Crafly designs of Stephen — He hastens to England on the death of Henry the First — His favourable reception — His accession — Coronation of Matilda of Boulogne — Her parentage — Her marriage with Stephen — Stephen's prowess at the battle of Tinchebraye — His avoidance of the fatal White Ship — Matilda's London residence — Stephen signs a charter of Liberties — Immediately violates it — The barons build a castle — Invasion of the Welsh and Scotch — Stephen falls into a lethargy — The partizans of the Empress Matilda raise the standard of revolt — Normandy invaded —Matilda besieges Dover castle — The battle of the standard — Matilda mediates peace with the Scotch King — Stephen quarrels with the clergy.
S neither the dying King Henry nor his daughter, the Empress Matilda, suspected the fidelity of Earl Stephen who with all the semblance of sincerity
wept tears of sorrow over the death couch of his uncle, they took no precautions to guard against his treachery. Indeed, on the death of her sire so surely did the Empress consider the thrice sworn circlet of royalty hers, that she took no immediate steps for embarking for England, Not so, however, with the far seeing Earl Stephen, for long he fore fever had closed the eyes of his too confiding uncle King Henry, in death, had his busy emissaries secretly formed an fill powerful party in the land, who waited hut for the auspicious moment to unsheath their unyielding swords, and, blessed by the benedictions of the power fullest prelates of the nation, thunder forth the cry of "Long live King Stephen! down with the Empress! down with the woman monarch !"
Immediately the life of his royal undo had departed, Stephen sped to England with a precipitation that betrayed his anxiety to ascend that throne, which to him proved indeed a troublesome and a tottering one. He embarked at the small port of Whitsand, and braving a wintry sea in a frail vessel, landed on the Kentish coast, amidst the ominous welcomes of a thunder storm, so terrific, that, says Malmsbury, "the world seemed well nigh about to be dissolved."
Dover and Canterbury closed their gates against him in terror; but disregarding these inauspicious incidents, and relying on the distaste of the nation to a female reign, on the influence of his powerful friends, and on his own prestige, as the most popular personage in England, he boldly pushed on to London, whose gates flew open to the tramping Round of his horses, and whose citizens "with their myriad voices joyously hailed him as their King. No less favourably was he received by the good citizens of Winchester, who, influenced by his brother, Henry de Blois, their bishop, freely admitted him within the gates of the royal city, and, to crown his good fortune, William de Pont de la Arche resigned to him the keys of the royal castle, which at once put him in possession of the royal jewels and £100,000 in money, a sum equal in the present day to about a million and a half, and which he speedily expended in futile attempts to firmly fix the crown on his usurping brow.
Meanwhile, Hugh Bigod, the late king's steward, and a hot partizan of Stephen's, solemnly swore before an assembly of the barons and prelates, that King Henry on his death bed had disinherited the Empress Matilda, and constituted his favourite nephew, Earl Stephen, his successor. This bold statement of Bigod's—whether true or false —afforded the assembly what they so much desired, a pretext for breaking the oaths of fealty they had thrice sworn to the daughter of the late king. Accordingly the Archbishop of Canterbury absolved them of their vows, which he declared were null and void, as the English had never suffered a woman to reign over them; and on the twenty sixth of December, the day dedicated to his titular saint, Stephen, after swearing to restore the good laws of the sainted Edward, was crowned at Westminster, amidst the deafening acclamations of his faithful Londoners.
Matilda of Boulogne, sometimes styled Maud of Boulogne, the subject of the present memoir, and the consort of Stephen, did not arrive in England till the spring of the succeeding year ; when on Easter Sunday, 1136, the solemnization of her coronation took place, accompanied by gorgeous pageants, and succeeded by hearty and long continued rejoicings, for the people beheld in her a worthy successor to Matilda the Good, whose memory they still fondly cherished.
Very little is known of the early life of Matilda. She is said to have received her education in England, and the Abbey of Bermondsey, of which her mother was a munificent patroness, has been pointed to as the school of her childhood, but this is only conjecture.
Her mother, Mary of Scotland, was the daughter of Malcolm Canmore, king of the Scots, and sister of Matilda the Good*,
first consort of Henry the First of England.
Mary of Scotland was educated with her elder sister in the royal nunneries of Rumsey and Wilton, and like the good Matilda, she, in the bloom of her maidenhood, resigned the seclusion of the cloister for the endearments of the married state. In compliance with the wish of her brother in-law, King Henry, she gave her hand in marriage to Eustace, Count of Boulogne, a knight renowned for deeds of chivalry in the Holy Land, and a possessor