The Rise of the Angevins

In 1142 after nearly a decade of war Empress Matilda must have realized that the crown of England would never be placed upon her head. Her chance had come and gone in the dramatic events of 1141, when she had been bested by the equally formidable Matilda of Boulogne. However, just because she knew the crown would not sit upon her heard, didn’t meant her cause was entirely lost. Her eldest son Henry was growing up fast, a perfect heir to his grandfather’s throne. Whilst Matilda had been fighting in England, her husband Geoffrey Count of Anjou had been making headway in Normandy and had finally obtained it in 1144. In 1150 he handed the reigns to Henry who had come of age and became Duke of Normandy. Like his great-grandfather William the Conqueror before him, Henry also had his sights set on England.

Henry and his mother Empress Matilda

The war had continued to drag on during this time, with neither side making any real headway. Stephen and Matilda of Boulogne were looking toward the next generation too, with the couple wanting their son and heir Eustace to be crowned in Stephen’s lifetime to secure the succession. The Pope refused to countenance this though, probably foreseeing continue warfare if he allowed Eustace to be crowned.

Matilda retired to Normandy in 1148 and with Henry becoming Duke of Normandy in 1150 he was a formidable figure, reinvigorating his mother’s long campaign and taking up the mantle. Stephen by this time must have been growing weary from his struggle to keep his crown; his reign had known only warfare and conflict. His son Eustace, however, had been raised with the expectation he would one day be king and was determined this would be so. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was certainly not a fan of Eustace, referring to him as an “evil man”. He was probably one of the only ones who wanted to keep on fighting, with nearly everyone else hoping for some kind of peaceful conclusion to be reached. His death ironically paved the way for peace, as Stephen and Henry signed the Treaty in Wallingford in 1153 which said that Stephen would continue his rule but make Henry his successor. The next year in 1154 Stephen died, and Henry became King of England.

Out of the ashes of the anarchy came the rise of the Angevins.

As Alison Weir notes in her book Queens of the Conquest “She [Matilda] had lost her battles, but her son had won the war, and the crown was to return to the rightful royal line”. Henry II’s dynasty are so incredibly fascinating there will be a month dedicated to them later this year (stay tuned!).

What do you make of the Treaty of Wallingford and the end of the Anarchy? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Henry and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine


England’s Queens: From Boudica to Elizabeth of York by Elizabeth Norton

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, translated and collated by Anne Savage

Henry of Huntingdon: The History of the English People 1000-1154

Queens of the Conquest by Alison Weir

ODNB Matilda of Boulogne by Marjorie Chibnall

ODNB Matilda of England by Marjorie Chibnall

ODNB: Henry II by Thomas K. Keefe

ODNB: Eustace, count of Boulogne by Edmund King

She-Wolves by Helen Castor

Britannica: Geoffrey of Anjou

Wikipedia: The Anarchy, The Treaty of Wallingford

7 thoughts on “The Rise of the Angevins

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