Also Known as:
Empress Matilda Biography:
Matilda was the daughter of Henry I ("Henry Longshanks" or "Henry Beauclerc"), Duke of Normandy and King of England. She was the wife of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor (and thus "Empress Maude"). Her eldest son by her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, became Henry II, Duke of Normandy and King of England. Henry II was known as Henry Fitzempress (son of empress) in recognition of his mother's title carried with her from her first marriage.
Henry I himself had won the throne of England when his eldest brother William Rufus, died in a supposed hunting accident, and Henry quickly seized control from the named heir, another older brother, Robert, who settled for the title of Duke of Normandy. In this context, the action of Henry's nephew, Stephen, in quickly taking control as king of England after Henry's death, was not really unpredictable.
It is likely that many of these nobles who supported Stephen in violation of their oath to support Matilda did so because they did not believe a woman could or should hold the office of ruler of England. These nobles probably also assumed that Matilda's husband would be the true ruler -- the concept that a queen could rule in her own right was not well-established in England at that time -- and Geoffrey of Anjou, to whom Henry had married his daughter, was not a character whom the English nobility wanted as their ruler, nor did the barons want a ruler whose main interests were in France.
A few nobles, including Matilda's illegitimate half-brother (one of more than 20 illegitimate children of Henry I), Robert of Gloucestor, supported Matilda's claim, and for most of the long civil war, Matilda's supporters held the west of England.
The Empress Matilda, as well as another Matilda, the wife of Stephen, were active leaders in the fight over the throne of England, as power changed hands and each party seemed ready to defeat the other at various times.