Click a green square to see the Latin text. Click a blue square to see a commentary note.
FTER Henry’s death Stephen, a Frenchman and his nephew by his sister Adela, the son of Count Stephen of Blois, who a few years previously, on the death of his father-in-law Eustace, received the title of Count of Boulogne as a dowry, and seized the kingdom, partly supported by the power of his brother Count Theobald of Blois, and partly relying on the wealth of his other brother, Henry Bishop of Winchester and Abbot of Glastonbury. He did so although he himself with the rest of the nobility had sworn an oath of loyalty to Maud the Augusta and whatever children might be born to her. Therefore nearly everybody’s mind was disturbed. Some abominated and loathed his crime, although a very few, unconcerned about their perjury, approved of it, more boldly than honorably, and sided with him. Stephen, a canny man and well-versed in the military art, when he saw that public opinion about him was divided, immediately began to satisfy their minds with gifts, to promise great things and vowed to enact far better laws and to reward all men with a lavish hand to the best of his ability. To do so, he used the patrimony of his brother Henry Bishop of Winchester, who, being well-endowed in all his parts, was very popular with all men. Thus it came about that to an incredible extent he won the goodwill of many nobles and of the Commons. And so soon, on December 25, 1134 he was created king in a convention of friendly nobles, and in accordance with ancestral custom was consecrated by William Archbishop of Canterbury. Then at last, all men unanimously acclaimed him as their king and a saying became popular, “it’s most disgraceful to obey a woman.” For this was said against Maud, although right-thinking men thought she should be given rule only until her son Henry came of age.
2. And Henry, having gained the throne as he wanted, went to Oxford and there he summoned a parliament of the nobility, in which, among other things, so as to secure the affections of his subject he wholly abolished the acre-tax that other kings had often imposed on the people, and undertook that in future he would see that no bishopric or any church office lay vacant, nor would he appropriate other men’s forests, even if private men had hunted in them. For this form of revenue had been devised by Henry, that men who had caught royal deer in them must cede their ownership to the Crown, so profitable was hunting at that time. Likewise it was made permissible for any man to build a castle or fortress wherever he wished, a concession he made especially because he hoped this would someday be a protection for himself, since he feared Maud’s arrival in England, since he knew full well she would have her supporters. And so there was nothing harsh or cruel about Stephen’s government. Rather, everything was full of mildness, kindness, and mercy. Meanwhile, while these things were happening, some English nobles who were averse to the present condition of the commonwealth went to King David in Scotland, and told him of the guilt of the English nobility, who all had once sworn their allegiance to Maud the Augusta and her children, but had broken faith and made Stephen their king, and so they urged, asked, and even beseeched him to take up arms and avenge this wrong and at the same time give the kingdom back to Maud, a thing what would be most welcome to God and to men. This thing so moved David’s mind that, being no slower than behooved the faith of an excellent king, he invaded England with a strong army. At the first onslaught he took Cumbria, which contains the city of Carlisle, and then Newcastle, two very strategic places in the borderland of England. When Stephen learned of this, he was hot for revenge, saying, “If it please the saints, with arms I shall recover what my enemy has stolen by deceit.” And so, his forces sufficiently arranged and prepared, he hastened against this enemy. And to discover their strength before running his final risk, at evening he pitched camp not far distant from Carlisle, planning on fighting in the morning. The King of Scots, although fierce and keen for a battle, nevertheless, when he saw the English standards at a distance, was not troubled to hear that his friends were treating for peace. He went to King Stephen and formed a friendship with him. He gave back Newcastle, but retained Carlisle by Stephen’s good leave. Stephen did this to make the Scottish king more trustworthy, but was cheated in this hope. For a little later, when he required an oath from him, he was so far from complying that he even said openly he had already sworn for Maud. But to oblige the king, he ordered his son Henry to take the oath, for which reason Stephen gave the young man the Earldom of Huntington. And so by this means the King of Scotland for the first time acquired the counties of Cumbria and Huntingtonshire and came into their possession, as all English annals attest. This affair quickly settled, the King returned to London in good spirits and celebrated Christmas with all high pomp. And when he was taking is pleasure, as the season requires, behold, a sudden rumor of his death filled all England. Although this was a vain thing and of no consequence for the moment, it was nonetheless the cause of many woes thereafter. For as this rumor became more widespread, his enemies incited a great rebellion. Even the minds of some of his friends became estranged, and particularly those of the Normans, who were now openly disgraced by their perjuries and betrayals and, thinking no crime should be left untried, siezed various places. For Hugh Bigot Earl of East Anglia took Norwich, Baldwin Redvers seized Oxford or Chester, and Robert Quisquer occupied several castles. When Stephen learned these things, although disturbed about this sudden misfortune, he was not frightened. “I am alive,” he said, and his enemies were not unaware of this. For afraid only of treachery, he hastened with all speed and zeal against his enemies and, although he quickly suppressed their attempts, it nevertheless required no small effort to regain the places he had lost. Content with this, he did not know how to take advantage of his victory. For, since he did not pursue his adversaries, they were afterwards made all the more ill-disposed and, as will be told below, contrived more schemes against them.
