating Scotland, he gave to young Henry, at the Easter
feast, the seat of honour at his right hand; whereupon, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, offended because his claims of precedence had been set aside,
left the court; and Ralph, Earl of Chester, angered because Carlisle, to
which he asserted claims of hereditary right, had been made over to
Henry, cried out upon the young man, and with other barons insulted him
so grievously that his father David was very angry in his turn.

Immediately after the Easter festivities, the court as a body removed to
Oxford. Just after Easter Robert of Gloucester, the Empress's brother,
had landed in England. Stephen had been importuning him for some time to
give up his sister's cause and acknowledge him as king. So far as we
know, Robert had done nothing up to this time to stem the current of
events, and these events were probably a stronger argument with him than
Stephen's inducements. All England and practically all Normandy had
accepted Stephen. The king of Scotland had abandoned the opposition.
Geoffrey and Matilda had accomplished nothing, and seemed to be planning
nothing. The only course that lay plainly open was to make the best terms
possible with the successful usurper, and to await the further course of
events. William of Malmesbury, who looked upon Earl Robert as his patron
and who wrote almost as his panegyrist, thinking, perhaps, dissimulation
a smaller fault than disregard of his oath, accounted for his submission
to Stephen by his desire to gain an opportunity to persuade the English
barons to saner counsels. This statement can hardly be taken as evidence
of Robert's intention, but at any rate he now joined the court at Oxford
and made his bargain with Stephen. He did him homage, and promised to be
his man so long as the king should maintain him in his position and keep
faith with him.

At this Oxford meeting another bargain, even more important to Stephen
than his bargain with the Earl of Gloucester, was put into a form which
may be not improperly called a definitive treaty. This was the bargain
with the Church, to the terms of which Stephen had twice before
consented. The document in which this treaty was embodied is commonly
known as Stephen's second charter; and, witnessed by nearly all those who
witnessed the London charters already referred to, and by the Earl of
Gloucester in addition, it had the force of a royal grant confirmed by
the curia regis. Nothing could prove to us more clearly than this
charter how conscious Stephen was of the desperate character of the
undertaking on which he had ventured, and of the vital necessity of the
support of the Church. The grant is of the most sweeping sort. All that
the Church had demanded in the conflict between Anselm and Henry I is
freely yielded, and more. All simony shall cease, vacancies shall be
canonically filled; the possessions of the Church shall be administered
by its own men during a vacancy,--that is, the feudal rights which had
been exercised by the last two kings are given up; jurisdiction over all
ecclesiastical persons and property is abandoned to the Church;
ecclesiastics shall have full power to dispose of their personal property
by will; all unjust exactions, by whomsoever brought in,--including among
these, no doubt, as Henry of Huntingdon expressly says, the Danegeld,
which the Church had insisted ought not to be paid by its domain
lands,--are to be given up. "These all I concede and confirm," the
charter closes, "saving my royal and due dignity." Dignity in the modern
sense might be left the king, but not much real power over the Church if
this charter was to determine future law and custom. The English Church
would have reached at a stroke a nearer realization of the full programme
of the Hildebrandine reform than all the struggles of nearly a century
had yet secured in any other land, if the king kept his promises. As a
matter of fact, he did not do so entirely, though the Church made more
permanent gain from the weakness of this reign than any other of the
contending and rival parties.

One phrase at the beginning of this charter strikes us with surprise. In
declaring how he had become king, Stephen adds to choice by clergy and
people, and consecration by the archbishop, the confirmation of the pope.
Since when had England, recognized the right of the pope to confirm its
sovereigns or to decide cases of disputed succession? Or is the papacy
securing here, from the necessities of Stephen, a greater concession than
any other in the charter, a practical recognition of the claim which once
Gregory VII had made of the Conqueror only to have it firmly rejected,
and which the Church had not succeeded in establishing in any European
land? In reality England had recognized no claim of papal overlordship,
nor was any such claim in the future based upon this confirmation. The
reference to the pope had been practically forced upon Stephen, whether
he would have taken the step himself or not, and the circumstances made
it of the highest importance to him to proclaim publicly the papal
sanction of his accession. Probably immediately on hearing the news of
Stephen's usurpation, Matilda had despatched to Pope Innocent II,--then
residing at Pisa because Rome was in possession of his rival, Anacletus
II,--an embassy headed by the Bishop of Angers, to appeal to the pope
against the wicked deeds of Stephen, in that he had defrauded her of her
rights and broken his oath, as William of Normandy had once appealed to
the pope against the similar acts of Harold.[34] At Pisa this embassy was
opposed by another of Stephen's, whose spokesman was the archdeacon of
Sees. It must have started at about the same time as Matilda's, and it
brought to the pope the official account of the bishops who had taken part
in the coronation of Stephen.

