Despite having fathered more than twenty children, when King Henry I of England died in 1135, he left no surviving legitimate sons. He bequeathed his kingdom to his daughter Matilda, but common citizenry and powerful nobles alike rejected her in favor of Henry's nephew, Stephen of Blois, who was crowned King in 1135. However, Matilda had her supporters, and a civil war called the Anarchy broke out between the two factions.
After nine Crusades spanning nearly 200 years, the successful Muslim Siege of Acre finally expelled the Christian armies from the Middle Eastern coast in 1291. Over time, Turkish armies spread westward, intent on spreading their religion throughout Europe. In 1453, Turks captured the mighty Byzantine city of Constantinople, opening a gateway to the west. In 1523, the Ottoman Empire under 28-year-old Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent besieged the island of Rhodes, at the time defended by order of the Knights Hospitaller, off the southwest coast of Asia Minor. Despite a valiant stand, the Knights eventually ran out of supplies and were forced to withdraw, first to Crete, and then to island of Malta, just south of Sicily. In the years that followed, the Christian Mediterranean kingdoms were under near-constant assault by the Ottoman forces, most notably by ships commanded by the infamous corsair Turgut Reis. In 1551, Reis invaded Malta, but after only a few days, he abandoned the attempt and seized and ravaged the neighboring island of Gozo instead.