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Matilda
Biography



MATILDA (1102-1164), queen of England and empress, daughter of Henry I. of England, by Matilda, his first wife, was born in 1102. In 1109 she was betrothed to the emperor-elect, Henry V., and was sent to Germany, but the marriage was delayed till 1114. Her husband died after eleven years of wedlock, leaving her childless; and, since both her brothers were now dead, she was recalled to her father's court in order that she might be recognized as his successor in England and Normandy. The Great Council of England did homage to her under considerable pressure. Their reluctance to acknowledge a female sovereign was increased when Henry gave her in marriage to Geoffrey Plantagenet, the heir of Anjou and Maine (1129); nor was it removed by the birth of the future Henry II. in 1133. On the old king's death both England and Normandy accepted his nephew, Stephen, of Mortain and Boulogne. Matilda and her husband were in Anjou at the time. They wasted the next few years in the attempt to win Normandy; but Earl Robert of Gloucester, the half-brother of the empress, at length induced her to visit England and raise her standard in the western shires, where his influence was supreme. Though on her first landihg Matilda only escaped capture through the misplaced chivalry of her opponent, she soon turned the tables upon him with the help of the Church and the barons of the west. Stephen was defeated and captured at Lincoln (1141); the empress was acclaimed lady or queen of England (she used both titles indifferently) and crowned at London. But the arrogance which she displayed in her prosperity alienated the Londoners and the papal legate, Bishop Henry of Winchester. Routed at the siege of Winchester, she was compelled to release Stephen in exchange for Earl Robert, and thenceforward her cause steadily declined in England. In 1148, having lost by the earl's death her principal supporter, she retired to Normandy, of which her husband had in the meantime gained possession. Henceforward she remained in the background, leaving her eldest son Henry to pursue the struggle with Stephen. She outlived Henry's coronation by ten years; her husband had died in 1151. As queen-mother she played the part of a mediator between her sons and political parties. Age mellowed her temper, and she turned more and more from secular ambitions to charity and religious works. She died on the 30th of January 1164.

See O. Rossler, Kaiserin Mathilde (Berlin, 1897) ; J. H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville (London, 1892). (H. W. C. D.)

contributed by Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911


13 April 2006
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