After the unfortunate incident with the boating accident that killed Heir Presumptive William in 1120, King Henry I had a choice to make when it came to succession planning. While he had nephews through his sister and illegitimate children (galore), it was his daughter Matilda, Holy Roman Empress since her arranged marriage at the age of eight, that he tapped to take the throne when he shuffled off his mortal coil. There was a big gathering of nobles to mark the occasion, and in the presence of Henry and Matilda, they all swore fealty to their future lady king, presumably with their fingers crossed behind their backs.
Life went on for everyone for a few years yet. Matilda was re-married to Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou, and had a couple of babies, and it was in Ajou that she learned in December of 1135 that her father the king was dead. Long live the lady king!
But not really. Matilda’s cousin Stephen acted with swiftness on the news of his uncle’s death and, despite having sworn fealty to Matilda in the presence of said uncle back in 1127, got himself crowned King of England, with the support of all those nobles who had also sworn fealty to Matilda back in 1127! And this is how the First Cousins’ War – better known as the Anarchy – began!
As you may know, there is no Queen Matilda in England’s royal history, but after a protracted and draining conflict, Stephen agreed to pass the crown to Matilda’s eldest son, Henry Plantagenet, launching a dynasty that would hold the English throne for centuries.
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