|Matilda Empress (1103-1169)|
Our 27GGM Matilda Empress was
born about 1103 to 28GGP King Henry I Beauclerc of
England and Edith of Scotland. Matilda’s brother
William, heir to the
English throne, died in 1120, when the White Ship sank.
She was betrothed at age 8 to “Holy Roman Emperor”
(i.e., king of
some Germans) Heinrich V; they married in 1114 (she was eleven).
That’s how she became “Empress.” In the Cadfael
stories, she’s “the Empress Maud.”
Heinrich died in 1125, and Matilda returned to her father’s side in England. King Henry made the English barons swear to support Matilda as Queen.
At Le Mans, on 17 June 1128, after an amazing tangle of familial
and geopolitical machinations, Matilda married our
15-year-old 27GGF Geoffroy IV
“The Fair” Plantagenet.
In 1135, when Matilda’s father Henry succumbed to food poisoning, the barons reneged on their sworn allegiance to Matilda, supporting instead her cousin Stephen of Blois, who became King Stephen.
Husband Geoffrey proceeded to reclaim Normandy from Stephen by force of arms. Meanwhile, Matilda machinated and conducted a civil war, often called ‘the anarchy’. Matilda herself landed in England in 1139 to take command of her followers. The war was long (until 1148), bitter, bloody, expensive, and disruptive.
Finally, in 1153 Matilda’s son 26GGF
Henry and Stephen
negotiated an end to the civil war. Under the terms of the
Treaty of Wallingford, Stephen was to remain king for the rest of
his lifetime, but the throne would then pass to Henry, and not to
Stephen’s son, William.
When Henry, not yet king, married 26GGM Eleanor of Aquitaine, scandalously-recent grass-widow of the King of France, the first thing he did was to pack his new bride off to Rouen (the capital of Normandy) to study statecraft under his mother, Matilda.
“Here lies Henry’s
daughter, wife and mother;
great by birth,
greater by marriage,
but greatest by motherhood”.
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Updated Feb 2014
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