WITH THE NAME MATILDA
Matilda was born into nobility as the daughter of the Count of Flanders, one of the original fiefdoms of France. On her motherâ€™s side, Matilda was the granddaughter of the King of the Franks, Robert II of France. Her cousin Duke William II of Normandy took a liking to the fresh young beauty, but she rebuffed his marriage proposal which had been delivered by messenger; Matilda believed marrying William would be marrying down. You see, William was a bastard, the child of his father, the then Duke of Normandy, and his mistress. According to legend, the outraged William rode his horse from Normandy to Bruges in order to confront the arrogant girl himself. It was said he found her on her way to church, grabbed her by her braids, threw her off her horse and then rode away. Others say this even took place in her fatherâ€™s house where William, again grabbing the insolent girl by the braids, threw her to the ground and then left. Apparently this made quite an impression on Matilda, for she suddenly found herself in love! Despite her fatherâ€™s objections, not to mention the opposition of the Church (on the grounds of consanguinity because the pair were cousins), Matilda and William were finally married in 1051. Once married, Matilda added Duchess of Normandy to her titles. By all accounts, the union was a happy one. Certainly it was a success in the bedroom, as the couple produced nine children together. Once her husband successfully conquered England, Matilda then became Queen Consort of England (although she preferred to stay in Normandy).
Typically left off the long list of English monarchs, Matilda is considered by some as the first female monarch in English history. Hereâ€™s how it all went down. Matilda (or Maud) was the daughter of King Henry I of England. Her 17 year old brother, William, was heir to the throne but died in a maritime disaster while sailing from Normandy to England. Unwilling to hand the throne to his now sole heir Matilda, Henry I went about trying to sire more babies with his second wide (Matildaâ€™s mother had since died). In the meantime, Matilda has been betrothed to the Holy Roman Emperor (Henry V); this marriage gave her the title â€œEmpressâ€ Matilda. Her father King Henry I now hoped his daughter would produce a son to keep the family lineage going, but she and the Emperor had no children after 11 years of marriage. After the Emperor died, Matilda remarried the Count of Anjou and with him she [phew] had three sons (one of which would later become King Henry II of England). Now Henry I was satisfied in passing the throne to his daughter knowing a son would soon follow keeping the family dynasty alive and well. She was a mere woman after all, so the King had to persuade the barons to accept her succession. They all promised, of course. Waiting quietly in the shadows, however, was Matildaâ€™s cousin Stephen who swooped in at the moment of Henryâ€™s death and usurped the throne from Matilda who was in Normandy birthing her third son at the time. The double-crossing barons supported Stephen and quickly crowned him King of England. So from this perspective, Matilda was never a crowned monarch of England but she was the rightful successor to her father. Karma is a bitch, though. Stephenâ€™s reign was referred to as â€œnineteen long wintersâ€ and the ongoing rivalry between cousins for the throne created turmoil, unrest and civil wars throughout England, sheer anarchy. Clearly, this Matilda was a courageous â€œmighty battlerâ€ who refused to give up. After years of battles, a war torn Matilda finally gave the reigns over to her oldest son to fight his own battles for the throne; after which a war torn King Stephen agreed to pass the reigns to Henry rather than his own son William, as long as he could see his reign to the end (this agreement was known as the Treaty of Westminster). Matilda lived long enough to see her son become Henry II, King of England â€“ the very royal position which she â€“ because of her double-x chromosomes â€“ had been unjustly denied.