In the presence of Innocent something like a formal trial occurred. The
case was argued by the champions of the two sides, on questions which it
belonged to the Church to decide, or which at least the Church claimed
the right to decide, the usurpation of an inheritance, and the violation
of an oath. Against Matilda's claim were advanced the arguments which had
already been used with effect in England, that the oath had been extorted
from the barons by force, and that on his death-bed Henry had released
them from it; but more than this, Stephen's advocates suddenly sprang on
their opponents a new and most disconcerting argument, one which would
have had great weight in any Church court, and which attacked both their
claims at once. Matilda could not be the rightful heir, and so the oath
itself could not be binding, because she was of illegitimate birth, being
the daughter of a nun. One account of this debate represents Matilda's
side as nonplussed by this argument and unable to answer it. And they
might well be, for during the long generation since Henry's marriage, no
question of its validity had ever been publicly raised. The sudden
advancing of the doubt at this time shows, however, that it had lingered
on in the minds of some in the Church. It is not likely that the point
would have been in the end dangerous to Matilda's cause, for it would not
have been possible to produce evidence sufficient to warrant the Church
in reversing the decision which Archbishop Anselm had carefully made at
the time. But the pope did not allow the case to come to a decision. He
broke off the debate, and announced that he would not decide the question
nor permit it to be taken up again. His caution was no doubt due to the
difficult position in which Innocent was then placed, with a rival in
possession of the capital of Christendom, the issue uncertain, and the
support of all parties necessary to his cause. Privately, but not as an
official decision, he wrote to Stephen recognizing him as king of
England. The letter reveals a reason in Stephen's favour which probably
availed more with the pope than all the arguments of the English embassy,
the pressure of the king of France. The separation of Anjou at least, if
not of Normandy also, from England, was important to the plans of France,
and the support of the king was essential to the pope.

To Stephen the reasons for the pope's letter were less important than the
fact that such decision as there was was in his favour. He could not do
otherwise than make this public. The letter probably arrived in England
just before, or at the time of, the Easter council in London. To the
Church of England, in regard to the troublesome matter of the oath, it
would be decisive. There could be no reason why Stephen should not be
accepted as king if the pope, with full understanding of the facts, had
accepted him. And so the Church was ready to enter into that formal
treaty with the king which is embodied in Stephen's second charter, which
is a virtual though conditional recognition of him, and which naturally,
as an essential consideration, recites the papal recognition and calls it
not unnaturally a confirmation, though this word may be nothing more than
the mere repetition of an ecclesiastical formula set down by a clerical
hand, without especial significance.

Stephen might now believe himself firmly fixed in the possession of power.
His bold stroke for the crown had proved as successful as Henry I's, and
everything seemed to promise as secure and prosperous a reign. The
all-influential Church had declared for him, and its most influential
leader was his brother Henry of Winchester, who had staked his own honour
in his support. The barons of the kingdom had accepted him, and had
attended his Easter court in unusual numbers as compared with anything
we know of the immediately preceding reigns. Those who should have been
the leaders of his rival's cause had all submitted,--her brother, Robert
of Gloucester, Brian Fitz Count, Miles of Gloucester, Payne Fitz John,
the Bishop of Salisbury, and his great ministerial family. The powerful
house of Beaumont, the earls of Warwick and of Leicester, who held almost
a kingdom in middle England, promised to be as faithful to the new
sovereign as it had been to earlier ones. Even Matilda herself and her
husband Geoffrey seemed to have abandoned effort, having met with no
better success in their appeal to the pope than in their attack on
Normandy. For more than two years nothing occurs which shakes the
security of Stephen's power or which seriously threatens it with the
coming of any disaster.

And yet Stephen, like Henry I, had put himself into a position which only
the highest gifts of statesmanship and character could maintain, and in
these he was fatally lacking. The element of weakness, which is more
apparent in his case, though perhaps not more real, than in Henry's, that
he was a king by "contract," as the result of various bargains, and that
he might be renounced by the other parties to these bargains if he
violated their terms, was only one element in a general situation which
could be dominated by a strong will and by that alone. These bargains
served as excuses for rebellion,--unusually good, to be sure, from a
legal point of view,--but excuses are always easy to find, or are often
thought unnecessary, for resistance to a king whom one may defy with
impunity. The king's uncle had plainly marked out a policy which a ruler
in his situation should follow at the beginning of his reign--to destroy
the power of the most dangerous barons, one by one, and to raise up on
their ruins a body of less powerful new men devoted to himself; but this
policy Stephen had not the insight nor the strength of purpose to follow.
His defect was not the lack of courage. He was conscious of his duty and
unsparing of himself, but he lacked the clear sight and the fixed
purpose, the inflexible determination which the position in which he had
placed himself demanded. To understand the real reason for the period of
anarchy which follows, to know why Stephen, with as fair a start, failed
to rule as Henry I had done, one must see as clearly as possible how, in
the months when his power seemed in no danger of falling, he undermined
it himself through his lack of quick perception and his unsteadiness of

