Clanfield and Bampton Historical Society
The Empress Matilda came so close to becoming England's first Queen that the food was on the table to celebrate her Coronation. But this never happened, and it was eaten by those who denied her the throne. Tim Porter's talk to the society- so many the Carter Institute was nigh on full- on Matilda's vain 'Fight for the Throne' produced much such fascinating detail.
What started as ‘a struggle between a woman, Matilda; a child, her very young son Henry; a bastard, Robert of Gloucester (Henry 1st, Tim told us, ‘had more bastards than any other ruler in Europe: it was ironic that his only surviving legitimate child was a girl’); and a usurper, Stephen’, developed into the bloodiest of civil wars, with Matilda, supported by her half-brother Robert, opposed by Stephen, who had no real claim other than force of arms.
Henry 1st had twice made both nobles and bishops swear allegiance to Matilda, who as a teenager had been married to the German Emperor and returned to England, still a young woman, and highly qualified to reign, on his death. But when Stephen seized the throne, had himself crowned, and approved by the Pope he gathered many supporters, especially in and around London.
When he was captured in battle and imprisoned by Robert of Gloucester, Matilda tried to have his coronation annulled and herself crowned at Westminster, and came within hours of doing so, until the City of London militia ‘invaded’ Westminster and forced her and her followers to flee to Oxford.
There followed more than a decade of ‘anarchy’ with much loss of life until, on Stephen’s death, Matilda having renounced her claim to the throne, her son Henry became King. England had to wait another 412 years for her first Queen, Mary, followed immediately ‘like London buses’ by a second, Elizabeth. It was, as Tim Porter said, ironic that his talk should have been given to us on the day that the General Synod voted against women bishops. There as no doubting where his sympathies lay.
The society now takes it usual Christmas and New Year break, resuming on February 19th when Tony Hadland will talk to us on ‘Researching Family History’.
November 20 2012.
Tim Porter: Matilda, her Fight for the Throne........