On this day in 1141, Henry I’s eldest child, his daughter Matilda, became the first female to rule England, but was rejected in a country where female kingship was thought of as “unnatural”. Born in 1102 on the Seventh of February, Matilda became de facto heir to the English crown when her elder brother William Adelin died as the result of his ship sinking after departure from Barfleur while the crew had been drinking. She was married twice in hopes of producing a male heir for England, first to Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and upon his death, to Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, with whom she had three sons, Henry, Geoffrey, and William. After the death of her father, Matilda, already declared heir apparent in his will, traveled from Anjou to take her place at Westminster Abbey for her coronation, but before she arrived on English soil, her cousin Stephen of Blois usurped the crown as his own, an act which led to civil war. Matilda fought long and hard for her right to be queen and finally, at war’s end, Stephen struck a deal; Matilda’s son Henry would be named as his lawful heir and inherit the throne following Stephen’s death. And this was the case in 1154, when Stephen died of a disease of the stomach, allowing Matilda’s eldest son to become Henry II of England, first ruler of the House of Plantagenet and later husband to Eleanor of Aquitaine. Matilda acted as her son’s representative and advisor until her death on 10 September 1167 at the age of sixty-five.
Today in History – Matilda becomes Queen of England