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Empress Maud

Empress Maud (February 7, 1102September 10, 1169) is the title by which Matilda, daughter and dispossessed heir of King Henry I of England and his wife Maud of Scotland (herself daughter of Malcolm III Canmore and St. Margaret of Scotland), is known, in order to differentiate her from the many other Matildas of the period. Matilda is the Latin form of the name "Maud" (or "Maude").

Maud was christened Adelaide, but took her mother's name of Matilda when she married for the first time, on January 7, 1114. Her first husband was Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, but the marriage was childless and Henry died in 1125. In 1128, she was married again, at Le Mans in Anjou, to Geoffrey of Anjou, who was eleven years her junior. He was nicknamed "Plantagenet" from the broom flower (planta genista) which he took as his emblem, hence the name of the line of English kings descended from him. Although the marriage could not be said to be a happy one, it did produce three sons, the eldest of whom, Henry, was born on March 5, 1132/3. Besides Henry, Matilda also bore two other sons, Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and William, Count of Poitou.

On the death of her father in 1135, Maud expected to succeed to the throne of England, but her cousin, Stephen of Blois usurped the throne, breaking an oath he had previously made to defend her rights. The civil war which followed was bitter and prolonged, with neither side gaining the ascendancy for long, but it was not until 1139 that Maud could command the military strength necessary to challenge Stephen within his own realm. Stephen's wife was another Matilda: Matilda, countess of Boulogne. During the war, Maud's most loyal and capable supporter was her half-brother, Robert of Gloucester.

Maud's greatest triumph came in April 1141, when her forces defeated and captured King Stephen, who was made a prisoner and effectively deposed. Although she now controlled the kingdom, Maud never styled herself queen but took the title "Lady of the English". Her advantage lasted only a few months. By November, Stephen was free, and a year later, the tables were turned when Maud was besieged at Oxford but escaped, supposedly by fleeing across the snow-covered land in a white cape. In 1147, Maud was finally forced to return to France, following the death of Robert of Gloucester.

All hope was not lost. Maud's son, Henry (later, Henry II of England), was showing signs of becoming a successful leader. Although the civil war had been decided in Stephen's favour, his reign was troubled. In 1153, the death of his son Eustace, combined with the arrival of a military expedition led by Henry, led him to acknowledge the latter as his heir by the Treaty of Wallingford. Maud died at Rouen, and was buried in the cathedral there.

Historical fiction

The civil war between supporters of Stephen and the supporters of Maud is the background for the popular "Brother Cadfael" books by Ellis Peters, and the films made from them starring Sir Derek Jacobi as that rare Benedictine. It is also an important part in the storyline of Ken Follett's most popular novel Pillars of the Earth .

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45