Matilda (England)

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Empress Mathilde in a late medieval depiction from the 15th century

Matilda ( English also Maud or Aaliz or Adela ; German  Mathilde ; * around February 7, 1102 probably in Sutton Courtenay , Oxfordshire , England ; † September 10, 1167 in Rouen , Normandy , France ) from the House of Normandy was the daughter of the English King Henry I.

She was empress of the Roman-German Empire (1114–1125) through her marriage to Heinrich V. In her second marriage she was married to Count Gottfried V von Anjou . Matilda did not give up her title as Empress even after her remarriage and is therefore best known in the English-speaking world as Empress Matilda ( Empress Matilda or Empress Maude ). She tried to assert her claim to the English throne against Stephan von Blois . When Stephan was captured by the troops of her partisans in 1141, she was proclaimed mistress of the English . This made her the first female ruler of the Kingdom of England for a few months, but she was not crowned. In 1148 she withdrew to Normandy.


Matilda was the only legitimate daughter of King Henry I of England and his wife Mathilda ( called Edith before their marriage ), daughter of King Malcolm III. of Scotland and his wife, St. Margaret . On her father's side, Matilda was a granddaughter of William the Conqueror , the Duke of Normandy, who had conquered England in 1066. On the mother's side, she was a descendant of Edward the Confessor from the Anglo-Saxon royal house of Wessex, which was dethroned by Wilhelm . Her younger brother, Crown Prince William Ætheling , died early in 1120 in a shipwreck. She also had several half-siblings, but all of them were illegitimate children of her father and therefore not entitled to inheritance.

German Empress

Youth and early years in the German Empire

Her birthplace is controversial, modern research follows Marjorie Chibnall , who suggests Matilda was born in Sutton Courtenay . Older sources believed that she was born in Winchester . The date of birth is calculated from a traditional statement that Matilda made on the occasion of her wedding to Henry V.

Nothing is known about Matilda's early childhood. When her father went to Normandy in the autumn of 1108, he handed Matilda and her brother Wilhelm into the care of Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury .

In 1108/09, the 22-year-old German King Henry V negotiated a marriage alliance with the English king, which was intended to counteract the pact between Pope Paschal II and France. Heinrich V had a tense relationship with the Curia, particularly because of the investiture dispute, and planned an expedition to Italy to resolve it and to enforce his coronation as emperor . By marrying Matilda, who was only seven years old, he hoped for a rich dowry, which would actually amount to the huge sum of 10,000 silver marks and which would contribute significantly to the financing of his move. At Pentecost 1109, German envoys came to Westminster and sealed the Anglo-German alliance. Matilda was engaged to Heinrich V by distance marriage.

Envoy des Saliers , u. a. the later Bishop Burchard of Cambrai , picked up the little king's daughter in February 1110 for their trip to the continent. She was accompanied by high English clergymen and Norman knights, some of whom - like Archdeacon Heinrich von Winchester, later Bishop of Verdun - were probably part of her retinue in their new home for a longer period of time. Matilda landed in Boulogne-sur-Mer and was received by her bridegroom in Liège . The couple were solemnly engaged in Utrecht on Easter (April 10th). As a gift, the bride u. a. Land in Lorraine . Her coronation as queen took place on July 25, 1110 in Mainz Cathedral by Archbishop Friedrich I of Cologne . She was then raised by the Archbishop of Trier, Bruno von Lauffen . Part of her teaching program in Trier was that she was introduced to the local customs and instructed in the German language.

In the meantime, Henry V went on his Italian expedition and took Pope Paschal II prisoner in Rome after unsuccessful negotiations . Under the pressure of imprisonment, the Pope agreed to make major concessions in the investiture dispute and on April 13, 1111, when Henry was coronated as emperor. As a result, Matilda was referred to as the ruler's “companion” ( consors regni ) and made familiar with Salier's views of the Roman-German Empire, which apparently clearly shaped her political ideas throughout her life. She is only mentioned again when she celebrated her splendid wedding with the emperor at the age of just under 12, which took place on January 6 or 7, 1114 in Mainz . The anonymous imperial chronicle , written at Heinrich V's request, reports on the participation of numerous secular and clerical princes as well as minstrels and jesters in the ceremony and praises Matilda as a beautiful and truly noble maiden. She was now involved in the rule, often acted as a mediator, supported her husband as much as possible in his numerous conflicts and took over government responsibility in his absence. In doing so, she gained valuable political experience, for example on dealing with European diplomacy or the dangers of a confrontation with the curia.

