An Angry Matilda Plunged England Into So Much Bloody Chaos, That the Period Came to Be Known as “The Anarchy”
Matilda and her illegitimate half-brother Robert of Gloucester landed in England in 1139, and plunged it into bloody civil war. King Stephen besieged and trapped her in Arundel Castle, but she negotiated an exit. She established her court at Gloucester, and the two sides settled down to a series of castle sieges. Things improved dramatically for Matilda in 1141, when she defeated and captured King Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln. The throne was in her grasp, but then she blew it. Matilda entered London to be crowned later that year, but treated the locals so disrespectfully that they revolted and chased her out of the city. She retreated to Oxford, where she was besieged in the winter of 1142. Trapped, she climbed down the city walls in a snow storm, then crossed the frozen Thames River on foot to safety.
In the meantime, her half-brother had been captured. To secure his release, she exchanged him for King Stephen. The war then entered a stalemate, but Matilda kept up a fight that threw England into bloody chaos that came to be known as The Anarchy. It finally ended in 1153 with a truce, whereby Stephen kept his throne, but recognized Matilda’s son Henry as his heir. Although Matilda did not become queen, her son became King Henry II, and founded the Plantagenet Dynasty that ruled England for centuries. Matilda was never liked, but her feistiness, determination, and sheer bloody mindedness were grudgingly respected. In World War II, Britain fielded not one, but two tanks named after her, the Matilda I and Matilda II.