FRANCIS LANCELOTT, ESQ.
Queens of England. Vol.1.
tory than biography to detail, Stephen
was overpowered and made prisoner,
whilst fighting with lion-like fury under
the walls of Lincoln, on Candlemas day,
being the second of February, 1141.
His victorious captor, the Earl of Glou
cester, led him before the haughty Em
press, who, with a spirit of vengeance
that will ever tarnish her fair fame, or
dered him into close confinement in Bris
tol ('astio, and shortly afterwards, under
a pretence that his friends had formed a
plan for his rescue, she caused him to be
loaded with heavy irons, and shut up
in a dark dank dungeon.
As, in those days of superstition, the
hearts of men were filled with dread, and
the bravest made cowards by every tri
fling incident believed by them to be an
evil omen, it is no matter of surprise
that Stephen lost the famous battle of
Lincoln, preceded as it was by pheno
mena and events viewed at the time as
boding signs of direful calamity. First
came an eclipse of the sun—an alarming
incident, which, says Malmesbury, per
plexed men's minds sorely, and led many
to believe that the king's reign was coming to a close ; next succeeded a terrible tempest, accompanied by thunder and lightning so awful, that no living man had before seen the like ; and this was followed by that greatly-dreaded amen of war, the aurora boreal is ; whilst, to add to the already greatly-excited terrors of the superstitious, on the morning of the battle, when the king and his suite attended divine service, those presages of impending evil—the thrice falling of the consecrated wafer from the hands of the officiating bishop, and the breaking into pieces of the hallowed taper which Stephen held in his hand —filled the minds of the congregation with awe, and caused several of tho king's barons to exclaim : "Alack, alack, only evil will attend us on this day of battle and strife !" Indeed the victory on that memorable second of February would doubtless have been Stephen's, had not these fearfully-viewed occurrences unnerved his trusty followers, and
impelled them to a disgraceful flight.
Having secured her princely antagonist, the victorious Empress marched
without delay to "Winchester, where she
met Stephen's brother, Henry, Bishop of
Winchester, outside the city walls, and
gained him over, by swearing that, as
cardinal legate, he should be consulted
in all state affairs, and have the disposal
of ail the church preferments, and the
control of ecclesiastical matters general
ly. Jn return, the well-pleased bishop
swore fidelity to the empress as queen
regnant, but with that significant reser
vation, " so long as she fulfilled her part
of the mutual contract."
On the day following, the elated Em
press was met by most of the prelates
and nobles of the land, accompanied by
a procession of monks and nuns ; and
thus welcomed by chatinting voices, and
saluted by the richly-blazoned banners of the barons, and the hearty cheers of the populace, she entered the venerable city with all the dignity of royalty, and took up her residence at that regaì home where she first drew her breath—the Castle of Winchester. Here she received the keys of the royal treasury, which, to her sorrow, she found had been already emptied by Stephen, to prop up his tottering throne, scarcely anything of value being left but the insignia of royalty. However, she caused herself immediately to be proclaimed queen in the marketplace, and afterwards went with groat pomp to the cathedral, where the Bishop of Winchester, after the performance of mass, pronounced a blessing on her and her friends, and solemnly excommunicated his fallen brother Stephen, and all his adherents. Shortly afterwards, she received the homage of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the rest of the bishops ; the primate, with a remarkable scrupulosity of conscience, to avoid violating his oath to his former master, having first
visited Stephen, who, being a helpless prisoner, readily gave him the absolution he required.
When Matilda of Boulogne returned from Normandy, where she had left her son Eustace wearing the crown of the dukedom, she hastened to her faithful adherents, the citizens of London, and so effectually urged them to the rescue of her imprisoned lord, that on the magistrates of London being summoned to