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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 65



tudo to heaven for the liberation of Stephen from his severe captivity, and, in conjunction with her royal lord", she built the stately abbey of St. Saviour, at Eeversham, which she endowed with the valuable manor of Kevcrsham, and other lands formerly belonging to Sir William Ypres, but who had exchanged them with the Queen for her own manor of Lillechurch, and the king's demesne of Middle ton. At this period the health of the Queen, undermined by mental anxiety and bodily suffering, visibly declined ; and, in accordance with the idea of the age, she now devoted her earnest attention to works of piety and charity, and spent much of her time in tho seclusion of the cloister. Not. so, however, with her royal lord, for he knew no rest on this side of the grave. Scarcely was tho sword of civil contention sheathed, when, towards the close of the year 1149, the youthful Henry Plantagenet visited Scotland with the evident intention of contesting the crown with Stephen. His great-uncle David, King of the Scots, after conferring on him the honour of knighthood, crossed the border with hostile forces. Put Stephen, on hearing of his doings, flew to arms with such promptitude and vigour, that he found it expedient to make a quiet but hasty retreat to his own dominions, and prevail on his nephew, Henry, to embark for the continent, and patiently wait for a more promising opportunity to grasp at the English sceptre. Queen Matilda, however, did not survive to witness this struggle. After suffering the hectic torments of a fatal fever, she breathed her last at Heningham Castle, in Essex, on the third of May, 1151, being the fifteenth year of Stephen's reign. The remains of "this holy and virtu ous queen" were interred with all the im posing rites of the period, in her own favourite abbey of Eevcrsham, where, for nearly four centuries afterwards, prayers were daily said and requiems sung for the eternal repose of her soul. Queen Matilda left three surviving children, Eustace, William, aud Mary. Eustace was betrothed to Constance, sister of Louis the Seventh of France, and after the death of his mother he was again invested with the ducal crown of Normandy by his father-in-law, the French King, who had not without reason taken umbrage at the doings of the ambitious Henry Plantagenet. In 1151, Stephen, his royal sire, made a second effoTt to procure his coronation as heir to the throne of England. But the bishops declared the measure would again embroil the land in civil strife, and refused to perform the ceremony, which so enraged Stephen, that he confined them for a period as prisoners—a folly for which he dearly paid, as the Archbishop of Canterbury contrived to escape to Normandy, when he prevailed on Henry Plantagenet, who was then married to the richly-dowered Eleanor, tho divorced Queen of France, to once more strive with Stephen for the English crown. Henry, by great courage and diligence, reached England before Stephen was prepared to oppose his progress, and marched tothe relief of Wallmgford, a town where his most powerful supporters had taken shelter, and which was being vigorously besieged by Prince Eustace. Here he no effectually blockaded the besiegers, that they must have suffered from famincj but for the timely arrival of Stephen» with a reinforcement of troops, and money from London. A general engagement now appeared inevitable, and but for one of those accidents, then viewed as an evil omen, much blood would doubtless have been spilt. The opposing forces were being drawn up for battle, when, as Stephen was arranging his soldiers, hia horse thrice reared, and thrice threw him, which so terrified both his barons and his soldiery, that they loudly declared their inability to fight on the day that had dawned with so direful a prognostic. Happily for the war-wasted land, Stephen, counselled by the eloquence and reason of William de Albini, widower of the late Queen Dowager Adelicia, and perhaps not a little influenced by the fear that the freaks of bis unruly horse had so disheartened his men, as to render


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