The Life of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh: Part V


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Prince Philip became the oldest-ever male British royal in February 2013, and the third-longest-lived member of the British royal family (following Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) in April 2019. Personally, he was not enthused about living an extremely long life, remarking in a 2000 interview (when he was 79) that he could not “imagine anything worse” and had “no desire whatsoever” to become a centenarian, saying “bits of me are falling off already”.

In 2008, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital, London, for a chest infection; he walked into the hospital unaided, recovered quickly, and was discharged three days later. After the Evening Standard reported that Philip had prostate cancer, Buckingham Palace – which usually refuses to comment on health rumours – denied the story and the paper retracted it.

In June 2011, in an interview marking his 90th birthday, he said that he would now slow down and reduce his duties, stating that he had “done [his] bit”. His wife, the Queen, gave him the title Lord High Admiral for his 90th birthday. While staying at Sandringham House, the royal residence in Norfolk, on December 23, 2011, the Duke suffered chest pains and was taken to the cardio-thoracic unit at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, where he underwent successful coronary angioplasty and stenting. He was discharged on December 27.

On June 4, 2012, during the celebrations in honour of his wife’s Diamond Jubilee, Philip was taken from Windsor Castle to King Edward VII’s Hospital suffering from a bladder infection. He was released from hospital on June 9. After a recurrence of infection in August 2012, while staying at Balmoral Castle, he was admitted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for five nights as a precautionary measure. In June 2013, Philip was admitted to the London Clinic for an exploratory operation on his abdomen, spending 11 days in hospital. On May 21, 2014, the Prince appeared in public with a bandage on his right hand after a “minor procedure” was performed in Buckingham Palace the preceding day. In June 2017, he was taken from Windsor to London and admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital after being diagnosed with an infection. He spent two nights in the hospital and was unable to attend the State Opening of Parliament and Royal Ascot.


Prince Philip retired from his royal duties on August 2, 2017, meeting Royal Marines in his final solo public engagement, aged 96. Since 1952 he had completed 22,219 solo engagements. Prime Minister Theresa May thanked him for “a remarkable lifetime of service”. On November 0, 2017, he celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary with the Queen, which made her the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum wedding anniversary.

On April 3, 2018, Philip was admitted to King Edward VII’s Hospital for a planned hip replacement, which took place the next day. This came after the Duke missed the annual Maundy and Easter Sunday services. On April 12, his daughter, Princess Anne, spent about 50 minutes in the hospital and afterwards said her father was “on good form”. He was discharged the following day. On May 19, six weeks later, he attended the wedding of his grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle and was able to walk with the Queen unaided. That October, he accompanied the Queen to the wedding of their granddaughter Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank, with The Telegraph reporting that Philip works on a “wake up and see how I feel” basis when deciding whether to attend an event or not.

Philip died on the morning of April 9, 2021 at Windsor Castle, aged 99, two months before his 100th birthday. He was the longest-serving royal consort in British history. In private, the Queen described her husband’s death as “having left a huge void in her life”.

The cause of death has not been disclosed, though the palace said Philip died peacefully. Philip’s daughter-in-law, the Countess of Wessex, confirmed the official statement, describing his death as “…so gentle. It was just like somebody took him by the hand and off he went.” His death led to the commencement of Operation Forth Bridge, the plan for publicly announcing his death and organising his funeral. The funeral is scheduled to take place on April 16, 2021 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The Life of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh: Part IV


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As consort to the Queen, Philip supported his wife in her duties as sovereign, accompanying her to ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament in various countries, state dinners, and tours abroad. As chairman of the Coronation Commission, he was the first member of the royal family to fly in a helicopter, visiting the troops that were to take part in the ceremony. Philip was not crowned in the service, but knelt before Elizabeth, with her hands enclosing his, and swore to be her “liege man of life and limb”.