Companion of the emperor on his second Italian train

The emperor's power increasingly waned due to his constant arguments with imperial princes and bishops. He was also banned from the church . The longed-for heir to the throne also failed to materialize, as Matilda had no children from her husband. In March 1116, Henry V moved again to Italy, this time accompanied by his wife, in order to strengthen his power base by assuming the inheritance of Margravine Mathilde von Tuszien , who died in July 1115, who bequeathed her property to him. The ruling couple moved to Northern Italy via the Brenner , lodged a. a. in the Doge's Palace of Venice and was solemnly welcomed in Canossa . The young queen was supposed to slip into the role of her important predecessor and namesake, Mathilde von Tuszien. Pope Paschal II fled quickly to the south of the Apennine peninsula when Henry V and his wife set out for the Eternal City and were welcomed with exuberance by the people there in March 1117. The papal envoy Maurice Bourdin came to Rome, took the side of the emperor and probably crowned him and his wife at Easter 1117 in St. Peter's Basilica as emperor or empress. After the death of Paschal II (1118), the Salier appointed Maurice Bourdin as (ant) Pope Gregory VIII. Matilda's coronation as emperor in 1117 is unlikely to have taken place in a regular manner, as it was not carried out by the legitimate Pope and is in German documents she is therefore always referred to only as the Roman Queen ( Regina Romanorum ), also later on her own seal in England. However, after her return to her homeland (1126), she mostly called herself Empress in more than 90 documents and this title never seems to have been doubted.

After Pentecost 1118, the emperor and his wife traveled from Rome to northern Italy. Since a threatening prince opposition to the imperial authority had grown up in Germany in the meantime, Henry V quickly entered his empire in August 1118, while Matilda stayed in northern Italy for about a year and represented him there as regent. For example, she sat before the court and in Castrocaro gave the verdict on thieves of church property. In November 1119 she traveled again to her husband in Utrecht. That year the emperor bequeathed a donation to St. Michael's Church in Antwerp , in which Matilda was also involved.

The late years of marriage as empress

Heinrich V finally settled the long-standing arguments with the papacy in the investiture dispute in September 1122 in the Worms Concordat . Only now did political cooperation between the Emperor and Henry I of England begin on a larger scale. Even before her husband's agreement with Calixt II, Matilda wanted to meet her father in Kent , but since the Count of Flanders refused to allow her safe conduct, she broke off her journey. The English king has often been at war with his neighbor on the continent, Louis VI. by France , which Henry V now attacked in support of his father-in-law in the summer of 1124, but failed completely.

When Henry V died (May 23, 1125), his wife and his nephew and private heir Friedrich II of Swabia stayed at his deathbed. Matilda now came into the care of Friedrich, but apparently could not exercise any influence on the election of the new king, which was led by Archbishop Adalbert of Mainz, who had become a bitter enemy of Heinrich V. She handed over the imperial regalia that were on the Trifels imperial castle , allegedly on the basis of false promises . The late emperor had wanted his nephew Friedrich to succeed him; instead, the Duke of Saxony, an old opponent of Henry V, was named Lothar III. new king.


According to the English historian Wilhelm von Malmesbury , a German prince wanted to marry Matilda; however, an urgent appeal from her father prompted the empress, who had already become a widow at the age of 23, to return to Normandy in 1126. After the English heir to the throne, Wilhelm, drowned in the English Channel when the White Ship sank in 1120 and Henry I had no further legitimate sons, the English king sought the throne of his daughter Matilda, as his illegitimate sons retired out of consideration for the Church to secure his empire. However, the rule of a woman ( dominatio feminae ) was unpopular. Matilda apparently renounced her land ownership in Germany, but took her valuable jewelry and two imperial crowns with her, as well as a precious relic from the imperial chapel, the hand of the apostle James . A good obituary was preserved in Germany.

Heir to the throne of England and Normandy

Matilda arrived in England in 1126. In January 1127, under pressure from the king, an assembly of the English aristocracy and clergy in London agreed on oath that Matilda would be the only legitimate scion of Henry I to be granted the right to the throne in his countries - England and Normandy. This regulation would probably have lost its validity if the king had had a son from his second marriage. According to contemporary chronicles, there was no resistance to Henry's decision, which set a precedent, since no woman had ruled England in her own right. From then on Matilda called herself imperatrix (empress), but carried the seal of a Regina Romanorum (queen of the Romans).

