Biographies – Matilda, The Empress, Countess of Anjou

One of the things anyone writing about twelfth century English history has to quickly get used to are references to alot of women named (and in one case re-named) Matilda popping up here, there, and everywhere. It seems that using popular names was also a fad way back in medieval times. So please excuse me if you find that throughout this blog I keep using their titles a bit repetitively, it’s just my way of clarifying which Matilda I’m talking about.

• Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou

Birth: c.1102/1104, Winchester
Death: 10 September 1167, Rouen
Burial: Abbey of Bec, Rouen Cathedral
Father: Henry I
Mother: Edith of Scotland
Marriage: (1) 7 January 1114, Mainz – Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
Marriage: (2) 22 May 1127/8, Le Mans – Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Henry II, King of England
Geoffrey VI of Anjou, Count of Nantes
William, Count of Poitou

While still a child Matilda was sent to Germany to marry the Emperor Henry V. The couple had no children during the course of their marriage and after his death in 1125 she was recalled to the English court. She was declared heiress presumptive by her father in 1126. Henry I made his barons swear an oath of fealty to her and to uphold her claim to the English throne. In 1127/8 Henry married her, apparently against her will, to the youthful Geoffrey of Anjou, nicknamed ‘the Handsome’.

Once again, I don’t want to give away too much information about Matilda prior to the discussions of The Anarchy. However, what I do find interesting about Matilda is that, although she was spurned by the English, in her later years she proved to be an able and just ruler in Normandy when she acted as Regent during Henry II’s frequent absences. Charters were issued in both their names and she wielded the power to dispense justice and settle disputes very astutely. Matilda, The Empress, died in September 1167 in Rouen. She was buried at the Abbey of Bec, however, centuries later her remains were moved to her final resting place at Rouen Cathedral. It is also a possibility that her entrails were entombed near her father at Reading Abbey.

Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Birth: c.1113
Death: 7 September 1151, Chateau du Loir
Burial: Saint Juliens, Le Mans
Father: Fulk V, Count of Anjou
Mother: Ermengarde of Maine

Geoffrey, the Handsome, succeeded his father Fulk V as Count of Anjou, Maine and Touraine in 1128, when Fulk went to the Holy Land to marry Melisende of Jerusalem, the daughter of King Baldwin II. Henry I negotiated the marriage of his daughter and heir to Geoffrey in order to secure peace between England, Normandy, and Anjou. Their marriage was said to be a tumultuous one, however the couple eventually had three sons including the future Henry II.

After a difficult beginning Geoffrey fought staunchly for Normandy and secured the Duchy in 1144, assuming the title Duke of Normandy until he and Matilda ceded it to Henry in 1149. In 1151 Geoffrey fell ill with a fever and died at the relatively young age of thirty eight. It was Geoffrey’s habit to wear a sprig of broom, planta genista, on his hat and his badge became the origin of the family name Plantagenet.


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