In the early 1950s, his sister-in-law, Princess Margaret, considered marrying a divorced older man, Peter Townsend. The press accused Philip of being hostile to the match, to which he replied “I haven’t done anything.” Philip had not interfered, preferring to stay out of other people’s love lives. Eventually, Margaret and Townsend parted. For six months, over 1953–1954, Philip and Elizabeth toured the Commonwealth; as with previous tours the children were left in Britain.

In 1956, the Duke, with Kurt Hahn, founded The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in order to give young people “a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities”. In the same year, he also established the Commonwealth Study Conferences. From 1956 to 1957, Philip travelled around the world aboard the newly commissioned HMY Britannia, during which he opened the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and visited the Antarctic, becoming the first royal to cross the Antarctic Circle.

The Queen and the children remained in the UK. On the return leg of the journey, Philip’s private secretary, Mike Parker, was sued for divorce by his wife. As with Townsend, the press still portrayed divorce as a scandal, and eventually Parker resigned. He later said that the Duke was very supportive and “the Queen was wonderful throughout. She regarded divorce as a sadness, not a hanging offence.” In a public show of support, the Queen created Parker a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.

Further press reports claimed that the Queen and the Duke were drifting apart, which enraged the Duke and dismayed the Queen, who issued a strongly worded denial. On February 22, 1957, she granted her husband the style and title of a Prince of the United Kingdom by Letters Patent, and it was gazetted that he was to be known as “His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh”.

Philip was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on October 14, 1957, taking his Oath of Allegiance before the Queen in person at her Canadian residence, Rideau Hall. Remarks he made two years later to the Canadian Medical Association on the subject of youth and sport were taken as a suggestion that Canadian children were out of shape. This was at first considered “tactless”, but Philip was later admired for his encouragement of physical fitness.

Philip was patron of some 800 organisations, particularly focused on the environment, industry, sport, and education. His first solo engagement as Duke of Edinburgh was in March 1948, presenting prizes at the boxing finals of the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs at the Royal Albert Hall. He was president of the National Playing Fields Association (now known as Fields in Trust) for 64 years, from 1947 until his grandson Prince William took over the role in 2013.

He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society in 1951. In 1952, he became patron of The Industrial Society (since renamed The Work Foundation). Between 1959 and 1965 Prince Philip was the President of BAFTA. He helped found the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1963 and the World Wildlife Fund in 1961 and served as the latter’s UK president from 1961 to 1982, international president from 1981, and president emeritus from 1996.

He was also president of the Zoological Society of London for two decades and was appointed an honorary fellow in 1977. Despite his involvement in initiatives for conserving nature, he was also criticised for practices such as fox hunting and shooting of game birds. He was president of the International Equestrian Federation from 1964 to 1986, and served as chancellor of the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Salford, and Wales.

In 1965, at the suggestion of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, Philip became chair to a scheme set up for awarding industrial innovations, which later became known as the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. In the same year, Philip became president of the Council of Engineering Institutions and in that capacity he assisted with the inception of the Fellowship of Engineering (later the Royal Academy of Engineering), of which he later became the senior fellow.

He also commissioned the Prince Philip Designers Prize and the Prince Philip Medal to recognise designers and engineers with exceptional contributions. In 2017, the British Heart Foundation thanked Prince Philip for being its patron for 55 years, during which time, in addition to organising fundraisers, he “supported the creation of nine BHF-funded centres of excellence”. He was an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge.

The Life of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh: Part III


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The Duke of Edinburgh met his future wife in 1939 when he was 18 and she was 13. In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. Upon the request of the Queen and Philip’s uncle, Earl Mountbatten, they asked him to escort Elizabeth and Margaret, who were Philip’s third cousins through Queen Victoria, and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark, while their parents visited the facility.

Elizabeth said she fell in love with Philip, and they began to exchange letters. In 1946 Philip asked the king for permission to marry Elizabeth. This request was granted on the condition that it would not be announced until after the Elizabeth’s 21st birthday in April of the next year. She was 21 when their engagement was officially announced on July 9, 1947.

The engagement was not without controversy; Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject who had served in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War), and had sisters who had married German Royalty with Nazi links. Marion Crawford wrote, “Some of the King’s advisors did not think him good enough for her. He was a prince without a home or kingdom.