3. For a while Stephen held his peace, and while he was intent on domestic matters, perceiving that many men were becoming disaffected towards himself every day, he gradually began to take away from the people what he had granted them at the beginning of his reign, and at the same time refused to keep his promises, according to that adage, “I regret giving what I have, I shall not give the rest.” This gained him great unpopularity, while in the meantime there were greater commotions in Normandy, with Count Geoffrey of Anjou disturbing everything. But before these things could be announced in England, the king led an army against Baldwin, who, ejected from Oxford or Chester a little earlier had hastened with difficulty to the Isle of Wight, and, once there, had not ceased to contrive new deceits. Therefore the king crossed over to that island, captured it at the first assault, and banished Baldwin the realm. This thing most happily accomplished, and rumor now reporting the new tumults in Normandy, he took up arms as quickly as he could and crossed over to there. He was immediately met by his brother Theobald with a strong band of armed men. Here they consulted about attacking their enemy, who Stephen understood to be two days away. He sent ahead his horsemen, divided into three companies, so that they might fight on the spot, should the opportunity offer. These horsemen, having ridden for scarce a day, met Geoffrey as he came on with only a small bodyguard, He charged and scattered them, going great slaughter. When this had been so satisfactorily achieved, Stephen entered into an alliance with Louis VII King of France, and he ordered his son Eustace, whom he had lately created Duke of Normandy, to take the traditional oath of fealty to Louis. With matters in Normandy thus shored up, the king went back to England, and he had scarce set foot on land when he learned of a new war being readied in Scotland. For the Scots, under the pretext of keeping faith with Maud, were making new inroads against the English. And so Stephen, thinking the best thing to do would be not to put anything ahead settling this constant turmoil, led his army to Bedford, a town on the border of Huntingtonshire, which he had given to David’s son Henry a little earlier, and at this time was held by the King of Scots. He besieged the town and vainly tried to entice its citizens to surrender, often by force, and often by promising gifts. And so he would not give his enemies even a minute to rest from their labors, even on Christmas Day he did not permit his siege to relax. Now it was the thirtieth day of his assault, when he took it by storm. When King David learned this thanks to a letter from his subjects, since he was already in arms, he was greatly aroused and led his army into Northumbria without delay, giving his soldiers permission to plunder with no discrimination of sex or age. He thus assaulted everybody that he did not even think pregnant women should be spared. He likewise drove off cattle, burned houses, and wasted with fire and steel whatever was of use for men or beasts. Meanwhile Stephen, informed of his enemies’ arrival, made a forced march to come to the aid of his subjects, and the speed of his coming inspired such fear in the Scots that they immediately retired within their own borders. But while he repelled this force from abroad he was attacked at home, for it was now obvious that God was demanding the penalty of perjury from him, for having usurped a kingdom to which he had no claim, contrary to law and right, and had thus shown his ingratitude to King Henry, although previously he had been enlarged in honor and wealth by that king. For Earl Robert of Gloucester, of whom I have made mention in my previous Book, was an unfailing counsellor to his sister Maud, and by day and by night he quietly kept watch to see what events, happenstance and the times might bring, and strove to discover how he might make the nobles dislike Stephen, so the kingdom might at length be restored to Maud and her son Henry by their support. He openly said it was a bitter thing to be cheated by any body, but more so to be cheated by a kinsman. It is ruinous to be deprived of ones goods, but more so to be swindled out of a kingdom. It is unworthy to be bested by a stranger, but more so to be bested by a man you have helped with many favors. The minds of his friends were so stirred by sayings of this kind that, while the king was preoccupied with the Scottish war, by Robert’s doing many of the nobles, who were likewise pricked by the memory of the benefits they had received from Henry, eagerly entered into the conspiracy. And first they took the noble town of Bristol, and then suddenly occupied other places in the West Country fortified by nature and human effort. As soon as these things were announced to Stephen, he grew greatly troubled in mind, for he had decided to subdue the King of Scots before leading his forces back there, so he would not be so often vexed by his hostile neighbor. Now he thought he must counter this domestic plague as quickly as possible lest, if he were to delay, he would then march in vain against these conspirators, were they to grow stronger. Therefore thinking he must place this threatened domestic war ahead of his present business, he hastened back to England, and spiritedly pursued his adversaries, recovering some places upon his first arrival. Although he was well aware that the Scots would not hold their peace, in the course of his return he visited Thrustin Archbishop of York and commended the nation into his care, urgently asking that, if his enemies should innovate anything, he would be agree to protect his subjects, which Thrustin freely promised to do.
