Matilda Beauclerc, Holy Roman Empress, Queen Consort of Germany, and her second husband, Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, Maine, Mortain, and Duke of Normandy.
Matilda was the daughter of Henry I of England and Matilda of Scotland. When she was about 8 years old, Matilda was sent away to Germany to become the wife of Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor. This was common during this era, and Matilda grew up in Germany until she was old enough to be a wife. No doubt the Emperor, who was much older than Matilda carried on his affairs with mistresses, while he waited. When she was about twelve years old, she became his official wife and Empress, however, perhaps the couple needing more time continued to live apart. Between the ages of 17-19 Matilda acted as her husband’s envoy in Italy. When Matilda’s brother died, she was 20. Her father King Henry I, then named her, his only surviving child, his heir. This changed everything for Matilda. He husband summoned her to join his household. Perhaps it was about time that they tried to secure their own places. However, they remained childless. Either they did not try hard enough, or they were just not lucky. Henry V had an illegitimate daughter, so the blame was put on Matilda that she was probably barren. However, her husband never blamed her, and he continued to be married to her. When the Emperor died, Matilda was 23, still young, and a desirable political pawn. Her father immediately recalled her to Normandy to begin plans for her next marriage. However because her previous marriage proved childless, she would probably had some difficulty on the matter, unless her suitor wanted wealth and power more than heirs.
Her father was having issues controlling his unruly lords. The thing was, women did not ascend to their father’s thrones peacefully. Usually the crown was passed down the male line. If there was no more living male relatives, then a daughter could inherit. However, she ran the risk of bringing in a foreign King to rule over them, or one of the lords to be set above his peers, through marriage. Usually subjects did not like either outcome. History shows us this was the case time and time again. The only notable exception was Elizabeth I, who never married and ended her family’s dynasty.
It just so happened that the King of France was causing some problems for England. He did not like the fact that England and Normandy were united. The French King supported a Norman lord as ruler of Normandy. Henry I needed Anjou on his side and feared they would side with France because of their issues with Normandy. Without Anjou the French could gain Normandy. To remedy this, Henry I married Matilda to Geoffrey of Anjou, the Count of Anjou’s 14 year old son and heir. We can assume Matilda was not pleased, as she lived apart from her husband in Normandy until her father commanded her to go to him. Not only was he a child, but she felt he was beneath her, a former Empress. After awhile relations seemed to get better between them and Matilda gave birth to their son Henry. Then followed their other son Geoffrey. They started to like each other a little bit more.
When Matilda’s father died, he reinstated his wish that Matilda succeed him, however there was little they could do. Matilda was pregnant and Geoffrey who was count of Anjou had to deal with rebellions in his domain or risk losing it. The French delighted and Stephan of Blois was dispatched to England and crowned by his brother, the Bishop of Winchester. You snooze you lose!
Those Loyal to Matilda would not give up that easily. Her mother’s people, the Scots, started to raid the borders. Stephan relied heavily upon the support of Robert, Earl of Gloucester who was Matilda’s illegitimate half brother. When Stephan angered him, the Earl decided to support his sister. Then when she angered the English people and they locked her out of the city, he supported Stephan again. This was a continuing game of tug of war. However, when Normandy fully began to support Matilda, and Stephan lost control there it was inevitable that Matilda would gain the upper hand. Geoffrey, Count of Anjou, established his eldest son, Henry, as Duke of Normandy and retired to Anjou to hold the reins there. Also, with Scotland on their side they were powerful enough to take England. The problem is Matilda really rubbed the English people the wrong way, they also felt she was more German than English, as they never knew her growing up as she was sent away as a baby pretty much.
When Stephen’s heir died, Henry invaded England. It was decided that Stephen would kick his younger son out of the line of succession in favor for Henry, Duke of Normandy. Matilda was not invited to rule because the people not only did not like her, but she was also a woman. Henry, decided this was acceptable and waited patiently for Stephen to expire. He even made himself more powerful when he intercepted a newly divorced Eleanor of Aquitaine, a rich and powerful duchess, and made her his wife. There was no way England would not give him the throne now… if they did not hand her gently over to him, he would just take her by force.
Even though Matilda did not get what was rightfully hers by birth, the English crown, she was content that it went to her son. After Stephen died, her son became Henry II of England.