In 1138, Stephen returned to England, and immediately proceeding to the north, severely chastised the King of the Scots, who, with banner unfurled in support of the rights of the Empress, had again invaded Northumberland. Whilst her royal lord was thus occupied in the north, Matilda of Boulogne, with the courage of an amazon, herself besieged the rebels, who had seized Dover Castle, and aided by a Boulonnois squadron, blockaded the fort by sea and land, and finally reduced her rebellious subjects to subjection. Matters, nevertheless, daily wore a more alarming aspect. Baron after baron deserted to the cause of the Empress, which so exasperated Stephen, that in his wrath he exclaimed, "Since they have chosen me king, why do they now forsake me? By the birth of (God, I will never he called an abdicated monarch!"
Seldom do misfortunes come single. The revolt of the nobles induced the Scotch King, for a third time, to cross the border, with an army more fierce and formidable than ever. These cruel barbarians marked their track with blood and fire. By them innocent babes were tossed high into the air to be received on the points of murderous swords, with yells of delight; and, excepting a few blooming maidens and stalwart men, whom they drove like cattle to captivity, they cruelly put to death every mortal that fell into their hands. 1 or 2 months did these fierce invaders devastate the northern counties, where they penetrated even to Yorkshire, without meeting with any serious obstruction, as Stephen and his followers were being too hotly pressed by their foes in the midland counties to send aught but pity and words of encouragement to the terror stricken inhabitants.
Thus overcome, and without prospects of succour, the barons and the people gave way to despondency, whilst numbers prepared to migrate farther inland. At this crisis, the venerable Thurstan, Archbishop of York, like a true patriot, thundered forth the war cry against the relentless Scotch; and well did the old man's zeal serve the good cause he so eloquently advocated. Inspired by religion and patriotism, all the male inhabitants of the invaded counties flocked to the prelate's standard, when, after receiving absolution and a blessing from the Archbishop himself, and solemnly vowing to conquer or die, they, with the holy cross in their van, and the consecrated banners of St. Peter, St. Wilfred, and St. John floating over their heads, boldly marched forth, and drove the Scotch before them like chaff before the hurricane. This fearful contest was named, on account of the holy banners that the victors fought under, the "Battle of the Standard." When night closed in, ten thousand Scots lay dead on Cuton Moor, and, in their flight, nearly all the remaining thousands were slain by the exasperated peasantry before they reached the Scottish border. The English lost but one knight and about a hundred soldiers.
The Scotch king was so completely overcome by this disastrous defeat, which nearly cost him his life, that, through the mediation of Queen Matilda, he concluded a peace with her lord, that was highly advantageous to both monarch.
Having subdued his foes without, and greatly quelled the rebels within, his kingdom, Stephen fondly believed the crown firmly fixed on his brow for he had yet to learn that the throne of an usurper is ever a tottering one. In imitation of the lay nobles, the bishops had built, fortified, and garrisoned strong castles, which, so greatly annoyed Stephen, that he now endeavoured, with a mighty blow of his royal sceptre, at once to reduce the pride of the prelates, and deprive them of their strongholds. But the attempt, weak as it was futile, cost him that crown which, but for the haughty intolerance of his royal rival, the Empress, he never again would have worn.
The Empress Matilda lands in England and claims the crown — Queen Matilda goes abroad — Her son Eustace married to Constance of France — She sends over a host of foreign soldiers — Civil war rages — Stephen taken prisoner — Superstition of the times — Henry, Bishop of Winchester, supports the Empress — Boldness of the London citizens — The Queen's letter to the synod — Her troubles — Her exertions to restore Stephen to liberty —Arrogance of the Empress — Her flight from London — The Bishop of Winchester renounces her cause — She besieges the Bishop — The Queen hastens to the Bishop's support — Defeat of the Empress — Capture of the Earl of Gloucester — Narrow escape of the Empress — King David, disappointed and dispirited, returns to Scotland.
ОВЕRТ, Earl of Gloucester, believing the moment for striking a decisive blow had now arrived, boldly threw off his allegiance to Stephen, with a challenge of defiance, and prevailing on the Empress to land in England, strenuously endeavoured to enforce her royal rights, and hurl the usurper from the throne. On her arrival, Stephen's good stars were in the ascendancy, for, besides having possessed himself of the enormous wealth of the refractory Bishops of Salisbury, Lincoln, and Ely, he had seized on many of the strong castles of the turbulent barons. But although she had let the critical moment pass, Stephen was no more fortunate, for, by permitting her to depart from Arundel Castle, when he might have made her his prisoner, he heaped his head with a heavy load of future troubles.
The landing of the Empress gave new courage to her partizans, who instantly unfurled their proud banners in her support; but whilst, under the judicious guidance of the devoted Earl of Gloucester, her cause was daily gaining strength, the interests of Stephen were also being furthered by his affectionate queen, Matilda, who, having crossed the sea, brought about a marriage between her son, Eustace, and Constance, sister of the French King—Matilda paying a large sum to obtain the bride, and the French King, in return, investing Eustace with the dukedom of Normandy, and assisting him and his mother to maintain the ducal crown in defiance of the partizans of the Empress.