Matilda of England

Female 1102 - 1167  (65 years)


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  • Name Matilda of England 
    Born 07 Feb 1102  Winchester Castle Winchester, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 10 Sep 1167  Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen Cemetery, Rouen, France Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I764  King of Scots
    Last Modified 3 Feb 2016 

    Father Henry I King of England,   b. 1068-1069, Selby, Yorkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 01 Dec 1135, Lyons-la-Forêt, Eure, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 66 years) 
    Mother Matilda Edith Scotland (Queen of England),   b. 1080, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 01 May 1118, Westminster Palace, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years) 
    Married 11 Nov 1100  Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F312  Group Sheet

    Family 1 Geoffrey V Count of Anjou,   b. 24 Aug 1113,   d. 07 Sep 1151, Château-du-Loir, Sarthe, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years) 
    Married 17 Jun 1128 
    Children 
     1. Henry II King of England and Lord of Ireland,   b. 05 Mar 1133, Le Mans, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 06 Jul 1189, Anjou, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 56 years)
     2. Geoffrey VI Count of Anjou,   b. 03 Jun 1134, Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Jul 1158, Nantes, Loire-Atlantique, Pays de la Loire, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 24 years)
     3. William Count of Anjou,   b. 22 Jul 1136, Argentan, Normandy Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Jul 1164, Rouen, Normandy, France Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 28 years)
    Last Modified 15 Feb 2009 
    Family ID F311  Group Sheet

    Family 2 Henry V King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor,   b. 08 Nov 1086,   d. 23 May 1125, Utrecht, Randstad, Netherlands Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 38 years) 
    Married 07 Jan 1114 
    Last Modified 15 Feb 2009 
    Family ID F313  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 07 Feb 1102 - Winchester Castle Winchester, Hampshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 10 Sep 1167 - Rouen, Normandy, France Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen Cemetery, Rouen, France Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Notes 
    • Matilda of England, sometimes Maud or Maude, and sometimes Empress Matilda; (c. 7 February 1102 ? 10 September 1167); was the daughter and heir of King Henry I of England. Matilda and her younger brother, William Adelin, were the only legitimate children of King Henry. Her brother died young, leaving Matilda as the last heir from the paternal line of her grandfather William the Conqueror.

      As a child, Matilda was betrothed to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. From her marriage to Henry, she acquired the title Empress. The couple had no known children. When widowed, she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou, by whom she became the mother of three sons, the eldest of whom became King Henry II of England.

      Matilda was the first female ruler of the Kingdom of England. However the length of her effective rule was quite brief ? a few months in 1141 - and she was never crowned and failed to consolidate her rule (legally and politically). Because of this she is normally excluded from lists of English monarchs, and her rival (and cousin) Stephen of Blois is routinely listed as monarch for the period 1135-1154. Their warring rivalry for the throne led to years of unrest and civil war in England that have been called The Anarchy. She did secure her inheritance of the Duchy of Normandy ? through the military feats of her husband Geoffrey ? and she campaigned unstintingly for her oldest son's inheritance, living to see him ascend the throne in 1154.

      (In Latin texts Matilda was sometimes called Maude. This is a modernised spelling of the Norman-French form of her name, Mahaut.)

      Early life
      Matilda was the firstborn of two children to Henry I of England and his wife Matilda of Scotland (also known as Edith). Her maternal grandparents were Malcolm III of Scotland and Saint Margaret of Scotland. Margaret was daughter of Edward the Exile and granddaughter of Edmund II of England. (Most historians believe Matilda was born at Winchester, but one, John Fletcher (1990), argues for the possibility of the royal palace at Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire.)


      First marriage: Holy Roman Empress
      When she was seven years old, Matilda was betrothed to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor; at nine, she was sent to Germany to begin training for the life of Empress consort. The royal couple were married at Worms on January 7, 1114, and Matilda accompanied her husband on tours to Rome and Tuscany. After a time, the young wife of the Emperor was popularly accepted to act as regent in his absence[citation needed]. Emperor Henry died in 1125. The imperial couple had no surviving offspring, but Hermann of Tournai states that Matilda bore a son who lived only a short while.