In order to come to an understanding with the previous main opponent of the Normans in northern France, the Count of Anjou, Henry I negotiated at the beginning of 1127 about a marriage of his daughter to the Angevin hereditary Count Gottfried Plantagenet (* 1113, † 1151), like he had his son in 1119 Wilhelm had married Gottfried's sister shortly before his tragic accidental death in the English Channel. Matilda was not happy about this purely political marriage project. Her chosen husband was eleven years younger than her, that is, still a youth, and as a count he also had a significantly lower title than her first husband. But she submitted to her father's will and got engaged to Gottfried in May 1127 in Rouen. The couple's marriage was celebrated on June 17, 1128 in Le Mans . But the marriage was concluded without consulting the Norman nobility. As a generation-long rival in northern France, the latter was mostly hostile to the Anjou family and was therefore just as hostile to the rule of a Count of Anjou as to the government of a woman.

Soon there were tensions between Gottfried and his wife. Matilda is usually blamed for the falling out. In any case, she left her husband a year after the wedding, went back to her father in Rouen and with him in the summer of 1131 to England. At an imperial assembly in Northampton (September 8, 1131), the barons confirmed their previous oaths that they recognized Matilda as heir to the throne.

In the meantime, Gottfried offered his wife to resume the marriage. Matilda agreed to this. Both came to terms, entered into a partnership of convenience and had three sons:

Matilda almost died of the birth of her second son Gottfried. When she recovered, the barons swore the oath of allegiance to her a third time.

At the end of his life, Henry I's relationship with his daughter cooled noticeably. The relationship between Heinrich I and Gottfried also deteriorated because the English king did not want to cede some of the castles belonging to Matilda's dowry in the south of Normandy. Supported by his wife, Gottfried wanted to enforce his rule there by force. According to a source, Henry I's anger with his daughter was the cause of his death. In any case, Matilda was not present at her father's deathbed († December 1, 1135), but stayed in Anjou.

Battle for the English throne

Stephen's usurpation of the throne

The absence of Matilda from England and the reservations of the Norman barons against Gottfried von Anjou now took advantage of Count Stephan von Blois , whose mother Adela was the sister of the late king and daughter William the Conqueror. According to the Matilda biographer Marjorie Chibnall, Stephan had a lower right of succession to the throne than the Empress. He hurried to England and with the help of his brother Heinrich von Blois , the bishop of Winchester, and the London merchants seized the throne. The barons no longer felt bound by their oaths and recognized the usurpation of Stephen, who at the beginning of 1136 also received the approval of Pope Innocent II († 1143) for his election.

Since Matilda was not willing to give up her right to the throne without a fight, a long-term civil war that lasted until 1153 broke out, which is known as anarchy in the English-speaking world .

Matilda and her husband initially concentrated on the conquest of Normandy, took possession of some of the castles belonging to their dowry, but were only able to gain greater territorial gains in 1138 when Matilda's half-brother Robert of Gloucester had switched to their side (see English Civil War from 1135 to 1154 # 1136–1144: The War in Normandy ).

In April 1139, Matilda tried to convince the Pope of the legitimacy of her right to succeed to the throne. At the second Lateran Council , Bishop Ulger von Angers referred to Matilda's designation as heir to the throne by her father and to the oaths taken by the barons. The other side went way back in their argument in support of Stephen. The archdeacon Arnulf von Sées - who would later become Bishop of Lisieux - claimed that Matilda's mother originally held a spiritual office in the monastery and that her subsequent marriage to Henry I was therefore invalid. Your children are therefore illegitimate. In addition, the oath for Matilda is said to have taken place under duress and Heinrich I regretted this shortly before his death. Bishop Ulger countered u. a. with the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury had carried out the marriage of Matilda's mother without hesitation. Although she had been in the convent in her youth, she had denied becoming a nun. However, Innocent II could not or would not bring himself to a decision in the English controversy for the throne, so that Stephan remained the legitimate king.

