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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ. Queens of England. Vol.1.

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FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
page 54



on this occasion as his cousin, the Earl of Blois, he probably would have lived to sway the sceptre of England. His loss, however, was no unhappy event for the nation, as lirompton says lie was so hardhearted and haughty-minded, that he threatened if ever he became king of the English he would make them draw the plough like oxen. The London residence of Stephen and his consort Matilda was that impregnable fortress the Tower Itoyal, situate on the spot which now forms the little lano so named, lying between Cheapside and Watting Street. When King If enry died, his daughter the Empress was in Anjou, nursing her sorely sick husband. But early in 1136, Geoffrey became convalescent, and King Stephen, to render futile the probable efforts of the Empress to recover her lost crown, now that her hands were unfettered, signed a charter confirming the rights and privileges of the church, abolishing DaiicgeU, repealing the severe game and forest laws of his Norman predecessors, and generally restoring the Saxon laws of King Edward, lint as this liberal policy was only pursued by the newly-elected monarch to secure his seat on the throne, he almost immediately afterwards restored the abominable Norman game laws, and on the demise of Corbet, Archbishop of Canterbury, seized on the princely revenues of that see. These early violations of the solemnly signed charter by the king of their own election, so greatly offended the clergy and the barons, that the latter forthwith built and fortified upwards of a thousand castles, which theyfilled with sturdy warriors, all ready to join in battle strife when the day should arrive, that England's circlet of royalty must be won and lost by force of arms. Soon was Stephen convinced of the error he had committed by permitting the rude barons to thus fortify the land with strongholds, that rendered them almost independent of the crown. Baldwin de Rcdvers, l'ari of Devonshire, to whom he had denied some slight favour, actually told him to his face that he was an usurper, whom he would no longer obey. Irritated at this insolence, Stephen proceeded in person to chastise Baldwin, and in the meantime the Welsh carried fire and sword into the countries bordering on their territory ; and David, King of the Scots, under the pretence of revenging the wrongs of his niece, the Empress, plundered the northern countries with a band of barbarians. After concluding a hasty peace with the Welsh, Stephen marched to the North. The hostile armies met at Carlisle, but fought not, as the monarehs agreed to a truce of peace, by which Carlisle and Doncaster were resigned to the Scotch king, and the earldom of Huntingdon to his son Prince Henry, who did homage to Stephen for those fief's in England, in lieu of David his father, who would not violate the oath he had sworn, to acknowledge no one hut the Empress as successor to King Henry's crowns. In 1137, shortly after the king and Matilda had celebrated the Easter festival, with more than ordinary splendour, at Westminster, Stephen fell into a lethargy so nearly resembling death, that it was rumoured abroad that he had ceased to exist ; on which, all who espoused the cause of the Empress, and who, by promoting dissensions, hoped to enrich themselves by lawless plunder, flew to arms, and rendered both England and Normandy theatres of civil war. Not merely was the standard of revolt raised in favour of the Empress, but for individual aggrandizement, noble warred against neighbouring noble, and in these unrighteous contentions, whole towns and villages were reduced to ashes, and their inhabitants being driven to seek shelter in the forest recess or mountain fastness, formed themselves into bands of ruffians, who, making theft and murder their trade, plundered the churches and public buildings, and cruelly insulted, robbed, and slaughtered every man, woman, and child they met with. In England this horrid state of anarchy existed, with but little intermission, for more than fifteen years. Stephen, however, on recovering from his dangerous stupor, used his best exertions to restore domestic tranquillity to his dominions. He first hastened with his infant heir, Eustace, to Normandy,


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