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Gewalt, Krieg und Geschlecht im Mittelalter

Edited By Amalie Fößel

Gewalt und Krieg sind heute wie auch in der Vormoderne keine ausschließlich männliche Domäne, sondern Räume der Männer und Frauen gleichermaßen. In Zeiten kriegerischer Auseinandersetzungen werden Geschlechterrollen ausgebildet, konforme und abweichende Verhaltensweisen ausprobiert und Konzepte von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit entwickelt. Erstmals für die Epoche des Mittelalters (7.-16. Jahrhundert) werden daraus resultierende Fragestellungen im interdisziplinären und kulturübergreifenden Vergleich untersucht. Die Beiträge erörtern Geschlechterbeziehungen auf Darstellungs- und Handlungsebene und beschreiben Interaktionsformen in Kontexten von Gewalt und Krieg. Über den europäischen Raum mit seinen zahlreichen Fehden und Heerzügen hinaus werden auch die Kreuzzüge in den Blick genommen.

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Queens as Military Leaders in the High Middle Ages (Johanna Wittmann)

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Johanna Wittmann

Queens as Military Leaders in the High

Middle Ages

Abstract: This chapter focuses on queens as military leaders during the 11th and 12th centuries. It explores some of the contexts in which queens assumed military leadership roles before attempting a more in-depth analysis of historiographical representations of Empress Matilda and Queen Matilda of Boulogne as military leaders during the so-called ‘Anarchy’.

Just about this time too the queen, a woman of subtlety and a man’s resolution, […] expecting to obtain by arms what she could not by supplication, brought a magnificent body of troops across in front of London from the other side of the river and gave orders that they should rage most furiously around the city with plunder and arson, violence and the sword, in sight of the countess and her men.1

With its vivid depiction of Queen Matilda of Boulogne (c. 1103–1152) in the turmoil of the so-called “Anarchy”, the twelfth-century anonymous text known as the Gesta Stephani illuminates a phenomenon which has received surprisingly little attention in recent research: the queen as a military leader. In the past three decades, historians have discarded simplistic readings of medieval warfare as an exclusively male domain and currently are in the process of reassessing the diverse roles of men and women beyond the immediate context of the battlefield.2 In these ongoing debates, queens occasionally have been accorded a ←183 | 184→place among the many high-medieval noblewomen habitually assuming military responsibilities. Only few studies focused specifically on queens as military leaders, however.3 Thus, although a comprehensive investigation lies outside the scope of this paper, it nevertheless seeks to explore this phenomenon by focusing on eleventh- and twelfth-century queens and concentrating on two questions: Did high-medieval queens generally share with other noblewomen a predisposition for assuming military leadership roles? How did contemporary chroniclers represent queens as military leaders in contexts of complex interpersonal constellations?

The fact that only few eleventh- and twelfth-century queens have been acknowledged in the context of military affairs can partly be attributed to the relative lack of extant sources as well as their problematic nature. Eleventh-century historiographers occasionally noted queenly military involvement, but they did not usually specify any details, thus prohibiting sustained analysis of these activities for individual women. Owing to the revival of historiographic writing in England at the beginning of the twelfth century, however, the “Empress” Matilda (1102–1167), Queen Matilda of Boulogne and other key players of the English civil war (1135–1153) appear relatively well illuminated. William of Malmesbury and the anonymous author of the Gesta Stephani are among the numerous ←184 | 185→chroniclers who devoted considerable attention to the conflict. Their accounts provide invaluable insights into contemporary perceptions of (queenly) military leadership.

Following these initial considerations, the first part of the chapter argues that despite the paucity of available sources, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that eleventh- and early twelfth-century queens frequently acted in military leadership capacities and used military resources to cooperate with their family members or pursue independent purposes. While primarily analyzing and comparing examples from the English realm, instances of queenly military activities from the German and French sources will also be considered. Shifting the focus from the historical to the historiographical level, the second part of the chapter is concerned with narrative representations of military agency in historiographical writing. Taking advantage of the detailed accounts of the English civil war, it analyzes depictions of the martial activities of the “Empress” Matilda and Queen Matilda of Boulogne. Focusing on two of the key contemporary sources, the Gesta Stephani and William of Malmesbury’s Historia Novella, the analysis argues that rather than generalized preconceptions of women and war, each author exploited the flexibility of gender concepts and depicted queenly military leadership so as to suit his specific objectives.

Queens as military leaders during the eleventh and early twelfth centuries: An overview

The now somewhat outdated perception that medieval women had no part in military activities was primarily based on the observation that they were not normally present on the battlefield themselves.4 This assessment generally extents to queens as well. As a cursory overview shows, most eleventh- and twelfth-century royal consorts were no “warrior queens” engaging in conflict on the battlefield. This paper, however, follows Jean Truax and David Hay in their contention that military leadership did not necessitate participation in combat but could more generally denote the state of being in command of troops, campaigns and resources.5 Studying the sources on the basis of this broader definition, it becomes clear that a queen’s participation in rulership often meant that she possessed the means to act as a military leader.

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Queens as military deputies: Kunigunde of Luxembourg (c. 975–1040), Matilda of England (c. 1102–1167) and Matilda of Boulogne (c. 1103–1152)

Most eleventh- and twelfth-century rulers in England, as well as in France and the Roman-German Empire, faced internal strife and/or external attack, which meant that multiple scenes of conflict were likely to arise at the same time. Under these circumstances, it was inevitable that military leadership had to be delegated in order to secure effective military control. As a survey of available sources shows, queens often had an integral part to play in these situations and temporarily assumed military leadership positions as their husband’s deputies.

Early in the eleventh century, Empress Kunigunde of Luxembourg oversaw the defense of Saxony’s eastern border against Duke Boleslaw I Chrobry. When King Henry II had succeeded to the throne in 1002, the powerful duke seems to have perceived his position in the Eastern margraviates to be at stake.6 Once an opportunity had arisen, Boleslaw occupied parts of the territory, relying on kinship ties and a wider network of allies within the Saxon nobility. Eventually, a short-lived compromise was achieved, and Boleslaw received parts of the margraviates as a fief from Henry, but in the immediate aftermath of the investiture in Merseburg conflict erupted once more. This period of prolonged military struggle in the important eastern frontier area was particularly problematic because parts of the Saxon nobility remained sympathetic to the duke and proved hesitant to support the king.7 Setting off to deal with rebellions in the western part of the Empire in 1012, Henry entrusted the freshly invested archbishop of Magdeburg with the responsibility of undertaking further action against Boleslaw.8 Soon after his designation, however, the archbishop died unexpectedly. According to the contemporary account of Thietmar of Merseburg, who was exceptionally well-placed to record first-hand information because of his close ties to the imperial court, it was Queen Kunigunde who now took the lead. His account shows how the royal couple cooperated effectively: Kunigunde sent Geso, her cup-bearer (pincerna), to inform her husband of the latest developments. Henry responded by sending him back with the instruction that Kunigunde was now to be in charge: The king ←186 | 187→was astonished at the news and, after asking how things stood with us, quickly sent Geso to advise the queen that she should see to the welfare of the realm.9 In comparison to the archbishop, who had been entrusted with military duties specifically, Kunigunde’s new responsibilities appear to have been of a more extensive nature. But although Thietmar’s statement seems vague, it soon became clear that Kunigunde’s duties were not a matter of form but included actual military command, when Duke Boleslaw lounged an attack on the castle of Lebusa. According to Thietmar, the queen was informed of what was happening and she immediately took decisive action: Messengers hurried to Merseburg to inform the queen of these events. […] Upon hearing the news, I hurried off to see the queen who ordered me and all my countrymen to take up position on the Mulde, and to have everything in readiness for the king’s arrival.10 Although Kunigunde’s appointment and military action both proceeded on an ad-hoc basis, she clearly acted with considerable authority when ordering the king’s vassals to deliver the military aid that was needed. No more incidents were recorded for the duration, which may indicate the effectiveness of the queen’s arrangements despite the divided loyalties of the duchy’s nobility.11 Given the smooth transition of responsibilities after the archbishop’s death and the queen’s overall efficiency, it seems likely that Kunigunde had prior knowledge of the military situation in Saxony and was familiar with strategies of defense. In 1016, she seems to have overseen and participated in a meeting with the magnates to discuss the defense of the duchy, which sustains the impression that she was involved in military decision-making and possessed the necessary expertise and experience to act as a military leader.12 This ability meant that Henry was able to cooperate with and delegate military responsibilities to her at a moment of crisis.

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Kunigunde’s assumption of military responsibilities in the absence of her husband bears a striking resemblance to an incident in the Anglo-Norman realm, where Queen Matilda of Boulogne likewise assumed military responsibility temporarily at a particularly critical moment early in King Stephen’s reign. Stephen had occupied the throne in 1135, ignoring the claim of his cousin, the “Empress” Matilda. The ensuing struggle lasted until the succession settlement of 1153, which installed Matilda’s son Henry as Stephen’s rightful heir. Shortly before the commencement of the Angevin initiative in England marked the beginning of the most active period of the English civil war in 1139, Matilda’s stepbrother Robert of Gloucester officially renounced his fealty to King Stephen and the defection of the earl gave rise to a series of rebellions in south-western England. Additionally, shortly before this occurrence, King David of Scotland had invaded the north of England, perhaps at the instigation of “Empress” Matilda herself.13 Like Emperor Henry II in the previous example, Stephen thus faced a strategic dilemma, confronting multiple scenes of conflict at the same time. He too counted on the assistance of his wife, Queen Matilda of Boulogne, who now stepped in as a military commander. Writing at the Norman monastery of Saint-Evroul, Orderic Vitalis provided a detailed account of the events in his Historia Ecclesiastica (c. 1114/15–1141) and presented the royal couple’s cooperation as a well-thought-out sequence of actions:

He himself first of all besieged Hereford […]. Secondly, the queen besieged Dover with a strong force on the land side, and sent word to her friends and kinsmen and dependants in Boulogne to blockade the foe by sea. The people of Boulogne proved obedient, gladly carried out their lady’s commands and, with a great fleet of ships, closed the narrow strait to prevent the garrison receiving any supplies.14

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Like Kunigunde, Matilda emerges as a commander, but as an even more active one. While Kunigunde reacted to an external attack and oversaw the defensive campaign until the king’s return, Matilda appears to have led an offensive operation. She seems to have commanded the siege of Dover personally. Additionally, she reached out to allies in Boulogne and ordered her vassals to arrange a sea blockage. Apart from her role as a queen consort, she could evidently draw on the authority she commanded as the heiress and countess of Boulogne and the personal networks and material resources which the county and honor of Boulogne provided. This constellation would prove a huge asset to Stephen’s party throughout the remainder of the war, as will be discussed in more detail in the second part of this chapter.

