“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

England's "Forgotten" Empress

I currently live in a town called Ludgershall on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border. Ludgershall today is a fairly unremarkable army town, but it has a recorded history that stretches back to the Domesday Book (1086) and beyond. At the time of the Domesday Book the town was referred to as Litlegarsele, which apparently translates to "small grazing area". For the majority of Ludgershall's history it has had a castle of which today only a series of earthworks and a ruin remain. Ludgershall castle is believed to have been built in the late 11th century by Edward of Salisbury and became a royal property around 1100. Over the years the castle was improved and in 1210 King John (the King who famously lost his crown jewels in The Wash) repaired and improved the castle and adopted it as a hunting lodge. This hunting lodge was subsequently used by his son, King Henry III. The castle remained in use as a hunting lodge and was frequented by royal visitors until it eventually fell into disrepair in the 15th Century.

It was whilst reading about the history of the castle I become aware of the tale of England's “forgotten” Empress, Empress Matilda.

King Henry I of England (1068 - 1135) had two legitimate children, William Adelin and Matilda (also known as Maude). William died at 17 years old (in 1120), which left Matilda as King Henry's only legitimate heir. Matilda was betrothed and eventually married off to Henry V (the Holy Roman Emperor), which resulted in her becoming the Holy Roman Empress.

When King Henry I died in 1135 a power struggle for the English crown ensued between Stephen of Blois (King Henry I's nephew) and Matilda. This civil war, known as the "Anarchy”, lasted between 1135 and 1153. After the death of King Henry I, Stephen immediately took power, and Matilda led a rebel movement to take the crown for herself. In 1141 Matilda's forces managed to take King Stephen prisoner at the battle of Lincoln, and she effectively deposed him from rule. This situation only lasted a few months however and whilst trying to be formally crowned in London in June 1141 she was evicted from the city by the populous. Worse still for Matilda in September 1141 the army of imprisoned King Stephen defeated Matilda's army who were besieging them at Winchester. Following this rout Matilda had to flee to Gloucester and en-route she sought refuge at Ludgershall castle. Eventually Matilda had to release King Stephen in exchange for prisoners taken in the rout at Winchester and following further defeats Matilda eventually fled back to the continent. However, after the death of King Stephen's son (Eustace), Matilda's first son (Henry) become recognised as King Stephen's heir and eventually became King Henry II of England.

So even though Matilda is often forgotten from the list of British Monarchs, she was effectively England's first female ruler few a months in 1141.

Remains of the castle's Royal Apartments.

Looking along a ditch.
View from the outer bank, looking North. 
Explanation of the layout of the site.
Artist impression of the Royal Apartments.

Pictures, Wiltshire (November 2013).

If you find this post interesting please share it using the buttons below.

No comments:

Post a Comment