Even the best examinees in the History papers can become mixed up because of Empress Matilda. She was the English princess, daughter of Henry I, his only legitimate child, and named his heir (there being no Salic Law in England in 1127). She was called ‘Empress’ because she married the Emperor of Germany.
Henry died after a reign lasting thirty-five years and Matilda should have become Queen but her relative Stephen, a grandson of William I (‘the Conquerer’) seized the throne. Stephen was married to a girl with the popular but confusing name of Matilda. Henry I’s first wife was also called Matilda. Stephen had a daughter called Maud, but she was drowned in The White Ship incident; also drowned in this accident was William the Atheling, heir to Henry I – and married to another girl called Matilda!
The Empress was forced to escape out of England because of Stephen’s enforced claim to the throne; but she wasn’t giving up that easily. Her claim was backed by King David I of Scotland. She and her half-brother the Earl of Gloucester invaded England in 1339. Thus England was plunged into a kind of civil war between cousins, which the Empress Matilda, or Maud, lost. Stephen successfully established his seat on the throne, and Matilda left England (briefly) for France. Her son Henry eventually became King Henry II (q.v.) first of the Plantagenets. Matilda or Maud died in 1167, not much mourned by her son Henry, who did not like either his mother or his wife Eleanor of Aquitane (q.v.) despite the notion that she was the richest woman in Europe.
After this it was hoped by the scribes that royal families would find another name for their girls than Matilda (or Maud).