A very similar example of a queen assuming military responsibilities in a difficult situation dates to the reign of Henry V. In this instance, the queen’s involvement was not due to multiple scenes of conflict but resulted from difficulties connected to the emperor’s lengthy absence in Italy. Queen Matilda of England had accompanied Henry to Rome, where they had remained over the course of the Easter festivities of 1117.15 After they departed from the city, the imperial couple travelled north in an attempt to consolidate Henry’s hold on the Matildine lands.16 By August 1118, however, the court had received news that a strong opposition had formed in the German territories. In order to deal with this threat effectively, Henry was obliged to leave in a rush, taking only a few companions with him. In this situation, Matilda emerges as a key figure. She stayed in Italy with the rest of the entourage, filling in for the absent emperor. Charters show her presiding over the royal court – a task she had already performed when Henry was still present in Italy.17 More significantly, however, Henry had left Matilda in charge of the remaining contingent of troops, as a statement in Ekkehard of Aura’s continuation of Frutolf of Michelsberg’s chronicle (c. 1125) implies: [T]he emperor raged with ←189 | 190→anger. […] Leaving his troops with the queen in Italy, he appeared very unexpectedly in Germany.18 Matilda remained in Italy for the rest of the year, before overseeing the troops’ return and rejoining Henry in November 1119. Clearly, Queen Matilda did not command defensive or offensive campaigns in the same way that Kunigunde of Luxembourg and Matilda of Boulogne had. Nevertheless, she and Henry, too, seem to have been operating as a team in this instance. Rather than responding to a military threat directly, she stepped in when the practical problems resulting from the emperor’s sudden departure required her to do so. She ensured that the return of the imperial entourage and troops proceeded smoothly. Although under different circumstances, she therefore demonstrated authority similar to that of the other two queens.19

These three examples show queens closely resembling other noblewomen, who, according to McLaughlin, displayed “a degree of ‘military preparedness’ ” which allowed them to fill in as military leaders in critical situations.20 All three cases occurred in similar circumstances. With their military activities these queens responded to sudden developments and practical necessities. All three queens acted on the authority they commanded as their husbands’ delegates. In contrast to the other two queens, Queen Matilda of Boulogne seems to have counted on an additional source of authority based on her status as the heiress ←190 | 191→of Boulogne. In all three cases, the chroniclers describe these queens’ activities as an effective form of cooperation between them and their husbands, with their activities complementing each other.

Queens as Guardians: Agnes of Poitou (c. 1025–1077) and Matilda of Flanders (c. 1030–1083)

The observation that queens occasionally acted as military deputies on behalf of their husbands raises the question whether they also managed military conflicts when they acted as regents or guardians for a longer period of time. At least two of the eleventh-century queens who did act in these capacities seem to have assumed military responsibilities in the process: Empress Agnes of Poitou, who acted as a guardian for her young son and Queen Matilda of Flanders, who operated as her husband’s deputy in Normandy. Although source evidence is limited and much rests on few tantalizing hints, it will be argued that regency and guardianship bore additional potential for military leadership.21

In 1056, Empress Agnes was appointed the guardian for the six-year-old Henry IV, who had already been crowned king during his father’s lifetime. Bruno of Merseburg stated in his Saxonicum Bellum (c. 1082–93) that as a guardian, Agnes was to take care of both the king and the kingdom.22 Lambert of Hersfeld similarly noted in his Annales (c. 1077–79) that Agnes cared for the realm with great skill after the emperor’s death.23 Although this terminology was commonly used to describe guardianship and might reflect normative expectations rather ←191 | 192→than actual observations, these comments may be taken to indicate that Agnes’ new role was connected to the protection of the empire and therefore to military responsibilities. Indeed, Agnes seems to have travelled with Henry consistently until the Coup of Kaiserswerth in 1062, which indicates that she was no longer exempt from military campaigns. Her precise location during military initiatives cannot be inferred, however, due to the historiographers’ tendency of attributing actions to the child king rather than to Agnes herself.24 This phenomenon makes it difficult to say with certainty who was behind any of the major military campaigns undertaken throughout the regency. This is a major drawback, but despite this problem there are at least two instances in which Agnes was presented as leading military initiatives. The first incident occurred towards the end of 1057. Frutolf of Michelsberg (c. 1050–1103) remarked that, in unity with the princes, Agnes defeated the rebellious Friedrich of Gleiburg and his brothers: At the same time a certain Frederick and his brothers, who were raising up tyranny against the Roman empire in parts of Germany, were defeated by the Empress Agnes and the princes of the kingdom and came to surrender.25 Frutolf’s formulation, according to which the empress and the princes defeated the rebels, leaves little doubt that this was a military intervention. Although the statement does not allow for an assessment of Agnes’ precise actions, the fact that the empress alone was identified by name while the other actors were referred to as a group indicates that she was acknowledged in a leading capacity. The second occurrence took place late in 1059, when Agnes and Henry travelled to Augsburg to intervene in a violent conflict between the bishop and the count of Dietmold. The contemporary Annales Augustani noted that Agnes and the young king travelled to Augsburg, where they compelled the parties to make ←192 | 193→peace.26 Although it remains possible that the empress negotiated between the two parties in a judicial capacity, the wording (invasores Augustae ad pactionem compulit) seems to imply an assertiveness that might well have been of a military nature. While the reference to the king might be significant for his representation of regal authority, he is explicitly described as a young boy, which implies that the writer was under no illusion as to who was in command. Therefore, both cases might indicate that the empress was using military force to establish peace – a task which seems closely connected to the expectation that as a guardian she would “take care” of the kingdom.

The second example comes from the Anglo-Norman realm. During the eleventh and early twelfth century, there were no cases of a minor succeeding to the throne in England, but the delegation of royal authority became an issue of central importance after the conquest of 1066.27 Both William I’s wife Matilda of Flanders and Henry I’s wife Matilda of Scotland were entrusted with regency duties and while it cannot be asserted with certainty that Matilda of Scotland wielded military power, Matilda of Flanders did while acting as a regent in Normandy. Reviewing both narrative and diplomatic evidence, David Bates identified her as the “nominated head” of an administrative council consisting of a core group of magnates, including Roger de Beaumont and archbishop John of Rouen.28 Matilda’s and William’s eldest son, Robert Curthose, likewise participated in the regency administration.29

Although Mathilda’s role as a regent differed from the role Agnes played as a guardian, she, too, was expected to guard the duchy in the absence of the duke, which might be taken to imply the provision of military defense and protection. Orderic Vitalis thus remarked that the king entrusted the duchy of Normandy to his wife Matilda and his young son Robert, leaving God-fearing bishops and ←193 | 194→warlike lords to help them protect the province.30 Similarly, Orderic records that Matilda returned to Normandy after her coronation so that together with the boy Robert [she] could keep the duchy secure.31 It has been noted that chroniclers in the Roman-German Empire tended to continue to describe the child-king rather than his mother as a protagonist in their narratives and there might have been a similar tendency in the Norman sources. Thus, despite recognizing Matilda’s success in governing the duchy, William of Poitiers (c. 1073x74) apparently felt obliged to add that in truth the fact that neighbours had not dared to make any attack though they knew the land to be almost emptied of knights, must, we think be attributed primarily to the king himself, whose return they feared.32

While little evidence suggests that Matilda was involved in military conflicts during the first years following the conquest, political upheavals in Flanders required her to take action in the early 1070s. Following the short reign of Baldwin VI of Flanders (1067–71), a succession dispute erupted over the rivaling claims of his younger brother Robert “the Frisian” and his widow Richilde of Hainault, who pressed the rights of her son Arnulf III. Orderic did not accord an active role to Matilda in these circumstances but claimed that the French king intervened in the struggle and demanded the military aid of the Normans, which – in the absence of the duke – was to be delivered by the Norman magnate William Fitz Osbern.33 Matilda features rather more prominently in the account of the conflict provided by Robert of Torigni in his twelfth-century interpolations of the Gesta Normannorum Ducum, however. He stated that [w]hen Count Baldwin of Flanders finally died Arnulf, count of Hainault, his grandson by his eldest son, should have succeeded him. To this end he strove and he was supported by Philip, king of the French as well as by Matilda, queen of the English, his aunt, who sent him William Fitz Osbern with a large army.34 According to this description, ←194 | 195→Matilda acted as an autonomous military commander, both in her capacity as queen and as Arnulf’s relative. In contrast to Agnes, for whom the only available evidence suggests she was active in trying to maintain peace within the kingdom, Mathilda thus seems to have been involved in “external” affairs, either because the French king demanded military service or because of her personal affiliations with the protagonists of the succession crisis in Flanders.

It can be noted, then, that despite the generally scarce evidence, queens who were appointed as guardians or regents were responsible for the protection of their domains, which occasionally required military action. It must also be acknowledged, however, that their precise roles remain difficult to determine. In the case of Anne of Kiev, who acted as a regent in France after her husband’s death 1060, Emily Ward stated that it “is evident from the sources that a process of writing Anne out of history as the guardian for her son and his kingdom did exist. […] The answer to why the chroniclers were doing this – as a deliberate exclusion of a woman in a political role, from a lack of evidence, or even subconsciously – would certainly be interesting to explore further”.35 The same observation holds true for Agnes of Poitou and – to a lesser extend – for Matilda of Flanders.

