Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne

Eustace IV
Count of Boulogne
Reign25 December 1146 – 17 August 1153[1]
PredecessorsMatilda I and Stephen
SuccessorWilliam I
Bornc. 1130[1]
Died17 August 1153 (aged c. 23)
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
SpouseConstance of France
FatherStephen, King of England
MotherMatilda I, Countess of Boulogne

Eustace IV (c. 1129/1131  – 17 August 1153) ruled the County of Boulogne from 1151 until his death. He was the eldest son of King Stephen of England and Countess Matilda I of Boulogne.[2] When his father seized the English throne on Henry I's death in 1135, he became heir apparent to the English throne but predeceased his father.

Early life

Eustace was the son of Count Stephen of Mortain and Countess Matilda I of Boulogne. He was first mentioned in one of his parents' charters dated no later than August 1131.[2] Stephen ascended the English throne upon the death of his uncle King Henry I, but Henry's daughter Empress Matilda claimed the throne as well, leading to the long civil war known as the Anarchy. As heir apparent to the English throne in 1137, Eustace did homage for Normandy to King Louis VII of France, whose sister, Constance, he subsequently married in 1140.[3] Eustace was knighted in 1147, at which date he was probably from sixteen to eighteen years of age.[4]

The Anarchy

In 1151 Eustace joined his brother-in-law Louis VII in a raid upon Normandy, also contested between Empress Matilda and King Stephen. This was short-lived, however, when Louis accepted the homage of Henry Plantagenet, son of Empress Matilda, for Normandy. The following year, Eustace was in France as part of a wider coalition of Henry's enemies, but Henry's control of the duchy remained unshaken.[2]

In the later stages of the Anarchy, Stephen was concerned with cementing Eustace as his heir without question. At a council held in London on 6 April 1152, Stephen induced a small number of barons to pay homage to Eustace as their future king; but the archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec, and the other bishops declined to perform the coronation ceremony on the grounds that the Roman curia had declined Stephen's request[4] to use the French custom and crown Eustace in his own lifetime, opting rather they stick to English custom, thus denying Eustace his coronation. Eustace's mother died in 1152, making him the count of Boulogne.

After the second siege of Wallingford in July 1153, after Henry had invaded England and attracted widespread support, Stephen was persuaded to agree to terms. The agreement, known as the Treaty of Winchester, established Henry as Stephen's heir. Eustace withdrew from the court as a result of this, "greatly vexed and angry, because the war, in his opinion, had not reached a proper conclusion".[5]

Death and aftermath

Eustace died suddenly the next year, in early August 1153, struck down (so it was said) by the wrath of God while plundering church lands near Bury St Edmunds. Others believe that Eustace died simply of a broken heart.[2] The death of Eustace was hailed with general satisfaction as opening the possibility of a peaceful settlement between Stephen and his rival, the young Henry Plantagenet.[4] According to William of Newburgh, Stephen was "grieved beyond measure by the death of the son whom he hoped would succeed him; he pursued warlike preparations less vigorously, and listened more patiently than usual to the voices of those urging peace."

The reputation Eustace left behind was mixed. On the one hand, the Peterborough Chronicle, not content with voicing this sentiment, gives Eustace a bad character. "He was an evil man and did more harm than good wherever he went; he spoiled the lands and laid thereon heavy taxes."[6] Eustace raided church lands near Peterborough, possibly inciting this hatred from the Chronicle. He had used threats against the recalcitrant bishops, and in the war against the Angevin party had demanded contributions from religious houses.[4] However, the Gesta Stephani describes his courtly manner as a true heir to Stephen able to "meet men on a footing of equality or superiority as the occasion acquired".[7]

Eustace was buried in Faversham Abbey in Kent, which was founded by his parents. They too were buried in Faversham Abbey; all three tombs are now lost, as a consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.


  1. ^ a b Heather J. Tanner, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, ed. B. Wheeler, John C. Parsons, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 153.
  2. ^ a b c d Edmund King, Eustace, count of Boulogne, Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
  3. ^ Sara McDougall, Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230, (Oxford University Press, 2017), 202.
  4. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Eustace s.v. Eustace IV.". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 956–957.
  5. ^ Potter, K. R.; Davies, R. H. C. (1976). Gesta Stephani. Clarendon press. pp. 239–8. ISBN 978-0198222347.
  6. ^ Clark, Cecily (1970). The Peterborough chronicle. Oxford: Clarendon press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0198111368.
  7. ^ Potter, K. R.; Davies, R. H. C. (1976). Gesta stephani. Clarendon press. pp. 208–9. ISBN 978-0198222347.

External links

Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne
Born: ? c. 1130 Died: 17 August 1153
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Matilda I
Count of Boulogne
Succeeded by
William I

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