Stephen was the younger son of Stephen, Count de Blois, and Adela daughter of William I:
- Henry I, Stephen’s Uncle had well endowed his nephew making him the wealthiest Anglo-Norman magnate and he married Matilda of Boulogne
- He had sworn an oath of allegiance to Henry I’s daughter Matilda recognising her as his rightful heir but when Henry I died in 1135 Stephen wasted no time and seized the crown at Westminster followed by declaring himself Duke of Normandy.
- Meanwhile Geoffrey & Matilda had invaded Normandy and left Stephen defending his Crown
- With Anjou and Normandy behind them and after battling and even capturing Stephen Geoffrey and Matilda were plotting to usurp Stephen.
- Henry de Blois was Stephen’s brother and whilst Matilda had swayed him to support their claim against his own brother she overplayed her hand and this enabled Stephen’s Queen to organise a comeback.
- When Robert of Gloucester, Empress Matildas half-brother was captured an exchange of prisoners was arranged.
- Robert and Stephen were swapped.
- Stephen retained control of largely London and Eastern England but Geoffrey controlled Normandy by 1145
- He fought on but with the loss of his wife and eldest son Eustace in 1145 he was disheartened.
- This led to a compromise by way of the Treaty of Winchester, which Henry de Blois, was closely associated with and this led to Henry the eldest son of Geoffrey & Matilda being acknowledged as heir in return for the promise that Stephen’s son William would retain all family lands in England and Normandy.
- After 14 years of tiring and expensive war, no one in power wanted to waste further energy and resources disputing Henry II as King.
- Henry II became King in 1154 on Stephen’s death.
Stephen had been renowned for his chivalrous and gallant behaviour and this had contributed to the ease with which he had originally snatched the throne, but had he been more ruthless it is possible his own son William would have become King.
The intrigues in the family of William I and his extended family are complex but again all these difficulties show that William I was that much more a monarch than those that immediately followed him. Perhaps his only failing was not better preparing the path to his succession?
You can see on Ancestry the full tree from William I onwards as we build it out to help give further historical context to the machinations of the last 1,000 years of British (specifically English Monarchs.) The french and Norse (Norman) influence is well documented but in essence none of these monarchs were at this point British. The connections that follow and the impact on our history and the way our family lives developed across the centuries are all rooted in the machinations of this community of Kings Queens and Princes.