~ the battle for England between Stephen of Blois and Matilda The Empress ~


07 July 2010

Biographies: Stephen and Matilda of Boulogne

• Stephen - Matilda of Boulogne

Reign: 1135-1154
Birth: c.1096, Blois, France
Death: 25 October 1154, Dover Castle, Kent
Burial: Faversham Abbey, Kent
Father: Stephen II, Count of Blois, Chartres, and Champagne
Mother: Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror
Marriage: 1125, Westminster, England - Matilda of Boulogne
Eustace, Count of Boulogne
William, Count of Boulogne and Earl of Surrey
Mary, Countess of Boulogne

NOTES: Grandson of William the Conqueror and nephew and favourite of Henry I, who became the wealthiest landowner under Henry's patronage - Count of Mortain in Normandy and estates in Lancaster, Suffolk, and Essex in England - and from his marriage to heiress Matilda of Boulogne he added the important port of Wissant and title Count of Boulogne to his estates.

Stephen was the son of French Count Stephen II (sometimes called Stephen Henry) of Blois who participated in the First Crusade. His mother was the formidable and pious Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, who after her husband's death in 1102, chose to administer Blois and settle her children's futures herself. She bypassed her eldest son William and appointed Theobald as heir of Blois, arranged for Stephen to be sent to Henry's court to make his own good fortune, and younger son Henry was sent to Cluny and the monastic life. It is not certain exactly when Stephen arrived at the court of Henry I but he was in attendance by c.1113.

After Henry's death in 1135 Stephen convinced the clergy to crown him as King of England, effectively usurping the throne and breaking his oath of fealty to his cousin Matilda. This plunged England into frequent civil wars between the King's supporters and Matilda's forces led by Robert of Gloucester. Much of the land was ravaged and England plunged into almost complete chaos. Later, Matilda's son Henry waged war against Stephen until 1153, and following the death of his eldest son Eustace, Stephen was forced to name Henry his heir.

King Stephen died in October 1154 and was buried alongside his wife, Matilda of Boulogne, and his son Eustace in their foundation church, Faversham Abbey in Kent. Like so many others this church fell into disrepair at the time of the Dissolution during Henry VIII's rulership, and their bones were apparently thrown into a nearby river or creek. A Victorian era inscription on a tomb in a local parish church states that it is the final resting place of Stephen and his wife, but without opening the tomb who can say for sure? The original abbey is gone and the area is now a school sports field. An indepth look at Stephen's reign is still to come.

• Henry of Huntingdon on: King Stephen

Matilda of Boulogne
Born: c.1105 Boulogne, France
Died: 3 May 1152 Hedingham Castle, Essex
Burial: Faversham Abbey
Father: Eustace III, Count of Boulogne
Mother: Mary of Scotland
Marriage: Stephen of England

NOTES: Matilda Countess of Boulogne, Queen of England and wife of King Stephen - and through her maternal grandmother descended from the pre conquest English kings. Matilda was the daughter of Count Eustace III of Boulogne and his wife Mary of Scotland, daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Margaret, and therefore also a cousin to Matilda The Empress, whose mother was Edith of Scotland.

Matilda married Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain, in 1125. Stephen was a son of the Conqueror's sister Adela and had been sent to be raised at his uncle's court. Matilda had succeeded as Countess of Boulogne after the death of her father and ruled this area jointly with her husband until it was passed onto to her eldest son Eustace.

On the death of Henry I in 1135 Stephen, acting with great haste, crossed the channel and convinced the clergy to crown him as king, usurping the claim of his cousin and rival the Empress Matilda the daughter and heir of Henry I. In the civil war that followed, often known as The Anarchy, Matilda of Boulogne proved to be her husband's strongest supporter. Indeed, Stephen owed much to the loyalty and courage of his wife.

After his capture at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 she rallied the king's supporters and raised an army with the help of William of Ypres and advanced on London. The Londoners took up arms and she besieged the Empress causing Matilda's forces to flee to Oxford Castle. Matilda, who had styled herself Lady of the English, was never crowned. It was during a retreat from Winchester in the same year that Robert of Gloucester was captured by the army of Queen Matilda and William of Ypres. This led to an exchange of prisoners - Stephen for Robert. Stephen had spent some months under guard after the Battle of Lincoln and this action restored Stephen to the throne.

Matilda died at Hedingham Castle, Essex, in 1152 and was buried at Faversham Abbey, which she and Stephen had founded.

It would be easy to speculate that Stephen must have badly missed his loyal wife and her support in his last two years as king. The death of his son Eustace in 1153 proved to be the last straw, and Stephen accepted the Treaty of Wallingford (also called Treaty of Westminster), whereby he would rule unchallenged until his death and accept Henry as his heir.

• A Note About Mary (Marie) of Boulogne and her family:

Mary (Marie) of Boulogne (1136 – 1182)
Mary had apparently been placed in a convent at an early age but after the death of her brother William in 1159 she became the heiress to Boulogne. Forced to leave the convent, Mary was married to Matthew of Alsace who was the second son of Thierry, Count of Flanders and Sibylla of Anjou. Although they ruled Boulogne together, unsurprisingly perhaps the marriage was troubled and after their divorce in 1170 Mary entered St Austrebert, Montreuil and became a nun for the second time. The marriage however did produce two daughters, Ida, who inherited Boulogne after her father's death in 1173, and Mathilde, who was married to Henry I, Duke of Brabant in 1179.

Ida of Boulogne c.1160 – 1216, Countess of Boulogne
Ida was married firstly to Count Gerard III of Guelders and then Berthold IV of Zähringen. Both marriages were brief and ended with the men's deaths. By her third husband, Count Renaud de Dammartin, Ida had one daughter, Matilda II of Boulogne. Matilda (also known as Mahaut or Mathilde, Maud de Dammartin) married Philippe Hurepel, Count of Clermont-en-Beauvais, an illegitimate son of King Philip II of France, who died in 1235. In 1238 she married Afonso, the younger brother of King Sancho II of Portugal. He became King Afonso III in 1248. This marriage did not produce any children and he divorced Matilda in 1253.

Matilde of Flanders 1170–1210, Duchess of Brabant
Matilde was only nine years old when she married Henry I, Duke of Brabant in 1179. In due course they went on to have six children including a daughter, Adelaide, who inherited Boulogne after the death of Matilda II in 1260. Adelaide was at that time the widow of William X of Auvergne and their son, Robert of Auvergne, eventually succeeded his mother in Boulogne.

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