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Accession of Stephen page 2


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Three days after this defeat, the King of Scotland arrived at Carlisle, where he rallied his scattered forces, and subsequently laid siege to Wark Castle, which fell into his hands. Notwithstanding the result of the Battle of the Standard, the counties of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Northumberland remained for many years free from Norman dominion, and attached to the kingdom of Scotland.

Roger, Bishop of Sarum, the story of whose elevation to the favour of Henry I. has been already related, was at this time possessed of vast wealth and influence in the kingdom. He was a munificent patron of the arts, and expended large sums in the erection of magnificent churches and other public works. Architects, artists, and men of letters were secure of his favour, and the wealth, which was often obtained by not the most honest means, was at least bestowed in o, manner beneficial to the age in which he lived. Roger had rendered good service to Stephen at the time of his accession to the throne, and the king had rewarded him with repeated and valuable gifts. It would appear, however, that these possessions were heaped upon the bishop less for his own use than with the view of being available for the royal purposes whenever the king might choose to seize upon them.

The nobles of the court had not witnessed without envy the increasing power and magnificence of the Bishop of Sarum; and at the time when Stephen was menaced by an invasion from the Continent, they circulated a report that the bishop was in league with the conspirators. The king, who wanted money, was glad of a pretext for seizing the possessions of Roger, and ordered him to be arrested, together with his two nephews, Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and Nigel, Bishop of Ely. Nigel made his escape, and took^ refuge in the castle of Devizes, but Roger and Alexander were taken, and confined in separate dungeons. A quarrel which had previously taken place between some of the bishop's retainers and those of the Earl of Brittany, formed the ground of the chief accusation, which was that the bishops had violated the peace of the king within the limits of his court. Stephen demanded the surrender of all their castles, as an atonement for the offence; and, after considerable opposition on the part of the two bishops, the demand was generally complied with. The Bishop of Ely, however, still refused to surrender the castle of Devizes; and Stephen commanded that Roger and the Bishop of Lincoln should receive no food until the castle was given up. By the king's order Roger appeared, wasted with fasting, before the gates of Devizes, and implored his nephew to surrender 5 and, after a delay of three days, the Bishop of Ely at length yielded, to save the lives of his relatives.

These proceedings excited the utmost indignation among the prelates and clergy of the kingdom, and Henry, Bishop of Winchester, who had been appointed legate of the Pope, cited his brother, the king, to appear before an ecclesiastical synod at Winchester, to answer for his conduct. Alberic de Vere attended before the council as the substitute of Stephen, and the bishops having persisted in demanding reparation for the insult to the Church, De Vere appealed in the king's name to the Pope, and, drawing his sword, declared the assembly to be dissolved. A series of disasters, which soon after endangered the life and the crown of Stephen, were, in a great measure, to be referred to this determined opposition to the clergy. The synod at White was held in September (a.d. 1139), and three months afterwards, Roger, Bishop of Sarum, died at an advanced age, his end having probably been accelerated by mortifications he had suffered.

On the 22nd of September, in the same year, the Empress Matilda landed in England, accompanied by Robert, Earl of Gloucester. The latter immediately proceeded with a small escort to the castle of Bristol, where he occupied himself in collecting his followers. Matilda was received into Arundel Castle by Adelais, widow of Henry I., who offered her protection. Stephen, having been apprised of this circumstance, surprised the castle, and took both the ladies prisoners. In pursuance of one of those chivalrous impulses of which the records of the Middle Ages afford so many examples, the king caused Matilda to be escorted in safety to her brother Robert, and restored to Adelais the possession of her castle.

A civil war now raged throughout the country. The Norman race in England were immediately split up into two factions, and each man looked with distrust upon his neighbour, uncertain whether to regard him as a friend or an enemy. Many of the barons of the west and north declared for Matilda, and recalled the oaths they had taken to Stephen; while many of the more rapacious lords, to whom the public good was a matter of no concern, kept aloof from both parties, and occupied themselves with seizing the property of the farmers and citizens. The chronicles of the time are filled with the atrocities which were committed at this period throughout the length and breadth of the land, which was desolated in every direction by violence and rapine.

