Stephen, King of England - Death

Death

Stephen's decision to recognise Henry as his heir was, at the time, not necessarily a final solution to the civil war. Despite the issuing of new currency and administrative reforms, Stephen might potentially have lived for many more years, whilst Henry's position on the continent was far from secure. Although Stephen's son William was young and unprepared to challenge Henry for the throne in 1153, the situation could well have shifted in subsequent years—there were widespread rumours during 1154 that William planned to assassinate Henry, for example. Historian Graham White describes the treaty of Winchester as a "precarious peace", capturing the judgement of most modern historians that the situation in late 1153 was still uncertain and unpredictable.

Certainly many problems remained to be resolved, including re-establishing royal authority over the provinces and resolving the complex issue of which barons should control the contested lands and estates after the long civil war. Stephen burst into activity in early 1154, travelling around the kingdom extensively. He began issuing royal writs for the south-west of England once again and travelled to York where he held a major court in an attempt to impress upon the northern barons that royal authority was being reasserted. After a busy summer in 1154, however, Stephen travelled to Dover to meet the Count of Flanders; some historians believe that the king was already ill and preparing to settle his family affairs. Stephen fell ill with a stomach disorder and died on 25 October at the local priory, being buried at Faversham Abbey with his wife Matilda and son Eustace.

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