Friday, 30 August 2013

wondering what could have been...again

This is from the Illuminated
Chronicle of Matthew Paris,
held in the British Library
You may recall, a while ago I was wondering what our royalty might have looked like if the rules of succession had been changed earlier.  If the throne had passed down Queen Victoria's daughter's line (not a good plan), or to George II's granddaughter, Augusta, which would have been very colourful, but had a bit of an unfortunate Nazi patch along the way.  It all made me kind of glad that we didn't.  However, a friend suggested I look back in time further, to King Henry I, and his daughter, Matilda.

Here's Henry, with his model castle and secret diary.

Back in Henry's day there wasn't actually any set of rules as to who should inherit the throne, although there was a presumption of male primogeniture, Kings generally outlined who they wanted to rule after them, and hoped that that would happen.  Sometimes it did.  Sometimes it didn't.  When it didn't things got messy.

Henry I was the fourth son of William I - the first of England's Norman monarchs.  William ruled England and Normandy, and willed that when he died his eldest son, Robert, would rule Normandy, and his second son, William would rule England.  This went ahead, and the brothers agreed that should one of them die, the other would take over ruling the other Kingdom.  Unfortunately, when William II died (a hunting accident - quite the in thing with Kings), Robert was away on crusade, and Henry took the throne, becoming Henry I.  Not surprisingly Robert was not best pleased, and invaded in 1101, but the brothers were able to sort it out in a treaty, declaring Henry I King.  Just to be on the safe side, Henry kept Robert locked up for the rest of his life.


Matilda of Scotland, Henry'swife (pic from here)
Henry married Matilda of Scotland, and had a son, William, and a daughter, Matilda (ah these royal families and their original names).  Unfortunately William died at sea, and so Henry named his daughter, Matilda as heir.  

Women were not accepted as monarchs at the time, and considering Henry's dubious claim to the throne, it would have been truly amazing if she had managed to claim it succesfully.  As it was, Stephen, her cousin, stepped in to claim it.

Stephen was the son of the third son of William I, but his father had died young.  Stephen had done very well for himself in the court of King Henry I, and was in a good position to take the throne, but still had to contend with constant battles from Empress Matilda (of Anjou and, later, Normandy), and later, her son, Henry FitzEmpress (which is a rather marvellous matrilineal name for a boy - see my post on naming names for more on that topic).  This period of civil war in Normandy and England (1135-1153) is known as The Anarchy, as both sides were too busy bugging each other to bother with ruling.
Henry II - Matilda's son, and the
first of the Plantagenets

With the death of his own son, Eustace, who was said to have been struck down by the wrath of god while plundering church lands, Steven lost his will to fight, and came to an agreement that rather than the throne passing to his second son, it would pass to Henry FitzEmpress.  This ended The Anarchy, but Stephen would die the next year too, with the throne passing, as promised, to Henry II.

This was Henry Plantagenet, who married Eleanor of Aquitane, and I'm ever so glad he did, because I love the film The Lion in Winter.

Thinking of The Lion in Winter, I do love a historical drama, especially with Kings and Queens and intrigue in it... I loved The White Queen (especially Richard III, ahem), I'm kind of enjoying The Borgias, and Game of Thrones takes all the good bits from history and mashes them up into perfection (for a story - wouldn't want to live in Kings Landing ta).  What's your favourite Historical Drama?  Films, TV series, and pseudo historical dramas are all welcome.