Some of the papers played long and loud tunes on the string of Philip’s foreign origin.” Later biographies reported Elizabeth’s mother had reservations about the union initially, and teased Philip as “The Hun.” In later life, however, the Queen Mother told biographer Tim Heald that Philip was “an English gentleman.”

Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, officially converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Anglicanism, and adopted the style Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the Anglicized version of Battenberg, the surname of his mother’s British family.

The day before the wedding his wedding, King George VI bestowed the style His Royal Highness on Philip, and on the day of the wedding, November 20, 1947, King George VI granted Philip the titles of Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich. However, he wasn’t made a Prince of the United Kingdom in his own right until 1958 when Her Majesty granted him that distinction.

Elizabeth and Philip were married on November 20, 1947 at Westminster Abbey. They received 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world. Because Britain had not yet completely recovered from the devastation of the war, Elizabeth required ration coupons to buy the material for her gown, which was designed by Norman Hartnel. In post-war Britain, it was not acceptable for Philip’s German relations, including his three surviving sisters, to be invited to the wedding. The Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, was not invited either.

Philip left active military service when Elizabeth became queen in 1952, having reached the rank of commander. Philip had four children with Elizabeth: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Through a British Order in Council issued in 1960, descendants of the couple not bearing royal styles and titles can use the surname Mountbatten-Windsor, which has also been used by some members of the royal family who do hold titles, such as Anne, Andrew and Edward.

The History of the Title of Duke of Edinburgh.


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Duke of Edinburgh: Dukedom in the Peerage of Great Britain and the United Kingdom

The Dukedom of Edinburgh, named after the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, is a substantive title that has been created three times for members of the British royal family since 1726. A substantive title is a title of nobility or royalty acquired either by individual grant By the sovereign or inheritance. It is to be distinguished from a title shared among cadets, borne as a courtesy title by a peer’s relatives, or acquired through marriage.

The title of Duke of Edinburgh has been created three times and has been borne by five princes of the Royal Family. The current holder of the title, Duke of Edinburgh, is His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales who inherited the title on the death of his father Prince Philip on April 9th 2021.

The title was first created in the Peerage of Great Britain on 26 July 26, 1726 by King George I of Great Britain who bestowed it on his grandson Prince Frederick Louis, the eldest son of the future King George II and his wife Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (from the collateral branch of the Prussian royal House of Hohenzollern)

At the time King George I created Prince Frederick Louis Duke of Edinburgh, Frederick Louis’s parents were the Prince and Princess of Wales. King George I died the very next year and Frederick Louis’s parents became King George II and Queen Caroline and Prince Frederick Louis was created Prince of Wales.

The subsidiary titles of the dukedom were Baron of Snowdon, in the County of Caernarvon, Viscount of Launceston, in the County of Cornwall, Earl of Eltham, in the County of Kent, and Marquess of the Isle of Ely. These titles were also in the Peerage of Great Britain. The marquessate was apparently erroneously gazetted as Marquess of the Isle of Wight although Marquess of the Isle of Ely was the intended title. In later editions of the London Gazette the Duke is referred to as the Marquess of the Isle of Ely.

Upon Frederick Louis’s death in 1751 the title Duke of Edinburgh and it’s subsidiary titles of the dukedom were inherited by his son Prince George. When Prince George became King George III in 1760, the titles “merged into the Crown”, and ceased to exist.

1866 Creation

Queen Victoria re-created the title, this time in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, on May 24, 1866 (her 47th birthday) for her second son Prince Alfred. Creating him Duke of Edinburgh was a departure from the long held tradition of creating the title Duke of York for the second son of the Monarch.

The subsidiary titles of the creation of this dukedom were Earl of Kent and Earl of Ulster, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. When Alfred became the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1893, he retained his British titles. His only son Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, committed suicide in 1899, so the Dukedom of Edinburgh and subsidiary titles became extinct upon the elder Alfred’s death in 1900.