The queen’s conflicts: Emma of Normandy (c. 987–1052), Matilda of Flanders (c. 1030–1083), Rozala-Susanna of Italy (c. 950/60–1003) and Constance of Arles (c. 986–1032)

So far, the survey focused on those cases in which queens cooperated with their husbands or acted on behalf of their sons. Even when queens were not exercising military leadership in vice-regal capacities, however, they seem to have exploited the military resources at their disposal to interact in dynastic and inter-generational disputes. These struggles were a characteristic feature of the eleventh and twelfth centuries and they ensured that queens repeatedly occupied leadership positions in armed struggles for power.

In France, the issue of succession was complicated further by serial monogamy and repeated repudiations. In combination, these factors contributed to the ←195 | 196→general crisis of the young Capetian monarchy during the eleventh century and brought queens to the fore. After being repudiated by King Robert II, Queen Rozala-Susanna of Italy demanded to retain her dower, the castle Montreuil-sur-Mer. According to Richer of Reims (c. 998), when her request was declined, she ordered a new castle to be built next to it, in an attempt to stop ships from reaching the fortress with supplies. She held it for some time – allegedly causing her ex-husband considerable difficulties – until forced to return to Flanders.36 Nevertheless, as Carsten Woll noted, she initially seems to have retained sufficient resources after her repudiation to allow her to press her rights.

Even more prominently, Constance of Arles found herself in conflict with her sons after King Robert II’s death. Already during her husband’s lifetime she had played a prominent role, allegedly “stirring up three brief rebellions; two pitted her sons against the king and the last proved to be nearly a civil war of son against son”.37 Penelope Adair has recently argued in favor of a more nuanced reading of the sources, however, which tend to portray Constance as power-grasping and seeking her own advantage.38 This caution has to be kept in mind when assessing the power struggle ensuing after Robert’s death, in which Constance supposedly tried to retain as much land for herself as possible and induced many nobles to rebel against the king. In the end, the newly-crowned Henry and his allies besieged Constance first at Poissy from where she escaped, and then at Le Puiset where she eventually had to give up and subject to her son’s rule.39 In the context of her surrender, Andreas of Fleury mockingly referred to her as amazonidis Constantia, clearly emphasizing the humiliation of her defeat.40 As in the case ←196 | 197→of Rozala-Susanna, the dispute seems to have concerned the queen’s control of her dower lands after the king’s death. Many scholars, including Adair and Stafford, have pointed out that recently widowed queens frequently faced difficulties in trying to retain access to financial resources and dower lands.41 In these two examples, both queens seem to have used military resources to assert their claims. While Rozala-Susanna invested in building a military stronghold which would allow her to control the passage of ships, Constance seems to have counted on allies to help her sustain her position and keep a hold on her dower lands.

As already noted, intergenerational conflicts between the royal couple and their offspring were also common. Matilda of Flanders famously interfered in her husband’s conflict with their son Robert Curthose and employed military resources to this end. Sending troops to assist her son, Matilda acted in very much the same way she did when sending troops to Flanders as regent in Normandy. Yet, Jean Truax points out that in this instance Matilda “acted […] in direct opposition to her husband”.42 In his Gesta Regum Anglorum (c. 1125), William of Malmesbury thus reported that a fall-out occurred between Matilda and the king on account of their son Robert, who is said to have been supplied with a troop of soldiers by his mother out of the revenues of the royal estates.43 Although William was writing in the first quarter of the twelfth century and his account need not be factual, the implication is that Matilda had access to the financial resources of the crown and used them for military purposes behind the king’s back. Orderic Vitalis similarly described how the king – in an angry outburst – complained: The wife of my bosom, whom I love as my own soul, whom I have set over my whole kingdom and entrusted with all authority and riches, this wife, I say, supports the enemies who plot against my life, enriches them with my money, zealously arms and succours and strengthens them to my grave peril.44 ←197 | 198→Despite the rhetorical nature of this speech, King William’s complaint points to the very core of the issue: The queen’s participation in rulership and the authority and resources which this entailed, could be the foundation for a successful cooperation between the king and queen in military matters, but it could also provide the queen with the resources to act independently and follow her own strategies.

Studying the sources on the basis of a broad definition of military leadership, queens emerge as temporary leaders in the absence of their husbands or on a longer-term basis as regents or guardians. Strikingly, some queens could draw on military resources when they perceived their own interests to be at risk – occasionally against the opposition of male relatives. The case studies thus show queens assuming military command and positioning themselves in interpersonal networks of military power on behalf of the reigning or the future monarch. A queen’s status as a designated deputy or guardian seemingly augmented her authority and acceptability as a military leader. While familial and dynastic conflicts could also require queens to take military action, their position might have been more delicate in these cases, as the depiction of Constance as a proud amazon and Matilda’s dispute with the king indicate. As the survey shows, however, the paucity of source evidence poses a challenge and prohibits in-depth analyses of many of the instances in which queens commanded military authority. The wealth of historiographical writing produced in the reign of Stephen therefore offers a unique opportunity. The English civil war involved two royal women in military leadership positions, who acted in cooperation with, on behalf of and in opposition to male protagonists. Their representation in historiographical texts will be discussed in more detail in the following part of this chapter.

Narrating Queenly Military Agency: Empress Matilda and Queen Matilda of Boulogne in the “Anarchy”

It is widely accepted that both Empress Matilda45 and Queen Matilda of Boulogne were involved in military affairs during the struggle for the English throne which ensued after Henry I’s death and Stephen’s usurpation in 1135. Nevertheless, there are considerable discrepancies concerning the evaluation of their activities. Stafford argued that Empress Matilda’s claim as Henry I’s designated ←198 | 199→heir “legitimised and allowed extensive political even military activity”.46 Other scholars maintained that it was her illegitimate step-brother Robert of Gloucester who was behind the Angevin military campaigns. Jim Bradbury saw him as the “the mainspring of Matilda’s efforts. […] More than Matilda, he held the Angevin forces together and conducted the war”.47 Similarly, Charles Beem suggested that “[f];or all of Matilda’s attempts to construct herself as a sovereign feudal lord, the deal struck to trade King Stephen for Robert of Gloucester betrayed her dependence on the military expertise only men could supply”.48 In her authoritative biography of the empress, Marjorie Chibnall displayed conflicting views on Matilda’s military authority. With King Stephen captured at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, Chibnall described Empress Matilda as “now called upon to take the lead in political and military decisions […]”, but she also saw her cause complicated by “the virtual impossibility of leading knights in battle. […] [S]he remained as far as possible in the background during battles, both from total inexperience in military leadership and because her capture would have meant the end of her cause”.49 In contrast to Empress Matilda, Stephen’s wife, Queen Matilda of Boulogne, received less attention in research and few scholars have commented on her military engagement. In her biographical study of the queen, Patricia Dark touched upon issues of military authority and confirmed that Matilda acted as the commander of the king’s troops. Jean Truax similarly drew attention to Queen Matilda’s activities, but pointed out that other scholars were more hesitant in ascribing military authority to her, suggesting instead that it was the Flemish William of Ypres who took the lead in the resistance against the Angevins after Stephen’s capture.50

These contradictory assessments call for an investigation of contemporary representations of the two Matildas as military leaders. In a recent study of ←199 | 200→Queen Isabel I of Castile’s (1451–1504) association with the Granada campaigns, Elizabeth Lehfeldt has demonstrated the usefulness of a comparative reading of narrative representations of ‘the queen at war’.51 She showed that depictions of Isabel’s role in the campaigns varied considerably depending on each chronicler’s concept of the queen in the context of shared sovereignty. More specifically, it depended on how they perceived her role in relation to that of her husband, Fernando of Aragon. Taking up this approach, the following analysis attempts to investigate two key sources – William of Malmesbury’s Historia Novella and the Gesta Stephani – with a view to how Empress Matilda and Queen Matilda were portrayed as military leaders in relation to the men around them during the watershed years from 1139 to 1142. This focus is inevitably restricted, but the two works can be considered key sources and offer strikingly different views on the civil war and its protagonists.

William of Malmesbury’s Historia Novella

William of Malmesbury’s Historia Novella is a “contemporary narrative of first-rate importance”, covering the developments of the civil war from 1126 to 1142.52 It remained unfinished and unrevised, its completion presumably prevented by the author’s death.53 The work itself was commissioned by Robert of Gloucester and is undeniably partial to an extent which has justified its denomination as a panegyric. The structure of the work reflects its author’s Angevin perspective. William states in the prologue that to offer a complete account, he has to go back in time to the empress’s return to England after her husband’s death.54 Similarly, the second book set off from the year when that formidable lady came to England to vindicate her right against Stephen.55 The third book, in which William tried to unravel the trackless maze of events and occurrences that befell in England56, ←200 | 201→reflects the political and military upheavals of the year 1141. Given William of Malmesbury’s concern with the Angevin cause, the Historia Novella lends itself to an investigation of military leadership roles specifically with a view to the Empress Matilda and Earl Robert.

