The Battle of the Standard

1138AD - 1138AD

One of the bloodiest battles of The Anarchy took place three miles north of York and involved the Archbishop.  'The Anarchy' is the name given to a time of conflict between the death of King Henry I in 1135 and the succession of his grandson Henry II in 1154. 

Henry I’s son Prince William had died in a shipwreck so the succession passed to his daughter Matilda.  But Matilda’s cousin Stephen, Count of Blois, quickly sailed across the Channel and was crowned king.  Uncertain times then followed as Matilda's followers fought Stephen's for the crown.

Yorkshire was an important stronghold for Stephen because King David of Scotland was an ally to Matilda.

In 1138 David’s Scottish Army headed south.  When they had arrived about 30 miles to the north of York an English army of local militia and Yorkshire nobles was gathered.  The force was led by the Archbishop of York, Thurstan.

The two armies met near Northallerton, on August 22, 1138, in the Battle of the Standard, so-called because the holy standard of St Cuthbert was carried into battle on a cart.  The Scots were comprehensively defeated by the relatively well-organised English.

Keen to reward loyal Yorkshiremen, Stephen created the title of Earl of York for William le Gros, count of Aumale, one of the leaders at the Battle of the Standard.  William was the only person ever to hold the title Earl of York as it was abolished in 1155 after King Stephen’s successor, Henry II, came to the throne.  From then on there was no noble title associated with York until the creation of the Duke of York two centuries later.

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