Women of the Anarchy
- Sharon Bennett Connolly
15th January 2024
In 1135, Stephen of Blois usurped the throne, stealing it from his cousin Empress Matilda and sparking a nineteen-year civil war that would become known as the Anarchy, one of the bloodiest periods in English history.
On the one side is Empress Matilda. The sole surviving legitimate child of Henry I, she is fighting for her birthright and that of her children. On the other side is her cousin, Queen Matilda, supporting her husband, Stephen, and fighting to see her own son inherit the English crown. Both women are granddaughters of St Margaret, Queen of Scotland, and descendants of Alfred the Great of Wessex. Empress Matilda was the first woman to claim the throne of England in her own right, but did not gain the support of the barons. When Queen Matilda’s husband King Stephen was captured by the Empress’s forces, it was down to her to keep the fight going, and to negotiate for her husband’s release.
Women of the Anarchy demonstrates how these women, unable to wield a sword, were prime movers in this time of conflict and lawlessness. It show how their strengths, weaknesses and personal ambitions swung the fortunes of war one way – and then the other.