It would not be profitable to discuss here the question whether or not
Stephen was a usurper. Such a discussion is an attempt to measure the acts
of that time by a standard not then in use. As we now judge of such things
he was a usurper; in the forum of morals he must be declared a usurper,
but no one at the time accused him of any wrong-doing beyond the breaking
of his oath.[35] Of no king before or after is so much said, in chronicles
and formal documents, of "election" as is said of Stephen; but of anything
which may be called a formal or constitutional election there is no trace.
The facts recorded indeed illustrate more clearly than in any other case
the process by which, in such circumstances, a king came to the throne. It
was clearly a process of securing the adhesion and consent, one after
another, of influential men or groups of men. In this case it was plainly
bargaining. In every case there was probably something of that--as much
as might be necessary to secure the weight of support that would turn the

Within a few days of this brilliant assembly at the Easter festival, the
series of events began which was to test Stephen's character and to
reveal its weakness to those who were eager in every reign of feudal
times to profit by such a revelation. A rumour was in some way started
that the king was dead. Instantly Hugh Bigod, who had been present at the
Oxford meeting, and who had shown his own character by his willingness to
take on his soul the guilt of perjury in Stephen's cause, seized Norwich
castle. The incident shows what was likely always to happen on the death
of the king,--the seizure of royal domains or of the possessions of
weaker neighbours, by barons who hoped to gain something when the time of
settlement came. Hugh Bigod had large possessions in East Anglia, and was
ambitious of a greater position still. He became, indeed, in the end,
earl, but without the possession of Norwich. Now he was not disposed to
yield his prey, even if the king were still alive; he did so only when
Stephen came against him in person, and then very unwillingly. That he
received any punishment for his revolt we are not told.

Immediately after this Stephen was called to the opposite side of the
kingdom by news of the local depredations of Robert of Bampton, a minor
baron of Devonshire. His castle was speedily captured, and he was sent
into exile. But greater difficulties were at hand in that region. A baron
of higher rank, Baldwin of Redvers, whose father before him, and himself
in succession, had been faithful adherents of Henry I from the
adventurous and landless days of that prince, seized the castle of Exeter
and attempted to excite a revolt, presumably in the interests of Matilda.
The inhabitants of Exeter refused to join him, and sent at once to
Stephen for aid, which was hurriedly despatched and arrived just in time
to prevent the sacking of the town by the angry rebel. Here was a more
important matter than either of the other two with which the king had had
to deal, and he sat down to the determined siege of the castle. It was
strongly situated on a mass of rock, and resisted the king's earlier
attacks until, after three months, the garrison was brought to the point
of yielding by want of water. At first Stephen, by the advice of his
brother Henry, insisted upon unconditional surrender, even though
Baldwin's wife came to him in person and in great distress to move his
pity. But now, as in Henry I's attack on Robert of Belleme at the
beginning of his reign, another influence made itself felt. The barons in
Stephen's camp began to put pressure on the king to induce him to grant
favourable terms. We know too little of the actual circumstances to be
able to say to what extent Stephen was really forced to yield. In the
more famous incident at Bridgenorth Henry had the support of the English
common soldiers in his army. Here nothing is said of them, or of any
support to the king. But with or without support, he yielded. The
garrison of the castle were allowed to go free with all their personal
property. Whether this was a concession which in the circumstances
Stephen could not well refuse, or an instance of his easy yielding to
pressure, of which there are many later, the effect was the same.
Contemporary opinion declared it to be bad policy, and dated from it more
general resistance to the king. It certainly seems clear from these
cases, especially from the last, that Stephen had virtually given notice
at the beginning of his reign that rebellion against him was not likely
to be visited with the extreme penalty. Baldwin of Redvers did not give
up the struggle with the surrender of Exeter castle. He had possessions
in the Isle of Wight, and he fortified himself there, got together some
ships, and began to prey on the commerce of the channel. Stephen followed
him up, and was about to invade the island when he appeared and
submitted. This time he was exiled, and crossing over to Normandy he took
refuge at the court of Geoffrey and Matilda, where he was received with a
warm welcome.

For the present these events were not followed by anything further of a
disquieting nature. To all appearances Stephen's power had not been in
the least affected. From the coast he went north to Brampton near
Huntingdon, to amuse himself with hunting. There he gave evidence of how
strong he felt himself to be, for he held a forest assize and tried
certain barons for forest offences. In his Oxford charter he had promised
to give up the forests which Henry had added to those of the two
preceding kings, but he had not promised to hold no forest assizes, and
he could not well surrender them. There was something, however, about his
action at Brampton which was regarded as violating his "promise to God
and to the people"; and we may regard it, considering the bitterness of
feeling against the forest customs, especially on the part of the Church,
as evidence that he felt himself very secure, and more important still as
leading to the belief that he would not be bound by his promises.

