Almost king – Eustace of Boulogne –

Born c. 1129, Eustace Count of Boulogne was the son of Stephen of Blois and Matilda of Boulogne. Upon the death of King Henry I, Stephen seized the throne and fought a long civil war against Matilda, the only legitimate heir of the old king. Eustace married Constance, sister of Louis VII, making him, for a brief time,  brother-by-marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Stephen of Blois
Stephen of Blois

He did little else in his life but fight and extort. He was not very popular. The Peterborough Chronicler tells us: He was an evil man and did more harm than good wherever he went.

In 1452, Stephen tried to persuade the barons to pay homage to Eustace as their future king, but the Archbishop of Canterbury and other bishops stated they would crown none but Henry of Anjou, eldest son of Matilda, The pope also supported the claim of Henry over Eustace.

Perhaps Eustace felt a grudge against the church, for the following year found him plundering the church of Bury St. Edmunds. Less than a month later he was struck down, as it was said, by the Hand of God.

After the loss of his heir, coming so soon after the death of his wife, (she had died the previous year) Stephen lost heart for the fight, and made an agreement with Henry of Anjou that he would remain king for his lifetime and Henry would succeed him.

It is likely the civil war would have continued as long as Eustace continued in life. His death grieved none but his father and opened the way for the far more capable Henry II to inherit the throne peacefully.

Eustace was buried at Faversham Abbey in Kent, alongside his parents. The tombs are now lost.

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