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A Medieval Mass Battle ( AIGen/ Adobe Stock)

The Anarchy: England’s War Of The Two Matildas

Few periods in history have brought women to the fore, to the centre of events, as the Anarchy did in England. From 1135 to 1154, conflict raged when Stephen of Blois usurped the throne that rightfully belonged to his cousin Empress Matilda, widow of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. During the lifetime of King Henry I - Matilda’s father and Stephen’s uncle – Stephen had twice sworn oaths to guarantee the succession for Matilda. But when the time came and King Henry I died on 1 December 1135, Stephen broke those oaths, and had himself crowned King in Westminster Abbey. If he thought Matilda would just accept losing her crown and stay at home with the children, Stephen was sorely mistaken. Pregnant with her third child at the time of her father’s death, Matilda had to bide her time, for a little while. And, as her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou campaigned on her behalf in Normandy, Matilda landed in England in 1138 and her own campaign to claim the crown began. And she nearly won.

A 13th-century depiction of the coronation of King Stephen, by Matthew Paris (Public Domain)

A 13th-century depiction of the coronation of King Stephen, by Matthew Paris (Public Domain)

Empress Matilda’s Forces Take Lincoln Castle

The year started well for the Empress. Early in 1141, news reached King Stephen that Ranulf de Gernons, the disgruntled Earl of Chester, had captured Lincoln Castle. Disappointed in his aspirations to Carlisle and Cumberland after they were given to Prince Henry of Scotland, Ranulf had turned his sights on Lincoln Castle, which had once been held by his mother, Lucy of Bolingbroke, Countess of Chester. Countess Lucy had died around 1138, leaving her Lincolnshire lands to her son by her second marriage, William de Roumare, Ranulf’s half-brother. Her lands elsewhere had been left to Ranulf de Gernons, who was the son of her third marriage, to Ranulf le Meschin, Earl of Chester.


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