Matilda's landing in England

After the failure of her intervention with the Pope, Matilda now set about fighting King Stephen politically and militarily in England. While Gottfried von Anjou continued to deal with the subjugation of Normandy, Matilda landed in England with her half-brother Robert von Gloucester in September 1139. Robert moved to his base in Bristol . The Empress went to the in West Sussex Located near the south coast Arundel Castle to her stepmother Adelaide of lions that King Henry I. had married in 1121 and now in his second marriage to the Norman baron William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel married was. This was a loyal supporter of King Stephen. Adelheid, on the other hand, supported her stepdaughter Matilda and was able to persuade Stephan, who was brought up with an army, to take the knightly step, promised by Wilhelm von Malmesbury, of granting his rival to the throne safe conduct to her half-brother. From Bristol Matilda moved on to Gloucester, where she resided for the next year and a half. In addition to Robert of Gloucester, her particularly close confidants and military leaders included two men who owed their rise to King Henry I: Miles of Gloucester and Brian FitzCount , Lord of Wallingford.

During her father's reign, Matilda was only given the oath of allegiance ( fidelitas ) by the barons , but not, as usual, also the homagium . But now the Empress made up for this act in her sphere of influence and demanded that the vassals also pay homage to her. However, it was not yet possible for her to exercise actual government power.

Even before Mathilda's arrival in England, King Stephen had come into conflict with the English Church because he had confiscated the castles of some bishops in June 1139 to strengthen his power base. This measure also clouded the relationship between the king and his brother, Bishop Heinrich von Winchester, who had been appointed papal legate in England in 1139 and was now trying to reach a compromise in the dispute for the throne. The reason that the bishop took up mediation efforts may also be found in the fact that neither of the two warring parties could hope for a quick military victory and therefore a long continuation of the anarchy was to be feared. Two meetings of high-ranking supporters of Matilda on the one hand and Stephan on the other, held shortly after Pentecost or in November 1140, remained inconclusive. The empress was ready to accept the legate's mediation proposals, while Stephan hesitated and prevented an agreement. In any case, these meetings were only about a provisional settlement of the dispute such as an armistice, since a permanent solution would have required the papal participation.

Appointment as mistress of England

When Ranulf de Gernon , Earl of Chester, and his stepbrother William de Roumare , Earl of Lincoln, briefly conquered Lincoln Castle in early 1141 , they were driven out again by King Stephen, breaking his word. Now Ranulf joined his father-in-law Robert of Gloucester. Together they won the Battle of Lincoln on February 2, 1141 and took the king prisoner. Stephan was shown to his competitor in Gloucester and then interned in Bristol. Matilda's orders to chain the imprisoned king were severely criticized by contemporary observers.

Now Matilda increasingly took over the leadership role of the Angevin party from her half-brother Robert. She now seems to have relied more on the support of Miles of Gloucester. The sources describe the behavior that came to light in a very negative way. On March 2, 1141, she met the Bishop of Winchester at Wherwell, Hampshire . This and other important secular and spiritual magnates recognized the Empress as mistress of England ( domina Angliae ), while Matilda in return promised not to interfere in important church matters such as the appointment of bishops. According to chronicler William of Malmesbury, this significant meeting took place on a rainy day, allegedly a bad omen pointing to the empress' impending loss of power. On March 3, the Legate received Matilda in a solemn procession at Winchester Cathedral. A synod of the English Church, which met in Winchester on April 7, and was presided over by the legate, then appointed her Lady of England and Normandy ( Angliae Normanniaeque domina ).

According to the judgment of the Gesta Stephani , hostile to Matilda , the Empress illegally assumed the highest titles and government power in Winchester and since then has not listened to the opinion of her advisors. Archdeacon Heinrich von Huntingdon , who usually writes rather cautiously, makes a similar judgment in his Historia Anglorum . The Gesta Stephani further reports that Matilda now extremely arrogant and full of cold pride had occurred; when the highest nobles like her half-brother Robert or the Scottish King knelt before her, she did not rise and ignored their requests.

The increase in power of the empress meant that many barons who had previously been on Stephen's side were basically ready to change sides, but many remained undecided and only supported Matilda as long as they could hope for advantages. Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex , for example, recognized the Empress as ruler, who confirmed his previous titles and added further dignities and goods, but he left her in the same year when she needed help most. Ranulf de Gernon was also among the wavering and William de Roumare refused to give her any active support. Bishop Heinrich von Winchester wanted to have his political swing confirmed by Pope Innocent II, but he asked him to be loyalty to his imprisoned royal brother. Matilda's direct control was limited to south-west England, and in Scotland her uncle, King David I , continued to support her.