4. By this means Stephen was a little freer from care, and with the same strength of spirit he besieged places he had lost by treachery. His terrified opponents, scarcely daring to resist, shamefully fled in all directions, and the royal horse followed wherever the difficulties of the roads permitted, cutting them down from behind. So now the affair had been well conducted and almost all the lost places recovered, when the King of Scots, hearing the King of England to be caught up with this domestic uprising, invaded England and sent his horsemen in every direction with orders to waste all the countryside. Meanwhile it entered his head to attack York and there, if he could gain the city, to establish a base for waging continual war against Stephen. And so he recalled his cavalry from their ravaging and marched towards York with his army in battle array. Then he encamped not far from the city. Meanwhile Thrustin, on whom most of all reposed the responsibility for protecting the region in the king’s absence, learning the enemy’s intentions, summoned all the zeal he could muster to encourage the nobility to take up arms in defense of their nation. He reminded them that manors were being burned, fields wasted, cattle driven away, castles and towns demolished, and citizens being either killed or enchained with impunity by the Scots, and that they intended to do even worse unless the English nobility warded off their violence. The archbishop’s exhortation moved the minds of the nobles, and immediately William of Albermarle, William of Nottingham, as well as Walter and Gilbert of the Lacey family, most stout men, were elected leaders, and all men of an age able to bear arms volunteered to risk themselves and their safety in the defense of their nation. So they went out in an open field near to the enemy. Here, although no man was untouched by desire for a fight, for men of high and low degree were equally bent on battle, nevertheless Ralph Bishop of Durham, sent by Thrustin to encourage the army (he himself was currently ailing), is said to have delivered a speech such as this: “Although, my noble English and Normans, I see you are sufficiently minded to repel the enemy, yet, lest in any event your enthusiasm should flag when it comes time to offer resistance, I, grieving for our nation’s calamity (and I hope you will heal it of its woes), shall say a few words — not to exhort you to harm any man, but that you ward off those seeking to harm you. Therefore you should bear in mind that you are about to fight against an enemy you have often beaten, whom you have often punished for his perjury, whom you have lately put to rout when he was raging against all our people, pillaging our churches, and stealing our goods. So hurl yourself against him to punish him for his many crimes, stoutheartedly keep him away from our lands. For, as I see, you hold victory in your hands. Assuredly God will help you, for He can no longer tolerate the sins of this people. And so whoever loses his soul in this so just a war, will find it, just as our Savior teaches.”
5. As he spoke the enemy battle-line approached, and already some squadrons of horse had been sent ahead to take the high ground. Seeing this, the English did not wait to be harmed by the enemy, but raised a shout. Then the charge was sounded and they attacked the Scots, who were also doing nothing to delay the fight. The battle was opened with missiles, then the footmen came together for hand-strokes. Both side fought keenly, when David’s son Henry, who commanded one of the wings of the Scottish battle-line, with part of his cavalry burst into the English van and threw it into confusion at his first onslaught. But it gathered itself and kept the enemy from breaking through. It folded in on itself in the manner of a wing, surrounding the horsemen, the English stabbed their horses, and whoever attempted to resist was compelled to put himself in their way. When the rest saw this, out of consternation they sought safety in flight. Rumor of this retreat reached the other wing, where David was fiercely pressing the enemy, and instilled such fear in them that they began to flee. The king strove to recall his men to the fight, but the English with their hostile spears crowded in on him, creating a huge slaughter, which David was obliged to flee, following after his escaping men. But his son Earl Henry of Huntington, unmoved by the flight of his father and his men, being more eager for glory, made a great effort to put his final fortune to the test. Therefore the young man rode forward on his horse, his retreating men streaming around him. “Where are you going, soldiers?” he said to them. “Here you will find your arms and your strength. And as long as the leader you ought to obey is alive, you will not depart from here unless you are victorious, So choose whether you want to fight your enemy or to suffer a harsh punishment.” When their leader said this, the Scots returned to the fight, and, renewing the battle, worked great havoc. But a few, pressed from the front by the English foot and from behind by their horse, were surrounded and either cut down or taken prisoner. When Henry saw his side failing, he cursed his fate and took to flight. I shall repeat what I find written about the number of the slain, even if it is not easy to credit this, since both sides fought bravely. The number of the dead was more than 10,000, besides captive and wounded who subsequently died in various places elsewhere. They say that, of the English, only Gilbert, one of their captains, and a few horseman died, together with a small number of footmen. Stephen, informed that this victory had been won, was incredibly overjoyed, and heaped great commended both his English and Normans, and praised Thrustin to the skies. And with the same fortune he partly subdued his adversaries, and partly compelled them to flee to France. Among these was Earl Robert of Gloucester, who was obliged to betake himself to his sister Maud. These things having been done most excellently, when he understood that the Scots had been so weakened by this reversal that they could easily be conquered, in the same year (which was the third of his reign) he brought his army into Scotland. First he wasted its land. And then, when he readied himself to fight those who had come out to defend their territories, David, realizing he was far inferior in strength, sent ambassadors about peace, which at length he obtained, giving his son Henry as a hostage. This Scottish affair thus settled, a happy Stephen, returning to England and bringing Henry with him, turned aside to Wales, where he set siege to Ludlow, the chief town of all that region, which was occupied by his enemies. In that siege Henry the hostage, when he was fighting near the walls, happened to be dragged from his horse by townsmen using an iron grapple, but by divine intervention he was freed from imminent peril by the king, who suddenly ran up.
