The Battle of the Standard was the first major engagement between English and Scots since the Norman Conquest.
It was one of just two major battles during the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda.
The two-day battle took place in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and resulted in a defeat for King Stephen, who was captured and replaced by Henry Plantagenet as England’s king.
“The Battle of the Standard was a turning point in the civil war between Stephen and Matilda, as it demonstrated the strength of the northern barons and their willingness to fight for their cause.”
John Sadler, historian and author of “Scottish Battles”
In this article, we’ll review both the causes of the battle, as well as its outcome and consequences for both England and Scotland.
In 1139, Stephen of Blois and Matilda of Boulogne fought for the throne of England. Matilda had her son crowned king, but Stephen continued to fight.
This civil war would last twenty years, ending only with Stephen’s death in 1154. Despite this lengthy period of conflict, there were only two major battles – one at Northallerton in 1138 and another at Lewes in 1264.
It is difficult to definitively identify who fought in the Battle of the Standard. It is thought that there were at least three thousand Scotsmen, but it is unclear how many English soldiers were present.
At least fifteen knights and barons from across England attended, including Robert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester and Henry Percy, Baron Percy. The Earl of Chester was also present with a small contingent from his county.
Stephen, Matilda, Malcolm III of Scotland (a.k.a. Malcolm Canmore) and William II of England were all involved in this battle at some point or another.
While Stephen and Matilda had been fighting for control of the English throne, Malcolm was trying to establish himself as king of Scotland by claiming territory that had formerly belonged to his father, Duncan I.
King Stephen, who was the legal heir to the English throne, had been fighting with Matilda since 1139.
The battle at Northallerton would be the first major engagement between English and Scots since the Norman Conquest.
Stephen won this battle and continued his reign in England until 1154 when he died from wounds received from a hunting accident.
“The Battle of the Standard was one of the most important conflicts of the civil war between King Stephen and Queen Matilda, and it had a significant impact on the outcome of the war.”
Kelly DeVries, historian and author of “The Battle of the Standard”
In 1137, Stephen was crowned King. However, Matilda, who believed she had a stronger claim to the throne than Stephen, refused to give up her title as Empress and started a civil war.
This led to many battles throughout England during this time period, but Northallerton was one of only two major battles.
“The Battle of Northallerton was a rare example of a pitched battle fought between medieval English armies, and it was a testament to the military prowess of the English nobility of the time.”
Matthew Strickland, historian and author of “The Great Warbow”
Once it became clear that Matilda would not be able to defeat Stephen on his own turf in London, she began looking for allies within his kingdom.
The Civil War of Stephen and Matilda was a dynastic struggle for power during the reigns of two concurrent English monarchs, King Stephen and Empress Matilda. After a tumultuous 10-year civil war, Matilda would eventually emerge victorious in 1148.
“The Battle of the Standard was a crucial moment in English history, as it marked the beginning of a period of political stability under Henry II and the end of the civil war between Stephen and Matilda.”
A.J. Pollard, historian and author of “The Wars of the Roses”
The Norman Conquest had taken place in 1066, which resulted in their becoming king and queen over all of England.
The Norman line would rule until 1154 when the last remaining heir to that line, Henry II, died without any heirs to his throne. His daughter, Margaret, married Malcolm III of Scotland who took up Henry II’s crown as King Malcolm III in 1153.
“The Civil War of 1139-53” by A.J. Pollard – This book provides a comprehensive account of the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda, including the events leading up to the Battle of the Standard and the impact of the battle on the war’s outcome.
“The Battle of the Standard” by Kelly DeVries – This book focuses specifically on the Battle of the Standard, providing a detailed analysis of the tactics used by both sides, the key players involved, and the battle’s historical significance.
“Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-1153” by Jim Bradbury – This book provides a broader overview of the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda, including a detailed account of the Battle of the Standard and its impact on the wider conflict.
“The Anarchy: The Darkest Days of Medieval England” by Richard Morris – This book provides an engaging and accessible account of the Civil War of Stephen and Matilda, including a vivid description of the Battle of the Standard and its aftermath.