Matilda supported the wish of the Scottish king to appoint his confidante Wilhelm Cumin as Bishop of Durham . She wanted to undertake his investiture in spite of the resistance of the local clergy - who strictly rejected Cumin's freestyle; this was a move contrary to and angered her promise to the Bishop of Winchester.

Entry into London and defeat in Winchester

In June 1141 Matilda went to London. When she was in the vicinity of the metropolis, she made an agreement with a delegation from London that gave her access to Westminster. There she moved in around June 20th and wanted at least to be crowned Domina of England, perhaps also to be regent for her underage son. On the other hand, it does not seem so certain that - as many researchers suspect - she was aiming for her coronation as queen , because that would have opposed the pope's decision for Stephan von Blois. Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury, who was responsible for this act, would probably have refused to participate. He did not want to break his oath of allegiance to Stephan, although he knew and respected Matilda personally. Her coronation by Robert de Sigillo , the former Lord Chancellor of Henry I, whose election as Bishop of London Matilda had won through, would have been of little value .

The empress soon made herself unpopular with the metropolitan population because she immediately demanded high taxes. In addition, the Londoners, who were friendly towards the imprisoned king, were strange that Matilda wanted to keep Stephan imprisoned even in the event of his abdication. When Mathilda von Boulogne , the wife of Stephen, and Wilhelm von Ypres , commander of Flemish mercenaries, appeared with a large army in front of the metropolis, numerous Londoners attacked the palace in which the empress resided, so that they flee on June 24th 1141 and had to hurry to retreat to Oxford with her confidante .

Bishop Henry of Winchester now sided with his brother again. Matilda continued to build on Miles of Gloucester and made him Earl of Hereford . In Oxford she met the magnates who remained loyal to her. She decided to force the legate into submission and in late July 1141 moved with Robert of Gloucester and other generals to Winchester, where they besieged the Bishops Palace. But Mathilda von Boulogne, who courageously defended the rights of her imprisoned husband and commanded considerable means of power and supporters, enclosed the besiegers with a rapidly organized army and forced them to flee on September 14th. The Empress escaped to Devizes , but her half-brother was captured (see Battle of Winchester (1141) ). After negotiations, Robert of Gloucester was released on November 3rd in exchange for King Stephen.

Another power struggle against Stephan in England

In a council convened in Westminster, Bishop Henry of Winchester et al. a. referring to Matilda's attack on him, his renewed support for his brother Stephan, who was crowned king once more in December 1141. Matilda, however, asked her husband in vain to give her military support in England. For Gottfried the establishment of his rule in Normandy was a priority. When Robert von Gloucester translated to the continent in June 1142 to support Gottfried in his endeavors, Stephan took advantage of Robert's absence and attacked Matilda, who was in Oxford. The situation became more and more precarious for the Empress. On a December night in 1142, she finally put on white clothes as camouflage with three or four familiar knights and, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , let herself down the castle wall with them on ropes. The group then crossed the frozen Thames and walked through the snowy landscape to Abingdon , from where they rode on to Wallingford . There Matilda enjoyed the protection of her confidante Brian FitzCount. Soon afterwards she went to a heavily fortified castle at Devizes and resided here for the rest of her stay in England until her departure for Normandy in early 1148.

In the next few years there was an undecided guerrilla war in England between the warring crown pretenders, so that a stalemate arose. Until the end of the war, the Peterborough Chronicle lamented chaotic and lawless conditions, so that the English name of the civil war ( The Anarchy ) is justified. Quite a few barons changed sides in the way that best served their own interests. In the absence of effective royal control, the nobles and high clerics were able to build strong castles on their lands from which they waged private feuds, even in spite of the royal monopoly of fortifications. The civilian population suffered greatly from their attacks, and villages and churches were not infrequently looted. So Geoffrey de Mandeville sought - after King Stephen had stolen his castles out of mistrust in 1143 - to regain his lost property by force and did not spare monasteries during his raids until he was excommunicated and died of an arrow shot in September 1144.