A somewhat similar impression must have been made at about this time, the
impression at least that the king was trying to make himself strong
enough to be independent of his pledges, if he wished, by the fact that
he was collecting about him a large force of foreign mercenaries,
especially men from Britanny and Flanders. From the date of the Conquest
itself, the paid soldier, the mercenary drawn from outside the dominions
of the sovereign, had been constantly in use in England, not merely in
the armies of the king, but sometimes in the forces of the greater
barons, and had often been a main support in both cases. When kept under
a strong control, the presence of mercenaries had given rise to no
complaints; indeed, it is probable that in the later part of reigns like
those of William I and Henry I their number had been comparatively
insignificant. But in a reign in which the king was dependent on their
aid and obliged to purchase their support by allowing them liberties, as
when William II proposed to play the tyrant, or in the time of Stephen
from the weakness of the king, complaints are frequent of their cruelties
and oppressions, and the defenceless must have suffered whatever they
chose to inflict. The contrast of the reign of Stephen, in the conduct
and character of the foreigners in England, with that of Henry, was noted
at the time. In the commander of his mercenaries, William of Ypres, who
had been one of the unsuccessful pretenders to the countship of Flanders
some years before, Stephen secured one of his most faithful and ablest

In the meantime a series of events in Wales during this same year was
revealing another side of Stephen's character, his lack of clear
political vision, his failure to grasp the real importance of a
situation. At the very beginning of the year, the Welsh had revolted in
South Wales, and won a signal victory. From thence the movement spread
toward the west and north, growing in success as it extended. Battles
were won in the field, castles and towns were taken, leaders among the
Norman baronage were slain, and the country was overrun. It looked as if
the tide which had set so steadily against the Welsh had turned at last,
at least in the south-west, and as if the Norman or Flemish colonists
might be driven out. But Stephen did not consider the matter important
enough to demand his personal attention, even after he was relieved of
his trouble with Baldwin of Redvers, though earlier kings had thought
less threatening revolts sufficiently serious to call for great exertions
on their part. He sent some of his mercenaries, but they accomplished
nothing; and he gave some aid to the attempts of interested barons to
recover what had been lost, with no better result. Finally, we are told
by the writer most favourable to Stephen's reputation, he resolved to
expend no more money or effort on the useless attempt, but to leave the
Welsh to weaken themselves by their quarrels among themselves.[36] The
writer declares the policy successful, but we can hardly believe it was
so regarded by those who suffered from it in the disasters of this and
the following year, or by the barons of England in general.

It might well be the case that Stephen's funds were running low. The heavy
taxes and good management of his uncle had left him a full treasury with
which to begin, but the demands upon it had been great. Much support had
undoubtedly been purchased outright by gifts of money. The brilliant
Easter court had been deliberately made a time of lavish display;
mercenary troops could have been collected only at considerable cost; and
the siege of Exeter castle had been expensive as well as troublesome.
Stephen's own possessions in England were very extensive, and the royal
domains were in his hands; but the time was rapidly coming when he must
alienate these permanent sources of supply, lands and revenues, to win
and hold support. It was very likely this lack of ready money which
led Stephen to the second violation of his promises, if the natural
interpretation of the single reference to the fact is correct.[37] In
November of this year, 1136, died William of Corbeil, who had been
Archbishop of Canterbury for thirteen years and legate of the pope in
England for nearly as long. Officers of the king took possession of his
personal property, which Stephen had promised the Church should dispose
of, and found hidden away too large a store of coin for the archbishop's
reputation as a perfect pastor, for he should have distributed it in his
lifetime and then it would have gone to the poor and to his own credit.

Whatever opinion about Stephen might be forming in England during this
first year of his reign, from his violation of his pledges, or his
determination to surround himself with foreign troops, or his selfish
sacrificing of national interests, or his too easy dealing with revolt,
there was as yet no further movement against him. Nobody seemed disposed
to question his right to reign or to withhold obedience, and he could,
without fear of the consequences, turn his attention to Normandy to
secure as firm possession of the duchy as he now had of the kingdom.
About the middle of Lent, 1137, Stephen crossed to Normandy, and remained
there till Christmas of the same year. Normandy had accepted him the year
before, as soon as it knew the decision of England, but there had been no
generally recognized authority to represent the sovereign, and some parts
of the duchy had suffered severely from private war. In the south-east,
the house of Beaumont, Waleran of Meulan and Robert of Leicester, were
carrying on a fierce conflict with Roger of Tosny. In September, 1136,
central Normandy was the scene of another useless and savage raid of
Geoffrey of Anjou, accompanied by William, the last duke of Aquitaine,
William Talvas, and others. They penetrated the country as far as
Lisieux, treating the churches and servants of God, says Orderic Vitalis,
after the manner of the heathen, but were obliged to retreat; and
finally, though he had been joined by Matilda, Geoffrey, badly wounded,
abandoned this attempt also and returned to Anjou.