      Despite being popularly known by the title "Empress" from her first marriage, Matilda's right to the title was dubious. She was never crowned Holy Roman Empress by a legitimate Pope ? which ceremony was normally required to achieve the title; indeed, in later years she encouraged chroniclers to believe she had been crowned by the Pope. Contemporarily, she was called German Queen by her husband's bishops, while her formal title was recorded as "Queen of the Romans". Still, "Empress" was arguably an appropriate courtesy title for the wife of an Emperor who had been crowned by the Pope.

      In 1120 her brother William Adelin was drowned in the disastrous wreck of the White Ship, which left Matilda as the only legitimate child of her father King Henry. Like Matilda, her cousin Stephen of Blois was a grandchild of William (the Conqueror) of Normandy; but her paternal line made her senior in right of succession to his maternal line.


      Second marriage: Countess of Anjou
      Matilda returned to England a young widow, age 23, and dowager "Empress" ? a status of considerable pride to her. There Henry named her his heir to both the English throne and his Duchy of Normandy. Henry saw to it that the Anglo-Norman barons (including Stephen of Blois) were sworn (several times) to accept Matilda as ruler if Henry died without a male heir.

      Henry then arranged a second marriage for Matilda; as he aimed to achieve peace between the fractious barons of Normandy and Anjou. On 17 June 1128, the Empress Matilda, age 26, was married to Geoffrey of Anjou, a man eleven years her junior, who also was Count of Maine and heir apparent to (his father) the Count of Anjou ? which title he soon acquired, and by which Matilda became Countess of Anjou. Geoffrey called himself "Plantagenet" from the broom flower (planta genista) he adopted as his personal emblem. So Plantagenet became the dynastic name of that powerful line of English kings who descended from Matilda and Geoffrey.

      Matilda's marriage with Geoffrey was troubled; there were frequent long separations, but they had three sons and she survived him. The eldest son, Henry, was born on 5 March 1133. In 1134, she nearly died in childbirth, following the birth of her second son (Geoffrey, Count of Nantes). A third son (William, Count of Poitou) was born in 1136.

      When her father died in Normandy, on 1 December 1135, Matilda was with her husband, in Anjou; and, crucially, too far away from events rapidly unfolding in England and Normandy. Stephen of Blois rushed to England upon learning of Henry's death; in London he moved quickly to seize the day (carpe diem) and to grasp the crown of England from its legally appointed heir. He usurped the legitimate power in England and was proceeding to do the same in Normandy.

      But Matilda was game to contest Stephen in both realms; she and her husband Geoffrey entered Normandy and began military campaigns to claim her inheritance. Progress was uneven at first, but she persevered; even so, it was not until 1139 that Matilda felt secure enough in Normandy to turn her attentions to invading England and fighting Stephen directly.

      In Normandy, Geoffrey secured all fiefdoms west and south of the Seine by 1143; in January 1144, he crossed the Seine and took Rouen without resistance. He assumed the title Duke of Normandy, and Matilda became Duchess of Normandy. Geoffrey and Matilda held the duchy conjointly until 1149, then ceded it to their son, Henry, which event was soon ratified by King Louis VII of France.


      Struggle for throne of England
      On the death of her father, Henry I, in 1135, Matilda expected to succeed to the throne of England, but her cousin, Stephen of Blois, a nephew of Henry I, usurped the throne with the support of most of the barons, breaking the oath he had previously made to defend her rights. The civil war which followed was bitter and prolonged, with neither side gaining the ascendancy for long, but it was not until 1139 that Matilda could command the military strength necessary to challenge Stephen within his own realm. Stephen's wife, the Countess of Boulogne who was also named Matilda, was the Empress's maternal cousin. During the war, Matilda's most loyal and capable supporter was her illegitimate half-brother, Robert of Gloucester.

      Matilda's greatest triumph came in April 1141, when her forces defeated and captured King Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln. He was made a prisoner and effectively deposed.

