King Stephen Edmund King

The English Monarchs Series
Publication date:
16 Apr 2012
Yale University Press
384 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 b-w illus.


This compelling new biography provides the most authoritative picture yet of King Stephen, whose reign (1135-1154), with its 'nineteen long winters' of civil war, made his name synonymous with failed leadership. After years of work on the sources, Edmund King shows with rare clarity the strengths and weaknesses of the monarch.

Keeping Stephen at the forefront of his account, the author also chronicles the activities of key family members and associates whose loyal support sustained Stephen's kingship. In 1135 the popular Stephen was elected king against the claims of the empress Matilda and her sons. But by 1153, Stephen had lost control over Normandy and other important regions, England had lost prestige, and the weakened king was forced to cede his family's right to succession. A rich narrative covering the drama of a tumultuous reign, this book focuses well-deserved attention on a king who lost control of his destiny.

Edmund King is emeritus professor of medieval history, University of Sheffield. He lives in Sheffield, U.K.

"Edmund King's discussion of these issues is the fullest and most detailed to date, offered through the medium of a compelling biography of the king."—Nigel Saul, History Today

"King is an expert guide, with a forensic eye for detail and a sharp-witted way with an explanation for a 21st-century readership."—Helen Castor, Times Higher Education

"King's strength has always been in the close reading of the texts he uses. He deploys his knowledge of the contemporary authors to great effect, time and again making arresting observations about their individual perspectives and links to events, which adds to the freshness and liveliness of his treatment."—David Crouch, Reviews in History

"Edmund King has produced a superb account of the reign."—D.A Carpenter, Times Literary Supplement

"A balanced and reliable account."—The Good Book Guide

"This new monograph on King Stephen makes a formidable addition to the Yale English Monarchs series, and to medieval studies more generally."—Medium Aevum, 80:2