Since Gottfried von Anjou finally completely subjugated Normandy with ruthless harshness and was able to become duke of this region in 1144, those English nobles who had large estates in northern France - such as William de Roumare - ultimately sided with Matilda. In England, the empress remained as a sphere of power essentially the southwest of the island with Gloucester as the center and Wareham in Dorset as the port of passage to France. In order to consolidate her position, she gave away crown property to her vassals and church princes. But not all of these land transfers were purely political. So, out of gratitude, Matilda gave her laundress a great inheritance in Somerset .

On the negotiating front with the Curia, Matilda had successes because the popes who followed Innocent II († 1143) did not commit themselves to Stephen as king and did not recognize his son Eustach as heir to the throne. The empress fought primarily for the assertion of the claim to the throne of her eldest son Henry (II), who came to England in 1143 and then again in 1147 and lived partly with his mother and partly with his uncle Robert of Gloucester.

In 1139 King Stephen had taken the castle of Devizes - in which Matilda had resided since 1143 - from its previous owner, Bishop Roger of Salisbury († 1139). When Pope Eugene III. demanded the return of this castle to Roger's successor Josceline de Bohon, the empress did not want to mess with the curia and gave in. She left England permanently in March 1148. Her decision was also due to the fact that she had lost an important support with the death of Robert of Gloucester (October 31, 1147).

Last years of life in Normandy

Matilda was now back in Normandy, first in June 1148 in Falaise . Not long afterwards she moved to Rouen and lived there or near this city for the greater part of the time until her death (1167). She probably lived in the residence built by her father, which was on the south bank of the Seine in the park at Quevilly, or in the area of ​​the nearby Notre-Dame-du-Pré priory belonging to the Benedictine abbey of Bec , as some of her late documents from there, while others are on display in Rouen. She secured the connection between this city and the priory by financing the construction of a stone bridge over the Seine. In her documents she no longer called herself Mistress of England , but still called herself Empress .

Henry II rose to the rank of King of England

With the sudden death of Gottfried Plantagenet on September 7, 1151, his and Mathilde's son Heinrich succeeded him as Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou. In May 1152 he married Eleanor of Aquitaine , who was eleven years his senior and who had only been divorced from King Louis VII of France two months earlier . With this, Heinrich received the Occitan southwest through Eleanor in addition to his extensive possessions in the north-west of France. Louis VII therefore felt threatened; he was annoyed about his ex-wife's marriage also because, as the liege lord of both spouses, he had not been asked whether he would agree. How Matilda felt about the son's marriage and what relationship she had with the daughter-in-law is not known.

In Normandy Matilda temporarily represented her son in his absence and tried to maintain the loyalty of the Norman barons to him. In 1153 Heinrich landed in England. After initial resistance, Stephan von Blois found himself ready to settle the long civil war in the Wallingford Treaty . Stephan, whose son Eustach died unexpectedly in August 1153, recognized Heinrich as his heir to the throne, but was allowed to continue to rule until the end of his life. When Stephan died on October 25, 1154, Heinrich ascended the English throne unchallenged.

Matilda acted as Heinrich's political advisor, who often followed her advice and respected her very much. Heinrich's relationship with his younger brother Gottfried was very tense. Nevertheless, after Heinrich's return from his stay in England in 1153, the Empress was able to persuade Heinrich to campaign for the release of Gottfried, who was then captured by Herr von Amboise. But she could not make peace between the brothers permanently; Gottfried rebelled twice and suddenly died in 1158. Heinrich's relationship with his youngest brother Wilhelm, who was Matilda's favorite son, was better. In 1155 the English king wanted to conquer Ireland and transfer William, but after objections from his mother, gave up his intentions and instead gave his brother extensive estates in England. After Archbishop Thomas Becket - whose relationship with the king, his former friend, began to deteriorate at the time (see below) - had forbidden the marriage of Isabel de Warenne, Countess of Surrey, to William in 1163, the latter returned unhappy to his mother Matilda in Rouen and died in July 1164.

Mediation in the dispute between Heinrich II. And Thomas Becket

In 1155 Henry II made his close friend Thomas Becket chancellor and in 1162, against the will of his mother Matilda, appointed him to succeed the late Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury. But from now on Becket appeared as a relentless advocate of the independence and expansion of power of the church. Because of this understanding of office, he got into a serious conflict with his former royal sponsor. Above all, Henry II wanted to ensure that clerics who had committed criminal offenses remained subject to royal criminal justice. In 1164 the archbishop fled to France, from where he continued the dispute with the English king and, like the latter, turned to Matilda for support.

