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William II то Stephen: 1087-1154
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William II то Stephen: 1087-1154William II (1087-1100)
His strength and girth marked William Rufus as a son of the Conqueror. Born in 1056, he was reckless, greedy and opportunistic - qualities which won approval from his knights, but earned the displeasure of monks who condemned with distaste the fashions of his court - long hair, pointed shoes and effeminate behaviour. William II had himself crowned soon after his father’s death, and continued the Conqueror’s task of crushing rebellion among the English while extending Norman rule into South Wales and northern England.

William I had turned great tracts of land into hunting parks, and his sons were equally enthusiastic huntsmen. In August 1100, William Rufus was killed in the New Forest, apparently by a stray arrow. The king’s brother Henry, also hunting that day, rushed to Winchester to lay his hands on the royal treasury. Rufus’s body was carted off for unroyal burial beneath the cathedral tower and - three days after his brother’s death - Henry I was crowned King of England.

‘… he was well built, his complexion florid, his hair yellow ...
of astonishing strength though not very tall and his belly rather

William of Malmesbury (d. c. 1143) on William Rufus

Henry I (1100-35)
‘Of middle stature, his hair black, his chest brawny’, Henry was, according to William of Malmesbury,
‘the master of his passions, rather than their slave’. William also comments that ‘his sleep was heavy and marked by much snoring’.
Henry had all the Norman ruthlessness. False-coiners (counterfeiters) in England were mutilated on his orders to discourage others from following their example. In 1106 he defeated his brother Robert, locked him up, and thereafter sat easy on the English throne. Henry’s diplomatic triumph was to marry his daughter Matilda to the Holy Roman Emperor in 1114,butin 1120 the loss of his son William, drowned in the Channel, was a personal and dynastic disaster.

Henry fixed his ambitions on the Empress Matilda, now a widow, making his barons swear allegiance to her, and ‘her lawful husband, should she have one’. Matilda married again; she and Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, were ill-matched but produced two sons: Henry, in 1133, and Geoffrey a year later.

Stephen (1135-54) and Matilda
‘A man of activity but imprudent’, Stephen of Blois was the nephew of Henry I. He had charm, geniality, dash and personal brav¬ery. Enough barons liked him, despite his inability to sustain any action, to back him for the kingship in 1135 when Henry I died. Stephen was at once challenged by his cousin Matilda, and a patchily vicious civil war ensued, with anarchy at its worst between 1139 and 1145. Neither side could land the killer blow. Both cousins had sons, but when Stephen’s son Eustace died before his father, all parties agreed that Matilda’s son, Henry, must be the next king. Matilda had won the final family battle.

A hunting accident?
The death of William II seems to have been accepted as an accident. The man blamed for the fatal bowshot, Walter Tirel,fled abroad, but his family received favours from Henry I- was this coincidence?

William II то Stephen: 1087-1154

Westminster Hall
Westminster Hall was built by William Rufus between 1097-99, alongside the palace constructed for Edward the Confessor and used as a residence by William the Conqueror.

William II то Stephen: 1087-1154

A calculating king
A penny of Henry I; his heavy hand checked lawlessness in all parts of his kingdom.

William II то Stephen: 1087-1154

The empress
Matilda, daughter of Henry I, was the mother of Henry II and so the dynastic victor of the civil war with Stephen.

William II то Stephen: 1087-1154

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