The Dawn of the Plantagenets: Geoffrey & Matilda

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On May 23, 1125 the only daughter of King Henry I of England was widowed by the death of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. Matilda of England had left her home 15 years earlier and in the subsequent years both her mother, Matilda of Scotland, and her brother, William Adelin, had died. Though Henry I married a second time to Adeliza of Louvain, by 1125 the union hadn’t produced any children and Matilda remained her father’s sole legitimate offspring.

Thus, her next steps, including the urgent need for her to marry again, were not only of personal concern, but of national importance. If one considers the amount of sexism that female monarchs like Mary I, Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots encountered in the 16th century, then it should be easy to imagine the disbelief with which many viewed the idea of Matilda ruling England as queen regnant in the 12th. However, rather surprisingly, that’s exactly the plan Henry I put in place.

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The Other Matilda

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A non-contemporary depiction of Matilda of Boulogne

The Anarchy is best remembered (assuming it’s known to you at all) as a civil war between the unfortunate King Stephen and Empress Matilda. There was, however, another Matilda in the mix which does very little to keep things straightforward. There were also two Henrys, but isn’t there always?

Anyway, the second Matilda wasn’t Stephen’s rival, but his wife, and she went a long way in positioning him as able to claim the throne when the Empress Matilda’s father, Henry I, died in 1135.

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The Marriage That Could Have Stopped “The Anarchy”

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On January 24, 1121, Henry I, King of England and Adeliza of Louvain were married at Windsor Castle. At the time of the wedding, Adeliza was roughly 18 years old, while Henry I was around 53 and had been king for 21 years. The marriage was of dynastic necessity since two months before, Henry’s only son, William Adelin, had died on the sinking of the White Ship (the 12th century version of the Titanic).

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