After Henry II had informed his mother through a messenger of his position in the conflict with his former chancellor in the autumn of 1164, the prior Nicholas of Mont-Saint-Jacques on the other side presented some letters to Matilda during a visit to Matilda at the end of the same year which she reluctantly read at first. After reading it, however, she agreed to mediate between her son and the Church. Admittedly, in a further discussion, she spoke out against any diminution of old crown rights, but also in favor of the independence of the clergy, to which she accorded a higher priority than her son. She supported Heinrich's criticism that some clergy had appropriated too many benefices, while numerous clerics had only limited possessions and therefore some of them resorted to predatory means out of poverty. The prior had to admit that there were such injustices in the Church. Matilda later wrote to Becket that he was too stubborn. Ultimately, she could not reconcile the parties to the dispute. At the end of 1170, three years after her death, the archbishop was murdered by four knights who believed they were acting in the interests of the English king. Due to the crime, however, he was eventually forced to give in to the claims of the church.

Relations with the Roman-German Emperor

Matilda is also unlikely to have completely severed ties to her first husband's homeland. Presumably existed during the reign of the Staufer Konrad III. (1138–1152) and Friedrich I. Barbarossa (1152–1190) various contacts between these emperors and Matilda. Friedrich Barbarossa demanded from the English court that the relic that Matilda took with her after the death of her first husband in 1125 should be returned: the hand of the apostle James. In a friendly but firm manner, Henry II rejected the emperor's request. Matilda was probably also involved in this negative attitude. The relic was not returned, mainly because it had meanwhile become an important part of the furnishings in Reading Abbey, where the tomb of King Henry I was located. As compensation, Heinrich II sent the German Emperor a huge tent, which he carried with him on his Italian trains.

At the beginning of 1165, the German chancellor and archbishop of Cologne, Rainald von Dassel , traveled to Rouen to negotiate an alliance between England and Germany. a. should be strengthened by the marriage of Henry the Lion to Mathilde Plantagenet , a daughter of the English king. Empress Matilda refused to meet Rainald von Dassel because she was part of the papal schism Alexander III, which had existed since 1159 . supported and the antipope Paschal III, protected by the emperor and especially his chancellor . refused. But Heinrich II received Rainald and the marriage project mentioned was realized.

Literary patroness

In the tradition of her mother, Matilda was a patroness of writers and poets. When she was still the wife of Emperor Henry V, the French Benedictine monk and chronicler Hugo von Fleury dedicated his “History of the Deeds of the Newer French Kings”, which extends until 1108 and emphasizes her noble descent. Shortly after Matilda's return from Germany (1126), the chronicler Wilhelm von Malmesbury tried to win her over as the patroness of his history books, succeeding her mother, who died in 1118. At the height of her political career in England, when she seemed close to her coronation, the Anglo- Norman poet and monk Philippe de Thaon dedicated his Livre de Sybille to her . The poet and Archbishop of Tours, Hildebert von Lavardin , paid tribute to her interest in literature in a very personal poem. The Benedictine monk Stephan von Rouen , who was a friend of the empress, described her historical role in his historical poem Draco Normannicus, covering the period from the 11th century to 1169, according to her taste, although imperial references - such as the use of catchphrases such as Matilda's "imperial splendor" - did not were missing. This emphasis on her former role as Empress was apparently still very important to Matilda in her later years.

Religious foundations

Even as the German Empress, Matilda supported church institutions through foundations; So she gave land in Oostbroek near Utrecht to knights who wanted to live as monks in the future to found a Benedictine monastery. During her fight against Stephan in England she gave crown property to abbots a.o. to consolidate her political position. a. high clerics, especially in border regions disputed between the rivals to the throne. Since her son Heinrich ascended to the throne (1154), her religious foundations have increased significantly. She financed this with income from her large Wittum in Normandy. At that time, Matilda took spiritual advice from the monks of Bec, with whom she lived in Notre-Dame-du-Pré. In addition to the traditional orders of the Benedictines von Bec and the Cluniacians , she also promoted newer ones such as the Cistercians and the Premonstratensians , with whose founder Norbert von Xanten she had made acquaintance during her time in Germany. In Le Valasse (in the Seine-Maritime department ) the Empress supported the establishment of a Cistercian abbey, into which monks from the royal monastery of Mortemer moved. However, she initially (1152-1153) had to struggle with difficulties due to political unrest during the absence of Henry II in England, because she could not guarantee the protection of the monks. It began around 1136 with the establishment of a Premonstratensian abbey in Silly-en-Gouffern (in the Orne department ), but wars and other adversities did not allow the monastery to start operating without being disturbed until the mid-1150s. Because she had recovered from a serious illness in 1161, she had her silk mattress sold for the benefit of lepers. Matilda apparently also took an eager part in the veneration of the Virgin Mary .