6. After this, Stephen continued to Oxford. While he stayed there, a rumor began to be published about the arrival of Maud and her brother Robert, the development he most feared. Which thing led him to place much less faith in his subjects, so that he greatly rued his original concession that every man was free to build castles. Now that many had built these in various places, he held them all in suspicion, particularly Bishops Roger of Salisbury and Alexander of Lincoln, his nephew by his brother, both men of great authority and power. Roger had built two well-fortified castles, one by the village of Schirburn, the other (a magnificent structure) at a town called Devizes. And Alexander had constructed a castle by Newark, about twelve miles from Lincoln. Therefore he imprisoned both prelates and drove into exile Roger’s nephew Nigel Bishop of Ely, occupied all those places, where he discovered Roger’s treasury, to the sum of 40,000 marks. Because of this, Roger was so grief-stricken that he departed this life shortly thereafter. At the same time died William Archbishop of Canterbury, in his fifteenth year in office, and he was succeeded by Theobald Abbot of Bec, the thirty-seventh in order of archbishops. Then too, not much later Thrustin of York also died, and after him William, a kinsman of Stephen, was elected. But Henry Murdac, a Cistercian monk and a very ambitious man, maintained that this election had been tainted, and that the archbishop had been fraudulently created by Pope Eugene. When he passed away seven years later, William gained his deserved honor. I will say more about him elsewhere. But Henry performed his office with diligence, so that he inflicted no harm on the province of York. He created John Optatus Bishop of the Orkneys, and John swore an oath of fealty to him. Meanwhile Stephen dealt harshly with all men, and especially with his own supporters, since he feared everybody, and a goodly part of men thought this was by in accordance with God’s will, so that they would be punished who had broken their vow and made him king contrary to law and right. For no other reward was owed to the men responsible for these evil counsels. Stephen also dreaded foreign power, since he heard that Maud the Augusta was gaining help from every side. And so, thinking it would be most advantageous for him to retain the friendship of King Louis of France, he wrote to him as soon as possible, and at the same time sent representatives bearing gifts, who might ask for the hand of Louis’ sister Constance for his son Eustace. Louis did not refuse kinship with the English king. And having bestowed his sister on Eustace, he freely promised Stephan his aid and assistance. But when Eustace died a few years later, this girl Constance was married to Count Raymond of Toulouse, which those who only pay attention to modern writers fail to record about this kinship with the English king.
7. Now it was the sixth year of Stephen’s reign when Maud the Augusta crossed over to England went directly to Arundel, which town his stepmother Adelicia possessed together with the county of Sussex, given her a her dowry. Along with the Augusta came her brother Robert and Hugh Bigot, whom I have already mentioned. Here writers do not agree. Some say Maud brought a great army so that she could join forces with Earl Ralph of Chester, who was an adherent of her brother Robert, and come to grips with Stephen as often as was opportune. Others, with whom I concur, say she came with only a small band, trusting first in God’s aid (for God always stands on the side of those fighting for the right), and then on the help of her friends, who, placed under obligation by her father’s bounty, were ready to go against Stephen. So Robert, to gather an army swiftly and announce his sister’s coming to one and all, left Maud in Castle Arundel and, accompanied only by twelve horsemen and the like number of mounted archers, rode through enemy country to Gloucester, and, although town was held by a royal garrison, nevertheless the townsmen, seeing Robert, ejected the garrison and freely went over to him. Here Robert partly collected a new army, and partly solicited nearby places to surrender voluntarily. Meanwhile Stephen, having learned of his enemies’ arrival, hastened to Arundel and surrounded the castle, where he consumed a number of days with vain hope, while men who were secretly the Augusta’s supporters whispered in his ear that the castle was impregnable, so he had no reason to press the siege further. Rather, the best thing to do would be to break up the siege and allow Maud to leave and flee elsewhere where she could more easily be overcome. Led on by this advice, the king, oblivious of the proverbial snake lurking in the grass, at a time when nothing was closer than that his enemy, near-dead of starvation, would fall into his hands, led his soldiers so far away from the siege that his enemies realized they were free to go elsewhere. Seeing this, Maud (who, like a river, gained strength as she went along) did not hesitate, but in the dark of night left the castle and by forced marches came to Bristol, which had already fallen into her brother’s possession. When this became common knowledge, the Peers of the realm deserted to her, mindful of the oath they had taken to her and her children. Meanwhile the king set siege to the castle of Wallingford, which was located hard by the Thames in Oxfordshire. When he learned that Maud was residing at Bristol with enlarged forces, too late he regretted his bad counsel, abandoned his siege of the castle, and hastened to march against Bristol to trap his enemy there. But the Augusta, understanding his plan, hastened first to Gloucester, and then to Lincoln, where she immediately prepared provisions, strengthened the city with a garrison, made it firm with a rampart so she could hold herself safe in that city until either the fortune of war was gained by her brother or, by the support of the people and with no fighting, Stephen could be evicted and the kingdom restored to herself and her son. The king followed her and encircled Lincoln with his soldiers, at the same time testing every approach to see from what direction he could make an attempt on the walls. Meanwhile Robert and Ralph, bearing aid to the besieged, arrived at Lincoln with their army drawn up in battle array and encamped near the enemy. And on the morning of the next day they brought out their men for battle. But beforehand they encouraged their men for the fight and ordered them to keep a sharp lookout for sign to attack, and this they promptly gave. Then the very excited soldiers fell on their enemy with a great shout. Nor did the king put off the fight, who likewise gave the sign and led his men against the enemy. At their first clash they fought with great courage but varying results. Then the king had the worst of it, as his soldiers partly fell, and partly fled, his horsemen in particular. When the king saw this, his spirits did not flag. Rather he gave encouragement to his officers and the footmen of his bodyguard and charged the enemy. Here he laid low everyone he encountered and cut his way through the midst of his enemies. The footmen (who were few in number compared to the enemy) matched his courage, so that rarely would a battle have been more savage or more famous for its killing, if the king’s first line, which had been scattered at the first clash, not without suspicion of treason, had resisted the enemy onslaught a little while. at length, the king encountered the Earl of Chester, was surrounded by the multitude, and led off captive, and likewise his footmen were either captured or cut down. He was straightway brought to the Augusta so that the woman might see her enemy in captivity and know her injury had been sufficiently avenged. Although greatly pleased in mind, she nevertheless contemplated him with troubled spirits and immediately sent him off to prison at Bristol. Maud’s husband Geoffrey, informed of this success in England, suddenly invaded Normandy and took it, and when the rumor of the king’s capture spread, he won its nobles over to himself. Likewise David King of Scots invaded Northumbria and took possession of it at Maud’s invitation.
