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Geoffrey de Mandeville

Geoffrey de Mandeville (d. 1144). An English baron whose stormy career caused controversy both in his own day and since. As keeper, like his father and grandfather, of the Tower of London and as possessor of large estates in Essex and East Anglia, he played a central role in the turbulent politics of Stephen's reign. Indeed his allegedly unscrupulous changes of allegiance during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda led to him being represented as ‘the great champion of anarchy’. Despite being created earl of Essex by the king in 1140, he joined Matilda in 1141 and was made hereditary sheriff of Essex. Like many others, swiftly disenchanted by her rule, by the late summer of that year he was back in Stephen's camp. He was given a prominent role in the king's counsels, but serious doubts about his loyalty remained. In October 1143 he was arrested on charges of treason and freed only after he had handed over his castles including the Tower. In revenge he seized the abbeys of Ely and Ramsey and, using the fenland as a base, went on the rampage. Until mortally wounded while laying siege to Burwell, he did much of the damage which created the notion of Stephen's reign as ‘the anarchy’.

John Gillingham

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