1947 Creation

The title was created for a third time on November 19, 1947 by King George VI, who bestowed it on his son-in-law Philip Mountbatten, when he married his eldest daughter and heir, The Princess Elizabeth. Philip was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark, being a male-line grandson of King George I of the Hellenes and male-line great-grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark).

Subsequently, Princess Elizabeth was styled “HRH The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh” until her accession to the throne in 1952. The subsidiary titles of this creation of the dukedom are Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich, of Greenwich in the County of London.

Like the dukedom, these subsidiary titles are also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Earlier that year, Philip had renounced his Greek and Danish royal titles along with his rights to the Greek throne. In 1957, Philip became a Prince of the United Kingdom in his own right.

Upon Philip’s death on April 9, 2021, his eldest son Charles, Prince of Wales, succeeded to all of his hereditary titles. The current heir apparent to the dukedom is Charles’ eldest son Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

When Prince Charles succeeds to the throne as king this third creation of the title Duke of Edinburgh will merge with the crown and cease to exist. The plan, set forth in 1999, is to create the title for a fourth time for Prince Charles’s youngest brother, Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex.

The Life of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh: Part II


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Military Career

After leaving Gordonstoun in early 1939, Philip completed a term as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, then repatriated to Greece, living with his mother in Athens for a month in mid-1939. At the behest of the Greek king, George II (his first-cousin), he returned to Britain in September to resume training for the Royal Navy. He graduated from Dartmouth the next year as the best cadet in his course.

During the Second World War, he continued to serve in the British forces, while two of his brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Berthold, Margrave of Baden, fought on the opposing German side. Philip was appointed as a midshipman in January 1940. He spent four months on the battleship HMS Ramillies, protecting convoys of the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean, followed by shorter postings on HMS Kent, on HMS Shropshire, and in British Ceylon. After the invasion of Greece by Italy in October 1940, he was transferred from the Indian Ocean to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet.

On February 1, 1941, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant after a series of courses at Portsmouth, in which he gained the top grade in four out of five sections of the qualifying examination. Among other engagements, he was involved in the battle of Crete, and was mentioned in dispatches for his service during the battle of Cape Matapan, in which he controlled the battleship’s searchlights. He was also awarded the Greek War Cross. In June 1942, he was appointed to the destroyer HMS Wallace, which was involved in convoy escort tasks on the east coast of Britain, as well as the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Promotion to lieutenant followed on July 16, 1942. In October of the same year, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, at 21 years old one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, as second in command of Wallace, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. He devised a plan to launch a raft with smoke floats that successfully distracted the bombers, allowing the ship to slip away unnoticed. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer, HMS Whelp, where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla.

He was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed. Philip returned to the United Kingdom on the Whelp in January 1946, and was posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham, Wiltshire.

The Life of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Part I.


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Born on June 10, 1921 to HRH Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and HSH Princess Alice of Battenburg. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was a member of the House of House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and a great-great grandson of Britain’s Queen Victoria and great grandson of Denmark’s King Christian IX of Denmark.

Philip’s father was Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark the fourth son of George I of Greece and his wife Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, a member of the Romanov dynasty, she was the daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaievich of Russia and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg.

Philip’s mother was the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. Her mother was the eldest daughter of Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Her father was the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine through his morganatic marriage to Countess Julia Hauke, who was created Princess of Battenberg in 1858 by Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse. Her three younger siblings, Louise, George, and Louis, later became Queen of Sweden, Marquess of Milford Haven, and Earl Mountbatten of Burma, respectively.

Despite his Danish and German ancestry the Duke of Edinburgh was very British and lived the overwhelming majority of his life in the United Kingdon. In 1939 he joined the British Navy and on his 90th birthday Her Majesty the Queen awarded her husband with the rank of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.

Philip was first educated at The Elms, an American school in Paris run by Donald MacJannet, who described Philip as a “know it all smarty person, but always remarkably polite”. In 1928, he was sent to the United Kingdom to attend Cheam School, living with his maternal grandmother, Victoria Mountbatten, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, at Kensington Palace and his uncle, George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, at Lynden Manor in Bray, Berkshire.