8. But the Augusta herself, a very prudent woman by nature, thought she should take advantage of her victory, and was not idle for her cause. Rather, vigilantly attending to all things,first she went to Winchester, where she was honorably received at the behest of Bishop Henry (although he was Stephen’s brother), and she strengthened the city with a garrison. Then she turned back towards Oxford and, traveling through the center of the nation, gathering it into her power as it voluntarily surrendered itself. Then, coming by way of St. Albans, she reached London, where she received a very warm welcome from all the townsmen, who honored her highly. But here, while she was occupied in arranging the state of the realm, she was asked by Stephen’s wife Mathilde to spare her husband’s life and, taking back the realm, allow him to live a private life by her good leave. And she was so far from granting this that she responded to this request with nothing but insults. And so the queen, although she was sad and wounded of mind, realized that peace was not to be sought with entreaties but rather by strength and power, immediately advised her son Eustace, who was in Kent, to prepare an army, which he did with good industry. And the Augusta grew visibly angry when the Londoners complained of damages received at the hands of her father Henry and, as was their habit, asked for the laws of St. Edward to be restored. And so the very angry people chose to enter into conspiracies against her as soon as possible. When she had perceived this, she fled secretly to Oxford by night, so hateful had this woman, who was highly intolerant of Fortune’s changes, grown to the nobility, and above all to the king, whom she had ordered be kept in fetters and fed on cheap and scanty food. Bishop Henry of Winchester, when he realized that Maud’s anger against his family was daily growing anew, thought that he must defer to the trend of the times, and so he reinforced with strong garrisons the castles within his diocese which he himself had built, hard by the villages of Waltham and Farnham, and then he promptly shut himself up in the castle of Winchester, waiting to observe the outcome of this womanly rage. Seeing this, Maud summoned her uncle David King of Scots, who came flying to her swiftly, and they joined their forces, marched to Winchester, and besieged the castle. Queen Maud and her son Eustace forthwith appeared with a powerful band. And the Londoners hurried there, because they feared her womanish mind, turned against them, and finally all of Stephen’s followers came against the queen, and in one swift assault they displayed their manly strength in overcoming their enemies. Feigning death, the Augusta was borne to Gloucester as if she were a corpse. Her brother Robert, who was holding Stephen captive at Bristol, was taken together with many others in his town. He was treated rather harshly by the queen, perhaps so he would come to know the truth of that Gospel verse, For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. For in no wise had he deserved well of Stephen.
9. And so the kingdom had long since divided into these two factions, and now its cities and peoples were steeped in the poison of factionalism, they burned with hatred, so that it seemed the kingdom would soon be overthrown by civil war. The principal insitigators of these evils were Stephen, who had wrongfully claimed power, and Robert, who had upheld his sister’s right, and now that both had been captives, all men were lifted up with the hope that then at last God would pity the people’s sufferings and make an end of catastrophes of this kind. And so those of the Peerage who had a care for the good of the realm proposed conditions for a peace, agitating that reconciliation and concord might come about from an exchange of prisoners, on the terms that the king, freed, would retain the throne, and the Robert would have his earldom and reconcile himself to the king, rebelling no more. Robert rejected these conditions, just as if he were a free man, nor would the Augusta come to terms unless the kingdom were restored to her. So from this transaction factional hatred began to increase, to the extent that in the end the king and the earl, both wearied by their imprisonment and trusting in the fortune of war, freed each other from custody and, making no mention of peace, immediately enraged by mutual offenses and deadly hatred, renewed the war. One learned historian states that peace was established by this mutual exchange of the king and the earl, which is shown to be false by the war between them which immediately ensued. The king went to to Winchester and began to build a castle at a suitable place. But as soon as he was set free, Robert devoted himself to enlarging his army rather than building walls, and he made an unexpected attack on Stephen and put him to flight, killing and capturing many of his soldiers. Stephen, agitated by his disgraceful fight and eager to erase this blot, decided to give his adversaries no respite, but to harry them with continual warfare. And so, having recruited large forces and readied all things, he marched on Oxford, where Maud was keeping herself, and suddenly surrounded it. And, either to force the townsmen to surrender or to bar the approach of those who would come to their aid, he went into the surrounding country side with part of his army, wasting all with steel and fire. Meanwhile Robert, estimating the town to be too strong to be captured soon, and seeing that it would be beyond his powers to join battle with such a large army, sought a time and place where he could do so with greater safely. Now it was almost the third month of the siege, and inside the city people began to waver, with nearly all their food consumed and nobody coming to protect them. Sensing this, the Augusta of necessarily chose to flee, particularly because it was deep winter and snow lay on the fields to the point that the freezing enemy soldiers were more sluggish in keeping watch. And so Maud, clad in white so that the resemblance to snow might deceive her enemies, left the city in the still of the night. And in a skiff she was borne along the Thames to the castle of Wallingford, where she was received by her supporters. After her departure the burghers of Oxford, despairing of help, surrendered themselves and their town to the king. This business thus completed, the king was driven back by a sudden sally of his enemies as he was hastening to set siege to Wallingford, and was compelled to turn elsewhere. And attacked again on his march, and routed by Robert, he barely reached a safe place. There William Marcel, a stout fellow, was captured, and the king was unable to procure his freedom until he had returned Castle Schirburn to his adversaries.
