A novel bringing to life the tale of Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I, and her decision to fight for her rights as her father's heir
Destined from childhood to be an important piece in the intricate chess game of power, Matilda is the granddaughter of William the Conqueror but also descended, through her mother, from the ancient line of Anglo-Saxon kings. Betrothed to Emperor Henry of Germany at the age of eight, she is married at 12 and crowned Empress. By her early twenties she is a widow, and the only surviving legitimate heir to her father, Henry l of England. Forced into a second marriage to a boy 10 years younger, she gives birth to three sons, the male heirs her father longs for. However, on his sudden death, the throne is usurped by her cousin, Stephen. Matilda is forced to choose between her husband and her rights as her father's heir. Intelligent, determined, and courageous, she chooses to fight for her rights.
|Publisher:||Hale, Robert Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Hilary Green is a trained actress and spent many years teaching drama and running a youth theater company. She has also written scripts for BBC Radio and won the Kythira short story prize.
Read an Excerpt
Twice Royal Lady
By Hilary Green
Robert Hale LimitedCopyright © 2015 Hilary Green
All rights reserved.
'I don't want to be married to that man. I don't like him!'
She was standing in the ante-chamber to the great hall of the castle of Utrecht, weighed down by the robes and jewels they had heaped on her. From the other side of the door she could hear the hum of hundreds of voices. There was a rustle of skirts close by and Sister Agnes knelt to bring her face on the same level.
'Hush, my lady! You must not speak so. King Henry is a great man, the ruler of all the Germans and soon to be Emperor of the Romans like his ancestor Charlemagne. He does you great honour in asking you to become his wife.'
'But I don't like him.' She could feel her lower lip beginning to tremble. 'He's old and I can't understand what he says.'
Sister Agnes had kind eyes and for a moment her lips curled in a smile. 'Twenty-four is not old. I know it seems like it when you are only eight, but remember, this is only a betrothal. By the time you are old enough to marry the difference will not seem so great. And you are a clever girl. You will soon learn to understand German, and to speak it. Just think, as King Henry's affianced bride, you will be a queen, and one day perhaps an empress.'
'But I don't want ...'
A hand gripped her shoulder and spun her round so that she was looking up at Reverend Mother Hildegarde. Her eyes were not kind.
'You don't want? When will you learn that your petty desires are of no importance? You have a duty. The King your father has decreed this match for you and it is your duty to him, and through him to God, to obey. Must I chastise you again, to break this rebellious spirit of yours?'
The door to the hall banged open to admit Lord Roger of Clare, whom the King her father had appointed to take charge of her.
'What is going on here? His Grace is waiting. Bring the Lady Matilda in at once.'
She looked at him and something opened in her mind, like a door to a lighted room. 'Lord Roger, it would not be fitting for a queen to be whipped, would it? It would be ... would be against the dignity of the throne.' She had heard the phrase somewhere and it seemed to fit.
Behind her she heard Mother Hildegarde give a sharp tut of disapproval, but Lord Roger bent his head. 'That is so, my lady.'
She pressed her lips together to still them and lifted her chin. 'Let us go, then. We must not keep King Henry waiting.'
The hall was decked with banners and the walls were draped with rich tapestries. The heat from hundreds of wax candles blew over her face as she entered and there were fresh, sweet-smelling rushes beneath her feet. On either side of the central aisle stood hundreds of lords and ladies in brilliantly coloured gowns, who doffed their hats and curtsied as she passed and whispered to each other. Ahead of her, on a dais, stood the man she must promise to marry, King Henry of Germany, the fifth of that name. It was confusing. She knew one King Henry; her father, Henry of England, the first of that name; not that she had seen very much of him in her short life. Now there was this other Henry, a tall man with heavy dark brows and eyes that did not smile as she came towards him. She was not sure which of them frightened her more.
Her little procession reached the dais and the King stepped down to meet her. But instead of speaking to her, he looked across her head at Lord Roger and asked, in his heavily accented French, 'Have you brought the promised dowry?'
Lord Roger bowed. 'I have, Your Grace.' He snapped his fingers and four pages came forward, carrying between them two heavy chests bound with iron. They set them down and opened the lids. The chests were full of silver coins – 10,000 marks she had heard someone say.
King Henry nodded and the chests were closed and removed. Lord Roger said, 'And have you prepared the bride price as agreed, Your Grace?'
Henry gestured to a man in fur-trimmed robes who stood behind him and the man unrolled a scroll and began to read. She understood, dimly, that he was reading a list of lands and castles which now belonged to her, though she was not sure what she was supposed to do with them.
When the reading was finished Henry took hold of her hand. 'I, Henry of Germany, swear by God and on my honour that when you come to womanhood I will marry you. And in token of this I give you this ring.'