The general population of the duchy warmly welcomed the coming of
Stephen, from whom they hoped good things and especially order; but the
barons seem to have been less enthusiastic. They resented his use of
Flemish soldiers and the influence of William of Ypres, and they showed
themselves as disposed as in England to prevent the king from gaining any
decisive success. Still, however, there was no strong party against him,
and Stephen seemed to be in acknowledged control of the duchy, even if it
was not a strong control. In May he had an interview with Louis VI of
France, and was recognized by him as duke, on the same terms as Henry I
had been, his son Eustace doing homage in his stead. This arrangement
with France shows the strength of Stephen's position, though the
acknowledgment was no doubt dictated as well by the policy of Louis, but
events of the same month showed Stephen's real weakness. In May Geoffrey
attempted a new invasion with four hundred knights, this time intending
the capture of Caen. But Stephen's army, the Flemings under William of
Ypres, and the forces of some of the Norman barons, blocked the way.
William was anxious to fight, but the Normans refused, and William with
his Flemings left them in disgust and joined Stephen. Geoffrey, however,
gave up his attempt on Caen and drew back to Argentan. In June, on
Stephen's collecting an army to attack Geoffrey, the jealousies between
the Normans and the hired soldiers broke out in open fighting, many were
slain, and the Norman barons withdrew from the army. Geoffrey and Stephen
were now both ready for peace. Geoffrey, it is said, despaired of
accomplishing anything against Stephen, so great was his power and
wealth; and Stephen, on the contrary, must have been influenced by the
weakness which recent events had revealed. In July a truce for two years
was agreed to between them.

Closely connected with these events, but in exactly what way we do not
know, were others which show us something of the relations between the
king and the Earl of Gloucester, and which seem to indicate the growth of
suspicion on both sides. Robert had not come to Normandy with Stephen,
but on his departure he had followed him, crossing at Easter. What he had
been doing in England since he had made his treaty with the king at
Oxford, or what he did in Normandy, where he had extensive possessions,
we do not know; but the period closes with an arrangement between him and
Stephen which looks less like a renewal of their treaty than a truce. In
the troubles in the king's army during the summer campaign against
Geoffrey, Robert was suspected of treason. At one time William of Ypres
set some kind of a trap for him, in which he hoped to take him at a
disadvantage, but failed. The outcome of whatever happened was, evidently
that Stephen found himself placed in a wrong and somewhat dangerous
position, and was obliged to take an oath that he would attempt nothing
further against the earl, and to pledge his faith in the hand of the
Archbishop of Rouen. Robert accepted the new engagements of the king in
form, and took no open steps against him for the present; but it is clear
that the relation between them was one of scarcely disguised suspicion.
It was a situation with which a king like Henry I would have known how to
deal, but a king like Henry I would have occupied by this time a stronger
position from which to move than Stephen did, because his character would
have made a far different impression.

While these events were taking place in Normandy, across the border in
France other events were occurring, to be in the end of as great interest
in the history of England as in that of France. When William, Duke of
Aquitaine, returned from his expedition with Geoffrey, he seems to have
been troubled in his conscience by his heathenish deeds in Normandy, and
he made a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella to seek the pardon of
heaven. In this he seemed to be successful, and he died there before the
altar of the apostle, with all the comforts of religion. When he knew
that his end was approaching, he besought his barons to carry out the
plan which he had formed of conveying the duchy to the king of France,
with the hand of his daughter and heiress Eleanor for his son Louis. The
proposition was gladly accepted, the marriage took place in July at
Bordeaux, and the young sovereign received the homage of the vassals of a
territory more than twice his father's in area, which was thus united
with the crown. Before the bridal pair could return to Paris, the reign
of Louis VI had ended, and Louis the Young had become king as Louis VII.
He was at this time about seventeen years old. His wife was two years
younger, and Henry of Anjou, the son of Matilda, whose life was to be
even more closely associated with hers, had not yet finished his fifth

During Stephen's absence in Normandy there had been nothing to disturb
the peace of England. Soon after his departure the king of Scotland had
threatened to invade the north, but Thurstan, the aged Archbishop of
York, went to meet him, and persuaded him to agree to a truce until the
return of King Stephen from Normandy. This occurred not long before
Christmas. Most of the barons of Normandy crossed over with him, but
Robert of Gloucester again took his own course and remained behind. There
was business for Stephen in England at once. An embassy from David of
Scotland waited on him and declared the truce at an end unless he were
prepared to confer the half-promised earldom of Northumberland on Henry
without further delay. Another matter, typical of Stephen and of the
times, demanded even earlier attention. Stephen owed much, as had all the
Norman kings, to the house of Beaumont, and he now attempted to make some
return. Simon of Beauchamp, who held the barony of Bedford and the
custody of the king's castle in that town, had died shortly before,
leaving a daughter only. In the true style of the strong kings, his
predecessors, Stephen proposed, without consulting the wishes of the
family, to bestow the hand and inheritance of the heiress on Hugh, known
as "the Poor," because he was yet unprovided for, brother of Robert of
Leicester and Waleran of Meulan, and to give him the earldom of Bedford.
The castle had been occupied with his consent by Miles of Beauchamp,
Simon's nephew, and to him Stephen sent orders to hand the castle over to
Hugh and to do homage to the new Earl of Bedford for whatever he held of
the king. It was to this last command apparently that Miles especially
objected, and he refused to surrender the castle unless his own
inheritance was secured to him. In great anger, Stephen collected a large
army and began the siege of the castle, perhaps on Christmas day itself.
The castle was stoutly defended. The siege had to be turned into a
blockade. Before it ended the king was obliged to go away to defend the
north against the Scots. After a siege of five weeks the castle was
surrendered to Bishop Henry of Winchester, who seems for some reason to
have opposed his brother's action in the case from the beginning.

