Thursday, June 17, 2010


In 1066 A.D. everything changed in England. William the Conquer claimed the throne of England, and established a feudal system while unting the Heptarchy for good. After his death, the country was fought over by his three sons, and was first ruled by his second son William Rufus, and finally by his third son Henry. Henry I ruled after the unpopular reign of his brother and had a lot of interesting things associated with his rule. Perhaps I can find a good time to speak about all of this at a later time, but for now it isn’t too relevant.

But there are two important things to note for this post. The first is that Henry’s oldest brother, the first born son William was given Normandy when his father died, and after fighting for it, Henry eventually claimed Normandy as part of his territory. This meant England consisted of both the country of England and the province of Normandy. The second important thing Henry did was mend relations by marrying Matilda, Princess of Scotland.

But the problems really started after Henry I died. During his life, Henry had 22 children, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t be a problem. The problem was of those 22 children, only two were with his wife, and only one of them was a son. Making matters even more complicated was the fact that Henry’s one legitimate heir died in a shipwreck, leaving only his daughter, also named Matilda, as a legitimate heir to the throne of England.

Despite being a woman, Matilda (or Maud. Matilda is the Latin version of Maud) had all the skills to make a good ruler. She was smart, ambitious and was a good manipulator. When she was 12 she was married to the German Emperor, but they had no children. When he died she returned to her father’s court, and she was married to her second husband Geoffery of Anjou and Maine. They were married June 17, 1129, and while it is believed they did not love each other (she was 23 and he was 13) they had three sons in four years.

Henry had his Barons swear oaths to his daughter three times while he was still alive, but when he died in December 1135 his Barons rebelled against her, and supported her cousin Stephen of Blois as King instead. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Normandy and Anjou had been rival territories for some time, and her being married to Geoffery placed Anjou as a ruling power over Normandy. Many of the Barons were Normans. The second reason was despite her skill, Maud had a reputation of being a difficult woman.

Blois was a small territory, and Stephen was a weak man, allowing the Barons to have free rule in England as they desired. Maud did not give up her throne easily, and waged a 20-year Civil War with Stephen for the throne. In the end, Stephen was able to maintain the crown, but her son Henry was accepted as the next ruler of England.

If you want a good summer read that is exciting and a bit historical, I might recommend “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett. It is a book taking place during the Civil War, and he touches a bit on both Stephen and Maud, although his main characters and not either of those. There is also brief mention of Henry II. I was reading the book when I found the date of Maud and Geoffery’s marriage, and that is probably why I felt partial to blogging about it this week.

I’m thinking of bringing the sequel to Israel with me as a good plane and bus book that will keep me occupied.

I realize that the last three posts have been about England, and I am sorry there isn’t more variety. I will try to leave next week with something from a different area of the world. Then, two weeks I’ll be gone to Israel, so I will probably dedicate at least two posts (make up ones from what I missed earlier) to some history from that area. But for now, feel free to post comments or suggestions below. Happy History all!

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