Catherine Hanley on Matilda: “Honestly, if I were her, I’d have wanted to put my fist through a wall”
Catherine Hanley talks to Ellie Cawthorne about Matilda, the legitimate daughter of Henry I who – blocked by her gender from the English throne – began a bitter civil war for the crown
Born in 1102, Matilda was the daughter of King Henry I and the granddaughter of William the Conqueror. As Henry I’s only legitimate child at the time of his death, she had a strong claim to the English throne. However, there was opposition to the idea of a female ruler, and her cousin Stephen was crowned king. From 1135–53, the pair were embroiled in a battle for the throne often known as ‘the Anarchy’. This civil war was finally brought to an end by a negotiated peace that saw Matilda’s son appointed Stephen’s heir. He went on to become King Henry II.