Matilda of England

(Empress Matilda (Maud) )


Matilda was the daughter of Henry I of England, the granddaughter of William the Conqueror and the mother of Henry Plantagenet, founder of the Plantagenet dynasty. She was also, briefly the first Queen of England.

Matilda's father was and effective and long-ruling king of England. He arranged her marriage to Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor when she was very young, and for almost ten years she was an Empress, but failed to leave a living heir and her husband died without issue. He then arranged a marriage for her to Geoffrey of Anjou, whose was called Plantagenet. The marriage produced three sons including Henry Plantagenet.

In 1120 Matilda's brother, the only legitimate heir to the Norman throne was killed in a boating accident. Her father remarried, and tried to produce another male heir, but failed, and before his death, he named Matilda and her sons as his heirs to the throne of England. Immediately upon the death of Henry I, however, Matilda's cousin, Stephen of Blois claimed the throne and was supported by many Barons because he was a weak and dissolute king, and they desired no strong overlord. Matilda tried to assert her claim, first by appealing to her uncle David in Scotland, and later with the help of her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester.

After several years of atrocious civil war, during a period in history known as the "Anarchy", Matilda briefly imprisoned Stephen and reclaimed the throne. Many townspeople had supported Matilda, and turned against Stephen but instead of relieving their taxes, and reconciling with them, she taxed them even more heavily than Stephen and so very quickly lost their goodwill. Due to this and otherwise very poor administrative decisions, Matilda's rule was very brief. Within a year she was driven out of her strongholds, and when Stephen regained the throne it was with the support of many towns and barons who had previously supported Matilda. Her cause was utterly lost in 1148 after the death of Gloucester.

Just as her son Henry Plantagenet came of age, the son of Stephen died, and it was agreed that Henry should reign after the death of Stephen. Although he claimed the throne without contest on Stephen's death, he spent the first several years of his reign fighting against Barons who failed to acknowledge the headship of the King during the twenty years of anarchy.

Key events during the life of Matilda of England:

Birth of Matilda, only legitimate daughter of Henry I.
Marriage to Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
Death of Matilda's brother William, last of the Norman princes.
Death of Henry V, Matilda returns to England
Marriage to Geoffrey of Anjou
Birth of Henry Plantagenet
Death of Henry I, father of Matilda;
Matilda's cousin, Stephen of Blois, usurps the throne.
David I of Scotland invades England on behalf of Matilda, but is beaten
Matilda raises and army to defend her claim to the throne.
Stephen is captured at the Battle of Lincoln; Matilda claims the throne.
Matilda is besieged in Olxford and forced to flee.
Matilda returns to France after death of her general, Robert of Gloucester.
Marriage of Henry Plantagenet to Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Death of Stephen's only son leaves Matilda's son as the presumptive heir.
Death of Stephen—Henry Plantagenet claims the throne of England.
Death of Matilda.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Contest for the Crown  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris

Short Biography
Henry I Son of William the conqueror. Competent king who reigned for 35 years. Left throne to Matilda.
Henry II Reclaimed kingdoms in England and Normandy after chaotic reign of Stephen. Founded Plantagenet dynasty.
St. Stephen Christian King of Hungary who defeated pagans and united Magyar clans.
Maude the Good Scottish wife of Henry I. Grandmother of Henry II. Patron and benefactor to poor of England.
Robert of Gloucester Half-brother of Matilda who was her military
David I of Scotland Son of Malcolm Canmore. Sought to help restore his niece Matilda to the throne.