King Stephen and Queen Maude (Matilda) fought for 19 years over the crown of England. Unfortunately, neither person had the qualities to make a good ruler. Queen Maude (Matilda), was never a queen and not even an empress even though she was married originally to the Holy Roman Emperor. She had an explosive temper and was given to indecisiveness. She freely gave away properties that did not belong to the crown and which were not hers to give, hoping that the new owners would be willing to fight and die for the new lands. After her half brother died, she left England and set about grooming her son, Henry, for the kingship.
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Between them, Stephen and Maude managed to kill hundreds of thousands of Englishmen, drove many from their homes and forced thousands into starvation. Stephen was not a man who could trust others. He drove nobles from their family homes and replaced them with,’ New Men’, men of lesser nobility who would be loyal to him because he had given them lands. The displaced barons banded together and rode over the peasants roughshod, killing, stealing, burning and raping at will. In this story, two fictitious Irish brothers serve Stephen and one serves Maude while the fourth is a monk. They become spies, exchanging information using the ancient written language of the Irish known as ogham. This novel tells of the extreme suffering of the English people during this time and sets the stage for the rule of Henry II.