[29] Gesta Stephani, 5.

[30] W. Malm., Hist. Nov., sec. 460.

[31] Gesta Stefhani, 8.

[32] Henry of Huntingdon, 270.

[33] See Round, G. de Mandeville, 6.

[34] Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 250-261; and Boehmer, Kirche
und Staat, 333-335.

[35] Freeman, Norman Conquest, Vol. V, App. DD., is right in calling
attention to the fact but wrong in the use he makes of it.

[36] Gesta Stephani, 14.

[37] Ibid., 7.



The year 1138, which began with the siege of Bedford castle, has to be
reckoned as belonging to the time when Stephen's power was still to all
appearance unshaken. But it is the beginning of the long period of
continuous civil warfare which ended only a few months before his death.
Judgment had already been passed upon him as a king. It is clear that
certain opinions about him, of the utmost importance as bearing on the
future, had by this time fixed themselves in the minds of those most
interested--that severe punishment for rebellion was not to be feared
from him; that he was not able to carry through his will against strong
opposition, or to force obedience; and that lavish grants of money and
lands were to be extorted from him as a condition of support. The
attractive qualities of Stephen's personality were not obscured by his
faults or overlooked in passing this judgment upon him, for chroniclers
unfavourable to him show the influence of them in recording their opinion
of his weakness; but the general verdict is plainly that which was stated
by the Saxon Chronicle under the year 1137, in saying that "he was a mild
man, and soft, and good, and did no justice." Such traits of character in
the sovereign created conditions which the feudal barons of any land
would be quick to use to their own advantage.

The period which follows must not be looked upon as merely the strife
between two parties for the possession of the crown. It was so to the
candidates themselves; it was so to the most faithful of their
supporters. But to a large number of the barons most favourably situated,
or of those who were most unprincipled in pursuit of their own gain, it
was a time when almost anything they saw fit to demand might be won from
one side or the other, or from both alternately by well-timed treason. It
was the time in the history of England when the continental feudal
principality most nearly came into existence,--the only time after the
Conquest when several great dominions within the state, firmly united
round a local chief, obtained a virtual, or even it may be a formal,
independence of the sovereign's control. These facts are quite as
characteristic of the age as the struggle for the crown, and they account
for the continuance of the conflict more than does the natural balance of
the parties. No triumph for either side was possible, and the war ended
only when the two parties agreed to unite and to make common cause
against those who in reality belonged to neither of them.

From the siege of Bedford castle, Stephen had been called to march to the
north by the Scottish invasion, which early in January followed the
failure of David's embassy. All Scottish armies were mixed bodies, but
those of this period were so not merely because the population of
Scotland was mixed, but because of the presence of foreign soldiers and
English exiles, and many of them were practically impossible to control.
Portions of Northumberland down to the Tyne were ravaged with the usual
barbarities of Scottish warfare before the arrival of Stephen. On his
coming David fell back across the border, and Stephen made reprisals on a
small district of southern Scotland. But his army would not support him
in a vigorous pushing of the campaign. The barons did not want to fight
in Lent, it seemed. Evidences of more open treason appear also to have
been discovered, and Stephen, angry but helpless, was obliged to abandon
further operations.

Shortly after Easter David began a new invasion, and at about the same
time rebellion broke out in the south-west of England, in a way that
makes the suspicion natural that the two events were parts of a concerted
movement in favour of Matilda. This second Scottish invasion was hardly
more than a border foray, though it penetrated further into the country
than the first, and laid waste parts of Durham and Yorkshire. Lack of
discipline in the Scottish army prevented any wider success. The movement
in the south-west, however, proved more serious, and from it may be dated
the beginning of continuous civil war. Geoffrey Talbot, who had accepted
Stephen two years before, revolted and held Hereford castle against him.
From Gloucester, where he was well received, the king advanced against
Hereford about the middle of May, and took the castle after a month's
blockade, letting the garrison off without punishment, Talbot himself
having escaped the siege. But by the time this success had been gained,
or soon after, the rebellion had spread much wider.

Whether the insurrection in the south and west had become somewhat
general before, or was encouraged by it to begin, the chief event
connected with it was the formal notice which Robert of Gloucester served
on the king, by messengers from Normandy, who reached Stephen about the
middle of June, that his allegiance was broken off. A beginning of
rebellion, at least, as in England, had occurred somewhat earlier across
the channel. In May Count Waleran of Meulan and William of Ypres had gone
back to Normandy to put down the disturbances there. In June, Geoffrey of
Anjou entered the duchy again with an armed force, and is said to have
persuaded Robert to take the side of his sister. Probably Robert had
quite as much as Geoffrey to do with the concerted action which seems to
have been adopted, and himself saw that the time had come for an open
stand. He had been taking counsel of the Church on the ethics of the
case. Numerous churchmen had informed him that he was endangering his
chances of eternal life by not keeping his original oath. He had even
applied to the pope, and had been told, in a written and formal reply,
that he was under obligation to keep the oath which he had sworn in the
presence of his father. Whether Innocent II was deciding an abstract
question of morals in this answer, or was moved by some temporary change
of policy, it is impossible to say. Robert's conscience was not troubled
by the oath he had taken to Stephen except because it was in violation of
the earlier one. That had been a conditional oath, and Robert declared
that Stephen had not kept the terms of the agreement; besides he had no
right to be king and therefore no right to demand allegiance. Robert's
possessions in England were so wide, including the strong castles of
Bristol and Dover, and his influence over the baronage was so great, that
his defection, though Stephen must have known for some time that it was
probable, was a challenge to a struggle for the crown more desperate than
the king had yet experienced.

