Matilda, the daughter of King Henry I of England, was declared the ‘Lady of England and Normandy’ in advance of a coronation that never took place.

Matilda had married the future Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V, in 1114 after which she ruled Italy as Empress Matilda. Her father had intended for his only legitimate son, Matilda’s younger brother William Adeline, to inherit the English throne after he died but he himself had died in the White Ship disaster in November 1120.

King Henry was desperate to ensure his family’s succession. Consequently, following the death of Matilda’s husband in 1125, she returned to her father’s court. Henry nominated her as his heir in the event that he had no sons, and required his barons and court to swear an oath of loyalty to her. Three years later she was married to Prince Geoffrey of Anjou to whom she bore three sons, including the future Henry II.

Despite the oaths sworn to recognise Matilda’s claim, the death of her father in 1135 prompted a succession crisis. Matilda was in Anjou at the time and her cousin, Stephen de Blois, quickly moved to secure the crown for himself. Matilda’s subsequent invasion of England prompted a Civil War that became known as the Anarchy.

During the Battle in Lincoln in 1141 Matilda captured Stephen and imprisoned him, opening the door for her coronation. However, despite being proclaimed ‘Lady of England’ in Winchester by senior clergymen, Matilda was unpopular in London and was forced to retreat before her coronation took place. The war dragged on for a number of years, but Matilda returned to Normandy in 1148. Her son later ascended to the English throne as Henry II, the first Angevin king.

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