A Fearsome and Fierce Empress
Matilda (1102 – 1167), heir to England’s throne, was bloody minded. When her father the king died, however, the magnates who had sworn to support her decided they did not want a female monarch. So they reneged, and supported a rival claimant. She did not meekly accept such treachery. As a child, Matilda was betrothed to Henry V, King of Germany, and Holy Roman Emperor from 1111 to 1125. Her father sent her to her future husband in Germany when she was eight, and the couple were married six years later. Their reign as emperor and empress was turbulent, marked by rebellions and wars in both Germany and Italy, which Matilda governed as regent. The couple were childless, and her reign as empress ended in 1125 when her husband died. Back in England, Matilda’s brother and heir to England’s throne got himself killed in 1120 in a drunken ship race.
That left Matilda’s father without a male heir, and his attempts to sire another legitimate son were unsuccessful. When the widowed Matilda returned home in 1125, her father declared her his heir. In 1126, England’s barons were assembled at Westminster, were they swore to support Matilda. The following year she married Geoffrey Plantagenet, heir to the Count of Anjou. When her father died in 1135, Matilda prepared to ascend England’s throne. Unfortunately, the had other ideas, and chose her cousin Stephen of Blois, who was crowned King Stephen I. Matilda was not having it. She was pregnant at the time, but soon as gave birth in 1136, she assembled an army, and for the next three years, fought Stephen in Normandy. By 1139, Matilda had secured Normandy, and then set her eyes on England.