10. After these events, the fury of arms subsided for a little while. Meanwhile the king came to London where he held a crowded parliament of nobles and bishops, in which he said words such as these: “Since, my very faithful nobles, you have followed me as the leader in the defense of your liberty, I pray you not desert me in the future. For I have never been lacking in spirit. The times have not always been propitious, so that I was unable to do my duty, which even now I cannot perform without your aid. But you must think that no small thing as been achieved. Our enemies are so weakened that soon they must surrender, willy-nilly. It only remains for you to do your part and with your resources support a war which has been undertaken for the sake of our commonwealth by your advice and with your consent. For from the start you have shrunk from government by a woman, and now those of you who have experienced it abhor it all the more, a heavy yoke which will be cast off all men’s necks forever, if you agree to protect, follow and embrace me as the sole champion of our liberty with your zeal, counsel, and support. For who fails to understand that, unless we fight bravely, we are destined basely to serve a woman? Nothing more disastrous can befall a man, especially a free one. And so take up your arms with most grateful minds and let each one of you fight for himself so the people will not be oppressed with taxes. And whichever of you is forbidden to fight by age or law, let him give money, let him give substitutes, let him give weapons for the defense of his nation.” In response to these words, all men promised to supply protection for defense of their safety and liberty. But the bishops together with their clergy, since their law forbade them to fight, promised to give money, and, as a means of giving them thanks, in the same parliament it was decided that henceforth anyone who struck consecrated priests or laid hands on them when accused of any crime, save by order of bishops, should be deemed impious and perverse, and could not be pardoned by anybody but the Pope in an assembly of the pious, as had already been provided by canon law. For daily priests were being killed or captured during these civil tumults, and were obliged to ransom themselves for huge sums. At the same time Count William or Geoffrey (I find both names written) de Magniville, an experienced captain who was taking Maud’s side, was captured at St. Albans, not without the slaughter of many royal soldiers, and Stephen mulcted him of nearly all his goods. So he, induced by poverty, turned to thievery, first despoiling the monastery of St. Albans, then the one at Ramsey, after having ejected their monks. Wherever he went he ravaged the land, until he died an inglorious death, being stricken by an arrow while looting, and thus paid the price for sacrilege. It was the ninth year of Stephen’s reign, at which time Earl Ralph of Chester held Lincoln, protected by no large garrison. And so the king gained the hope of capturing it with ease, and without delay he besieged the city in the dark of night and hastened to surround it by a rampart. At first the earl was amazed by the enemy’s sudden appearance, but then, when he saw from the wall that the enemy were few in number, he bid his men arm themselves and soon flung open the gates and made a sally. The king had not expected this assault, and hastily fled. Unable to follow his enemy, the earl beheaded the eighty men who had built the rampart. But two years after these things had occurred, and after various confused skirmishes, Ralph returned into the king’s good graces, and when he went to him freely, he was treacherously captured,and was not let go before he gave back all the places which had been royal possessions. To his disgrace, this thing won Stephen new enemies, since henceforth a goodly number of people thought they had to beware of him, just as if he had a hank of straw on his horn, as the proverb has it. But he imagined he had done a noble deed and decreed a triumph for himself, just as if he had gained it lawfully and not by fraud, and, wearing his crown and in great estate, he made a triumphal entry into Lincoln, which he had regained together with the other places. But some write Stephen staged this parade to discredit a novel superstition in the minds of its citizens, for they had not seen a crowned king in their city for many years, and thought him unable to enter without suffering harm. And thus making his entrance, he mocked their credulous belief.