It is natural to suppose that the many barons who now declared against
the king, and fortified their castles, were influenced by a knowledge of
Robert's action, or at least by a knowledge that it was coming. No one of
these was of the rank of earl. William Peverel, Ralph Lovel, and Robert
of Lincoln, William Fitz John, William of Mohun, Ralph Paganel, and
William Fitz Alan, are mentioned by name as holding castles against the
king, besides a son of Robert's and Geoffrey Talbot who were at Bristol,
and Walkelin Maminot who held Dover. The movement was confined to the
southwest, but as a beginning it was not to be neglected. Stephen acted
with energy. He seized Robert's lands and destroyed his castles wherever
he could get at them. A large military force was summoned. The queen was
sent to besiege Dover castle, and she drew from her county of Boulogne a
number of ships sufficient to keep up the blockade of the harbour. The
king himself advanced from London, where he had apparently gone from
Hereford to collect his army and arrange his plans, against Bristol which
was the headquarters of Robert's party.

Bristol was strong by nature, protected by two rivers and open to the
sea, and it had been strongly fortified and prepared for resistance.
There collected the main force of the rebels, vassals of Robert, or men
who, like Geoffrey Talbot, had been dispossessed by Stephen, and many
mercenaries and adventurers. Their resources were evidently much less
than their numbers, and probably to supply their needs as well as to
weaken their enemies they began the ravaging of the country and those
cruel barbarities quickly imitated by the other side, and by many barons
who rejoiced in the dissolution of public authority--the plundering of
the weak by all parties--from which England suffered so much during the
war. The lands of the king and of his supporters were systematically laid
waste. Cattle were driven off, movable property carried away, and men
subjected to ingenious tortures to force them to give up the valuables
they had concealed. Robert's son, Philip Gai, acquired the reputation of
a skilful inventor of new cruelties. These plundering raids were carried
to a distance from the city, and men of wealth were decoyed or kidnapped
into Bristol and forced to give up their property. The one attempt of
these marauders which was more of the nature of regular warfare, before
the king's approach, illustrates their methods as well. Geoffrey Talbot
led an attack on Bath, hoping to capture the city, but was himself taken
and held a prisoner. On the news of this a plot was formed in Bristol for
his release. A party was sent to Bath, who besought the bishop to come
out and negotiate with them, promising under oath his safe return; but
when he complied they seized him and threatened to hang him unless
Geoffrey were released. To this the bishop, in terror of his life, at
last agreed. Stephen shortly after came to Bath on his march against
Bristol, and was with difficulty persuaded not to punish the bishop by
depriving him of his office.

Stephen found a difficult task before him at Bristol. Its capture by
assault was impracticable. A siege would have to be a blockade, and this
it would be very hard to make effective because of the difficulty of
cutting off the water communication. Stephen's failure to command the
hearty and honest support of his own barons is also evident here as in
almost every other important undertaking of his life. All sorts of
conflicting advice were given him, some of it intentionally misleading we
are told.[38] Finally he was persuaded that it would be better policy to
give up the attempt on Bristol for the present, and to capture as many as
possible of the smaller castles held by the rebels. In this he was fairly
successful. He took Castle Gary and Harptree, and, after somewhat more
prolonged resistance, Shrewsbury, which was held by William Fitz Alan,
whose wife was Earl Robert's niece. In this last case Stephen departed
from his usual practice and hanged the garrison and its commander. The
effect of this severity was seen at once. Many surrenders and submissions
took place, including, probably at this time, the important landing places
of Dover and Wareham.

In the meantime, at almost exactly the date of the surrender of
Shrewsbury, affairs in the north had turned even more decidedly in the
king's favour. About the end of July, King David of Scotland, very likely
as a part of the general plan of attack on Stephen, had crossed the
borders into England, for the third time this year, with a large army
gathered from all his dominions and even from beyond. Treason to Stephen,
which had before been suspected, now in one case at least openly declared
itself. Eustace Fitz John, brother of Payne Fitz John, and like him one
of Henry I's new men who had been given important trusts in the north,
but who had earlier in the year been deprived by Stephen of the custody
of Bamborough Castle on suspicion, joined King David with his forces, and
arranged to give up his other castles to him. David with his motley host
came on through Northumberland and Durham, laying waste the land and
attacking the strongholds in his usual manner. On their side the barons
of the north gathered in York at the news of this invasion, the greatest
danger of the summer, but found themselves almost in despair at the
prospect. Stephen, occupied with the insurrection in the south, could
give them no aid, and their own forces seemed unequal to the task. Again
the aged Archbishop Thurstan came forward as the real leader in the
crisis. He pictured the sacred duty of defence, and under his influence
barons and common men alike were roused to a holy enthusiasm, and the war
became a crusade. He promised the levies of the parishes under the parish
priests, and was with difficulty dissuaded, though he was ill, from
encouraging in person the warriors on the battlefield itself. A sacred
banner was given them under which to fight--the standard from which this
most famous battle of Stephen's reign gets its name--a mast erected on a
wagon, carrying the banners of St. Peter of York, St. John of Beverly,
and St. Wilfrid of Ripon, and with a pyx at the top containing the Host,
that, "present in his body with them, Christ might be their leader in the
battle." The army was full of priests and higher clergy, who moved
through the ranks before the fighting began, stimulating the high
religious spirit with which all were filled.

