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Matilda of Boulogne (c. 1103–1152)

Matilda of Boulogne (c. 1103–1152)

Queen of England and countess of Boulogne . Name variations: Mahaut de Boulogne; Empress Maud; Empress Matilda. Born around 1103 in Boulogne (France); died on May 3, 1152 (some sources cite 1151), at Heningham Castle (also seen as Hedingham Castle), Kent, England; buried at Faversham Abbey, Kent; daughter of Eustace III, count of Boulogne, and Mary of Atholl, princess of Scotland (d. 1116); niece of Matilda of Scotland (1080–1118); cousin of Empress Matilda (1102–1167); married Stephen of Blois (c. 1096–1154), later king of England (r. 1135–1154), around 1120; children: Baldwin (c. 1126–1135); Eustace IV (c. 1130–1153), count of Boulogne; William (1134–1159), earl of Warrenne and Surrey (who married Isabel de Warrenne [c. 1137–1203]); Matilda (c. 1133–c. 1135); Marie of Boulogne (d. 1182).

Matilda of Boulogne played an important role in the English civil war fought between her husband and Empress Matilda of England. She was born in Boulogne, the daughter of Count Eustace III of Boulogne and Mary of Atholl . When she was about 17, Matilda of Boulogne married Stephen of Blois. Upon the death of England's King Henry I, Stephen of Blois claimed the throne of England as a descendant of William the Conqueror; this began a long and bloody war against Empress Matilda who had inherited the throne as King Henry's heir and daughter.

As his wife, Matilda of Boulogne became Stephen of Blois' most significant ally, for she was intelligent, daring, loyal, and ultimately committed to becoming the undisputed queen of England. She planned battle strategies and even led troops. A skilled politician and negotiator, she mediated an alliance with Scotland, but was willing to resort to kidnapping and blackmail when negotiations failed. When Stephen of Blois was taken prisoner by Empress Matilda's allies, Matilda of Boulogne captured Robert of Gloucester and agreed to free him when Stephen of Blois was released. In 1148, with her constant support, the somewhat ineffectual Stephen of Blois secured the throne for himself, which he held until 1154. Matilda of Boulogne preceded her husband in death in 1152, at age 49.

sources:

Williams, Marty, and Anne Echols. Between Pit and Pedestal: Women in the Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 1994.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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