The arrival of Empress Matilda and Robert of Gloucester at Arundel Castle in 1139 formed the prelude to the Angevin military offensive and signaled the beginning of the civil war in England. As already noted, William declared at the end of the first book that he would proceed with an account of the empress’s campaign in England. The Latin refers to Matilda as a virago – a term which, according to Kirstin Fenton, William did not employ arbitrarily but primarily “[f];or those women who are involved in military activities […]”.57 Contrary to William’s announcement, however, his account of the invasion of 1139 does not in fact portray Matilda as a military commander, but firmly establishes Robert of Gloucester as the main protagonist. The episode’s first paragraph introduces some of the key arguments, which William refers to repeatedly to justify the earl’s involvement in the initiative. It states that Earl Robert, escaping at last from hampering delays, landed in England with his sister the empress, relying on the mercy of God and his fidelity to a lawful oath.58 By arguing that the invasion relied on God’s consent, William put forth an argument which had become increasingly crucial in eleventh- and twelfth-century discourses of legitimized violence.59 He additionally sanctioned the offensive by referring to the oath Robert and the other magnates had sworn to Matilda at the instigation of Henry I. Resorting to a common literary topoi, William proceeded to accentuate Robert’s courage by adding that he arrived in England with a far smaller military force than that with which anyone else would have ventured on so hazardous a war, for he brought with him at that time no more than 140 knights.60 William emphasized the statement ←201 | 202→further by comparing the earl to Julius Caesar as an archetypical military commander of whom Titus Livius tells us that he had only five cohorts when he began the civil war, with which, says Livy, he assailed the world.61

While Robert thus clearly emerges as the campaign’s leader, Matilda appears entirely inactive throughout the episode: At Arundel, Robert entrusted her into the custodia of their stepmother, the queen dowager Adeliza of Louvain, who held the castle in her possession, while he himself proceeded to Bristol. The strategy did not quite go to plan, however, and Robert soon learned that Matilda was no longer at Arundel [f]or her stepmother, with a woman’s fickleness, in despite of the undertakings she had given via the many messengers she had sent to Normandy, broke the faith she had sworn.62 The reader learns from other sources that the king had laid siege to the castle. William omits this information but remarks that Stephen eventually granted Matilda a safe conduct.63 Blaming these developments on Adeliza in overtly gendered terms might have been an attempt to deflect criticism from the Angevins.64 In fact, William skillfully turned this critical instance into an opportunity to highlight Robert’s chivalric behavior and relates how the earl, quickly gathering his forces, arrived at the limits prescribed by the king, and brought his sister to greater safety at Bristol.65 By the time William recapitulated the earl’s deeds at the end of the third book, the episode had gained additional dramatic effect and Robert is described as having rescued his sister from the midst of her enemies.66

The next chapters establish in brief terms how the Angevins established a foothold around the city of Gloucester and the district […], partly under compulsion and partly from goodwill, gradually went over to the lady empress in the remaining months of that year.67 In accordance with William’s attempt to present Matilda’s claim as the initiative’s sole motif, the empress is here restored to a position of ←202 | 203→authority comparable to that of a liege lady, but the reader learns little about her subsequent movements. William seems careful not to implicate her brother in any of the violent raids which other chroniclers described as taking place around the rebels’ center at Gloucester. Although William, too, laments the ongoing state of warfare and violence, he claims that Robert urged the papal legate and bishop of Winchester, Henry of Blois, to take actions against the offenders, although the bishop’s excommunications turned out to be of little effect.68 Crucially, Robert is here cast in the role of the defender of the kingdom, implying that Stephen was falling short of the one task most closely associated with kingship.69 William also emphasized the earl’s restraint – a quality of major importance in twelfth-century concepts of chivalry:

Meanwhile the earl behaved with restraint, and avoided nothing more carefully than even a slight loss of men to gain a battle. […] Still, wherever he saw that it could conveniently be done, he nobly fulfilled the duty of a knight and a leader.70

William continued to portray Robert in a similar fashion throughout his narrative. It is not until after Stephen’s capture at the Battle of Lincoln in February 1141 that the empress briefly emerges as an autonomous military commander.

Upon the victory at Lincoln, Matilda and Robert entered negotiations with the king’s brother, Henry of Blois, and eventually achieved the empress’s reception as “Lady of the English”. The Angevin success proved short-lived, however. William ←203 | 204→anticipates the events which resulted in military defeat by clarifying that [i]t is well established that, if the other members of his party had trusted his [Robert’s] restraint and wisdom, they would not afterwards have endured such a turn of ill-fortune.71 With this comment, William at once relieved the earl of the responsibility for the defeat and glossed over a rift between the empress and her brother, which scholars agree must have occurred at roughly that time. Indeed, modern historians have had little doubt that William’s reproach was aimed primarily at the empress herself.72 In the briefest of terms, William related how the Angevin party was expelled from London by its citizens and proceeded to narrate how a fall-out between the empress and the legate further weakened the Angevin cause. In the context of the ensuing siege of Winchester, Matilda emerges as a military leader for the first time, although – according to William – rather unintentionally. William thus asserts that the earl had attempted to mediate between his sister and the legate – without apparent success:

Then she, perceiving from what she had always been hearing and then learnt from her brother, that the legate had no kindly intentions towards her party, came to Winchester with as large a force as she could. There she was at once received within the royal castle and summoned the legate by messengers, perhaps meaning him no harm, not to delay coming to her as she herself had arrived. He […] sent immediately for all those who he knew would favour the king. So almost all the earls in England came, for they were young and frivolous, men who preferred cavalry-raids to peace.73

The statement that Matilda brought as large a force as she could counteracts the desultory remark that she might not have posed a military threat, particularly when compared to Robert, who had previously gone to Winchester for negotiations with no very large retinue. Significantly, no mention is made of her brother until William informs the reader he had accompanied Matilda together with King David of Scotland, Miles of Gloucester and a few barons. This off-hand way of noting the earl’s presence sustains the impression that in this instance ←204 | 205→he did not feature in a leading capacity and perhaps did not approve of the action. William again kept his account of the proceedings short, even though the ensuing siege must have lasted about seven weeks.74 He enumerates the different groups of the empress’s main opponents. Matilda of Boulogne emerges as one of the leading figures: So, to unfold a long succession of events in a brief account, everywhere outside the walls of Winchester the roads were being watched by the queen and the earls who had come, to prevent provisions being brought in to the empress’s adherents.75 This is the first time that the Historia Novella mentions the queen’s military involvement, except for her intervention at the council of Winchester. Notably, she is the first to be mentioned and one of the few protagonists to be identified by name. The Londoners also appeared on the scene not letting slip a single thing that lay in their power whereby they might distress the empress.76 The citizens of Winchester meanwhile remained supportive of Matilda and were attacked in turn with firebrands, flung from the bishop’s tower77 which resulted in the destruction of a nunnery and monastery. Another nunnery, Wherwell, was burned by William of Ypres on the grounds that some of the empress’s adherents had taken refuge in it.78 As this selection of short quotations may illustrate, William firmly positioned Matilda as the focal point of the royalist’s attacks, thereby inadvertently reaffirming her prominent position. Only when it transpired that the Angevins stood no chance of emerging victoriously, Robert made a reappearance as the narrative’s protagonist: since he could no longer bear the shame of the situation […], he thought he must bow to the exigencies of the time, and prepared an orderly withdrawal. And so he sent his sister and all the others on ahead in the vanguard, to allow her to escape unharmed.79 During the retreat, Robert was taken prisoner along with many others. The recapitulation of the earl’s deeds ←205 | 206→at the end of the third book maintains that he let himself fall into the hands of the pursuers, buying his friends’ freedom with the loss of his own.80 William thus turned the Angevin defeat – or, to be more precise, Matilda’s defeat – into a moment of personal glory for the earl, who successfully defended his honor despite his capture. Once released in exchange for the king, the narrative restored the earl to his authoritative position.

It can be noted, then, that during the important first phase of the war William presented Robert of Gloucester as an ideal military leader, drawing on traditional as well as newly emerging concepts of violence and chivalric behavior. Robert’s support and loyalty for his sister are major themes which William repeatedly brings up, perhaps because they provided the justification for his defection from the king. The fact that Matilda is depicted as taking over as a military leader when the Angevins suffer a major military blow may be significant, as this mode of presentation allowed William to exempt Robert from any charges of liability. The fact that the narrative accords her a more prominent role in the events following her reception at Winchester might also indicate the impact of her new title, which accorded her greater authority and apparently led to tensions within the Angevin camp. In the context of the siege of Winchester the narrative seems to minimize the military authority Matilda overtly commanded as the head of a large retinue. Indeed, William depicted her as launching the offensive by mistake rather than intention. Readers learn little about her actions and her precise location and no attempt is made to portray her military decisions favorably. Once released from captivity, Robert at once resumes his leadership position, while Matilda’s actions fade into background once more.

The anonymous Gesta Stephani

The Gesta Stephani is another key source for the reign of Stephen. There has been much debate concerning its authorship, but although a number of potential candidates have been proposed, the issue remains unresolved.81 The Gesta Stephani is not strictly contemporary in all its parts. The main part, encompassing ←206 | 207→the period from King Henry’s death in 1135 to about 1147 has been dated to 1148 and was perhaps based on earlier notes. The second part, taking the narrative up to the ascension of Henry II, was probably written after 1153. Somewhere during the presumed break in composition, the author seems to have “changed loyalties”82 and accepted Henry Plantagenet as the rightful heir to the throne, whereas he “eulogizes Stephen to 1148”.83 While drawing attention to the portrayal of Stephen as a military commander, the account of the invasion of 1139 also allows for a reassessment of how Robert’s and Matilda’s respective roles were perceived from a ‘royalist’ point of view. Additionally, both Matildas feature more prominently in this narrative, particularly after the Battle of Lincoln in 1141. A close reading therefore also offers the opportunity to compare how both of them were presented as military leaders.

Whereas William of Malmesbury could present Robert of Gloucester as the head of the 1139 invasion and stylize him as another Caesar, the author of the Gesta Stephani faced the challenge of explaining why Stephen failed to prevent the Angevin’s setting foot in England. According to the anonymous author, Stephen’s military skill had been one of the major arguments for his coronation in 1135, since after the death of King Henry the kingdom had lapsed into disorder. The situation had called for a man of resolution and soldierly qualities84 and Stephen had armed himself like a man to establish peace in the kingdom.85 The emphasis on the need for a strong military leader and the recurring association with masculinity might have been an argument targeted directly against the empress’s claim. It was crucial, therefore, to maintain the image of Stephen as a capable military commander. Anticipating the struggles following the commencement of the Angevin initiative, the author resorted to a traditional theological model of explanation. Like William of Malmesbury, he presented divine favor as a prerequisite for successful military leadership. The English and their former kings had brought about God’s anger with their indecent moral conduct and though King Stephen watched over the pacification of the kingdom with the ←207 | 208→greatest soldierly skill, though he continually wearied himself and his men with endless efforts in contending with the foe, yet did his success not equal his desire […].86 This line of argumentation exculpates Stephen and allowed the author to preserve the image of the king as an able soldier and commander.

