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Stephen (1097?-1154) was an English king whose reign was so full of strife that it is called "The Anarchy." The cause was a disputed succession. Stephen was the son of Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror. The other claimant to the throne was Matilda, daughter of Henry I. Henry had persuaded his barons to pledge allegiance to her before he died in 1135.

In 1139, Matilda and her supporters invaded England and civil war ensued. During the hostilities, King Stephen was defeated in the only major battle, at Lincoln in 1141. Subsequently, he was imprisoned at Bristol. Stephen nevertheless clung on to throne and, in 1147, Matilda gave up the struggle and returned to France.

Stephen planned that his son Eustace should succeed him, but Eustace died In 1153 so Stephen was finally forced to recognise as his successor Matilda's son, who became Henry II, the first Plantagenet king.