Alison and I have been investigating the life of the Empress Matilda for about 6 months now. There is still a wealth of research to come, but here, for the curious and the interested, are a few select paragraps from the 100,000 words we've assembled so far on the subject of her life, her times, and the people surrounding her. My work in progress has a working title of LADY OF THE ENGLISH (which may change) and is going to be about Empress Matilda between 1125 and 1148. She will be sharing the stage with Henry I's queen, Adeliza of Louvain, who was also 'Lady of the English' during her time as a royal wife.
I will post more notes on another occasion. These are taken at intervals from the chronological document where I collate the weekdly episodes. We haven't got fully going on the civil war yet. The below are pieces from the earlier years and only the point on the tip of the iceberg.
Matilda as a child before she goes to marry the Emperor of Germany.
She’s like a miniature grown up. I would say she is very forceful, very aware. Not afraid, not timid, interested in everything, interested in experiences. She has a lot of life about her. She has love for her father. Her eyes go up at the right hand side when she thinks of her father. Her eyes make a little crescent and they’re just adoring. They come alight. How does she feel about her mother? Alison’s voice lowers and grows dull. ‘Bleuggh, Mummy. Mummy’s as dull as ditchhwater she thinks, and mummy smacks her with a stick, so mummy’s not favourite. She doesn’t want to be like mummy, she wants to be like daddy.
Matilda's relationship with Emperor Henry
He talks politics with her. He knows that she is interested in politics and that she is motivated by politics. So he thinks that it will make him more attractive to her. If she wants a man to be proud of, he will be that man. Mainly he thinks of her as slightly in the background in her correct position and following him around. He thinks of her as smaller than him, doing the right thing. He does appreciate her quite a lot actually. He appreciates her good sense and being able to see the right thing to do in the right circumstances and that she is sensible in her household duties. He likes that. He thinks that he’s got a genuinely good egg. He’d just like to get her a bit more aroused. Alison laughs. He’s always cogitating how to do this! I say – like the guy buying his wife the basque and the suspenders for Christmas! Yes!So what does Matilda think about being given these sexy clothes? Alison replies that they’re not sexy, they are genuinely beautiful. I say, ‘So what does she think about being given all these gifts and clothes? She likes it. Who wouldn’t? In a shy way she appreciates him for doing it, and also because they are often things that she would never have thought of, so it enhances her life, and he has a way of thinking of these things and she would never have bothered. If she had to do those sort of things, they would have been very practically carried out, but she can see the advantage as well and feel how it holds sway in the court to look very good – so she uses it in a practical way and she is starting to have quite a soft spot for him. I wouldn’t say it’s a meeting of souls or anything, but there is a side of her that’s quite fond of him
Now go to any time before 1126 when Matilda was pregnant – if there was a time.
Matilda's reaction to the Emperor's death?
Alison: Grief, sadness in her abdomen, solar plexus, eyes. Crying. She’s also quite controlled in the sense that she’s static in one place. She’s sitting quite neatly and crying gently. FFW. She’s coming out from the crying. In the aftermath she’s still feeling quite gutted and delicate but she’s making the motions of carrying on in a normal way. Those around her are very sympathetic and allowing for her grief and allowing for her trying as well. Her trying? Her trying to restore normality. They feel sadness as well. This is a genuine sadness and grief that is passing. There’s not much thought going on beyond that sadness, apart from a small thought low down ‘What shall I do now?’
Description of Stephen of Blois, future King of England
Stephen has very bulbous features. He has wide, round eyes with heavy lids and heavy underneath sometimes. Mid-brown eyes that are quite dense.
Robert of Gloucester, Matilda's half brother
He’s a big, intelligent complex man. Tall, strong, flexible. Aaah, he picks Matilda up in his arms, kisses her on both cheeks. He treats her like one of the boys in lots of ways. He doesn’t alter the conversation at all for her. He says it’s good to have her back.
He seems to be tired. He’s dozing and it’s late at night. She comes into the room. She’s got her arm round a basket of stuff. She’s clearing the room, putting things in the basket. He says ‘Don’t do that right now. Sit by me.’ He makes her put the basket down. They sit together and make plans about what she wants to do with her life. He is being very attentive in a military way. Very practical. He doesn’t miss out on the emotion either. He often asks ‘How do you do that in
Description of Geoffrey of Anjou, Matilda's 2nd husband - on being told he is to marry Matilda.
