Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou attempted to claim the English throne from King Stephen I. The king expropriated the crown from Matilda and civil war resulted in stalemate. The war began in 1139, but did not end for over a decade. Eventually, a peace agreement was hatched leading to the Plantagenet line, but in the interim, the English people suffered major hardships.
The war continued into 1153. Henry Fitzempress, or Henry Plantagenet, Matlida and Geoffrey’s son, invaded England and besieged King Stephen. The pair agreed to a truce to avoid the harsh winter and Stephen returned to London. Henry managed to gain allies in the off-season, which sapped Stephen’s strength. However, neither side was strong enough to gain a decisive advantage.
Stephen and Henry eventually met to try and hammer out an agreement. During the negotiations, Stephen’s son, Eustace, angrily left for Cambridge, where he died after an illness. It is possible Stephen had considered removing Eustace from the succession in order to achieve peace. Eustace was Stephen’s only son, and therefore, the logical successor. After he died, Stephen adopted Henry Plantagenet and made him successor. The treaty ended the civil war. Henry became king the following year. King Stephen died on October 25, 1154 of a stomach disorder.
The fighting led to anarchy in several regions. Warfare devastated whole areas and people had to fend for themselves. Law collapsed in some parts of England. Robbery, looting, and “wickedness” reigned. Additionally, government receipts dropped precipitously and the king devalued English money by minting coins. Foreigners moved into England and built castles without permission. Scottish and Welsh nobles and squatters encroached on English lands. Henry II worked hard to pick up the pieces and clean up the mess.
The Anarchy ended with a peace deal. Stephen I’s son’s untimely death proved a key moment. Stephen adopted Henry Plantagenet and peace broke out. Stephen’s early death in 1154 negated any chance of renewed warfare. Henry II assumed the throne and the new king moved to repair the damage caused by the fighting. The English people suffered greatly during the Anarchy with periods of lawlessness and destruction.