Welcome back, my dear pupils, for another lesson in British history! Last week, we saw the demise of Henry I, but we know that his daughter Matilda is the legitimate heir to the throne who will take his place.
Right? Right? Bueller? Bueller?
Well, turns out, not so much. I mentioned before that there are some who aren’t thrilled at having a female ruler. It is thus those very noblemen who enable Stephen (yep, “Stephen” is all I got; he’s like Madonna and Cher without other title) to usurp her throne. Who’s this wise guy, you may ask? Well, he’s not coming from totally out of the blue—he’s Matilda’s cousin, as it were, who’d been sent from France to his Uncle Henry’s court to be raised. With the support of the lords and barons, he becomes king in 1135 and makes a royal disaster of it (pun intended).
Turns out the leadership gene is MIA in Stephen’s DNA. He sets a poor precedent (which I’m sure all parents can appreciate in child-rearing) by failing to follow through on his authority when barons become insubordinate against feudal laws and seize properties illegally. He appoints an excessively expensive and unnecessary number of earls, alienates the Church (which he’d already permitted much leeway that eroded at royal power) by persecuting the Bishop of Salisbury in 1139, and concedes much to the King of Scotland and the Norman Count of Anjou, Geoffrey (who also happens to be Matilda’s husband), in order to settle disputes with those respective lands.
And what’s Matilda up to in the midst of all this? Biding her time, my friends…biding her sweet time…
Until next week, Weekend Warriors!