2709 The Battle of the Standard, 1138

‘King David I of Scotland invaded England in the summer of 1138 in support of his niece, the Empress Matilda, who was embroiled in a fight against her cousin, King Stephen (of Blois) for control of the English throne. This period of civil war, known as the Anarchy, raged in England from 1135 until 1153. It was caused by the succession crisis following the drowning death of William Adelin in the White Ship disaster in 1120. William was Henry I’s only legitimate son and, even though Henry nominated his daughter Matilda as his heir, when the king died in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois seized the throne. Matilda was named after her mother, the daughter of Malcom III of Scotland and King David’s elder sister. Matilda had been married to the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V, who had died in 1125 and so is also known as Empress Matilda (or Empress Maude). Matilda and Henry V had no children and so the throne of The Holy Roman Empire had been seized by Lothair II on Henry’s death. Matilda had then married Geoffrey of Anjou in 1128 as a way of securing the southern border of England’s French possessions in Normandy. When Stephen seized the throne in 1135, plans were begun for an invasion by Matilda’s forces against Stephen. This was eventually set to take place in 1139. Before that invasion, however, David was to invade from the north. This he did in the summer of 1138. Some modern authorities doubt that David was invading in support of Matilda but call this a ‘shallow excuse’ and a pretext for his own gain and the further his own ambitions. This does not seem to be the case’.

This episode was written by Murray Dahm.

Murray is an ancient and medieval military historian from New Zealand, living in Australia. He has written more than 100 articles on various aspects of ancient and medieval military history, as well as other historical topics from all periods (ranging from the history of opera to the runic alphabet and recipients of the Victoria Cross). He is the author of COMBAT 40: Macedonian Phalangite vs Persian Warrior: Alexander confronts the Achaemenids, 334-331 BC from Osprey publishing. He is a regular on the Ancient Warfare Podcast.