The subsequent account proceeds to relate that when Stephen learned about the Angevins’ arrival he immediately went to Arundel, where he faced a strategic quandary. He was informed that the earl had escaped, while his sister, with the Angevins she had brought with her, had remained lurking in the castle where she had landed […].87 This phrase might reflect the uncertain nature of Matilda’s position: hidden from view, she and her retinue seem to have posed an intangible threat. The Gesta Stephani does not specify who the empress’s companions were (interestingly, the Historia Novella had omitted any such mention), but they likely included military personnel. After unsuccessfully trying to capture the earl, the king decided to lay siege to the castle but the procedure was brought to a halt through the intervention of Bishop Henry of Blois. Adding to the overall confusion, the author recounts that there was a popular report according to which the bishop of Winchester had caught up with Earl Robert and allowed him to proceed to Bristol after having established a pact of peace with him. The writer immediately adds that this report could scarcely be accurate, but the bishop’s subsequent counsel is nonetheless cast in a dubious light. The bishop’s interference is of relevance in this context, because his argumentation recognizes both Empress Matilda and Earl Robert as military leaders, with each commanding their own forces, and cooperating as allies:

So the bishop, as though he had not caught up with the earl, came to the king with a large bodyguard of cavalry. On observing that the king was determined to prosecute the siege he said that plan was useless and unacceptable both to the king himself and to the kingdom. For if he were preparing to besiege the Countess of Anjou in one part of England her brother would immediately rise up to disturb the kingdom in another; and so it was wiser for the king himself and more beneficial to the kingdom to let her go to her brother unharmed, that when both with their forces had been brought into one place he might more easily devote himself to shattering their enterprise and might more quickly arrive with all his forces for a heavier attack.88

←208 | 209→

Despite his apparent irritation over the alleged meeting between the bishop and the earl, the author portrays Henry of Blois as a prudent military advisor and strategist. The importance of taking advice is a major theme in the Gesta Stephani and the author praised Stephen for always listening to his advisors, in both political and military matters (while William of Malmesbury criticized him for following bad counsel).89 With the narrative’s emphasis on the strategic dilemma and the bishop’s intervention, the author might therefore have attempted to justify the king’s decision of letting Matilda proceed to Bristol, where she and Robert were immediately joined by supporters.90

To the Gesta Stephani’s author, the king’s capture at the Battle of Lincoln posed yet another challenge. Robbed of its main protagonist, the narrative needed a new focal point. Like William of Malmesbury, the anonymous author devoted noticeably more attention to the movements of the Empress Matilda after her reception at Winchester. At the same time, he shifted his focus to Queen Matilda of Boulogne. The conflict which ensued after the battle thus very much appears a confrontation between the two women. Displaying gender-specific rhetoric, the narrative was constructed around a contrastive presentation of both: “While the Empress was criticized for an unfeminine-like uncompromising stance, the queen was praised for rising above the limitation of her gender to aid her husband”.91

The author set the scene by presenting the empress as transgressing boundaries, both in terms of gender and authority: After the Angevin victory at Lincoln, the empress at once put on an extremely arrogant demeanour, instead of the modest gait and bearing proper to a gentle woman […].92 Advised to gain the Bishop of Winchester’s support, Matilda was told that, should he refuse to support her cause, she would have to use military force against him.93 Having ←209 | 210→thus pressured the legate into receiving her as queen (!) at Winchester, Matilda began settling the affairs of the kingdom in an arbitrary and overly emotional fashion, disrespecting even her closest advisors. When the Londoners invited Matilda into the city, discord arose over her refusal to abate taxes which she demanded, not with unassuming gentleness, but with a voice of authority.94 Unable to control her emotions, she, with a grim look, her forehead wrinkled into a frown, every trace of a woman’s gentleness removed from her face, blazed into unbearable fury […].95

In stark contrast to the empress and her emotional and rash conduct, Queen Matilda emerges as a woman of subtlety and a man’s resolution96 at precisely this point. Interestingly, the author had earlier used a similar formulation to describe Stephen, who had likewise been labeled a man of resolution.97 While “resolution” thus appears clearly connected to masculinity, Matilda was able to adopt this male trait. Matilda is also presented as a wife and mother, pursuing the interests of her husband and son rather than her own. Accordingly, she first sought out the Angevins and begged for her husband’s release and her son’s heritage. She only called her men to arms once her request had been denied. Both leading and commanding troops, she clearly emerges in an authoritative military position:

[T]he queen […] brought a magnificent body of troops across in front of London from the other side of the river and gave orders that they should rage most furiously around the city with plunder and arson, violence and the sword, in sight of the countess and her men.98

The Londoners, caught in the middle between the opposing parties, now adhered to the queen. Finding themselves under attack, the empress and her men were forced to take flight. The humiliation seems complete when the author exposes the empress’s authority as merely superficial: Many of her men were so wonderfully shaken by the tumult of the sudden panic that they quite forgot about their lady and thought rather of saving themselves […].99 Queen Matilda on the other hand was admitted into the city by the Londoners and forgetting the weakness ←210 | 211→of her sex and a woman’s softness she bore herself with the valour of a man.100 She went about gathering supporters and managed to win over the legate who switched sides again, moved […] by the woman’s tearful supplications.101 In this instance, Matilda of Boulogne is presented as resuming a traditionally female (and specifically queenly) role as an intercessor, allowing the legate to change his mind without losing face.

According to this account, the agreement between the bishop and the queen triggered the empress’s decision to proceed to Winchester. As in the Historia Novella, she is depicted as heading the campaign, but this time her intentions are clearly spelled out: the Countess of Anjou, cunningly anticipating his craft, arrived at Winchester with a highly equipped force to catch the bishop if she could.102 The anonymous author takes care to note that the empress’s troops consisted of many powerful knights. However, she clearly emerges as an active military leader, issuing orders and commanding her men, despite the fact that her uncle, King David of Scotland, her brother and other male magnates were present with her: Then she, sending out a summons on every side, gathered into a vast army the whole array of those who obeyed her throughout England, and gave orders for a most rigorous investment both of the bishop’s castle […] and of his palace […].103 Again a direct comparison follows, with the queen appearing at the very center of the conflict. Matilda, with a splendid body of troops and an invincible band of Londoners, who had assembled to the number of almost a thousand, magnificently equipped with helmets and coats of mail, besieged the inner ring of besiegers from outside with the greatest energy and spirit.104 The account proceeds to relate how the Angevin’s forced retreat culminated in the capture of the Earl of Gloucester and – not without a hint of satisfaction – remarks that the Countess of Anjou herself, who was always superior to feminine softness and had a mind steeled and ←211 | 212→unbroken in adversity, was the first to fly, going to Devizes with only Brien and a few others to accompany her.105 Whereas the Historia Novella had restored Robert of Gloucester to his role as the main protagonist after his release, the Gesta Stephani continued to present the empress as a key player and military leader. Once recovered from her escape from Winchester, she took to reassembling her troops and launching local attacks. Only after the king besieged her at Oxford, where she managed a narrow escape, she ceased to appear in an active role and – with occasional exceptions – remained in the background.

In contrast to the Historia Novella’s depiction, the Gesta Stephani’s account seems less straight forward in its presentation of military leadership. It does not clearly prioritize Robert of Gloucester’s military competencies over the empress’s and emphasizes the role of other Angevin supporters, notably Miles of Gloucester. In the context of the 1139 invasion, the empress and the earl seem to have been perceived as partners and allies, whereas the Historia Novella had presented Robert as working on behalf of rather than in cooperation with his sister. The anonymous author’s language also has a more overtly gendered dimension to it and the transgression of gender roles becomes a major theme in his portrayal of Empress Matilda and Queen Matilda after the Battle of Lincoln.106 But while the author chides the empress for her unfeminine behavior, the portrayal of the queen exploits the flexibility of gender notions to an entirely different effect. On the one hand, she is presented as exhibiting the female characteristics which the author finds wanting in the empress (i.e. gentleness, supplication), on the other hand, she temporarily adopts male virtues which allow her to act as a political and military leader. The author’s contradictory view on women who exhibit male virtues, has been a subject of debate in research. It has been suggested that the author perceived Queen Matilda to be acting in an unusual, but not unprecedented role.107 She assumed responsibility when her husband had been captured and worked to secure his release. The empress’s position was more complex and, as the analysis has shown, the author repeatedly expresses disdain for her ←212 | 213→authoritative demeanor. Although in a subtler way than William of Malmesbury, the author also displays an acute consciousness for the conventions of chivalry. The emotional conduct ascribed to the empress, her proneness to angry outbursts, clearly disqualified her as political and military leader in the eyes of the author. The queen on the other hand is presented as respecting the code of behavior which the author perceived as more appropriate. Only resorting to arms when supplications have failed, she displays an awareness of the etiquette connected to violence and warfare.

