The Anarchy (1138-1153)

By Dr Gabrielle Storey, published 11th May 2023

The so-called Anarchy of the twelfth century, that is the conflict between two royal cousins – Empress Matilda, heiress to the English throne, and Stephen, Count of Blois, from 1135-1148 for the rulership of the Anglo-Norman realms  continues to fascinate historians. The term Anarchy, coined by historian Kate Norgate, has tended to stick with discussions of the event; however, recent conversations have moved towards terming the period as civil war or conflict, as society did not break down or royal power lessen as emphatically as ‘anarchy’ suggests. 

In this podcast Dr Gabrielle Storey provides an introduction to 'The Anarchy', discusses the life of Matilda, examines the development of the civil war, examines the impact of the war on royal power and reflects on how interpretations of the Anarchy and Matilda have changed over time.

1. Introduction – why is it called the Anarchy?
2. Matilda as heiress
3. Life as countess of Anjou
4. Henry’s death and beginning of the civil war
5. Timeline
6. 1141 Coronation
7. Transferral of rights to Henry
8. Settlement and Treaty of Winchester
9. Royal Power Before and After
10. How have interpretations of Matilda changed over time?
11. Anarchy or civil war?

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