7. Empress Maud

Henry’s daughter, wife, and mother

Maud sat in her room, listening as the bells mourned her husband. She had given silver for this mass, a month after his death. Her husband, her emperor, her world. She had been a child when she came to these lands, still only a girl when she had been married. Heinrich had been so kind from the beginning, always patient with his young bride, but also always insisting on her rights as empress. And she had become an empress, crowned in the church of Saint Peter himself. What man could replace Henry, either in affection or in rank?

More than one man had offered to replace him. Duke Frederick, her husband’s nephew, was discrete, but clearly hoped to secure a good match for the imperial widow. And why not? She was still young, a woman with great wealth and great skill in administering her wealth. Frederick and his rival, Lothar, were already married, and hadn’t pursued her, but marriage with the dowager empress would suit many men’s ambitions.

But what of her ambitions? Back in England, her father had lost his only legitimate son years ago. He had married again, but his young wife hadn’t given him any sons yet. If she returned, could he be persuaded to make her his heir? And would they accept her? She was his lawful daughter, but she had spent almost all her life with the Germans. She would seem a foreigner to the lords of England and Normandy. Here she spoke the language, knew the people, and was well liked. Wealth, love, a man of her choice – should she risk it, for an uncertain throne in England?


And in the year 1152 Matilda, wife and queen of King Stephen of England, died. All the people mourned her passing, and her husband had her entombed most nobly in the abbey of Favesham which they had founded some years previously. King Stephen grieved most deeply for the loss of his queen, who all men knew had been the better ruler; for Stephen was a good but mild man, and his queen had given him much advice. And the next year his son Eustace also died, and the king was filled with care, for his youngest son was only sixteen years old, and had not been trained in kingship. But he had little time to teach his son, for the very next year Stephen himself died, and was buried with his wife and son at Favesham.

And then came a bad time, for the young king William was not ready to rule, and the powerful men of the kingdom, namely Earl Robert of Leicester and Earl Geoffrey of Essex, caused much strife, such that men said it would have been better that his daughter Maud had returned to claim her father’s throne. But that lady had chosen to remain in the country of her first husband, Henry, king of the Romans; after his death, she had married Henry of Bavaria, called the proud, and had sons with him. And after the death of Emperor Conrad her oldest son Henry was crowned king of the Germans.

What really happened…

The widowed Empress Maud obeyed her father King Henry’s summons to return to England, where she was declared his heir and married to Geoffrey of Anjou. Maud didn’t like her second husband, who was only 15, and much less impressive than her first husband, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. Still, they managed to have 3 sons, including Henry FitzEmpress (as he was originally known – Plantagenet came later). She did NOT get the throne her father had promised, instead fighting a long civil war against her cousin Stephen – widely considered a nice guy but kind of useless as far as ruling went.

Maud lived long enough to see her son crowned king as Henry II of England, and to see most of her friends and enemies die. Her epitaph says it all as far as many medieval women were concerned: Here lies Henry’s daughter, wife, and mother; great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest by motherhood.


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