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The story of the Empress Maud is a sorrowful one, and yet it is curious that she herself contributed to her sorrow. She was the daughter of Henry I of England, one of his two legitimate children. But when King Henry's heir, William the Atheling died with the White Ship, Maud was all he had left. Maud, who had spent time as Holy Roman Empress, returned to England in 1126, and at the King's Christmas Court of the same year, the barons were summoned to swear fealty to her.

King Henry had intended for the Empress to succeed him, and he sent his bastard son Earl Robert of Gloucester, his able favorite Brian FitzCount, and Bishop John of Lisieux to escort Maud to her future husband. Her second husband was Count Geoffrey of Anjou, step-son of the Queen of Jerusalem, in an attempt to strike an alliance between the Normans and Angevins. The Atheling himself had been married to Count Geoffrey's sister, Isabella of Anjou, who as a widow, became a nun at Fontevrault Abbey and later its Abbess. Although this alliance was well-planned, Geoffrey and Maud's relationship was a rocky one at the start. Nonetheless, the marriage produced three children.

Loyalties were finally put to the test in December 1135, when, at the hunting lodge Lyons-la-For't, the King became ill and died. Empress Maud was in Anjou, pregnant with her third and last child, while much closer to England, in the County of Boulogne, resided her cousin and enemy. Stephen of Blois, nephew to the King, with the support of the Church usurped the crown. Quickly, the barons swore allegiance to him. And Stephen, whose own brother was a bishop, was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Like fire, rumor began to spread that the late King had changed his mind about the succession upon his deathbed, and that the barons' former oath was forced and therefore invalid. This was the rumor ignited by Bishop Henry of Winchester, Stephen's brother.

In 1139, at Arundel, Maud lands in England with a company of men. Soon, the land broke out into civil war. And for a short time, in 1141, it seemed as though the Empress would finally win what was rightfully hers. But her lust for the crown had long resided in her mind, and her greed overcame her. The Empress, behaving unruly, had upset even her own supporters, and she soon retreated back to Anjou, leaving the fighting to her eldest son: Henry Plantagenet. Still, her longing never left, but she was the Lady of the English and it was now up to Henry. And in summer 1153, the Treaty of Wallingford was signed. Stephen would continue to reign until his death but it also named Henry as his heir. It wasn't the victory Maud had hoped for but it still acknowledged her son as King, and that was what she had wanted all along. And the following year Henry was crowned King of England, forming a long-lasting dynasty that would follow.

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An excellent introductory post to Maud's story. I'll be looking forward to read more.
Sep 09, 2014 06:04 am

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