Matilda (1101-69), Queen of England 1141 (Page 7)

Matilda born 1101, was her father Henry I's heiress as his sole surviving legitimate issue. The barons of England and Normandy, at Henry's insistence, swore to uphold her right to the throne, but when her father died and her cousin Stephen landed in England, most of them backed him instead. The civil war which ensued, lasted for many years before Stephen finally agreed to make Matilda's son Henry, his own heir.


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Matilda (1101-69), Queen of England 1141
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Death of Henry I

On 25 Mar 1133, at Le Mans, Matilda had her first child, the future Henry II. (Peter Stewart posting to Gen-Med 2 Oct 2010 cites the birthdate from the Annals of Saint-Aubin and the place from Robert of Torigny.)  Henry I set sail on the "nones of August" 1133 (Source) "the very day on which he had been crowned" to come oversea to see his new grandson.  The Nones of August is the 5th.  Matilda, while at Rouen, had her second child Geoffrey on 1 Jun 1134, who would become Count of Anjou.  The Laud Chronicle is silent for the years 1133 and 1134, however for 1135 in the edition by Garmonsway, it states : "At Lammas [1 August] of this year Henry went oversea".  However this itinerary is disputed by Henry of Huntingdon who states that Henry went oversea, in 1134, in which year on 10 Aug there was an eclipse of the sun.  He then goes on to say "The year following King Henry remained in Normandy, by reason of his great delight in his grandchildren, born of his daughter by the Count of Anjou.... In his thirty-fifth year King Henry still continued in Normandy..."  This states quite clearly that he stayed in Normandy from at least Pentecost 1134 until his death. ("Chronicle [1134]", p259)  But is it right?  The Laud Chronicle states that, on his voyage, "while he lay asleep on board" is when the eclipse occurred.  That this was viewed as an omen, and that "in that very year" he died.  NASA tells us that this solar eclipse actually occurred on 2 Aug 1133.

"In his thirty-fifth year King Henry still continued in Normandy, though he often proposed to return to England, an intention which was never fulfilled. His daughter detained him on account of sundry disagreements, which had their origin in various causes, between the king and the Count of Anjou, and which were fomented by the arts of his daughter. These disputes irritated the king, and roused an ill feeling, which some have said resulted in a natural torpor, which was the cause of his death. For, returning from hunting at St Denys in the "Wood of Lions," he partook of some lampreys, of which he was fond, though they always disagreed with him; and though his physician recommended him to abstain, the king would not submit to his salutary advice; according to what is written: —
'Men strive gainst rules and seek forbidden things'
"This repast bringing on ill humours, and violently exciting similar symptoms, caused a sudden and extreme disturbance ,under which his aged frame sunk into a deathly torpor; in the reaction against which, Nature in her struggles produced an acute fever, while endeavouring to throw off the oppressive load. But when all power of resistance failed, this great king died on the first day of December [1135], after a reign of thirty five years and three months. ("Chronicle [1135]", p259-260)

The Laud Chronicle adds : "Then at once this country was in eclipse, for every man who could was quick to rob his neighbor."  One source claims that, because of the estrangement between himself and his daughter, on his deathbed he declared for his favorite nephew Stephen.  However this is not likely, and other sources, including Malmesbury, state that on his deathbed he declared again that Matilda was his heir and all his interests should flow to her.  Malmesbury seems to state that he has no witness to what Henry did while in Normandy at this end of his reign, and so cannot relate it, but he does relate his deathbed wishes and absolution.  His source for this then was evidently a priest or bishop.


Stephen Crowned

On Henry's death, many or most of the nobility were with him in Normandy, including his son Robert.  However, Henry's nephew Stephen, then Count of Mortain and married to the heiress of the county of Boulogne, rushed to England to seize the throne.  Henry of Huntingdon shows his distaste for Stephen : "... a resolute and audacious man, who, disregarding his oath of fealty to King Henry's daughter, tempted God by seizing the crown of England with the boldness and effrontery belonging to his character." ("Chronicle" p262) Stephen had been his uncle's favorite nephew, the son of Henry's closest sister Adele.  He landed at London, where he was elected by that city to be king.  (Source)  he was crowned on 26 Dec 1135.  At this time, he also seized the treasure that Henry I had left.  Stephen it seems rushed to London ahead of the body of Henry, who after being disemboweled (so the body wouldn't start to stink) was "shipped to England, and buried in the church of the Holy Trinity in the abbey of Reading." (Orderic Vitalis)  Reading is in Berkshire, England.


Civil War 1135-37

Robert, Earl of Gloucester, had to now decide his course of action.  He came to England to better determine the situation.  He, along with all the other nobles of England and Normandy, and the bishops as well, had sworn to uphold Matilda as heiress,  but Stephen had seized the advantage.  It is likely that now was when the statement was sworn that Henry had disinherited Matilda on his deathbed and released them from their bond.  It seems credible that they might believe such a statement, as Geoffrey was known to have been harassing his father-in-law and Henry and Matilda were then estranged.  Another point raised was that perhaps the marriage of Henry to Eadgyth had not been valid, as she had been a nun or at least been raised in a convent by nuns, and if she had taken her vow, their daughter Matilda would be illegitimate.  Although witnesses had been procured at the time to say she had not taken her vow, this testimony was suspect.  Malmesbury however, writing probably from Robert's memories or "selective memories", claims that Robert bided his time, on his own domains in Normandy, to see what would occur next. (Source)

Early in 1136, Matilda took her case to Pope Innocent II (see "Table of Popes and Emperors, 1100-1300").  After hearing arguments from both sides, he declared that he wouldn't decide the case, and also wouldn't hear any more.  Meanwhile he privately wrote to Stephen recognizing him as King.  With this letter, Stephen thought himself firmly on the throne and the remaining nobles and primates of England seemed to agree.  Matilda was evidently already pregnant again when her father died, and perhaps because of this, delayed further action until this third and last child Guillaume could be born at Argentan 22 Jul 1136. ("Geoffrey V Plantagenet", Henry Project by Stewart Baldwin citing Chr. S. Albini Andegav)

Orderic Vitalis, writing in the year 1136 a history of the world (but only then up to the year 740), makes an interesting aside in his history : "... since the demise of Henry I king of England, Stephen of Blois, his nephew and Geoffry of Anjou, his son-in-law, are contending for the crown and venting their fury, to the common loss, by having recourse to arms, as well as by threats." (Orderic Vitalis, Book I, Chapter XXIV)  Interesting because Orderic does not mention Matilda as the one contending, but rather Geoffrey.

While Stephen was securing himself in England with gifts of monies and privileges, Matilda and Geoffrey entered Normandy.  At first they were recognized as the rightful heirs, but for some reason Geoffrey allowed his forces to plunder.  This, in conjunction with the news that England had gone to Stephen, decided the Norman barons to also accept Stephen as their overlord.  Meanwhile, David King of Scots, Matilda's maternal uncle, invaded the north of England, declaring his oath to Matilda, but rapidly came to terms with Stephen and retreated.  Geoffrey and Stephen joined battle in Normandy but then in July 1137 agreed-upon a two-year truce, allowing Matilda and Geoffrey to consolidate their hold on Normandy.


See Also

Matilda (1101-69), Queen of England 1141
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