|A Penny issued by: Empress Matilda 1141 AD. Description: A crowned bust facing right with sceptre in front; Reverse Description: The reverse has a cross moline with a fleur in each angle. Material: Silver|
When the King of Scotland, the Bishop of Winchester, or the Earl of Gloucester approached her with bended knees to petition for the release of Stephen, she would not rise to receive them, and would frequently dismiss them with a harsh denial. Matilda (Stephen's wife) along with many of the nobility had likewise tried to negotiate with her for the same reason, offering to deliver up not only numerous hostages, but castles and other possessions as well. They even pledged themselves that if restored to freedom, Stephen should renounce the crown and, as a monk or pilgrim, would devote himself to the service of God. The Bishop of Winchester prayed that Stephen's earldoms of Boulogne and Mortain might be conferred on his son Eustace, but the Empress, to their dismay, brushing aside their requests, in her ever-prevailing tone, now demanded large sums of money from them. To this, the nobility urged her to reconsider, as due to the supplying wants of the King, they had lost a large portion of their wealth and were in a state of impending pauperism. It was suggested to her that when the country was in a more tranquil state they would be more able to comply with her demands ... her rage knew no bounds.
The Londoners, she said, had repeatedly and largely supplied the wants of the king; they had lavishly spent their money for his benefit and to her prejudice, and had conspired with her enemies; therefore they had no right to expect that she would spare them, or make the slightest abatement of her demand.Nor did the petition of the citizens for the restoration of the laws of King Edward, instead of those of her fathers, which were found to be too oppressive, meet with a more favourable reception.
Matilda (Stephen's wife), now finding that her petitions for the release of her husband had been rejected, resolved on attempting to gain by force that which had been denied, which included a grant to her son Eustace for his counties. She sent a considerable military force to the south side of the river, opposite London, with orders to 'harry and burn' in every direction. Then almost at once, all the city bells rang out, summoning the inhabitants to rise to arms against the Empress Matilda. The Empress was at that moment just sitting down to dinner, when, hearing the tumult, and being secretly warned that treason was plotting against her, she and those about her instantly fled. Hardly had their horses left the suburban dwellings behind them, when an almost countless multitude of people arrived at their hostels, and destroyed or carried off all that had been left by the fugitives in their hurry to escape. The barons, who had accompanied the Empress, gradually abandoned her on the way, departing in various directions. The Bishop of Winchester who, according to reports, was both the accomplice and instigator of the insurrection, and others, bishops and knights, who had assembled at London, for the purpose of solemnly enthroning the Empress, lost no time in seeking various hiding places. Matilda herself, attended by the Earl of Gloucester and a very few barons, proceeded with great speed to Oxford. In all parts of the realm, supporters of the King now rose up in defiance against the Empress.
Now in possession of London, Matilda (Stephen's wife), who was still Queen in the eyes of many, nobly exerted herself in gathering the partisans of the royal cause. Roger, Bishop of Winchester, with whom the Queen had had an interview at Guildford, now moved to devise away of rescuing the King from the miseries of prison. The Empress who, shrewdly anticipating the fruits of his schemes, proceeded with a well-appointed force to Winchester (Aug. 1st), in the hope of laying hands on the Bishop before he could act. While the Empress however, with her followers, was entering the city by one gate, the Bishop, mounted on a fleet horse, fled by another with all speed to another one of his castles outside of the city.
The Empress, having taken possession of the royal castle, sent a message to the bishop, saying;
'that as she was in Winchester, she trusted he would not delay in coming to her.'Worried for his own safety, the Bishop answered ambiguously:
"I will make myself ready';"and immediately adopted measures to gain supporters.