The ring was too big for her finger and the weight of the ruby in it made it slip round, so that she was afraid it would fall off. But she knew what she had to say. It had been drilled into her by the Archdeacon of Wilton, who was standing close behind her.
'I, Matilda of England, promise by God and on my honour that when I come to womanhood I will marry you.'
She heard a sound, as if the people behind her had been holding their breath and now let it out in relief. Then the archdeacon stepped forward and she knelt beside Henry while he pronounced a blessing. When he had finished, Henry took her hand again and led her up onto the dais and seated her on a throne to the right of his own. It was too high. She had to hitch herself up onto it and her feet did not touch the ground, but that did not seem to matter. Everyone in the hall was cheering and she realized they were cheering her. For the first time, she smiled.
Trestles were brought in and boards laid across them and covered in gleaming damask. The assembled company arranged themselves on benches alongside them. Serving men and women carried in silver bowls and platters and flasks of ale and wine. A whole suckling pig was brought in on a spit and set before Henry, and one of his squires carved slices for him and for her. There were barons of beef and roasted fowls and haunches of venison and mounds of bread to soak up the juices. Each dish was accompanied by a different sauce, with strange flavours she had never tasted before. Lord Roger, seated on her right, leant over to murmur, 'You must taste everything, but then you can send the dish to one of the guests as a sign of favour.' He told her which lords and ladies to honour in this way, but dish after dish kept arriving until she felt her stomach would burst. The smoke from the candles got in her eyes and the heat made her feel sleepy. Henry laughed and joked in German with his courtiers, but no one had much to say to her and after a while she felt a desperate need to empty her bladder. She looked round for Sister Agnes but she was nowhere to be seen.
At last King Henry rose to his feet and all the lords and ladies rose, too, to bow or curtsey as he swept out of the hall, with his pages and squires following. Then, to her relief, Sister Agnes reappeared and took her to a small room off the hall, where a chamber pot was waiting for her.
After she had relieved herself Lord Roger came in and beamed at her. 'Well done, my lady. You conducted yourself perfectly. I shall report as much to the King your father.'
'Am I a queen now?'
He continued to smile. 'Not quite yet. There will be a coronation, but the date for that has not been set. It will be some months ahead, I expect.'
She was not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved. After a moment's thought she said, 'I think I should like to go home now.'
She heard Sister Agnes catch her breath and Lord Roger's smile faded. He said, quite gently, 'This is your home now, my lady. You will live at King Henry's court and be attended by his people, until you are old enough to marry.'
She stared at him in consternation. It was too much. She was worn out and her head was throbbing. She could not hold back the tears any longer.
'I want to go home! I want to go home!'
The betrothal took place at Easter and the date of the coronation was set for 25 July, in the cathedral of Mainz. She was given a suite of rooms in the palace and Archbishop Bruno of Trier came to prepare her for the ceremony. She liked Bruno. He had a gentle manner and, although his expression was grave, there was a smile in the depths of his brown eyes. He brought with him a young monk, Brother Lothar, who was to teach her German, and Father Bouchard to be her personal chaplain. Learning had never been hard for her. In the convent she had learned to read and write in French and Latin and her lessons had been the most enjoyable part of her day. She quickly picked up German and was praised by her teachers.
She was given three German noblewomen as her ladies-in-waiting. They made a fuss of her and told her stories. She did not always understand them but they made her life much more pleasant than the strict regime of the convent. She was given everything she asked for – sweetmeats; a puppy; a white pony to ride. There were pages and servants to attend her. She even had her own household knights, boisterous young men who spent their time hunting and jousting and playing jokes on each other. Whenever she appeared among them they fell silent and bowed, but after she passed by she heard them start laughing again and she could not help wondering if they were laughing at her. She was intrigued and alarmed by them in equal measure, because the only men she had known up to now had been priests or the solemn-faced nobles who advised her father.
Reverend Mother Hildegarde had gone back to her convent in Wilton but Sister Agnes was still with her. She loved Agnes. Since she was sent to the convent at the age of three to be educated she was the nearest thing to a mother she had known. Sometimes she thought about England, and about her real mother, the Scottish Princess Matilda who was now Queen of England. She could remember, just, the time when she lived at court and her mother came every day to kiss her and play with her; but then she was sent away to the convent and her mother became a rare visitor. She did not miss her, or the convent. She no longer asked to go home.
She saw very little of Henry. Archbishop Bruno explained that he was much occupied by affairs of state. In his father's time there had been unrest and rebellion. Henry had joined the rebels himself and been crowned while his father was still alive. When the old king died the kingdom was left in disarray and Henry had to restore order and justice. She was happy that he was so occupied. She had no wish to spend time with him.
One day she was sitting at her lessons when one of her ladies came in to say there was a young noblewoman in the ante-chamber who desired an audience with her.
'Who is she?'
'Her name is Adeliza of Louvain, madam.'
She looked at Bruno for guidance and he nodded.