There’s a dusty, ashy feeling in the mouth and a downturn of the lips. He’s thinking he’s getting something second-hand, used. He’s got all his youth to offer and he’s to get something second hand. He’s thinking maybe if he uses her very well she may die in childbirth because he’s heard that older women do. And then he can have someone nice. I can feel that he’s in quite a large room with his father. They’re at quite a distance. His father is nearer towards the fire and Geoffrey is looking across the room and towards the window. He’s thinking of all the luscious ladies in the village outside who would be very acceptable but he’s to have this older lump of a woman. He knows where he’s at politically. They’ve had a lot of discussion around the political side of it. But never mind, If he goes at it hard that will be the best plan of action and he’s got youth on his side, he’ll outlive her. And then, political thing satisfied, he’ll be able to have his pick. Meanwhile he’s just got to put a brave face on and be political. He is quite pleased with that because he is rather handsome and he likes posing and inspecting. He has wavy hair, quite thick lips nicely shaped. Plumpish soft cheeks. Very attractive in a cherubic sort of way. The eyes are not cherubic at all. They’re a greenish colour but they flash! And when they flash, they flash blue in the depths of the green. Very glassy, but sea-type colours.
How Brian FitzCount, supporter of Matilda, felt about her.
Alison makes a small sound. He has to look the other way actually. Because he likes her? Yes. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he doesn’t trust himself – but oh gosh, it’s terrible actually. If he got attached to her, it would be like falling down a huge mountain in darkness and he couldn’t do it to himself. So he has to keep it very light and very official. It is the loyal servant very much in love with the mistress. But this loyal servant is also extremely intelligent and also self aware and aware of his position and feelings and situation. He has real dignity.
What Queen Adeliza thinks about Matilda getting married to Geoffrey of
Alison: She couldn’t be more pleased. She thinks it’s delightful. He’s handsome. She thinks Matilda will be very lucky. Her husband is such a clever man for thinking of the match and guiding his daughter in this way. She likes the feeling that everything’s settled. She thinks Matilda will soon get used to it. It’s hard for her to get over the grief of her first bereavement. She understands that; that is the main thing that gets in the way. So the age difference doesn’t bother her? He is very mature for his years and when he is in his twenties they will both be adults, so she can’t see a problem. She says that his seed will be young and potent, so they will be guaranteed good, healthy children. She knows it has been a problem for Matilda (as well as herself) and it makes her sad, but she wishes well to Matilda. Has she discussed the situation with Matilda re the betrothal and marriage? She can see Matilda moping. Matilda is very reluctant to talk to Adeliza. Adeliza is sad because she wants to comfort Matilda and reassure her that everything is going to be all right and she’ll have a good life. She thinks Matilda is sad because of the death of her first husband and wants to comfort her. It’s all falling on deaf ears. Adeliza wishes she could do something to change Matilda’s attitude before she goes. She dearly wishes that. She talks about it to Henry but he’s not very sympathetic. Adeliza becomes thoughtful. She doesn’t know what she can do, but she hopes that on the journey to
She provides clothes and goods for her to take with her and help her on her journey – particularly clothing. Quality things.
David, future King of Scotland
He’s got very lively, sparkly brown eyes. He’s a very nice person, a loving person, but quite balanced and he knows the score. He knows everybody’s not nice. He’s a very able person. He knows himself well. He can turn on the charm. He’s basically a nice guy, but not a fool and not naieve.
Henry II as a toddler with his mother
I am seeing bottle shapes. They look like skittles and they are falling down. The child is crawling. It’s outdoors. They are on grass. The child is crawling towards the skittles. Matilda has told everyone to hold back a bit, not roll any more balls. She wants to see what he’ll do. He’s put one of the skittles back up on its base. He’s put a loop round it. It’s not skittles that you knock over but the sort you put a hoop over. It’s a flat hoop about an inch and a half wide. Alison laughs. Then he puts both arms in the air as if to say ‘Hooray, I’ve won!’ Aaah, Matilda is clapping him and saying ‘Well done, well done. Bravo! Bravo!’ He’s still holding a hoop while he’s in her arms and he’s waving it about and she’s praising him for being so clever. She is saying, ‘Here is the winner of the game, here is the winner! She’s holding him up higher as well. She is saying more quietly to him ‘That’s right, that’s how you win.’ Meaning? It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you get the hoop over. She’s praising him because she wants a winner in the household. She’s making sure that everyone in the court applauds him and acknowledges his win – so she is also training them. She is saying ‘Daddy will come and explain some more things to you. Your daddy is a ferocious winner.'
The Empress arriving in England in 1139
She is breathing deeply, taking a good lungful of English grassy air. Feels good. Feels damp as well. She is sussing out the landscape for herself. There are a lot of people telling her which way she ought to go, but she’s paying no attention, she’s oblivious because she wants to make up her own mind about it. She’s spending quite a while just looking at the horizon and making sure she knows where she is and where she’s going. She wants to instil calm into her followers because they are all agitated talking at once and she doesn’t want that. She wants a bit more finesse. Now she’s taking command. They were trying to control her, but now she is gripping people and telling them what to do and which way to go and when.