11. At this same time Maud’s husband Geoffrey departed this life, Hearing this, their son, who was staying at the court of David King of Scots, so he could be at hand, without incurring any danger, to follow his mother when she emerged the victor, immediately returned home and took possession of his father’s domain, and then went to Normandy. Since he was a young man of excellent character and displayed such largeness of mind that every prudent man was convinced he would prove to be a great man, the Normans voluntarily swore fealty to him as their lord, especially because they estimated that Stephen’s strivings would quickly come to a bad end. With affairs thus settled with happy auspices, the young man had a greater desire to recover England, trusting especially in the great help of his friends. Therefore he crossed over to England at the first possible moment with one hundred and forty horse and three thousand footmen, and from all over the island a great number of fighting men came in to him, men who belonged to his mother’s faction, and, increased by these great forces, he went to the castle of Marlebridge (Marleberidge is a village in Wiltshire which today they call Malmsbury, belonging to the diocese of Salisbury), where Stephen had a a garrison. He encamped not far away and beset the place, battering it day and night with his siege engines and busily digging tunnels. The king learned of these things and came to help his followers. And when he had relieved them by his sudden arrival, with great earnestness he invited his enemy to fight, being eager for revenge. But Henry realized that the enemy was superior in number, and new allies were joining him by the day, so he thought that for the present it would be useful to refrain from battle and kept himself in his camp, eluding his enemy’s ferocity, planning on fighting him afterwards. But I have sources who say that Henry took the castle of Marlebridge with his first assault, and did not delay long before marching through the territory of Coventry, Northamptonshire, and Leicestershire to Stanford and, having taken this place, hastened to attack Nottingham, a town defended by nature and manmade works. That town quickly captured, he strove might and main to storm its castle. Since this fortress was built on a high place, not easily taken because of its protection, and stubbornly defended, his attempt failed and, lest he waste any time, he hurried to seize other places before finally coming to his mother in Castle Wallingford. Meanwhile Stephen, having prepared a great army, kept watch for a time and place when he could force this young man (who had not yet experienced adversity, and so was overconfident in his strength) to single combat, so that in one fight he and his enemy could come to a final decision about life and the kingdom.
12. But since England had reeled from its internal upheavals for so many years, and matrons everywhere had been raped, virgins kidnapped, churches robbed, manors and towns destroyed, flocks of sheep and other animals slaughtered (and in these the livelihood of the people most especially consisted), countless men slain, at last God chose to free the English from so many miseries. To a wondrous degree eighboring nations pitied her wounds, which were so well known. And since Stephen was the cause of all this evil, who had boldly battened on the fortunes of others, God therefore made him conceive a desire for peace, which in the past he had always abhorred. Therefore while Stephanus was making such great preparations for a fight with Henry, behold, he lost his son Eustace by an untimely death, a young man was born to be praised. All the nobles of his party were overcome by an equal grief. But above all others, Eustace’s wife Constance felt incredible sorrow, and was wretchedly tormented since he had fathered no son with her. After a few days, enriched by her dowry and sundry gifts, she was honorably returned to her brother Louis. And Stephen, seeing himself bereft of his one son (for whom he was preparing the kingdom) and of his very useful affinity with the King of France, gradually began to restrain his spirit and to grow averse to war, so now he seemed to incline to peace of his own free well. After some of the nobility to whom peace was dear appreciated this, they straightway went to Maud and Henry and informed them of this, urging them to reconciliation and maintaining by man arguments that it was safer for both sides to lay down their arms and for them to come to an agreement with Stephen on fair terms than to wait until their fellow-citizens’ liberty and their own safety were yet more gravely endangered. Mother and son consented to the counsel of their friends, and on the first possible day they came out of the castle to confer with the king at the village of Wallingford. After both sides had proposed many various conditions, in the end a peace was achieved between them, and so their pact might remain stable and lasting, a parliament of bishops and nobles was convoked, and by its authority an agreement was forged that henceforth Stephen would reign as King of England for the rest of his life by a right as good as the best, that Henry would possess Normandy, that Earl Robert would succeed him as if he were his undoubted heir, and the rest of the nobility who had belonged to one faction or the other would enjoy their possessions without recrimination. Both princes embraced these conditions of peace so willingly that Stephen adopted Henry, although they say he had a surviving son by a mistress, William, whowas just a little boy. This peace was a source of great joy to all the people, who had long been plunged in sorrow, having been afflicted by very many calamities because of the quarrel of these two factions. And all these things were entered in the parliamentary record in the year of human salvation 1152, so they would forever be known to posterity. And furthermore, official notice was taken of the king’s son William, who was created Earl of Norfolk and given no few landholdings in the district of Norwich, which Henry most of all ratified by his assent. After this reconciliation, by the will of God Almighty all factional feeling so subsided that English affairs flourished wonderfully for a number of years, peace having been gained everywhere. Some write that there was another reason why Stephen was swayed to peace, saying that Maud was his mistress, not his enemy, and when she saw affairs between Stephen and her son Henry come to such a pass that it would have been settled by arms, she came to him and addressed him as follows: “What are you trying to do, you impious man, forgetful of your own race? Should a father destroy his son? I pray you, forget your anger, throw down your sword. For as you know full well, I bore him with you, his father.” And having said this, she reminded him how he had made her pregnant a little before her marriage to Geoffrey, and, moved by these words, Stephen made peace. But whether this or something else was the reason for the peace, nothing prevents us from believing it was made by divine intervention, although I would venture to say that this story of Stephen seducing Maud is a popular fiction and a false accusation against them both. Or suppose it was true. It is nevertheless easy to believe that nothing would have been of more importance to both of them than to conceal this thing from all mortals, lest any shame attach to their son Henry, who was held to be legitimate, or to Maud herself, which these people would have greatly cared to prevent, if they were sane.