In the next three years, his four sisters married German princes and moved to Germany, his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and placed in an asylum, and his father took up residence in Monte Carlo. Philip had little contact with his mother for the remainder of his childhood.

In 1933, he was sent to Schule Schloss Salem in Germany, which had the “advantage of saving school fees” because it was owned by the family of his brother-in-law, Berthold, Margrave of Baden. With the rise of Nazism in Germany, Salem’s Jewish founder, Kurt Hahn, fled persecution and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, to which Philip moved after two terms at Salem.

In 1937, his sister Cecilie, her husband Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, her two young sons, Ludwig and Alexander, her newborn infant, and her mother-in-law, Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, were killed in an air crash at Ostend; Philip, then 16 years old, attended the funeral in Darmstadt. Both Cecilie and her husband were members of the Nazi Party. The following year, his uncle and guardian Lord Milford Haven died of bone marrow cancer.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh has died at age 99


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By Rachel Elbaum LONDON — Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and the longest-serving consort of any British monarch, has died at age 99. Philip spent 65 years supporting the queen, retiring from his public role in 2017 and staying largely out of the view since. In his active years, he helped set a new course for the monarchy under a young queen, championing Britain itself, as well as environmental causes, science and technology.

April 7, 1141, Empress Matilda claims the English Throne. Part II.


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King Stephen’s early reign was marked by fierce fighting with English barons, rebellious Welsh leaders and Scottish invaders. Following a major rebellion in the south-west of England, Matilda invaded in 1139 with the help of her half-brother Robert of Gloucester.

Neither side was able to achieve a decisive advantage during the first years of the war; the Empress came to control the south-west of England and much of the Thames Valley, while Stephen remained in control of the south-east. The castles of the period were easily defensible, and so the fighting was mostly attrition warfare, comprising sieges, raiding and skirmishing between armies of knights and footsoldiers, many of them mercenaries.

While Stephen and his army besieged Lincoln Castle at the start of 1141, Robert of Gloucester and Ranulf of Chester advanced on the king’s position with a somewhat larger force. When the news reached Stephen, he held a council to decide whether to give battle or to withdraw and gather additional soldiers: Stephen decided to fight, resulting in the Battle of Lincoln on February 2, 1141. Stephen was captured following the Battle of Lincoln, causing a collapse in his authority over most of the country.

Robert of Gloucester, Matilda’s half brother, took Stephen back to Gloucester, where the king met with the Empress Matilda, and was then moved to Bristol Castle, traditionally used for holding high-status prisoners. He was initially left confined in relatively good conditions, but his security was later tightened and he was kept in chains. The Empress now began to take the necessary steps to have herself crowned Queen of England in his place, which would require the agreement of the church and her coronation at Westminster.

Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury was unwilling to declare Matilda queen so rapidly, and a delegation of clergy and nobles, headed by Theobald, travelled to see Stephen in Bristol and consult about their moral dilemma: should they abandon their oaths of fealty to the king? Stephen agreed that, given the situation, he was prepared to release his subjects from their oath of fealty to him.

The clergy gathered again in Winchester after Easter to declare the Empress “Lady of England and Normandy” as a precursor to her coronation. While Matilda’s own followers attended the event, few other major nobles seem to have attended and a delegation from London prevaricated. Queen Matilda wrote to complain and demand Stephen’s release. The Empress Matilda then advanced to London to stage her coronation in June, where her position became precarious.

Despite securing the support of Geoffrey de Mandeville, who controlled the Tower of London, forces loyal to Stephen and Queen Matilda remained close to the city and the citizens were fearful about welcoming the Empress. On 24 June, shortly before the planned coronation, the city rose up against the Empress and Geoffrey de Mandeville; Matilda and her followers only just fled in time, making a chaotic retreat to Oxford.

King Stephen gained control of the country once again and the two warring parties reached an agreement. The agreement between the two factions was that Matilda’s eldest son, Henry Fitzempress, would succeed as King of England upon the death of King Stephen.

