by diverting the attention of Stephen, to secure the safety of his imperial sister, he immediately attacked Wareham. But the king was not to be drawn from the promising blockade of that castle, which could not hold out much longer, and which, on its surrender, would doubtless place the rival of his throne in his power.
At length the ponderous rams of the busy besiegers thundered at the castle gates, when to surrender or instantly fly was the Domina's only alternative. She chose the latter. The hour was night— the weather fierce and freezing, and the nearest asylum Wallingford Castle, full ten miles off. Attired only in her plain white under garments, she was lowered by a rope from the castle battlements, and attended by three knights, and led by a traitor soldier from Stephen's infantry, stealthily glided in safety through the encampment of the king's troops, and crossing the frozen Isis amidst the darkness of a foggy night, the how lings of biting Boreas, and the fleecy fall of a heavy snow storm, arrived at Wallingford, overcome by mental anguish, and exhausted by bodily suffering.
Here, ere many days had elapsed, she had the joy unexpectedly to greet Earl Robert and her eldest born, Prince Henry, from the latter of whom she had been separated during that, to her, most eventful and woe blighting period, the nearly four years passed in fruitless struggles to encircle her brow with England's diadem of royalty. But as she once more fondly clasped her dearly beloved boy in her arms, the toils and the troubles of the past, and the fears and the dangers of the future, were all banished from her care worn heart by the overwhelming influence of tender maternal love.
The young prince was consigned to the guardianship of his uncle, Earl Robert, by whose directions he was instructed "in letters, in good and civil manners, and in the art of warfare." He, however, had sojourned in England only about three years—and to the Empress years of fierce and futile strife they were—when, by the express command of Geoffrey of Anjou, who longed for the presence of his young heir, he was escorted by a train of Norman and Angevin barons back to the home of his sire. He embarked at Wareham, where he affectionately parted from Earl Robert to meet no more, for, in the following year, 1147, fever, occasioned by grief for the misfortunes of his imperial sister, put a period to the existence of the good earl.
The death of this great and high minded brother deprived the Empress of the last prop to her tottering party, which, ere his death bell had ceased to toll, was crushed by the powerful influence of King Stephen.
Deserted by her friends, and threatened by dangers on every side, the humbled Domina resolved to bid adieu to the land of her birth and her misfortunes. In the icy month of December she embarked for Normandy, amidst the taunting insults of the populace, who loudly cried out: "Away with this haughty Norman woman! we will not have her to reign over us!" After a perilous voyage she reached Normandy in safety, and in many respects quite altered m character. With the last glimpse of the white cliffs of Albion had vanished all her ambition for power and greatness, whilst those stern monitors, misfortune and adversity, had taught her to curb her passions, and induced her to fling aside worldly pomp, and expend the remaining energies of her existence in holy and righteous works. "With her husband, Earl Geoffrey, she now lived in great amity, until the disgraceful tender penchant entertained by him for the volatile French Queen, Eleanora, brought about a separation. With all the affection of a tender mother, she protected the welfare of her family ; and to the poor, whom she formerly indignantly spurned from her presence, she had become a kind protector.
In 1166, her health gave way, when having, in accordance with the spirit of the age, made peace with God by founding and liberally endowing the monastery of Notre Dame du Vœu, at Cherburg, of St. Mary de la Noue, in the diocese of Evreux, of St. Andrew's in the forest of Gouffer, and the abbey of Bordesley, in England, besides several others, which she either erected or munificently patronized, she, after a painful illness, closed her eyes in death, at Rouen, on the tenth of September, 1167, in the sixty fifth year of her age. Her remains "were, by her own particular desire, interred in the abbey of Bee, before the altar of the Virgin, where a tomb, richly adorned with silver, erected to her memory by the filial affection of her son, King Henry the Second, bore a Latin epitaph, of which the following; is a translation :—
" By father much, spouse more, but son most blest, Here Henry's mother, daughter, wife, doth rest."*
Rejoicings of Matilda and Stephen at their success — Matilda founds the hospital of St. Katherine, and the abbeys of Coggeshall and St. Saviour, at Feversham — Her health declines — Henry Plantagenet visits his uncle, King David of Scotland — Death of Matilda — Burial—Her children —Stephen endeavours to procure the coronation of his son Eustace — Henry Plantagenet lands in England — Terms of peace — Lamentable death of Eustace — William, Earl of Boulogne — Mary, the nun — Her elevation to the abbacy of Rumsey — Her forced marriage with the Earl of Flanders —She retires to the nunnery of Austrebert, and dies — Death and burial of Stephen — His body exhumed.