13. And so, matters having been happily settled in this way, Duke Henry went back to France to his dukedom, together with his mother, escorted as far as Canterbury by the king. And then he spent all that year making a royal progress through nearly all of England, embracing men of every station with much affability and kindness. In those times King Louis of France, returning from the Crusade, about which Il Platina writes so subtly in his life of Pope Eugene III that I need not rehearse it here, for some reasons, which unclearly specified, divorced Eleanor, by whom he fathered two daughters, Marie and Alise. This woman was the sole daughter of Duke William of Aquitane and Count of Poitiers, and she had been made his heir. So Henry, who was ill-disposed toward Louis for having helped Stephen, this Eleanor. This thing was the grounds for the many wars he later fought against the French. For when it was announced that those parts of France today called Aquitaine and Picardy came to him by this marriage, that he had gained Normandy by maternal right, and that he was expecting to inherit the kingdom of England, as well as the three possessions held by his father the Count, Anjou, Tours and Mainz, he was made very powerful for fighting against any man you would care to name. Meanwhile Louis took it hard that Eleanor had married his enemy, and for that reason made yet more ill-disposed and hostile toward him, declarared war on Henry and set siege to the town of Neufmarché. When the duke heard of this, although he immediately took up arms and went to the aid of his subjects, Louis nevertheless took the town before he could arrive. He heard of this while on the march, and turned against French territory, going along the Loire, wasting all the land far and wide. Then they skirmished a while with varying success until a reconciliation was achieved and the towns of Neufmarché and Vernon, previously taken away from the duke by the king, were handed back. In those same days, David King of Scots, famed for his arms as well as his virtue of mind, departed this lfe, and was succeeded by Malcolm IV, his nephew by his son Henry. Stephen’s wife Mathilde likewise passed away, a woman amply endowed with many virtues. Thus the king’s affairs gradually declined, and these said things were like harbingers of his coming death, which indeed did occur. For a few months after he traveled through all parts of his kingdom for the sake of recreation, he came to Kent, where he lapsed into a disease, which few more serious after a few days, it consumed him on September 24 of the forty-ninth year of his life. He had reigned nineteen years, eleven months, and seven days. This was 1153 A. D. His body was conveyed to the monastery he himself had built in Kent near the village called Feversham, and was buried with funeral pomp, and this is where his son and wife were also buried. By his wife Mathilde he had fathered a single son, Eustace, and William by a mistress; I have abundantly mentioned both above. He was of a decent height and possessed of an excellent carriage, and is said to have been very strong. He had many virtues of mind, and these were excellent. His skill at war was consummate, he was merciful and mild, and used great liberality in his dealings with all men. For although he was almost constantly at war, he levied little or no taxes on the people. But in accordance with God’s will he did fine some, particularly bishops who had fallen under suspicion, so in this way they would pay the penalty for their pejury. I cannot find any vices for which he was conspicuous save for this, that he broke his oath for the sake of gaining the throne. The illustrious men of his time were Thrustin Archbishop of York, who suffered much both for his nation’s safety and for the protection of his own dignity, and whose life was often endangered. Likewise Henry Bishop of Winchester, Stephen’s own brother, a man unique in every kind of fortune, who was most constant both in good times and in bad. St. William, Archbishop of York, was endowed with excellent praises, for at his intervention, both in life and in death, many miracles were performed. For when he had been excluded from his bishopric by Henry Mordac, as I have written above, his election was ratified by Pope Anastasius IV, and was duly made an archbishop. A little later, when he returned to England, he was held in such honor by all men that men flocked to him wherever he went. And so it happened that when this holy man was traveling to York and in the course of his journey had crossed that wooden bridge over the river Airea little beyond Pontefract, a goodly part of his followers fell in the river. When William (who had reached the far bank) learned of this by the cries of the dying, he immediately turned to the river and, weeping plentifully, lifted his eyes heavenward and humbly prayed God for divine aid. And God came to the aid of those struggling against death in the water that not a single man perished. And he died that selfsame year. Afterwards that most holy man was canonized, and by his prayers men are helped even nowadays. His body is most religiously preserved in York Minster. He was soon succeeded in that archbishopric by King Henry’s good friend Roger, the thirty-second archbishop. There lived at that time Bernard of Cluny, a noble-born Burgundian. When he was twenty-two years old, he was made a Cistercian monk together with thirty other men distinguished for their modesty, and gained such a reputation for learning and sanctity that he imparted to the whole Christian world, and especially with England, his virtue and manner of life. There were also many men famous for the military art, especially Earl Robert of Gloucester, Earl Ralph of Chester, Earl Rainald of Cornwall, Earl Robert of Leicester, Hugh Bigot, Walter and Gilbert of the noble family of the Laceys, and likewise three Williams, Albermarle Nottingham, and Marcel, and many others distinguished for their virtue’s fame.
Go to Book XIII