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Matilda of Boulogne

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Matilda of Boulogne Facts:

Known for: Queen consort of Stephen of Blois (ruled 1135-1154), who battled for the crown of England with his cousin, Henry I's daughter and named successor, the Empress Matilda (or Maud). Matilda of Boulogne led her husband's forces after the Empress Matilda captured Stephen, and was able to turn the tide of the war by her action. Matilda of Boulogne was also a first cousin of the Empress Matilda.
Queen consort to: Stephen of Blois (~1096-1154, ruled 1135-1154), grandson of William I
Other titles: Matilda was also Countess of Boulogne in her own right
Dates: ~1105 - May 3, 1152 Married: 1125 Coronation: March 22, 1136
Also known as: Matilda, Countess of Boulogne (1125-1152); Maud or Maude

Family:

  • Mother: Mary of Scotland (sister of Matilda of Scotland, first wife of Henry I of England; daughter of Malcolm II and Saint Margaret of Scotland
  • Father: Eustace III, Count of Boulogna
  • Children: Eustace IV, Count of Boulogne; William of Blois; Marie; two others

Matilda of Boulogne Biography:

Matilda of Boulogne, through her mother, was descended from the Anglo Saxon kings of England. Her grandfather was Edward the Athelin, son of Edmund II Ironside, in turn son of Ethelred II "the Unready."

Marriage to Stephen of Blois:

She married Stephen of Blois, a grandson of William I, in 1125. Stephen's uncle was Henry I, Duke of Normandy and King of England. Henry I named his daughter his successor: another Matilda (or Maud or Maude), widow of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor, and married to Geoffrey of Anjou. He obtained the endorsement of that claim by the nobles of England.

Stephen and Matilda jointly ruled Boulogne when her father died about 1125, after an ill-fated attempt to claim the throne of Jerusalem, formerly held by his youngest brother. Stephen's uncle, Henry I, provided a home for Stephen and Matilda in London. Stephen and Matilda's first two children, Baldwin and Matilda, died in early childhood. (There is some dispute about when the daughter, Matilda, died.)

Contending for the Crown:

When Henry I died in 1135, Stephen moved quickly to seize the crown for himself, getting to England before his cousin, the Empress Matilda, could do so. He and the nobles who supported his claim may have done so because they did not believe a woman could or should hold the office of ruler of England, and they may also have wanted to prevent Geoffrey of Anjou from having power as king. Matilda of Boulogne, reportedly pregnant at that time, perhaps with their son Eustace, joined her husband after the child's birth in Boulogne. She was crowned as England's queen on Easter in 1136.

The Empress Matilda did not accept this decision easily. The uncle of both the Empress Matilda and Matilda of Boulogne, David I of Scotland, invaded England in support of the Empress in 1138, and was defeated by Stephen.

The next year, the Empress Matilda landed in England, and by 1141, the war seemed to be going her way. Her forces captured Stephen and held him at Bristol Castle, and the Empress was nearly crowned in London.

Leading the Army:

When Stephen was captured, his wife, Matilda of Boulogne, took an active part in raising new forces and leading them. The Empress Matilda escaped dramatically and narrowly from her cousin's forces, disguised as a corpse on a funeral bier. Matilda of Boulogne in turn captured the half-brother of the Empress Matilda, Robert of Gloucester, the leader of the Empress' forces. Matilda of Boulogne helped engineer a prisoner exchange: Robert of Gloucester for Stephen.

In 1140, Matilda and Stephen's eldest surviving son, Eustace, was married to Constance, sister of Louis VII of France.

After 1142, when the Empress Matilda famously escaped under cover of a snowy night, the war continued, but Stephen retained the upper hand. He did lose Normandy to Geoffrey of Anjou in 1144.

Matilda of Boulogne's Family After Her Death:

In 1150, Matilda ruled Boulogne alone, and when she died of a fever in England in 1151, Eustace, the oldest son of Stephen and Matilda of Boulogne, became the count.

In 1153, Eustace died, reportedly while plundering church lands. Stephen signed the Treaty of Winchester, naming Henry, son of the Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, as Stephen's heir, bypassing Stephen and Matilda's younger son, William. The parties to the treaty agreed that Stephen would remain king of England in his lifetime and that Stephen's lands in France would go to their son William, who became the Count of Boulogne and the Earl of Surrey, the latter title through his wife, Isabel de Warenne.

In 1154, the year after the treaty was signed, Stephen died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He was in his late fifties. As agreed in the treaty, Henry, son of Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, became king of England as Henry II.

Marie of Boulogne, daughter of King Stephen and Matilda of Boulogne, was in a convent from an early age. In 1159, when her brother William died without children, she became the heir and was removed from the convent and married to Matthew of Alsace who would become her co-ruler. They divorced in 1170 and Marie returned to the convent while Matthew continued to rule Boulogne. Their daughter, Matilde of Flanders, married Henry I, Duke of Brabant, and their six children intermarried with quite a few royal and noble families of Europe.

William's widow, Isabel of Warenne, married Hamelin Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou and thus a half-brother of Henry II. One of their daughters was a mistress of King John of England, her cousin, and thus mother of Richard Fitz Roy.

A later queen of England, Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III, was a descendant of Matilda of Boulogne and Stephen, and through Philippa, all later monarchs of England are descendents of Matilda of Boulogne and Stephen.

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