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Empress Maud (Matilda)

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Maud was the eldest, legitimate daughter of Henry I of England.  Her major claim to fame is that she warred for 19 years with Stephen of Blois, her cousin (both were grandchildren of William the Conqueror), for the throne of England.  This period of English history is known as ‘The Anarchy’.

Maud resolved to take this path after the death of her brother, Henry, who went down with the White Ship in 1120 AD.  His death left King Henry with no legitimate sons (and up to twenty illegitimate ones).  In English law, illegitimate sons could not inherit, which left only Maud to take the throne.  While Henry was still alive, he tried very hard to get the barons to swear they would follow Maud.  Afterwards … Stephen felt that as a legitimate male, even if descended through his mother, Adela, a daughter of William.

Stephen and his wife, Matilda, were crowned King and Queen of England in 1135, shortly after King Henry’s death.  They had crossed the English Channel from Normandy more quickly than Maud and claimed the throne.

Both Stephen and Maud, of course, were Normans.  The spoke French, they held lands in Normandy and France, and hadn’t actually spent very much time in England before they began fighting over it.

“Matilda is the Latin form of Maud, and the name of the only surviving legitimate child of King Henry I. She was born in 1101, generally it is said at Winchester, but recent research indicates that she was actually born at the Royal Palace in Sutton Courtenay (Berkshire).

In something of a political coup for her father, Matilda was betrothed to the German Emperor, Henry V, when she was only eight. They were married on 7th January 1114. She was twelve and he was thirty-two. Unfortunately there were no children and on the Emperor’s death in 1125, Matilda was recalled to her father’s court.

Matilda’s only legitimate brother had been killed in the disastrous Wreck of the White Ship in late 1120 and she was now her father’s only hope for the continuation of his dynasty. The barons swore allegiance to the young Princess and promised to make her queen after her father’s death. She herself needed heirs though and in April 1127, Matilda found herself obliged to marry Prince Geoffrey of Anjou and Maine (the future Geoffrey V, Count of those Regions). He was thirteen, she twenty-three. It is thought that the two never got on. However, despite this unhappy situation they had had three sons in four years.”  http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon25a.html

Unfortunately, when Maud did have a chance to claim the crown, the people of London refused to crown her and drove her from the city.  The chronicles report that she was haughty and disagreeable (Norman, remember, overseeing Saxon subjects).  King Stephen’s Queen, Matilda, though also Norman, had behaved more to their liking.  Maud never came close to gaining the throne again.  http://www.guide-to-castles-of-europe.com/empress-matilda.html

The final outcome of The Anarchy was Maud’s retirement from the field in 1147 at the death of her greatest supporter, her half-brother Robert (who was illegitimate).  Once King Stephen’s son, Eustace died in 1153, it allowed for “the possibility of a peaceful settlement between Stephen and his rival, the young Henry of Anjou. According to William of Newburgh, King Stephen was “grieved beyond measure by the death of the son who he hoped would succeed him; he pursued warlike preparations less vigorously, and listened more patiently than usual to the voices of those urging peace.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustace_IV,_Count_of_Boulogne

Here is a timeline for Maud’s life:  http://womenshistory.about.com/od/empressmatilda/a/matilda_timelin.htm

King Owain Gwynedd (King of North Wales) took advantage of The Anarchy to consolidate his lands and power.  This period in the twelfth century is the setting for my Gareth and Gwen Medieval Mysteries.


Anglo-Saxon Law (to 1066)

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Anglo-Saxon law didn’t come to an end with the coming of William of Normandy in 1066, but it was definitely changed.

Norman law was based in feudalism and heavily influenced by the Church.  Anglo-Saxon law had been developed over a long period of time and while influenced by Christianity in later centuries, was more egalitarian.  It was based on a system of courts, the main one being the ‘hundred court’.  “The hundred court met every four weeks, in the open if possible and usually at a prominent local landmark that gave its name to the hundred. The king’s reeve usually presided over the court. It had many functions, and was a mixture of parish council business meeting, planning enquiry, and magistrates’ court.  . .

Edward the Elder decreed that the hundred courts were to judge the worthiness of every law-suit and to appoint a day for it to be heard and settled. They did not have to hear the case there and then. Above the hundred court was the shire court which met twice a year, usually about Easter and Michaelmas (29th September), and was presided over by the ealdorman, the bishop and the king’s senior reeve in the area, the shire-reeve (or sheriff), with all the major landowners in the shire, or their reeves, present. Law-suits made up only a small part of the shire court’s time, which was filled up with all the other business essential to the smooth running of the shire. Law-suits could be passed up to the shire court from the hundred court, though we are not sure why this would be necessary. Presumably, it would occur in cases where the hundred court was unable to reach a judgement, or where disputes crossed the boundary between two hundreds.”  http://www.regia.org/law.htm

As to the specifics of the laws, compared to the laws in Wales, this following pages have extensive lists of what they actually entailed:  http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/560-975dooms.html

In general, like in Wales, crimes were punishable by fines, more than death or dismemberment (hallmarks of Norman law).  Similarly to Wales, women in Anglo-Saxon England had rights:  “The Law of Cnut stated: “neither a widow nor a maiden is to be forced to marry a man whom she herself dislikes, nor to be given for money, unless he chooses to give anything of his own free will.”  Cnut’s law also specified that if a woman’s husband died before they had any children, she was entitled to one-third of his land (called “dower,” under common English law,) plus her morgegifu (gifts at the time of marriage).  Despite religious expectations, divorce laws were considered lax: Anglo-Saxon King Ecelbert passed specific laws that gave women the right to abandon a marriage if she found it “displeasing.””  http://research.uvu.edu/mcdonald/Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-Saxon%20Women/mindyMain.html

From my reading, I am unsure as to the actual status of illegitimate children and their inheritance (unlike in Wales, where illegitimate children inherited equally with legitimate ones).  William of Normandy himself was a bastard, but yet inherited in Normandy (and then conquered England), so laws on the subject are not always set in stone.

“The Anglo-Saxon legal system rested on the fundamental opposition between folkright and privilege. Folkright is the aggregate of rules, whether formulated or not, that can be appealed to as an expression of the juridical consciousness of the people at large or of the communities of which it is composed. It is tribal in origin and is differentiated on highly localized bases. Thus, there was a folkright of East and West Saxons, Mercians, Northumbrians, Danes, and Welshmen, and these main folkright divisions persisted even after the tribal kingdoms disappeared in the 8th and 9th centuries. The responsibility for the formulation and application of the folkright rested, in the 10th and 11th centuries, with the local shire moots (assemblies); the national council of the realm, or witan, only occasionally used folkright ideas. . . .

Before the 10th century an individual’s actions were considered not as exertions of his own will but as acts of his kinship group. Personal protection and revenge, oaths, marriage, wardship, and succession were all regulated by the law of kinship. What began as a natural alliance later became a means of enforcing responsibility and keeping lawless individuals in order. As the associations proved insufficient, other collective bodies, such as guilds and townships, assumed these functions. In the period before the Norman Conquest, much regulation was formalized by the king’s legislation in order to protect the individual. In the area of property, for example, witnesses were required at cattle sales, not to validate the sale but as protection against later claims on the cattle. Some ordinances required the presence of witnesses for all sales outside the town gate, and others simply prohibited sales except in town, again for the buyer’s protection.”   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/25121/Anglo-Saxon-law#

(updating and posting again 9/11/11)