king of England (1135–54) and duke of Normandy (1135–44), was the third son of Stephen, count of Blois, and Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror. During his reign England plunged into a civil war in which neither side possessed the resources to achieve outright victory. Stephen was brought up at the court of his uncle Henry I, becoming one of the wealthiest of the Anglo‐Norman magnates. Although he had taken the oath to accept Henry's daughter Matilda as heir to the throne, Stephen seized the kingdom in December 1135. But he lacked the capacity to command the loyalty of the magnates. Symptomatic were the sporadic revolts early in his reign, and the rivalries at court which led to the defection of Earl Robert of Gloucester in May 1138. His rival Matilda had secure bases in Anjou provided by her husband Geoffrey and in western England by Robert of Gloucester, and her supporters included the king of Scots, David I. Stephen's cause declined once Matilda was established in England from 1139 and after his capture at the battle of Lincoln in 1141. Although he was sustained in 1141–2 by his queen Matilda and was released from prison in 1142 after the capture by his supporters of Robert of Gloucester, his position was seriously compromised. His enemies controlled western and parts of northern England and Count Geoffrey completed the conquest of Normandy in 1144–5. Stephen also fell foul of the papacy because of a disagreement over the succession to the archbishopric of York, which had serious consequences when the pope (Eugenius III) refused to accept Stephen's son Eustace as his heir in 1152, and instead transferred his support to Matilda's son, the future Henry II, as the direct descendant of Henry I. In 1153, with the magnates refusing to fight a pitched battle, Stephen accepted Henry as his heir by the treaty of Winchester. Henry's succession followed peacefully after Stephen's death on 25 October 1154, a sign that all were weary of the civil war.
Subjects: British History.