Stephen (1096 - October 25, 1154), the last Norman King of England, reigned from 1135 to 1154, when he was succeeded by his cousin (or, as the gossip of the time had it, his natural son) Henry II, the first of the Angevin or Plantagenet Kings.
Stephen was born at Blois in France, the son of Stephen, Count of Blois, and Adela, daughter of King William I of England. He became Count of Mortain in about 1115, and married Matilda, daughter of the Count of Boulogne, in about 1125.
On the death of King Henry I of England in 1135, the throne should have passed to Henry's daughter, the Empress Maud. Like the other nobles under Henry's rule, Stephen had sworn to support her as queen. However, because of a general belief that women were unfit to rule, he usurped the throne in her absence, and civil war broke out between their respective supporters. Maud alienated many of her supporters because of her arrogance; Stephen, on the other hand, was a weak ruler, and there was much switching of allegiances.
In April, 1141, Stephen was defeated and imprisoned at Bristol. His wife, Matilda, kept faith, and Maud was forced out of London. With the capture of her most able lieutenant, her illegitimate half-brother, Robert of Gloucester, Maud was obliged to release Stephen from captivity, and he was restored to the throne in November of the same year. In December 1142, Maud was besieged at Oxford, but she managed to escape.
Stephen maintained his precarious hold on the throne for the remainder of his lifetime. However, following the death of his son and heir, Eustace, in 1153, he was persuaded to reach a compromise with Maud whereby her son, Henry (from her second marriage to Geoffrey of Anjou), would succeed Stephen on the English throne.
Stephen died at Dover, and was buried in Faversham Abbey.
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