Conclusion

This paper started from the observation that high medieval queens have generally been overlooked in current discussions concerning the interrelations between gender and war. Aware of the potentials as well as the limitations of the relevant eleventh- and twelfth-century sources, a survey was attempted to investigate if queens were similar to other noblewomen in their habitual assumption of military leadership roles. Although it had to be acknowledged that queens did not normally participate in combat on the battlefield, it became clear that they occasionally acted in military leadership positions, nonetheless. Kings sometimes relied on queens to act as military deputies and some assumed military responsibilities in the context of regency or guardianship arrangements. As the discussion indicated, queens could also command military power in intergenerational and dynastic conflicts, but it seems that they were more likely to invite criticism if they acted on their own behalf. The comparison also brought to light some of the difficulties connected to assessing and identifying queenly military agency. In some cases, the assertion that a queen wielded military power relies on a single remark and even where there is enough evidence to draw firmer conclusions, chronicles often do not give away many details. This pattern also complicates investigations of queenly military agency in historiographical writing. To counteract this problem, it might prove beneficial to expand both the geographical as well as the temporal scope further and investigate a broader range of source material. This paper pursued a different approach, however, and attempted to take advantage of the wealth of historiographic records produced during the English civil war. The close reading of the selected material has illustrated that the portrayal of the two female protagonists as military leaders depended heavily on the writer’s outlook and objective. It is well known that chroniclers often “used gender norms as a political weapon in the construction of their narratives”, but in this instance this habit also influenced their depiction ←213 | 214→of military leadership more specifically.108 It seems that William of Malmesbury’s patron-client relationship with the Earl of Gloucester induced him to stylize Robert as an ideal military leader who exhibited all the virtues which contemporary discourses of chivalry addressed. Conversely, Empress Matilda emerges in a minor role and her relationship with her brother seems to have been exploited mainly to showcase the earl’s abilities. Only once is she portrayed as a military commander and her actions appear closely connected to the Angevin defeat at the siege of Winchester. The Gesta Stephani, on the other hand, presents both Robert of Gloucester and the Empress Matilda as military leaders, perhaps reflecting the perspective of their opponents. During the king’s captivity, the author shifted his focus the queen’s assumption of military power and contrasted her actions with the empress’s by conceptualizing gender boundaries and chivalric ideals. It seems particularly interesting that the queen is presented as responding to necessities – very much like the queens from the survey – while the empress’s authority is repeatedly negated. The analysis remained restricted in that it concentrated on specific episodes – the Angevin invasion 1139 and the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Lincoln 1141 – and on the two most relevant accounts, William of Malmesbury’s Historia Novella and the anonymous Gesta Stephani. Nonetheless, this paper hoped to illustrate that queenly military leadership is a phenomenon worth further exploration.


1 Gesta Stephani, ed. and trans. Kenneth Reginald Potter (Nelson Medieval Texts), Oxford 1955, p. 81: In huius etiam temporis instantia regina, astuti pectoris uirilisque constantiae femina, […] quod prece non ualuit, armis impetrare confidens, splendidissimum militantium decus ante Londonias ex altera fluuii regione transmisit, utque raptu et incendio, uiolentia et gladio in comitissae suorumque prospectu ardentissime circa ciuitatem desaeuirent praecepit.

2 There is a growing body of literature on the interrelation between war, violence and gender in the Middle Ages, covering a range of different thematic aspects. Among the numerous examples see, for instance, Bea Lundt: Das Geschlecht von Krieg im Mittelalter. Der Ritter – eine Ikone heldenhafter Männlichkeit, in: Christoph Kaindel (ed.): Krieg im mittelalterlichen Abendland, Wien 2010, pp. 411–435; Megan McLaughlin: The Woman Warrior: Gender, Warfare and Society in Medieval Europe, in: Women‘s Studies 17 (1990), pp. 193–209; Klaus Latzel, Franka Maubach, Silke Satjukow (eds.): Soldatinnen. Gewalt und Geschlecht im Krieg vom Mittelalter bis heute, Paderborn 2011; Helen Nicholson: Women on the Third Crusade, in: Journal of Medieval History 23 (1997), pp. 335–349; Natasha Hodgson: Women, crusading and the Holy Land in historical narrative, Woodbridge 2007; David Hay: The military leadership of Matilda of Canossa 1046–1115 (Gender in History), Manchester 2008.

3 Drawing attention to this gap in research, Theresa Earenfight recently pointed out the need for a systematic evaluation of previous work to sustain a closer examination of how queens operated in situations of armed struggle and warfare. See Theresa Earenfight: Medieval Queenship, in: History Compass 15,3 (2017), pp. 1–9, at p. 5. For studies which included examples of queens as military leaders see McLaughlin: The Woman Warrior (see note 2); Jean A. Truax: Anglo-Norman Women at War: Valiant Soldiers, Prudent Strategists or Charismatic Leaders, in: Donald J. Kagay, L. J. Andrew Villalon (eds.): The Circle of War in the Middle Ages. Essays on Medieval Military and Naval History (Warfare in History 6), Woodbridge 1999, pp. 111–125. Among the fewer studies to focus on the military activities of queens are Diana Dunn: The Queen at War: The Role of Margaret of Anjou in the Wars of the Roses, in: Diana Dunn (ed.): War and society in medieval and early modern Britain, Liverpool 2000, pp. 141–161 and Elizabeth Lehfeldt: The queen at war: shared sovereignty and gender in representations of the Granada campaign, in: Barbara F. Weissberger (ed.): Queen Isabel I of Castile: power, patronage, persona, Woodbridge 2008, pp. 108–119.

4 Lehfeldt: The queen at war (see note 3), at p. 109.

5 Truax: Anglo-Norman Women at War (see note 3), p. 125; Hay: Matilda of Canossa (see note 2), p. 10.

6 Knut Görich: Eine Wende im Osten: Heinrich II. und Boleslaw Chrobry, in: Bernd Schneidmüller (ed.): Otto III. – Heinrich II. Eine Wende? (Mittelalter-Forschungen 1), Stuttgart 22000, pp. 95–167, at p. 113.

7 Ibid., pp. 122ff.

8 Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicle, ed. Robert Holtzmann (MGH SS rer. Germ. N.S. 9), Berlin 1935, p. 358.

9 Translation from: Ottonian Germany. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg, trans. and annotated by David A. Werner (Manchester Medieval Sources), Manchester, New York 2001, p. 287; For the Latin text see Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicle (see note 8), p. 364: Hic vehementer illud ammirans et, qualiter se res nobiscum haberent, interrogans, eundem, regnum prout curaretur ab ea, celeriter remisit.

10 Translation from: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (see note 9), p. 29; For the Latin text see: Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicle (see note 8), p. 371: Omnes igitur nos conprovinciales iubemur ab ea iuxta Mildam congregati sedere et usque ad adventum regis patriam tuere.

11 Amalie Fößel: Die Königin im mittelalterlichen Reich. Herrschaftsausübung, Herrschaftsrechte, Handlungsspielräume (Mittelalter-Forschungen 4), Stuttgart 2000, p. 350.

12 Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicle (see note 8), p. 434: Interim inperatrix in nostris commorata provinciis defensionem patriae cum nostris principibus meditatur.

13 David Crouch: The Reign of King Stephen, Harlow 2000, p. 77.

14 Orderic Vitalis: Ecclesiastical History, ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Oxford Medieval Texts), 6 vols., Oxford 1968–80, here vol. 6, Oxford 1978 (repr. 1986), Bk. 13, p. 520f.: Ipse in primis Herfordam […] obsedit […]. Regina uero Doueram cum ualida manu per terram obsedit, et Boloniensibus amicis ac parentibus suis atque alumnis ut per mare hostes cohiberent mandauit. Porro Bolonienses dominae suae iussa libenter amplectentes famulatum suum ei exhibent, nauiumque multitudine operiunt illud fretum quod strictum est ne castrenses sibi aliquatenus procurarent. On this episode specifically and for Matilda’s authority more generally, see Patricia Dark: The career of Matilda of Boulogne as countess and queen in England, 1135–1152 (doctoral thesis available online: https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:657eea03–9328–4b08-b8ab-1a15e1cc7849, last accessed 10.12.2018), pp. 153ff.

15 Cf. Marjorie Chibnall: The Empress Matilda. Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English, Oxford 1991, pp. 31ff.

16 Ibid., p. 33.

17 These activities were noted by Chibnall: Empress Matilda (see note 15), pp. 33f. The charters themselves were first analyzed in more detail by Fößel: Königin (see note 11), pp. 159–161. A preliminary edition of these charters is now accessible online until the final publication of the new MGH edition of the charters of Henry V and Matilda: MGH DD HV Math. 1 (http://www.mgh.de/ddhv/dhv_math_1.htm; last accessed 12.12.2018), MGH DD HV Math. 2 (http://www.mgh.de/ddhv/dhv_math_2.htm; last accessed 12.12.2018), MGH DD HV Math. 3 (http://www.mgh.de/ddhv/dhv_math_3.htm; last accessed 12.12.2018).

18 Translation from: The 1125 continuation of Frutolf’s chronicle, in: Chronicles of the Investiture Contest. Frutolf of Michelsberg and his continuators, trans. and annotated by T. J. H. McCarthy, Manchester, New York 2014, at p. 265; For the Latin text with a German translation see Ekkehard of Aura: Chronicle, ed. and trans. Franz-Josef Schmale, in: Frutolfs und Ekkehards Chroniken und die anonyme Kaiserchronik (FSGA 15), Darmstadt 1972, pp. 123–209 and pp. 267–377, at p. 340f.: Imperator […] efferatus animo, Italie suis copiis cum regina relictis Germanicis se regionibus nimis insperatus exhibuit.

19 Claudia Zey remarks: “Wenngleich Heinrich diesen Italienzug nicht mit einem großen Truppenkontingent angetreten hatte, musste auch für die Rückführung eines kleineren Heeres Sorge getragen werden. Bemerkenswert ist die Selbstverständlichkeit, mit welcher der jungen Königin diese Aufgabe übertragen wurde und mit der sie sie anscheinend auch ausführte.“ See Claudia Zey: Mathilde von England, in: Amalie Fößel (ed.): Die Kaiserinnen des Mittelalters, Regensburg 2011, pp. 161–180, at p. 167; Fiona Tolhurst similarly notes: “Matilda’s role as Holy Roman Empress had also enabled her to develop two skills essential for effective kingship: governing the people and managing military operations”, see Fiona Tolhurst: Geoffrey of Monmouth and the translation of female kingship (Arthurian and Courtly Cultures), New York 2013, p. 33. See also: Chibnall: Empress Matilda (see note 15), p. 34; Fößel: Königin (see note 11), p. 107.

