"The reign of Stephen," in the words of our greatest living historian, "is one of the most important in our whole history, as exemplifying the working of causes and principles which had no other opportunity of exhibiting their real tendencies." To illustrate in detail the working of those principles to which the Bishop of Oxford thus refers, is the chief object I have set before myself in these pages. For this purpose I have chosen, to form the basis of my narrative, the career of Geoffrey de Mandeville, as the most perfect and typical presentment of the feudal and anarchic spirit that stamps the reign of Stephen. By fixing our glance upon one man, and by tracing his policy and its fruits, it is possible to gain a clearer perception of the true tendencies at work, and to obtain a firmer grasp of the essential principles involved. But, while availing myself of Geoffrey's career to give unity to my theme, I have not scrupled to introduce, from all available sources, any materials bearing on the period known as the Anarchy, or illustrating the points raised by the charters with which I deal.
CHAPTER II. THE FIRST CHARTER OF THE KING.
Geoffrey de Mandeville was the grandson and heir of a follower of the conqueror of the same name. From Mandeville, a village, according to Mr. Stapleton, near Trevières in the Bessin,  the family took its name, which, being Latinized as "De Magnavilla," is often found as "De Magnaville." The elder Geoffrey appears in Domesday as a considerable tenant-in-chief, his estates lying in no less than eleven different counties.  On the authority of the Monasticon he is said by Dugdale to have been made constable of the Tower. Dugdale, however, has here misquoted his own authority, for the chronicle printed by him states, not that Geoffrey, but that his son and heir (William) received this office.  Its statement is confirmed by Ordericus Vitalis, who distinctly mentions that the Tower was in charge of William de Mandeville when Randulf Flambard was there imprisoned in 1101.  This may help to explain an otherwise puzzling fact, namely, that a Geoffrey de Mandeville, who was presumably his father, appears as a witness to charters of a date subsequent to this. 
Geoffrey de Mandeville founded the Benedictine priory of Hurley,
and we know the names of his two wives, Athelais and Leceline. By the former he had a son and heir, William, mentioned above, who in turn was the father of Geoffrey, the central figure of this work.
The above descent is not based upon the evidence of the Monasticon alone, but is incidentally recited in those
royal charters on which my story is so largely based. It is therefore beyond dispute. But though there is no pedigree of the period clearer or better established, it has formed the subject of an amazing blunder, so gross as to be scarcely credible. Madox had shown, in his History of the Exchequer (ii. 400), that Geoffrey "Fitz Piers" (Earl of Essex from 1199 to 1213) was Sheriff of Essex and Herts in 1192-94 (4 & 5 Ric. I.). Now Geoffrey, the son of Geoffrey "Fitz Piers," assuming the surname of "De Mandeville," became his successor in the earldom of Essex, which he held from 1213 to 1216. The noble and learned authors of the Lords' Reports on the Dignity of a Peer began by confusing this Geoffrey with his namesake the earl of 1141, and bodily transferring to the latter the whole parentage of the former. Thus they evolved the startling discovery that the father of our Geoffrey, the earl of 1141, "was Geoffrey Fitz Peter [ i.e. the earl of 1199-1213], and probably was son of Peter, the sheriff at the time of the Survey."
But not content even with this, they transferred the shrievalty of Geoffrey "Fitz Piers" from 1192-94 ( vide supra )
to a date earlier than the grant to Geoffrey de Mandeville (his supposed son) in 1141. Now, during that shrievalty the Earls "of Clare" enjoyed the tertius denarius of the county of Hertford. Thus their lordships were enabled to produce the further discovery that the Earls "of Clare" enjoyed it before the date of this grant (1141), that is to say, "either before or early in the reign of King Stephen."
The authority of these Reports has
been so widely recognized that we cannot wonder at Courthope stating in his Historic Peerage of England (p. 248) that "Richard de Clare ... was Earl of Hertford, and possessed of the third penny of that county, before or early in the reign of King Stephen." Courthope has in turn misled Dr. Stubbs,
and Mr. Doyle has now followed suit, stating that Richard de Clare was "created Earl of Hertford (about) 1136."