Death and tomb

Matilda died in Rouen on September 10, 1167. Her burial took place in front of the high altar of the abbey church of Bec-Hellouin in a solemn ceremony presided over by the Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen. The monk Stephan von Rouen gives an accurate account of the funeral, in which he himself attended, in his poem Draco Normannicus . Some lines from Matilda's epitaph read:

“Here lies Heinrich's daughter, wife and mother;
great through birth, greater through marriage,
but greatest through their offspring. "

Bishop Arnulf von Lisieux, who appeared before the Pope against Matilda on behalf of King Stephen in 1139, but later venerated her, now dedicated an epitaph to her that praised her virtues; there was nothing feminine about her, by which the cleric meant that she had no feminine weaknesses. He is also said to have written a (not preserved) biography of the empress. She bequeathed considerable legacies to various churches and orders. In the following centuries, her grave was devastated several times, for example by fire in 1263 and by English mercenaries in 1421 when the Hundred Years War raged between England and France. In 1684 her grave was restored and her body reburied in a new coffin. But it was not until 1846 - decades after the abbey church of Bec had been devastated again by Napoleon's soldiers - that Matilda's remains, as far as they existed, found their final resting place in the cathedral of Rouen .

The greatest lasting success of Matilda was that she had made a significant contribution to securing the English crown for her eldest son through her persistent fight against Stephan von Blois. Its Angevin Empire comprised western France, Normandy and England. In particular through the daughters of Henry II, a number of royal and princely lines descended from Matilda.


Web links

Commons : Matilda of England  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


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  2. ^ A b Marjorie Chibnall: The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English . Blackwell, 1993, ISBN 978-0-631-15737-3 , pp. 9 .
  3. Susan Flantzer: Empress Matilda, Lady of the English. In: Unofficial Royalty. Retrieved November 6, 2019 .
  4. ^ Mary Botham Howitt: Biographical Sketches of the Queens of Great Britain. From the Norman Conquest to the Reign of Victoria; Or, Royal Book of Beauty . HG Bohn, 1856, p. 29 ( in Google Books ). (English)
  5. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 321-322
  6. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), pp. 192–194.
  7. ^ Herbert Zielinski:  Mathilde, Queen. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 16, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-428-00197-4 , p. 372 f. ( Digitized version ). accepts an irregular coronation of Matilda as empress
  8. Karl Rudolf Schnith ( Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), p. 194 f.) Accepts an irregular coronation of Matilda as Empress. Marjorie Chibnall ( Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, vol. 37, p. 322) leaves the question of legality open.
  9. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 322
  10. ^ A b Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 195–196.
  11. a b c d Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 323
  12. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 196–197.
  13. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 198–199.
  14. ^ A b Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 324
  15. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 199–201.
  16. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Hrsg.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), pp. 201-204.
  17. ^ So Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), pp. 203f.
  18. Marjorie Chibnall, however, takes that Matilda wanted to be crowned queen: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 324.
  19. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 324-325.
  20. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), pp. 204–205.
  21. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 325
  22. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 205–207.
  23. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 325-326
  24. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), p. 208.
  25. ^ A b Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 326-327
  26. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), pp. 208-209.
  27. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 209–210.
  28. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, p. 328
  29. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Women of the Middle Ages (1997), pp. 210–211.
  30. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 327-328
  31. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), p. 210.
  32. ^ Marjorie Chibnall: Matilda . In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 2004, Vol. 37, pp. 327 and 328
  33. ^ Karl Rudolf Schnith: Empress Mathilde . In: Derselbe (Ed.), Frauen des Mittelalters (1997), p. 211.
predecessor Office successor
Bertha of Savoy Roman-German queen
January 6 or 7, 1114 to 1125
Richenza from Northeim
Bertha of Savoy Roman-German Empress
January 6 or 7, 1114 to 1125
Richenza from Northeim
Stephan Queen of England