Stephen having failed in an attempt to take the town of Bristol, which was strongly fortified, turned his forces to the east, where a formidable insurrection had broken out, headed by the Bishop of Ely. On the very spot where Here ward, the Saxon, had erected his fort of wood, a camp was formed by the Norman adherents of Matilda, who entrenched themselves behind ramparts of stone and wood. Stephen conducted his attack in the same manner as had been done by William the Conqueror. He built bridges of boats, by which his soldiers passed over, and put to flight the troops of Nigel.

The bishop fled to Gloucester, where Matilda had assembled the greater number of her adherents. During the absence of Stephen in the east, the flames of revolt were raging throughout the west, and churches as well as castles were fortified by the insurgents for the purposes of defence. The bishops are represented as having not scrupled to take part in these military operations: they were seen, as in the time of the Conqueror, mounted on chargers and clad in suits of mail, bearing a lance or a truncheon in their hands, directing the attacks of the soldiers, and drawing lots for a. share of the booty (Gesta Steph.).

In 1141, Stephen displayed the utmost activity in marching against his enemies. After having crossed and recrossed the country, he appeared before the castle of Lincoln, which was in the hands of the adherents of Matilda. The townspeople, however, favoured the king's cause, and, in opposition to the garrison, assisted him to lay siege to the fortress. Meanwhile the Earl of Gloucester had collected an army of 10,000 men, and in the hope of effecting a surprise, marched rapidly to Lincoln, and appeared before the besieging troops. Stephen, however, had been apprised of his coming, and having drawn up his forces in battle array, placed himself at their head. The contest was unequal; most of the royal cavalry deserted to the enemy, and, among the rest of the army, many of the troops wavered in their allegiance. In such a case defeat was inevitable. Stephen fought with desperate valour, but after having broken both his sword and battle-axe, he was made prisoner by the Earl of Gloucester.

The Empress Matilda, forgetting the generosity she had experienced at the hands of the king, ordered him to be loaded with chains and imprisoned in the keep of Bristol Castle. This defeat was disastrous to the royal cause. Many of the Norman nobles and of the clergy, among whom was Henry of Winchester, the king's own brother, gave in their adhesion to the cause of Matilda. The support of the bishop is said to have been gained by a promise on the part of the empress that he should be placed in the position of her chief minister, and should have the disposal of all the vacant benefices of the Church.

On the day after this bargain was concluded, the granddaughter of the Conqueror made her triumphal entry into Winchester. She was received at the gates by Bishop Henry, at the head of the clergy, who conducted her to the cathedral; and the brother of Stephen pronounced a blessing upon all who should follow her cause, and a curse on those who should oppose it.

Having taken possession of the royal treasure which remained at Winchester, Matilda, after some delay, proceeded to London, where she arrived at midsummer. She was of Saxon descent, and the unhappy citizens, ground down by taxation, hoped to obtain from her some release of the burdens with which they were oppressed. But Matilda's good fortune soon rendered her disdainful and arrogant; and it is said by an old historian that when those men to whom she owed her elevation bowed down before her, she did not rise from her throne, and their request were frequently met by a refusal. It is, therefore, scarcely matter for surprise that, when the citizens of London entreated her to take pity on them, she answered with a frown, and one of her first acts was to impose a heavy tax, or taillage, in addition to the burdens with which they were already afflicted. The empress seems to have possessed a malignant nature, which found vent in injuries inflicted equally on friends and enemies. Henry of Winchester, who may have felt some compunction at the part he had acted towards his brother, desired that his nephew Eustace, the son of Stephen, might be put in possession of his hereditary rights, one of which was the earldom of Boulogne; Matilda replied to the request with an insulting denial. Many other acts of arrogance, as impolitic in a queen as they were disgraceful in a woman, were exhibited towards her best friends; and when the wife of Stephen, who was Matilda's own cousin, appeared in her presence, and entreated that her husband might be restored to liberty, the empress drove the sorrowing wife away in tears.

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Pictures for Accession of Stephen page 2

Stephen
Stephen >>>>
The Battle of the Standard
The Battle of the Standard >>>>
Silver Penny of Stephen
Silver Penny of Stephen >>>>
Signature and Seal of Innocent II
Signature and Seal of Innocent II >>>>
Great Seal of Stephen
Great Seal of Stephen >>>>
Effigy of Roger
Effigy of Roger >>>>
Stephen taken Prisoner
Stephen taken Prisoner >>>>

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