Nine royal houses have ruled England since the Norman Conquest in 1066 and all of them have made their mark. But eight have seen their power pass elsewhere and this summer Royal Central is looking at what happened to those that have now faded into history. We start with the Conqueror’s own dynasty and ask – what happened to the House of Norman?
The House of Norman
The dynasty had come to power in England in 1066 following the famous victory of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. He had revolutionised the administration of his new kingdom and set about changing its very fabric with the imposition of a fresh ruling class.
His throne had passed to two of his sons in turn with William II and Henry I both enjoying successful reigns. But Henry had died without a male heir and his nephew, Stephen, had claimed the crown, the beginning of the end of the House of Norman.
The Last King
Stephen of Blois, grandson of the Conqueror, became King of England in 1135 with an apparent groundswell of support but challenges to his rule soon appeared on all sides. He proved to be weak, granting concessions which exposed his lack of control, while his relationship with the church proved complex.
His ineffectual rule gave fuel to the growing push to put Henry’s daughter, Matilda, on the throne and England descended into a civil war known as the Anarchy.
Matilda briefly claimed the title ‘Lady of the English’ but it was her son, Henry, who established supremacy in this cousins’ war. By 1153, with his own eldest son dead, Stephen negotiated a peace which would see the throne pass to Henry, head of the House of Plantagenet.
The Last Queen
Stephen’s wife, Matilda, would have been less than impressed. She had proved to be a far more effective politician and military strategist than her husband, winning decisive battles in the war for the crown and negotiating his release when he was captured by his enemies.
However, Matilda died in 1152 and within a year, her husband had promised the throne to their rival dynasty.
King Stephen died on October 25th 1154 at Dover Priory in Kent and Henry began the journey from France to England to claim the crown. His accession marked the end of the House of Norman in England and the start of Plantagenet rule.