Christian, who delivered it to the Bishop of Winchester in full synod; but as the bishop, after perusing it, would not communicate its purport to the assembly, Christian boldly took it from his hand, and himself read it aloud to the conclave, who had scarcely recovered from their astonishment at Christian's courage, when the angry Henry prevented the pathetic appeal from taking effect, by again anathematizing Stephen and his adherents, and after pronouncing the empress lawfully elected as the Domina or Lady of England and Normandy, hastily dissolved the synod.
In the meantime, the sorrows of Queen Matilda were increased by the sad intelligence, that Geoffrey of Anjou had just succeeded in his endeavours to deprive her young son, Eustace, of the ducal crown of Normandy. However,
the loss of regal power and state, galling as it might be, was, to the Queen, only as a shadow compared to the cruel imprisonment of her royal lord, whose release she used every nerve to obtain, and for whose behoof she humbled herself, by addressing a respectful and imploring petition, which she herself presented in all humility to the haughty Empress, promising, in the name of Stephen, that, as he desired but his liberty, he would, on his release, renounce the crown for himself and his heirs, depart from the kingdom in peace, and entering a continental monastery, end his days as a monk; the only favour asked, being, that her son Eustace should not be deprived of the earldom of Boulogne. These efforts of the affectionate Queen, although seconded by Stephen's brother, Henry, proved of no avail, for the proud Domina, after smiling at her tears, trampled on the petition with insulting scorn, and ordered her to instantly depart, and never again enter her presence.
This harsh inflexibility was inherent in the nature of the Empress. In the days of her exaltation not a favour would she grant, even to those who had been most instrumental in raising her to her proud position. But the arrogant Bishop of Winchester, who was not to be daunted by one denial, again requested her, as a favour to himself, to permit his nephew Eustace to retain the earldoms of Mortagne and Boulogne; and trifling as the desired boon was, to her his good services had so exalted, the Empress flatly refused to grant it. This treatment disgusted the astute bishop. He perceived that the Domina only used him as her footstool to the throne, and from this hour he resolved to desert her cause, and again favour the pretensions of the less legitimate, but more reasonable sovereign, his brother Stephen.
Although possessed of the outward semblance of royalty, the Empress could not be crowned till she had gained the goodwill of the citizens of London—a task by no means easy of accomplishment. However, after some delay in negociation, the Londoners, as an act of expediency, opened the gates of their city, in June, 1141, and gave her a hearty hut not enthusiastic welcome. She took up her residence in the New Palace at Westminster, and as nothing now stood in the way of her coronation, except the necessary preparation for the grand occasion, she assumed all the airs of a tyrannical sovereign, or rather an inflexible despot. Thus, whilst Westminster Abbey was ringing with the sounds of workmen all busy preparing the church for her reception, on her inauguration day, she, by her own unjust severity, for ever drove from her grasp that sceptre which her finger tips already touched.
The Londoners were the first to feel the force of her tyranny, and the first to revolt. Her coffers being empty, she imposed on them an enormous subsidy —a step, though pressed upon her by necessity, highly injudicious. The citizens, already impoverished by largely contributing to the cause of Stephen, asked for time." The king has left us nothing," said they, in humble accents, "but if your majesty will govern us according to the good laws of the sainted Edward, or the charter of your worthy sire, King Henry, we will, with all speed, raise the required amount."
"Ye impudent knaves!" retorted the Domina, whose eyes glared with unrepressed rage," how dare ye mention charters and privileges to my very face, when ye have so recently been supporting my foes? Ye have expended your wealth in endeavours to ruin me, therefore will I in nowise relax my demand; and hark ye, knaves, if ye do not instantly fetch the money, I will force it from ye at the sword's point."
The citizens retired, but not to do the bidding of the tyrannic Domina. At a town council, they reported her despotic conduct, which so enraged their fellow Londoners, that, by an unanimous vote, they resolved to again embrace the cause of Stephen, and with this view their deputies instantly communicated with Matilda of Boulogne, who had retired to Kent, the only county that had remained faithful to her, and who promised to immediately march to their support, with an army of stalwart Kentish men, commanded by herself, her son Eustace, and Sir William Ypres.
On the receipt of this good news, the Londoners rose en masse in insurrection. Every bell in the ancient city boomed forth the alarming war cry, and amidst the clatter of arms and horses hoofs, and the busy bustle of the silent but determined citizens, a secret messenger hastened to the Empress, and rushing into her presence, exclaimed, "Fly! lady, fly! all London is in revolt! Queen Matilda's Kentish men have already crossed the Thames! To horse this instant, or you arc your foes' prisoner!"
Leaving the cloth spread on the dinner table, the haughty Domina and her chivalric followers, mounted on swift chargers, fled as for their very lives towards Oxford. No sooner had they cleared the city walls, than they were closely pursued by a number of the citizens, who, but for the fleetness of their horses, and the formidable array of their stalwart knights, would have made them prisoners. Well it was for the Empress, that in this instance she listened to the voice of her councillors, for scarcely had she left her palace, when the excited mob burst open the doors, and finding their prey gone, stole the plate, and burnt and destroyed the furniture.
The Empress reached Oxford in safety, but on the road her partizans had so deserted her, that she entered the city of learning with scarcely a follower besides the Earl of Gloucester and Milo Fitz Walter.
Immediately after the Empress had passed out at the city gates, Matilda of Boulogne entered London in triumph, where the well pleased citizens