It is therefore something to have traced this error to its original source in the Lords' Reports .
The first mention, it would seem, of the subject of this study is to be found in the Pipe-Roll of 1130, where we read-
"Gaufridus de Mandeville reddit compotum de Dccclxvj li. et xiii s. et iiij d. pro terra patris sui. In thesauro cxxxiii li. et vi s. et viii d.
"Et debet Dcc et xxxiij li. et vj s. et viij d. " (p. 55).
As he had thus, at Michaelmas, 1130, paid only two-thirteenths of the amount due from him for succession, that is the (arbitrary) "relief" to the Crown, we may infer that his father was but lately dead. He does not again meet us till he appears at Stephen's court early in 1136.
From the date of that appearance we pass to his creation as an earl by the first of those royal charters with which we are so largely concerned.
The date of this charter is a point of no small interest, not merely because we have in it the only surviving charter of creation of those issued by Stephen, but also because there is reason to believe that it is the oldest extant charter of creation known to English antiquaries. That distinction has indeed been claimed for the second charter in my series, namely, that which Geoffrey obtained from the Empress Maud. It is of the latter that Camden wrote, "This is the most ancient creation-charter that I ever saw."
Selden duly followed suit, and Dugdale echoed Selden's words.
Courthope merely observes that it "is presumed to be one of the very earliest charters of express creation of the title of earl;"
and Mr. Birch pronounces it "one of the earliest, if not the earliest, example of a deed creating a peerage."
In despite, however, of these opinions I am prepared to prove that the charter with which we are now dealing is entitled to the first place, though that of the Empress comes next.
We cannot begin an investigation of the subject better than by seeking the opinion of Mr. Eyton, who was a specialist in the matter of charters and their dates, and who had evidently investigated the point. His note on this charter is as follows:-
"Stephen's earlier deeds of 1136 exhibit Geoffrey de Magnaville as a baron only. There are three such, two of which certainly, and the third probably, passed at Westminster. He was custos of the Tower of London, an office which probably necessitated a constant residence. There are three patents of creation extant by which he became Earl of Essex. Those which I suppose to precede this were by the Empress. The first of them passed in the short period during which Maud was in London, i.e. between June 24 and July 25, 1141. The second within a month after, at Oxford. In the latter she alludes to grants of lands previously made by Stephen to the said Geoffrey, but to no patent of
earldom except her own. Selden calls Maud's London patent the oldest on record. It is not perhaps that, but it is older than this, though Dugdale thought not. Having decided that Stephen's patent succeeded Maud's, it follows that it (viz. this charter) passed after Nov. 1, 1141, when Stephen regained his liberty and Geoffrey probably forsook the empress. The king was at London on Dec. 7. In 1142 we are told (Lysons, Camb. , 9) that this Geoffrey and Earl Gilbert were sent by Stephen against the Isle of Ely. He is called earl. We shall also have him attesting a charter of Queen Matilda (Stephen's wife).
"In 1143 he was seized in Stephen's court at St. Alban's.
"In 1144 he is in high rebellion against Stephen, and an ally of Nigel, Bishop of Ely. He is killed in Aug., 1144.
"On the whole then it would appear that the Empress first made him an earl as a means of securing London, the stronghold of Stephen's party, but that, on Stephen's release, the earl changed sides and Stephen opposed Maud's policy by a counter-patent (we have usually found counter-charters, however, to be Maud's). We have also a high probability that this charter passed in Dec., 1141, or soon after; for Stephen does not appear at London in 1142, when Geoffrey is earl and in Stephen's employ."
Here I must first clear the ground by explaining as to the "three patents of creation" mentioned in this passage, that there were only two charters (not "patents") of creation-that of the king, which survives in the original, and that of the Empress, which is known to us from a transcript. As to the latter, it certainly "passed in the short period during which Maud was in London," but that period, so far from being "between June 24 and July 25, 1141," consisted only of a few days ending with "June 24, 1141." The main point, however, at issue is the priority of the creation-charters. It will be seen that Mr. Eyton jumped at his conclusion, and then proceeded: "Having decided," etc. This is the more surprising because that conclusion was at...