The list of the barons who gathered to resist this invasion contains an
unusual number of names famous in the later history of England. The
leader, from his age and experience and the general respect in which he
was held, was Walter Espec; the highest in rank was William of Aumale.
Others were Robert of Bruce, William of Percy, Ilbert of Lacy, Richard of
Courcy, Robert of Stuteville, William Fossard, Walter of Ghent, and Roger
of Mowbray, who was too young, men thought, to be in battle. Stephen had
sent a small reinforcement under Bernard of Balliol, and Robert of
Ferrers was there from Derbyshire, and William Peverel even, though his
castles were at the time defying the king in the further south. As the
armies were drawing near each other, Bruce and Balliol went together to
remind the Scottish king of all that his family owed to the kings of
England, and to persuade him to turn back, but they were hailed as
traitors because they owed a partial allegiance to Scotland, and their
mission came to nothing.

The battle was fought early in the day on August 22 near Northallerton.
The English were drawn up in a dense mass round their standard, all on
foot, with a line of the best-armed men on the outside, standing "shield
to shield and shoulder to shoulder," locked together in a solid ring, and
behind them the archers and parish levies. Against this "wedge" King
David would have sent his men-at-arms, but the half-naked men of Galloway
demanded their right to lead the attack. "No one of these in armour will
go further to-day than I will," cried a chieftain of the highlands, and
the king yielded. But their fierce attack was in vain against the "iron
wall"; they only shattered themselves. David's son Henry made a gallant
though badly executed attempt to turn the fortunes of the day, but this
failed also, and the Scottish army was obliged to withdraw defeated to
Carlisle. There was little pursuit, but the Scottish loss was heavy, and
great spoil of baggage and armour abandoned in their hasty retreat was
gathered by the English. David did not at once give up the war, but the
capture of Wark and a few border forays of subordinates were of no
influence on the result. The great danger of a Scottish conquest of the
north or invasion of central England was for the present over.

In a general balance of the whole year we must say that the outcome was
in favour of Stephen. The rebellion had not been entirely subdued.
Bristol still remained a threatening source of future danger. Stephen
himself had given the impression of restless but inefficient energy, of
rushing about with great vigour from one place to another, to besiege one
castle or another, but of accomplishing very little. As compared with the
beginning of the year he was not so strong or so secure as he had been;
yet still there was no serious falling off of power. There was nothing in
the situation which threatened his fall, or which would hold out to his
enemies any good hope of success. In Normandy the result of the year was
but little less satisfactory. Geoffrey's invasion in June had been
checked and driven back by Count Waleran and William of Ypres. In the
autumn the attempt was renewed, and with no better result, though
Argentan remained in Geoffrey's hands. The people of the duchy had
suffered as much as those of England from private war and unlicensed
pillage, but while such things indicated the weakness of authority they
accomplished little towards its overthrow.

During this year, 1138, Stephen adopted a method of strengthening himself
which was imitated by his rival and by later kings, and which had a most
important influence on the social and constitutional history of England.
We have noticed already his habit of lavish gifts. Now he began to
include the title of earl among the things to be given away to secure
fidelity. Down to this time the policy of William the Conqueror had been
followed by his successors, and the title had been very sparingly
granted. Stephen's first creation was the one already mentioned, that of
Hugh "the Poor," of Beaumont, as Earl of Bedford, probably just at the
end of 1137. In the midst of the insurrection of the south-west, Gilbert
of Clare, husband of the sister of the three Beaumont earls, was made
Earl of Pembroke. As a reward for their services in defeating King David
at the battle of the standard, Robert of Ferrers was made Earl of Derby,
and William of Aumale Earl of Yorkshire. Here were four creations in less
than a year, only a trifle fewer than the whole number of earls in
England in the last years of Henry I. In the end Stephen created nine
earls. Matilda followed him with six others, and most of these new titles
survived the period in the families on which they were conferred. It is
from Stephen's action that we may date the entry of this title into
English history as a mark of rank in the baronage, more and more freely
bestowed, a title of honour to which a family of great possessions or
influence might confidently aspire. But it must be remembered that the
earldoms thus created are quite different from those of the Anglo-Saxon
state or from the countships of France. They carried with them increase
of social consideration and rank, usually some increase of wealth in


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