Empress Matilda Haiku

Royal blood, pledges

No match for stained glass ceiling

Of patriarchy

Today on Mothers of Kings Week, we turn to Empress Matilda (or Maud), who also came close to nabbing the top job.

Matilda was born to Henry I in 1102, one of two children with his queen. She also had around 25 bastard siblings, because her dad was the kingdom bicycle. At age 12, she was shipped off to marry the much older Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, who regarded her more as a delightful kid sister than a wife.

Back in England, her brother William was strapping, princely, and liked by everybody. Then the White Ship, laden with nobles, sank in 1120. Will nearly escaped, but turned back to save his half-sister. The sole survivor? A butcher. Henry lost no time exacting pledges from his barons to accept Matilda as his heir.

When her husband died in 1125, Matilda returned to England and married Geoffrey of Anjou. She wasn’t keen on this, as he was 11 years younger than her and they did NOT get along. But Dad wanted to make peace with Anjou, Matilda had no kids, so too bad. Somehow, they had three sons together.

Then her Henry died in 1135. Her cousin Stephen of Blois seized the throne and many barons ‘forgot’ about that pledge. Matilda was NOT having this. WAR TIME, MOTHERFUCKERS. This period, known as the Anarchy, went on for 13 years. Her fortunes went up and down, including the a midnight escape from Oxford in winter, but neither she nor Stephen got a firm hold on victory.

Stalemate. Figuring that staying in England was just getting stupid by this point, Matilda sailed to Normandy to run things there. She passed off her claim to her son Henry, advocating for his rights by making nice with the Pope and the French king. Henry landed in England with his own army, but no one was in the mood to fight. Stephen settled on Henry as his heir and died in 1154, problem solved.

Matilda spent her last years helping her boy Henry II run Normandy while he was off ruling England, as well as acting as his advisor / diplomat. She died in 1167.

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