Author Topic: The 'Lady of the English'  (Read 10168 times)

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Offline Prince_Lieven

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The 'Lady of the English'
« on: December 15, 2005, 08:20:47 AM »
Hey everyone.  ;)

I just finished Sharon Penman's historical novel 'When Christ and His Saints Slept'. It's about a war in England in the 12th Century, when Henry I's nephew, Stephen, steals the crown from the rightful heir, Henry's daughter Matilda (or Maude, depending on your point of view, but Matilda seems more common). They fought a bitter civil war from the beginning of Stephen's reign till about 1148, when Matilda finally backed out of the campaign. She had captured Stephen and triumphed at Lincoln in 1141, and was proclaimed 'Lady of the English'. Alas, few people have played such a strong hand as badly as Matilda did. Within 8 months, she had been driven from London, and her bastard half-brother and strongest support Robert Fitzroy had been captured, so she had to exchange him for Stephen.

Stephen had previously had Matilda under sige at Arundel Castle, but let her join Robert in Bristol, in a move inexplicable to this day (Penman speculated that any lingering guilt Stephen felt over usurping the throne was erased after this because he had saved Matilda's life).

But when he lay Oxford Castle under siege, she knew that there would be no reprieve this time. It was very snowy weather, and, amazingly, Matilda escaped from the castle by donning a white robe and simply slinking by Stephen's army. This actual happened, it's not artistic licence.

Stephen and Matilda fought repeatedly for the next few years, Stephen based in London while Matilda's headquarters were at Devizes Castle. The war brought horror to the people of England, with towns like Winchester and Lincoln worst hit, as victorious soldier indulged in looting and rape. Before long, the common people didn't care who was on the throne, as long as the war stopped.

Finally, Robert Fitzroy died in 1147. He had been Matilda's ablest commander, and she could not continue without him. She returned to France, and her estranged husband Geoffrey Plantagenet, seeminlgy accepting that she would never be queen, but continuing the fight from France on behalf of her son Henry.

Eventually, Matilda had the last laugh. Henry invaded England and forced Stephen to sign the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153, which acknowleged Henry as heir to the throne of England, but Stephen would be allowed to continue as king for his lifetime. The fact that Stephen's eldest son Eustace had died not long before the treaty made things easier. It was said that Stephen's surviving son William would be recognised with all the title's Stephen had held before coming king, and confirmed in the honours Stephen had conferred on him.

Stephen died in 1154, and Henry became Henry II. Matilda was a loyal and good councillor to her son, and died in 1167. Whatever her detractors say about her, I think was incredibly brave to even challenge Stephen's right to the throne in the first place. I have the greatest respect for Elizabeth I, but this woman was, IMO, the original queen with 'the heart and stomach of a king'. ;)
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2005, 08:26:28 AM »
i read stephen's second son, william, had no desire to be king and that is the reason why steven was so easy on giving away his inheritance. on the other hand, i think henry had more popular support, because steven was indeed a louzy king.

matilda was a brave woman and the apple of her father's eye who was very proud of her. unfortunatly, she was a woman. had she been a man, all that wouldn't have happened and there would have been no steven.

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2005, 08:28:06 AM »
Very true Ilyala. And Matilda's faults as a woman - apparently a quick temper and a haughty demeanor - would not have been griped at in a man.

And yes, William didn't want to be a king. Part of the terms of the treaty was that Stephen would 'adopt' Henry! I wonder what Matilda thought of that!  ;D
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2005, 08:30:29 AM »
well those were faults that were admired in her son, henry. actually he took up a lot of things after her. i wonder what henry's relationship with his father was. his parents had a miserable marriage.

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2005, 08:50:45 AM »
Odd as it may seem, Henry apparently got on ok with both parents. Geoffrey took no part in the English campaign, but he captured Normandy from Stephen, and conferred it on Henry soon after, as well as declaring the boy of aged when he 16!

BTW, Matilda was 11 years older than Geoffrey, her second husband, quite unusual. Geoffrey's sisters were married to William Clito, the grandson of William I, and William Atheling, the son of Henry I who drowned when the White Ship sank.
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2005, 01:46:39 PM »
well, henry 2nd was about 10-11 years younger than eleanor of aquitaine too. it wasn't that that drove matilda and geoffrey apart. it was the fact that they had different priorities, i think. the fact that geoffrey was a bit of a womanizer didn't help either.

Tsarina_Liz

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2005, 02:36:31 PM »
Ah, Mahaut (Matilda) - my favorite of the English rulers!

She would have been an amazing ruler under different circumstances.  Elizabeth before Elizabeth.  

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2005, 03:20:17 PM »
I totally agree, Tsarina Liz. I thought I was alone in being a Matilda-phile.  ;D
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

Tsarina_Liz

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2005, 04:09:51 PM »
It's impossible not to be addicted!  

She would have been an amazing ruler.  It would have been interesting to see if she could have unified England and France instead (or before) Henry.  Also, if she had been allowed to rule we may never have gotten to know Eleaor of Aquitaine who may have remained relegated to the background of the French court.

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2005, 04:12:43 PM »
I don't think even Matilda could have relegated Eleanor to the background.  ;D

But yes, I agree, she could have been a good queen. I wonder if she would have given Geoffrey an English title?
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2005, 05:51:27 AM »
probably not :P; she hated the bloke

bell_the_cat

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2005, 06:11:35 AM »
Quote
probably not :P; she hated the bloke


Maybe something small, like Lord of Rutland!

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2005, 07:36:49 AM »
Geoffrey conquered Normandy for Matilda, but took no part in the English campaign - doubtless to her satisfaction. He died in 1151.
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."

ilyala

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2005, 09:26:53 AM »
i wonder if there's any truth in the rumour about his affair with eleanor of aquitaine ;D

Offline Prince_Lieven

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Re: The 'Lady of the English'
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2005, 09:57:07 AM »
I doubt it. People also accused Eleanor of an affair with her own uncle. I think she was far too politically shrewd to do such stupid things.
"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-Sherlock Holmes

"Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget."