With Henry I dead in Normandy and his realm in chaos, the opportunistic Stephen of Blois takes his chance to claim the throne and sets sail for England with his close companions.
Stephen headed to Winchester, the seat of the Treasury, where his brother, Henry Bishop of Winchester, opened the city and gave him the keys. In December he was crowned king by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It all seemed to easy, the nobles in Normandy quietened down.
Over the next two years he performed well, but the Welsh and Normandy borders proved a serious thorn in his side. Geoffrey and Matilda took castles in Normandy and threatened his realm and his failure to deal with Wales left open the question of his viability to rule.
That aside, no serious challenge to Stephen presented itself and England was united behind him.
Stephen would likely have ruled until his death but for the actions of one man, Robert Fitzroy, Earl of Gloucester. Robert was the illegitimate son of Henry I, Empress Matilda's half brother. Despite his apparent loyalty to Stephen, enough that he wasn't removed, he rebelled.
Robert was in Normandy in 1138 when he renounced his fielty to Stephen and declared for Matilda. Exactly why is still an unknown, but the results were immediate as rebellion swept through Kent and SW England.
Stephen was confronted with trouble on every front. The Scots invaded, declaring for Matilda, reaching Yorkshire and Geoffrey invaded Normandy. Stephen suddenly looked vulnerable and he realised he needed to seize the initiative.
Empress Matilda was still hesitant to invade England and Stephen quickly took a three pronged approach. He sent his wife (also called Matilda) to secure Dover, he sent his best knights north to take on the Scots and he pushed into Gloucestershire via the Welsh Marches.
Stephen's strategy paid off, an incredible military achievement. The Scots signed a peace treaty, Dover was captured and held, and although Bath provided to difficult to take, Stephen succeeded in containing the rebellion. He created new earldoms and prepared the realm for war..

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