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Stephen and Matilda's Civil War (Hardback)

Cousins of Anarchy

British History Medieval History P&S History Royal History

By Matthew Lewis
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 260
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526718334
Published: 4th November 2019


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The Anarchy was the first civil war in post-Conquest England, enduring throughout the reign of King Stephen between 1135 and 1154. It ultimately brought about the end of the Norman dynasty and the birth of the mighty Plantagenet kings. When Henry I died having lost his only legitimate son in a shipwreck, he had caused all of his barons to swear to recognize his daughter Matilda, widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, as his heir and remarried her to Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. When she was slow to move to England on her father’s death, Henry’s favourite nephew Stephen of Blois rushed to have himself crowned, much as Henry himself had done on the death of his brother William Rufus.

Supported by his brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester, Stephen made a promising start, but Matilda would not give up her birthright and tried to hold the English barons to their oaths. The result was more than a decade of civil war that saw England split apart. Empress Matilda is often remembered as aloof and high-handed, Stephen as ineffective and indecisive. By following both sides of the dispute and seeking to understand their actions and motivations, Matthew Lewis aims to reach a more rounded understanding of this crucial period of English history and asks to what extent there really was anarchy.

'A thoroughly researched yet accessible account of the civil war of the twelfth century; Matthew Lewis takes an even-handed approach to his two protagonists while rightly questioning how ‘anarchic’ the Anarchy really was. The result is an informative, pacy and compelling read about an exciting period of English history' - Catherine Hanley, author of Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior (Yale University Press, 2019).

Lewis portrays both Stephen and Matilda evenly, and this will provide a good introduction into the period.

NetGalley, Melisende d'Outremer

There is a great use of contemporary evidence used and the book is clearly well researched. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Gesta Stephani and an the account of William of Malmesbury have clearly been researched in detail to provide this highly detailed account of The Anarchy.

I enjoyed the book immensely in particular the direct quotes and the images provided at the end of the book.

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Civil War between Stephen and Matilda has long captivated historians and readers alike. Cousins fighting over who the crown truly belonged to - and the issues of a woman being on the throne - makes for captivating reading.
This book is no different, and you are going to get sucked in from the beginning! Get ready for the best game of thrones you will ever read!

On the death of King Henry I, the throne should have passed to Matilda, his daughter. While she was not the first choice, she was what the king had left after the White Ship disaster. However, her cousin Stephen swooped in and claimed the crown for himself, setting off decades of a civil war that threatened to tear England apart. While England was not truly ready for a woman to rule, Stephen might not have been the best choice - he was rather soft in several areas (although thank goodness, because we got William Marshall through his softness).
The years of war did not lessen the duties that Matilda had as a wife and mother, and her sons grew up under the banners of war, both from their mother and father. While this could have raged indefinitely, the final resolution was brought about after the death of Stephen's son Eustace (who if we are being completely honest, would have been a horrible king), and put Henry, Duke of Normandy on the throne.

I cannot say enough good things about this book! While I know the ins and outs of this Civil War, Matthew Lewis brought it around in a few ways that I had not considered before. I found myself going back and forth, and comparing different theories through his writing.
Absolutely loved it - and I will be adding this book to my student approved reading list for future semesters!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill
Perfect Partner

King Stephen and The Anarchy Civil War and Military Tactics in Twelfth-Century Britain (Hardback)

The Anarchy, the protracted struggle between Stephen of Blois and the Empress Matilda for the English crown between 1135 and 1154, is often seen as a disastrous breakdown in one of the best-governed kingdoms of medieval Europe. But perhaps the impact of the conflict has been overstated, and its effect on the common people across the country is hard to judge. That is why Chris Peerss fresh study of this fascinating and controversial era is of such value. He describes each phase of this civil war, in particular the castles and sieges that dominated strategic thinking, and he sets the fighting in…

By Chris Peers

Click here to buy both titles for £39.99
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