20 McLaughlin: The Woman Warrior (see note 2), p. 197.

21 See also Vones-Liebenstein: Une femme gardienne du royaume? Régentes en temps de guerre (France-Castille, XIIIe siècle), in: Philippe Contamine, Olivier Guyotjeannin (eds.): La guerre, la violence et les gens au Moyen Âge. Actes du 119e Congrès National des Sociétés Historiques et Scientifiques, 26–30 oct. 1994, Amiens, vol. 2, Paris 1996, pp. 9–22; Elisabeth van Houts: Queens in the Anglo-Norman/Angevin realm 1066–1216, in: Claudia Zey (ed.): Mächtige Frauen?: Königinnen und Fürstinnen im europäischen Mittelalter (11.–14. Jahrhundert) (Vorträge und Forschungen 81), Ostfildern 2015, pp. 199–224, p. 202. I am aware of the difficulties connected to using this terminology for eleventh- and twelfth-century conditions, particularly in the case of “regency”. For want of a better word, I nevertheless use the term for describing repeated or long-term arrangements entailing delegated rulership.

22 Bruno of Merseburg: Saxonicum bellum, ed. Hand-Eberhard Lohmann (MGH Dt. MA 2), Leipzig 1937, p. 13: Quod quia adhuc decenter, utpote puerulus quinquennis, gubernare non potuit, ipsum cum regni cura curandum cunctorum iussu principum mater ipsius Agnes venerabilis imperatrix accepit.

23 Lampert of Hersfeld: Annals, in: MGH SS rer. Germ. 38, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger, Hannover, Leipzig 1894, p. 69: Summa tamen rerum et omnium quibus facto opus erat administration penes imperatricem remansit, quae tanta arte periclitantis rei publicae statum tutata est, ut nihil in ea tumultus, nihil simultatis tantae rei novitas generaret.

24 For the empress’s itinerary see Mechthild Black-Veldtrup: Kaiserin Agnes (1043–1077). Quellenkritische Studien (Münsterische Historische Forschungen 7), Köln, Weimar, Wien 1995, pp. 7ff.

25 Translation from: Frutolf of Michelsberg: Chronicle, in: Chronicles of the Investiture Contest. Frutolf of Michelsberg and his continuators, trans. and annotated by T. J. H. McCarthy, Manchester, New York 2014, at p. 105; For the Latin text see: Frutolf of Michelsberg: Chronicle, ed. and trans. Franz-Josef Schmale, in: Frutolfs und Ekkehards Chroniken und die anonyme Kaiserchronik (FSGA 15), Darmstadt 1972, pp. 47–121, at p. 74f.: Eodem tempore quidam Fridericus et fratres eius Germanie partibus tyrannidem exercentes contra imperium Romanum ab Agnete imperatrice et principibus regni victi ad deditionem vernerunt.

26 Annales Augustani, ed. Georg H. Pertz (MGH SS 3), Hannover 1839, pp. 124–136, p. 127: Regina cum puero rege in festivitate omnium sanctorum Augustam veniens, invasores Augustae ad pactionem compulit.

27 Elizabeth von Houts pointed out that the new cross-channel administration entailed extended responsibilities for queens: “They issued diplomas and writs, they acted as judges, they dispensed justice, they paid servants, disposed of royal income, and were involved in preparations for military expeditions“, see van Houts: Queens in the Anglo-Norman/Angevin Realm (see note 21), p. 202.

28 David Bates: The Origins of Justiciarship, in: Anglo-Norman Studies 4 (1981), pp. 1–12 and 167–171.

29 Ibid., p. 7.

30 Orderic Vitalis: Ecclesiastical History (see note 14), vol. 2, Oxford 1968 (repr. 1983), Bk. 4, pp. 208f.: Rex igitur Mathildi coniugi suae filioque suo Rodberto adolescenti principatum Neustriae commisit et cum eis religiosos praesules et strenuos proceres ad tutandam regionem dimisit.

31 Ibid., p. 222f.: […] incolumemque prouinciae statum cum Rodberto puero seruaret.

32 William of Poitiers: Gesta Gvillelmi, ed. and trans. R. H. C. Davis, Marjorie Chibnall (Oxford Medieval Texts), Oxford 1998, pp. 178f.: Verum quod finitimi incursionem nullam ausi fuerant, cum terram fere militibus exhaustam scirent, regi ipsi, cuius reuersionem uerebantur, primo ascribendum arbitramur.

33 Orderic Vitalis: Ecclesiastical History (see note 14), vol. 2, Oxford 1968 (repr. 1983), Bk. 4, pp. 282f.

34 The Gesta Normannorum Ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, ed. and trans. Elisabeth van Houts, 2 vols. (Oxford Medieval Texts), Oxford 1992–1995, vol. 2, Oxford 1995 (repr. 2003), pp. 224f.: Tandem obeunte Balduino comite Flandie cum Ernulfus comes Hainaucensis deberet ei succedere, utpote nepos ex primogenito filio eius et ad hoc etiam niteretur, Philippus rex Francorum ueniens in auxilium eius et Matildis, regina Anglorum, amita eius, mittens ei Willelmum filium Osberni cum armata militum manu.

35 Emily Ward: Anne of Kiev (c.1024–c.1075) and a reassessment of maternal power in the minority kingship of Philip I of France, in: Historical Research 89,245 (2016), pp. 435–453, at p. 451.

36 Richer of Reims: Histoire de France, ed. and trans. Robert Latouche (Les classiques de l’histoire de France au moyen âge 17), 2 vols., Paris 1930–1937, vol. 2, Paris 1937 (repr. 1964), pp. 286 ff.; For a brief discussion of this incident, see Carsten Woll: Die Königinnen des hochmittelalterlichen Frankreich 987–1237/38 (Historische Forschungen 24), Stuttgart 2002, p. 54f.

37 Marion Facinger: A Study of Medieval Queenship: Capetian France, 987–1237, in: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 5 (1968), pp. 1–48, p. 6.

38 Penelope A. Adair: Constance of Arles: A Study in Duty and Frustration, in: Kathleen Nolan (ed.): Capetian Women, New York 2003, pp. 9–26, e.g. pp. 9f.

39 Andrew of Fleury: Miracula sancti Benedicti, ed. Eugène de Certain (Société de l’Histoire de France), Paris 1858, p. 241: […] regina maximam regni portionem ad suae partis resecans sortem […]. Nihilominus plurimos nobilium Galliae haud minori illexit deceptione; ac ita abrupto foedere pacis, multa rebellium millia in expugnationem principis unius calliditas mulieris crudeliter animavit.

40 Ibid., at p. 243; For a brief discussion of this episode and the remark see Woll: Königinnen (see note 36), pp. 90–95. See also Adair: Constance of Arles (see note 38), pp. 20f.

41 Ibid., p. 20 and n. 50 with a reference to Pauline Stafford: Queen Emma and Queen Edith: queenship and women’s power in eleventh-century England, Oxford 22001, p. 19.

42 Truax: Anglo-Norman Women at War (see note 3), p. 112 for a brief discussion of this episode.

43 William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson, M. Winterbottom (Oxford Medieval Texts), 2 vols., Oxford 1998–1999, vol. 1, Oxford 1998, pp. 502f.: […] aliquantula simultas inter eos innata extremis annis fuerit pro Rotberto filio, cui mater militarem manum ex fisci redditibus sufficere dicebatur.

44 Orderic Vitalis: Ecclesiastical History (see note 14), vol. 3, Oxford 1972 (repr. 1983), p. 102f.: En collateralis mea quam uelut animam meam diligo, quam omnibus gazis et potestatibus in toto prefeci regno meo inimicos meos insidiantes uitae meae sustentat, opibus meis summopere ditat et contra salutem meam studiose armat, consolatur ac roborat.

45 Despite the difficulties connected to her imperial title, she will be referred to as Empress Matilda so as to more easily differentiate her from Queen Matilda. It is also the title used by the majority of contemporary commentators.

46 Pauline Stafford: Women and the Norman Conquest, in: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 4 (1994), pp. 221–249, p. 236.

47 Jim Bradbury: The Civil War of Stephen’s Reign: Winners and Losers, in: Matthew Strickland (ed.): Armies, chivalry and warfare in medieval Britain and France: proceedings of the 1995 Harlaxton Symposium (Harlaxton medieval studies 7), Stamford 1998, pp. 115–132, p. 116.

48 Charles Beem: Making a Name for Herself: The Empress Matilda and the Construction of Female Lordship in Twelfth-Century England, in: Charles Beem: The Lioness Roared: The Problems of Female Rule in English History (Queenship and Power), Basingstoke 2006, pp. 25–62, 190–204, at p. 59.

49 Chibnall: Empress Matilda (see note 15), p. 96f.

50 Dark: Matilda of Boulogne (see note 14), especially pp. 40–43; Truax: Anglo-Norman Women at War (see note 3), p. 122.

51 Lehfeldt: The queen at war (see note 3).

52 Kenneth R. Potter: Introduction, in: The Historia Novella by William of Malmesbury (Nelson Medieval Texts), Edinburgh, London, Melbourne et al. 1955, pp. xi–xliii, p. xiii.

53 Edmund King, Kenneth R. Potter: Introduction, in: William of Malmesbury. Historia Novella. The Contemporary History (Oxford Medieval Texts), Oxford 1998, pp. xix–cix, pp. xxxii.

54 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella, ed. Edmund King and trans. Kenneth R. Potter (Oxford Medieval Texts), Oxford 1998, pp. 2f.: […] reditu imperatricis in Angliam post uiri decessum […].

55 Ibid., pp. 42f.: […] ab eo anno quo eadem uirago in Angliam uenit, ius suum contra Stephanum assertura.

56 Ibid., pp. 80f.: […] inextricabilem laberinthum rerum et negotiorum quae acciderunt in Anglia aggredior euoluere […].

57 Kirsten A. Fenton: Gender, Nation and Conquest in the Works of William of Malmesbury (Gender in the Middle Ages 4), Rochester, N.Y. 2008, p. 51.

58 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 60f.: […] comes Rotbertus, tandem nexus morarum eluctatus, cum sorore imperatrice inuectus est Angliae, fretus pietate Dei et fide legitimi sacramenti.

