Today is March 7, 2011

This page is under construction by Ian-GMS.

The Anarchy

 Empress Matilda
Empress Matilda

The Anarchy refers to a specific civil war that raged in England from 1135 to 1154. Empress Matilda, the rightful heir to the throne, swore vengeance against Stephen of Blois who stole the throne from her. Their conflict resulted in chaos marring Medieval Europe.
Due to King Henry I (son of William the Conqueror) dying on December 1, 1135 without a rightful male heir (See Feudalism), nobody could inherit the throne. The only legitimate child that King Henry fathered had been Matilda, and she had rights to be heir by King Henry’s wish (Canadian Continent). However, Matilda’s cousin, Stephen, had other plans. Matilda resided in Normandy at the time, yet Stephen resided in England. so Stephen raced to Westminster and falsely claimed the throne. Matilda became enraged because she knew that her father wanted her to be the queen. Yet the barons refused to support the idea of a woman on the throne, so many supported Stephen. There had been just as many knights that swore fealty, or allegiance, to Matilda just like Stephen. In fact, Stephen originally swore fealty to Matilda, but he betrayed her and became Matilda’s enemy.

Matilda's Geneaology
Matilda's Geneaology
Matilda Strikes Back
external image Knight.gif

Eventually Matilda gathered an army of knights and vassals to many of great barons, and she struck back at Stephen. Many battles took place in the nineteen long years that the civil war took place, yet most of the time involved each side capturing the other’s leaders, so it proved a somewhat of a prosaic war. During this, when Matilda’s men proved victorious over a major battle, she would seize the throne, and when Stephen’s men won a battle, he would resume power. So power changed frequently. For example, at the Battle of
Lincoln (Web History of England) in which Stephen’s men attempted to besiege the castle, Matilda’s half brother sent reinforcements to lessen the attacks. This plan became successful, and Stephen’s soldiers had failed trying to save Stephen, who had been taken to Bristol during the siege.
King Stephen
King Stephen


Furthermore, the taking of hostages continued for quite some time until both sides got tired of constantly capturing and seizing, while England remained in distress. The economy failed and people were starving because instead of tending to the constant problems arising, King Stephen had been preoccupied with the war and getting barons to support him. (Coins of the English Anarchy) Stephen and Matilda saw what had occurred in England, and realized that the war drained the country away; they fought for a country that declined in value.

The Compromise

In conclusion, a compromise determined that Matilda shall not be ruler but her son shall take the throne after Stephen’s death. According to the Treaty of Wallingford, Stephen’s affiliates considered Stephen to be a kind man (English Monarchs), yet his reign made him out as a tyrant. Constant fighting, sickness, and hunger, it had been not a good time for England. So the title “The Anarchy” suits the predicament.



References/Works Cited

Author, Blog. "Empress Matilda v King Stephen: When Christ and His Saints Slept | History and Traditions of England." History and Traditions of England. 29 June 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <>.

Hawes, Lloyd. "The Anarchy of 1135-1154 was Stephen of Blois' Fault." N.p., 12 May 2010. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <>.

Kealey, Edward J. \"King Stephen: Government and Anarchy\" Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3 (1974): pp. 201-217

"Nineteen Years of Winter." N.p., 19 August 2010. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <>.

"The Civil War of Stephen and Matilda." English Monarchs - A Complete History of the Kings and Queens of England. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <>.

Back to the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

This page has been revised 16 times.
The last revision was Apr 28, 2011 10:13 am by Ian-GMS.