      Her advantage lasted only a few months. When she marched on London, the city was ready to welcome her and support a coronation. However, she refused the citizens' request to have their taxes halved. On 24 June 1141, she found the gates of London shut and the civil war reignited. By November, Stephen was free, having been exchanged for the captured Robert of Gloucester, Matilda's half-brother, and a year later, the tables were turned when Matilda was besieged at Oxford but escaped to Wallingford, supposedly by fleeing across the snow-covered land in a white cape. In 1141 she had escaped Devizes in a similarly clever manner, by disguising herself as a corpse and being carried out for burial. In 1148, Matilda and Henry returned to Normandy, following the death of Robert of Gloucester, and the reconquest of that county by her husband. Upon their arrival, Geoffrey turned Normandy over to his son, and retired to his own county of Anjou.


      Later life
      Not all hope was lost. Matilda's first son, Henry, was showing signs of becoming a successful leader. Although the civil war had been decided in Stephen's favour, his reign was troubled. In 1153, the death of his son Eustace, combined with the arrival of a military expedition led by Henry, led him to acknowledge the latter as his heir by the Treaty of Wallingford.

      Matilda retired to Rouen in Normandy during her last years, where she maintained her own court and presided over the government of the duchy in the absence of Henry. She intervened in the quarrels between her eldest son Henry and her second son Geoffrey, but peace between the brothers was brief. Geoffrey rebelled against Henry twice before his sudden death in 1158. Relations between Henry and his youngest brother, William, were more cordial, and William was given vast estates in England. Archbishop Thomas Becket refused to allow William to marry the Countess of Surrey and the young man fled to Matilda's court at Rouen. William, who was his mother's favourite child, died there in January 1164, reportedly of disappointment and sorrow. She attempted to mediate in the quarrel between her son Henry and Becket, but was unsuccessful.

      Although she gave up hope of being crowned in 1141, her name always preceded that of her son Henry, even after he became king. Matilda died at Notre Dame du Pré near Rouen and was buried in the Abbey church of Bec-Hellouin, Normandy. Her body was transferred to the Rouen Cathedral in 1847; her epitaph reads: "Great by Birth, Greater by Marriage, Greatest in her Offspring: Here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry."


      Historical fiction
      The civil war between supporters of Stephen and the supporters of Matilda has proven popular as a subject in historical fiction. Novels dealing with it include:

      Graham Shelby, The Villains of the Piece, (1972) (published in the US as The Oath and the Sword);
      The Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, and the TV series made from them starring Sir Derek Jacobi;
      Jean Plaidy, The Passionate Enemies, the third book of her Norman Trilogy;
      Sharon Penman, When Christ and His Saints Slept tells the story of the civil war;
      Haley Elizabeth Garwood, 'The Forgotten Queen' (1997, IBSN 0-9659721-9-4);
      Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth;
      Ellen Jones, The Fatal Crown (highly inaccurately, in romance novel-style).
      Indeed, some romance-type historical novels go so far as to posit a love-affair between Matilda and Stephen e.g. the Janna Mysteries- Felicity Pullman Set during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda

      Matilda has been played on screen by Martita Hunt in the film adaptation of Jean Anouilh's play Becket (1964) and by Brenda Bruce in the BBC TV series The Devil's Crown (1978).

      Sources
      Gervase of Canterbury
      Robert of Torigny
      Roger of Hoveden
      Gesta Stephani
      Walter Map
      Bradbury, J. (1996) Stephen and Matilda: the Civil War of 1139-1153, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-0612-X
      Chibnall,Marjorie (1991) The Empress Matilda:Queen Consort, Queen Mother, and Lady of the English
      Fletcher, John (1990) Sutton Courtenay: The History of a Thameside Village
      Pain, Nesta (1978) Empress Matilda: Uncrowned Queen of England
      Parsons, John Carmi. Medieval Mothering (New Middle Ages), sub. Marjorie Chibnall, "Empress Matilda and Her Sons"
      Gardener J and Wenborn W the History Today Companion to British History


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