Margaret of Anjou
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Wars of the Roses: Competing claims to the throne and the beginning of civil war. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox!
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. But she never sat on the throne. In this authoritative but accessible biography, Catherine Hanley emphasises the fortitude and steel of a woman who, as a child, experienced all the harshness of medieval diplomatic reality, having to learn and adapt to international power politics from a very early age. Born in , she was only seven when her father, Henry I of England, arranged her betrothal to Heinrich V of Germany, 15 years her senior.
Margaret of Anjou
The following year she was packed off abroad to complete her education and to prepare herself for her forthcoming role as empress. It was a steep learning curve. This was a heavy responsibility: she presided over courts, pronounced judgments and negotiated with powers at the highest level.
Hanley convincingly argues that Matilda performed with great skill and industriousness, easing the burden on Heinrich who had to contend with civil war and excommunication. She also accompanied her husband on campaign, picking up useful military know-how. These years seem to have been contented ones for Matilda. Her real troubles began when she was drawn back into English politics. Henry I, having lost his son William in the White Ship drowning of , had made Matilda his heir: it was clear that she had acquired by this time what we would now call the skill-set to rule.
Despite some furious family quarrels, Henry secured the oaths of his great men to support Matilda as his successor. There was also joy as the much younger Geoffrey finally provided Matilda with three children, the eldest of whom was to become the towering Henry II of England. Alongside her heroic half-brother, Robert, Duke of Gloucester, she established her power base in the West Country. The result was an uprising, which forced her into hasty retreat and into a series of adventures that few middle-aged noblewomen have ever had to endure.
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Then, besieged in wintery Oxford in December , she evaded her enemies by camouflaging herself in white, courageously crossing the frozen Thames and trudging through the snow to Abingdon. This is all dramatic stuff, told with great vim by Hanley.
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Matilda finally abandoned England in ; but she lived on for almost 20 years, holding a prominent role in Normandy too briefly covered by Hanley and seeing her son become king in The crown might have been hers, but the trouble with the Empress Matilda was that she was just too imperious. It is a shame that there are no endnotes, as one would normally expect from Yale, but this volume is designed for a wide readership and deserves to find one.
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Regarding her looks, English Rose has a set of associated characteristics:
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