'Well, I suppose you had better ask he to come in.'
To her surprise the girl who entered was scarcely older than herself. She was fair-haired and pretty but her face was pale and she looked nervous. She came forward and fell on her knees in front of Matilda.
'My lady, I beg you to intercede with the King your husband on behalf of my father, Duke Godfrey. He supported the old king during the rebellion, because he thought that was where his duty lay and since your lord, King Henry, took the throne he has kept him in prison. He repents of having raised his sword against him and wishes to swear allegiance. My lady, we hear that he is in poor health, and while he is absent we are undefended. Wicked men attack our estates and steal the cattle and the produce. The burden is too great for my mother and her health, too, is failing. In the name of the most merciful God, I ask you to speak to the King on our behalf and beg him to release my father.'
Her eyes were full of tears and Matilda felt very sorry for her. She looked to Bruno again for advice. 'Can I? Would the King listen to me?'
Bruno bent towards her. 'It has long been regarded as fitting for a queen to intercede with the King on behalf of his subjects. I think at this time he would wish to be seen to please you.'
The prospect frightened her. She whispered, 'But how? What do I have to do?'
'You must go to him when he is in council. I will show you when and where. You must kneel and clasp his knees and repeat what Adeliza has told you. You must ask him, out of love for you, to show mercy.'
'Out of love for me?' She had seen no sign that Henry loved her, but she trusted Bruno. She turned her face to Adeliza, who was still kneeling. 'I will do my best ... but I can't promise.'
Adeliza caught her hand and kissed it. 'Thank you, my lady! A thousand thanks! I am sure the King cannot refuse you.'
Next day, on Bruno's instruction, her ladies dressed her in her finest gown and he led her through the palace to the great hall where the King held council and dispensed justice. He was seated on his throne, surrounded by a dozen or so richly dressed men, with scribes and squires and pages hovering in the background. He had a map on his knee and was frowning down at it.
A steward announced, 'Your Grace, the Lady Matilda desires audience.'
All the men turned to look at her. Henry looked surprised, as if it took him a moment to remember who she was. She was trembling, but Bruno gave her a little push and she walked forward, holding herself erect as she had been taught, and knelt at his feet. She laid her hands on his knees and felt a flutter of nerves at the liberty.
Henry put the map aside and said, quite gently, 'What is it you would ask, my lady?'
'Sire ...' Her voice was shaking but she pressed on. 'I come to intercede with you on behalf of the Lady Adeliza of Louvain. You have her father Count Godfrey in prison. He repents of lifting a sword against you and begs your forgiveness. His wife is ailing and his land is undefended, and wicked men are stealing his cattle and his crops.' She raised her eyes and found that Henry was looking at her with interest, as if seeing her properly for the first time. Emboldened, she went on, 'I beg you, sire, show mercy and let him go.'
He reached down and took her hands and raised her to her feet. 'My wife-to-be, it would not be right for me to refuse this first request. Count Godfrey shall be freed, provided he is willing to take the oath of fealty to me. You may tell Lady Adeliza that she can expect her father home very soon.'
She caught her breath in delight. She had never imagined it could be so easy. 'Oh, thank you! Thank you!' She wanted to run back to Adeliza, who was waiting outside. She took a few steps, then remembered where she was and turned back to curtsey. He was watching her with a smile.
'You may go.'
She made herself walk back up the length of the hall to where Bruno was waiting. As she reached the door she heard voices behind her, and a little laughter, but it was not unkind. Bruno congratulated her and Adeliza fell on her knees and kissed her hands.
'My lady, thank you! We shall always be in your debt – always!'
As they walked back to her own rooms she asked Bruno, 'Will the King always do what I ask him?'
He shook his head. 'I fear not, my lady. There are bound to be times when necessity forces him to say no. But you have made a good start. I think he will always listen to you, if you speak as persuasively as you did today.'
On the day before her coronation Roger Pole came to see her. He had remained at King Henry's court but had spent most of his time in discussion with him and with his council.
'Are you ready for tomorrow?'
'Yes – I think so.'
'You have been told what will happen and what you must do?'
'Just remember, my lady, that you are twice royal, both through your father's line and through your mother's. He is son to the great William of Normandy, who conquered England, but your mother is the daughter of the sainted Queen Margaret of Scotland, who was sister to Edgar Aethling, the chosen successor of King Edward, whom they call the Confessor. Their father was Edward, the son of Edward Ironside, and through him they can trace their descent back to Cerdic, who founded the line of the kings of Wessex. So in you the blood of the ancient kings of England is united with that of the present royal line. When you walk through the cathedral tomorrow to your own coronation, let everyone see that you are a true queen, by blood as well as by marriage.'
Excerpted from Twice Royal Lady by Hilary Green. Copyright © 2015 Hilary Green. Excerpted by permission of Robert Hale Limited.
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