59 See e.g. Fenton: William of Malmesbury (see note 57), p. 27, where she also provides more examples of this same argument from William’s other works; see also Christopher Holdsworth: Ideas and reality: some attempts to control and defuse war in the twelfth century, in: Studies in Church History 20 (1983), pp. 59–78.

60 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 60f.: Ceterum multo minore armorum apparatu quam quis alius tam periculosum bellum aggredi temptaret, non enim plusquam centum quadraginta milites tunc secum adduxit.

61 Ibid.: […] quem Titus Liuius commemorat quinque solum cohortes habuisse quando ciuile bellum inchoauit; cum quibus, inquiens, orbem terrarum adorsus est.

62 Ibid., pp. 60f.: Nouerca enim feminea leuitate fidem, totiens etiam missis in Normanniam nuntiis promissam, fefellerat.

63 Ibid., pp. 62f.: […] quem cuilibet, quanuis infestissimo inimico, negare laudabilium militum mos non est.

64 For a brief discussion see Crouch: Reign of Stephen (see note 13), p. 109f.

65 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 62f.: Contractis ergo comes celeriter copiis ad metas a rege datas aduenit, sororemque Bristou ad tutiora perduxit.

66 Ibid., pp. 114f.: […] sororem suam e mediis hostibus ad se receperit […].

67 Ibid., pp. 64f.: […] regio […] partim ui, partim beneuolentia pedetemptim residuis illius anni mensibus se dominae imperatrici applicuit.

68 Ibid., pp. 70f.

69 Edmund King puts forth a similar argument and points out that the king’s inability to offer protection had severe consequences. After travelling forth from Worcester, where he had not been able to prevent an attack on the city, the king attempted to recapture Hereford but without success. On his way back, the king found the townspeople of Leominster hesitant to swear fealty to him and, once returned to Worcester, the bishop-elect of Bangor reluctant to swear homage to him: “It is not difficult […] to see what justification townsmen on the Welsh Marches and a recently consecrated Welsh bishop could have provided for their insubordination. The king had broken his part of the compact. He had offered to them, as to all, his firm peace and protection. He had not delivered”. Edmund King: King Stephen (Yale English Monarchs), New Haven, London 2012, at pp. 121f. For the importance of the king’s role as peacemaker and protector as one major argument of legitimization, see also Björn Weiler: Kingship, usurpation and propaganda in twelfth-century Europe: The case of Stephen, in: Anglo-Norman Studies 22 (2000), pp. 299–326, at pp. 313ff.

70 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 72f.: Comes interea modeste se agere, nichil magis cauere quam ne uel paruo detrimento suorum uinceret. […] Vbicumque tamen commode fieri posse uidebat, et militis et ducis probe offitium exequebatur.

71 Ibid., pp. 96f.: Satisque constat quod, si eius moderationi et sapientiae a suis esset creditum, non tam sinistrum postea sensissent aleae casum.

72 See, for example, King, Potter: Introduction (see note 53), p. lx.

73 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 100f.: Ipsa itaque, ex his quae continue audiebat et a fratre tunc cognouit, legatum nichil molle ad suas partes cogitare intelligens, Wintoniam cum quanto potuit apparatu uenit. Illic intra castellum regium sine cunctatione recepta, bona forsitan mente per nuntios episcopum conuenit, ut, quia ipsa presens erat, non pigritaretur ad eam uenire. Ille […] statimque propter omnes misit quos regi fauturos sciebat. Venerunt ergo fere omnes comites Angliae. Erant enim iuuenes et leues, et qui mallent equitationum discursus quam pacem.

74 King: King Stephen (see note 69), p. 169.

75 William of Malmesbury: Historia Novella (see note 54), pp. 102f.: Vt ergo magnam seriem rerum breui uerborum compendio explicem: a regina, et comitibus qui uenerant, undique foras muros Wintoniae obseruatae sunt uiae, ne uictualia imperatricis fidelibus inferrentur.

76 Ibid.: […] nichilque omnino quod possent pretermittentibus quo imperatricem contristarent.

77 Ibid.: […] ex turre pontificis iaculatum incendium […].

78 Ibid., pp. 104f.: […] quod in ea quidam imperatricis fautores se contutati essent.

79 Ibid.: Veruntamen indignitatem rei ultra non ferens […], cedendum tempori ratus, compositis ordinibus discessionem parauit. Itaque in primo agmine ut libere abiret sororem premittens cum reliquis […].

80 Ibid., pp. 114f.: […] admisit in se persequentium manus, amicorum liberationem impedimento suo mercatus.

81 Among the numerous candidates are Robert of Lewes, bishop of Bath or a London canon. See R. H. C. Davis: The Authorship of the Gesta Stephani, in: English Historical Review 77 (1962), pp. 209–232; Edmund King: The Gesta Stephani, in: David Bates, Julia Crick, Sarah Hamilton (eds.): Writing Medieval Biography, 750–1250. Essays in Honour of Frank Barlow, Woodbridge 2006, pp. 198–202, 205–206.

82 Antonia Gransden: Historical Writing in England I, c. 550 to c. 1307, London, New York 1974, p. 189.

83 Ibid., p. 188.; Edmund King pointed out, however, that the author – though certainly supportive of the king – was not blindly partial in his judgements: Edmund King: Gesta Stephani, in: David Bates, Julia Crick, Sarah Hamilton (eds.): Writing medieval biography, 750–1250: Essays in honour of Professor Frank Barlow, Woodbridge 2006, pp. 195–206, p. 203f.

84 Gesta Stephani (see note 1), p. 8: […] uirum constantem et militarem […].

85 Ibid., p. 4: […] ad pacem in regno conciliandam sese uiriliter armauit […].

86 Ibid., p. 57: […] licet rex Stephanus plurimo militandi artificio ad regnum pacandum inuigilaret, licet immenso decertandi sudore se et suos contra aduersarios continuo fatigaret, non tamen ad uotum profecit […].

87 Ibid., p. 58: […] sororemque illius cum adductis secum Andegauensibus castello, ubi applicuit, delituisse […].

88 Ibid., p. 59: Episcopus itaque, quasi comite non consecuto, cum multa equestrium ambitione regem adiuit. Cumque animaduertisset regem ad obsidionem ingerendam animum offirmasse, inutile id et inacceptum tam sibi quam regno ait esse consilium. Si enim ex una Angliae regione Andegauensem comitissam obsidere disponeret, germanus illius ad regnum perturbandum ex alia quamfestinus parte insurgeret; ideoque consultius sibi esse et regno salubrius, ut ipsam ad fratrem damni immunem progredi permitteret, quatinus ambobus cum uiribus suis in locum unum redactis, et facilius ad eorum cassandum conamen intenderet, et ad eos grauius insequendos cum omnibus suis expeditius adesset.

89 Gransden: Historical Writing (see note 82), pp. 190f.

90 The majority of contemporary writers criticized the king for his decision. For the view that the legate’s advice might have been reasonable see Craig M. Nakashian: The Political and Military Agency of Ecclesiastical Leaders in Anglo-Norman England: 1066–1154, in: Journal of Medieval Military History 12 (2014), pp. 51–80, p. 72, p. 77.

91 Beem: Empress Matilda (see note 48), p. 58.

92 Gesta Stephani (see note 1), p. 78: […] illa statim elatissimum summi fastus induere supercilium nec iam humilem femineae mansuetudinis […].

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid., p. 80: […] non simplici cum mansuetudine sed cum ore imperioso […].

95 Ibid., p. 81: […] illa, torua oculos, crispata in rugam frontem, totam muliebris mansuetudinis euersa faciem, in intolerabilem indignationem exarsit […].

96 Ibid.: […] astuti pectoris uirilisque constantiae femina […].

97 Ibid., p. 8: […] uirum constantem et militarem […].

98 Ibid., p. 81: […] regina […] splendidissimum militantium decus ante Londonias ex altera fluuii regione transmisit, utque raptu et incendio, uiolentia et gladio in comitissae suorumque prospectu ardentissime circa ciuitatem desaeuirent praecepit.

99 Ibid., pp. 82f.: […] quia tantus tam repentini pauoris strepitus tam mirabiliter omnes conturbauit, ut, dominae suae prorsus immemores, sibi potius fugiendo consulerent […].

100 Ibid., p. 83: Regina autem a Londoniensibus suscepta, sexusque fragilitatis femineaeque mollitiei oblita, uiriliter sese et uirtuose continere […].

101 Ibid.: […] flexus […] lacrymosis mulieris precibus […].

102 Ibid., p. 84: Sed comitissa Andegauensis uersutiam illius astute praeueniens, cum instructissimo militum apparatu, episcopum si posset interceptura, Wentam ciuitatem aduenit […].

103 Ibid.: Illa igitur uniuersam sibi parentium per Angliam militiam, edicto ubique propenso, in grandem exercitum conuocauit, castellumque episcopi, […] sed et domum illius […], ualidissima obsidione claudere praecepit.

104 Ibid., p. 85: […] cum eximio militantium robore, cumque inuicta Londoniensium caterua, qui fere mille cum galeis et loricis ornatissime instructi conuenerant, interius obsidentes uiuacissime exterius et ardentissime obsidebat.

105 Ibid., p. 89: Sed et ipsa Andegauensis comitissa, femineam semper excedens mollitiem, ferreumque et infractum gerens in aduersis animum, ante omnes, Brieno tantum cum paucis comite, ad Diuisas confugit […].

106 Pauline Stafford: The Portrayal of Royal Women in England, Mid-Tenth to Mid-Twelfth Centuries, in: John Carmi Parsons (ed.): Medieval Queenship, Stroud 1994, pp. 143–167, 217–220, at p. 160: “[…] his effeminate men and verbally abusive women are not familiar from the immediately preceding centuries […]”.

107 For instance, a similar argument is put forth by Charles Beem: Empress Matilda (see note 48), especially pp. 56ff.

108 Beem: Empress Matilda (see note 48), p. 61.