Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Matilda of Boulogne

MATILDA of Boulogne (1103?–1152), wife of Stephen, king of England, was the only child of Eustace III, count of Boulogne, and his wife, Mary, daughter of Malcolm III, king of Scots, and Margaret, sister of Eadgar the Ætheling. The marriage of Eustace and Mary took place soon after that of Mary's sister [see Matilda, 1080–1118] with the English king, Henry I, and Matilda of Boulogne was probably born about 1103. Before 1125 Henry gave her in marriage to his favourite nephew, Stephen of Blois, whom he had endowed with large possessions in England and Normandy. Eustace also held considerable estates in England, and these, as well as the county of Boulogne, had passed to Matilda by his death shortly before her marriage. The possession of Boulogne gave her husband command over the shortest passage between Gaul and England, and thus enabled Stephen, on Henry's death in December 1135, to seize the English crown before its destined heiress, the Empress Matilda (1102–1167) [q. v.] could enforce her claim. On Easter day, 22 March 1136, his wife was crowned at Westminster. When the barons rose against him in 1138, she besieged one of them, Walkelyn Maminot, in Dover castle by land, while a squadron of ships from Boulogne blockaded him by sea till he was driven to surrender. In the spring of 1139, she reconciled her husband with her uncle David I, king of Scots [q. v.]; the terms of the treaty were settled between her and David's son, Henry [q. v.], at Durham, 9 April. When at the close of the year civil war began on the empress's landing in England, the queen exerted herself to gain the alliance of France; she went over sea with her eldest son, Eustace, and in February 1140 secured his investiture as duke of the Normans and his betrothal with the French king's sister Constance, whom she brought back with her to England. In 1141, when Stephen had been made prisoner at the battle of Lincoln, and a council met at Winchester (7 April) under his brother, bishop Henry [see Henry of Blois], to acknowledge the empress as lady of England, the queen sent a clerk of her household with a letter to the assembly, entreating for her husband's restoration. This appeal having failed, she endeavoured to negotiate with the empress for his release, but in vain. Meanwhile, however, she was busy, in concert with Stephen's favourite captain, William of Ypres, rallying the king's scattered partisans, and gathering a host, which now advanced wasting, plundering, slaughtering all before it, almost to the gates of London, where the empress had set up her court and was making herself so unpopular that the citizens drove her out at the queen's approach. Matilda of Boulogne established her headquarters in London, obtained an interview with bishop Henry at Guildford, and persuaded him to return to his natural allegiance. When the empress besieged him at Winchester, she was speedily besieged in her turn by ‘the king's queen with all her strength’ (Engl. Chron. a. 1140) so effectually that she was driven to withdraw. Her half-brother, Robert, earl of Gloucester [q. v.], was captured in the retreat, and the next six months were spent in negotiations between his wife and the queen for his release in exchange for Stephen. Matilda herself took charge of the captive earl, putting him under no physical restraint, but merely leading him about in her train, till the exchange was effected, November 1141. Stephen and Matilda re-entered London together, and on Christmas-day they both ‘wore their crowns’ in Canterbury Cathedral. In 1147 Matilda shared with William of Ypres the task of mediation between Stephen and Archbishop Theobald, whose appointment to Canterbury ten years before had been partly owed to her influence. In 1148–9 she resided chiefly at Canterbury, to superintend the building of Faversham Abbey, which she and Stephen had founded on land obtained from William of Ypres in exchange for her manor of Lillechurch, Kent. At the end of April 1152 she fell sick at Hedingham Castle, Essex; she sent for her confessor, Ralph, prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, and died three days later, 3 May. She was buried in Faversham Abbey. In 1136 or 1137 Matilda and her husband had founded, for the souls of her father ‘and of our children,’ a preceptory of Knights Templars at Cowley in Oxfordshire. In 1142 she founded a Cistercian abbey on her lands at Coggeshall in Essex. The Hospital of St. Katharine by the Tower of London was established by her in 1148, on land acquired by exchange with the canons of Trinity, Aldgate, for the souls of two of her children, Baldwin and Matilda, who were buried in Trinity Church. This younger Matilda was born in 1134, and betrothed in 1136 to Count Waleran of Meulan. Three children survived: Eustace, who died in August 1153; William, who became by marriage Earl of Warenne, but died childless in 1160; and Mary, who was devoted as an infant to the religious life, and was brought up first in the nunnery of Stratford, then in a cell founded for her by her mother, at Lillechurch, and afterwards (probably on the transfer of Lillechurch to William of Ypres in 1148) removed to Romsey, where she became abbess. On her brother William's death Henry II recognised her as heiress of Boulogne, and obtained a papal dispensation for her marriage with Matthew, son of the Count of Flanders. She died in 1182, leaving two daughters, through the younger of whom, Matilda, the county of Boulogne ultimately passed to the house of Brabant.

[William of Malmesbury, vol. ii.; Gervase of Canterbury, vol. i., ed. Stubbs; Henry of Huntingdon, ed. Arnold; Chronicles of Stephen, &c., vols. i. iii. iv., ed. Howlett (all in Rolls Series); Continuation of Florence of Worcester, ed. Thorpe (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Hist. of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, in App. to William of Newburgh, ed. Hearne, vol. iii.; Vita Theobaldi & Chronicon Beccense, in Lanfranc's Works, ed. Giles, vol. i.; Ordericus Vitalis, in Duchesne, Historiæ Normannorum Scriptores; Monasticon Anglicanum, vols. iv. v. vi.; Strickland's Queens of England, vol. i.; Everett Green's Princesses of England, vol. i.]

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