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Matilda, Empress

Matilda, Empress ( Empress Maud) (1102–67). Matilda was the daughter of Henry I. When she was just 8 years old she left England for Germany to marry the Emperor Henry V, the ceremony occurring in 1114, and she only returned on his death in 1125. Matilda was designated as Henry I's successor in England and Normandy in 1127 since she was now his sole surviving legitimate offspring, Prince William having died in the wreck of the White Ship (1120). Her second husband, whom she married in June 1128, was Geoffrey of Anjou, only 14 years old, who inherited the county shortly afterwards. It was a very unhappy marriage, but the awaited heir, the future Henry II, on whom Henry I's hopes depended, was born in 1133, the first of three sons. But when Henry I died in 1135, his nephew Stephen of Blois staged a coup and took the English throne. Matilda landed in England in 1139 in pursuit of her right. She came closest to success in 1141, when Stephen was captured, but the crown eluded her, partly because of her mismanagement of the situation. It gradually became apparent that her task lay in maintaining her position in England and preparing the way for her son (later Henry II), altogether more acceptable to the English magnates and approaching manhood. In 1148 she retired to Normandy, but not entirely from political life. She occasionally acted as Henry II's viceregent and he relied on her counsels in a number of important matters. An impetuous, indomitable, haughty woman, Matilda was greatest in her offspring, but he owed much to her determination to fight for England.

S. D. Lloyd

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