When Stephen died on October 25, 1154, Matilda’s son became King Henry II of England. Matilda retired to Normandy and held court when her son was abscent from Normandy. She died in 1167 and was clearly the legal successor to her father. Since she was the legal heir and given the fact the she briefly held London when Stephen was captured and imprisoned, many consider her the first true Queen Regnant of England.

April 7, 1141: Empress Matilda claims the English Throne


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Empress Matilda (c. February 7, 1102 – September 10, 1167), also known as the Empress Maude, was one of the claimants to the English throne during the civil war known as the Anarchy. Empress Matilda was the daughter of King Henry I of England by first wife Matilda of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scots.

Henry I’s two eldest surviving children were William Ætheling and Matilda. William Ætheling (1103 – 1120), commonly called Adelin, sometimes Adelinus, or Adelingus or other Latinised Norman-French variants of Ætheling. William was married to Matilda of Anjou the eldest daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou. The couple were married when William Ætheling was 16 and Matilda of Anjou was only 8. Needless to say, that when William drowned in the English channel in 1120, a year after their marriage, when his ship, The White Ship, sank, there were no children from the union. Henry I did remarry the next year. His new bride was Adeliza of Louvain, who was 18 while Henry was 53, but no children were born of this union.

The other legitimate child of Henry to survive was Matilda who had married Holy Roman Emperor Hienrich V. That union gave Matilda the title of Empress and it is as Empress Matilda she is most known by. There were no children of this union and the Emperor died in 1125. Matilda remarried in 1128, Geoffery, Count of Anjou (who had the nickname Plantaganet) a prince which the powerful barons did not trust. This union provided Matilda with three healthy sons, Henry, Geoffery & William.

With William Ætheling dead, the succession to the English throne was thrown into doubt. Rules of succession were uncertain in western Europe at the time; in some parts of France, male primogeniture was becoming more popular, in which the eldest son would inherit a title. It was also traditional for the king of France to crown his successor while he was still alive, making the intended line of succession relatively clear.

This was not the case in England, where the best a noble could do was to identify what Professor Eleanor Searle has termed a pool of legitimate heirs, leaving them to challenge and dispute the inheritance after his death. The problem was further complicated by the sequence of unstable Anglo-Norman successions over the previous sixty years.

William the Conqueror had invaded England, his sons William Rufus and Robert Curthose had fought a war between them to establish their inheritance, and Henry had only acquired control of Normandy by force. There had been no peaceful, uncontested successions.

Initially, Henry put his hopes in fathering another son. William and Matilda’s mother—Matilda of Scotland—had died in 1118, and so Henry took a new wife, Adeliza of Louvain. Henry and Adeliza did not conceive any children, and the future of the dynasty appeared at risk. Henry may have begun to look among his nephews for a possible heir.

Henry may have considered his sister Adela’s son Stephen of Blois as a possible option and, perhaps in preparation for this, he arranged a beneficial marriage for Stephen to Empress Matilda’s wealthy maternal cousin Countess Matilda I of Boulogne. Count Theobald IV of Blois, another nephew and close ally, possibly also felt that he was in favour with Henry.

William Clito, the only son of Robert Curthose, was King Louis VI of France’s preferred choice, but William was in open rebellion against Henry and was therefore unsuitable. Henry might have also considered his own illegitimate son, Robert of Gloucester, as a possible candidate, but English tradition and custom would have looked unfavourably on this. Henry’s plans shifted when Empress Matilda’s husband, Emperor Henry, died in 1125

Henry I desired that his daughter would succeed him and had the Barons of the relm swear and oath to that aim. When Henry died on December 1, 1135 Matilda was in Normandy pregnant with her third child and her cousin, Stephen of Blois usurped the throne from her. Stephen had support from the Barons and was swiftly crowned King of England.

Although Stephen held the crown Matilda did not just sit quietly. For almost the entierty of the reign of king Stephen there was civil war, which some historians call “the Anarchy,” which was settled shortly before his death in 1154.

In part II I will examine how the Empress Matilda almost became England’s first Queen Regnant on April 7, 1141.