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Queen Matilda

by Marriott Edgar
Illustrations by John Hassall

Matilda

Matilda was the first female ruler of England but only held on to the throne for a few months (in 1141).

Her dad was Henry I and her son was Henry II, so she was sort of a Henrietta one-and-a-half.

Being betrothed at 7 years old (to a German guy, also named Henry) was only the start of her woes. She spent most of her life squabbling with her cousin Stephen, who was one of the few people in the world not called Henry.

Henry the first, surnamed "Beauclare,"
Lost his only son William at sea,
So when Henry died it were hard to decide
Who his heir and successor should be.

There were two runners-up for the title;
His daughter Matilda was one,
And the other, a boy, known as Stephen of Blois,
His young sister Adela's son.

Matilda by right should have had it,
Being daughter of him as were dead,
But the folks wasn't keen upon having a queen,
So they went and crowned Stephen instead.

Up with Matilda!
"Up with Matilda!"
Come along, Steve!
"Come along, Steve!"

This 'ere were a knockout for Tilda,
The notion she could not absorb
To lose at one blow both the crown and the throne,
To say naught of the sceptre and orb.

So she summoned her friends in t'West Country
From Bristol, Bath, Gloucester and Frome,
And also a lot of relations from Scotland,
Who'd come South and wouldn't go home.

The East Counties rallied round Stephen,
Where his cause had support of the masses,
And his promise of loot brought a lot of recruits
From the more intellectual classes.

The Country were split in two parties
In a manner you'd hardly believe,
The West with a will shouted: "Up with Matilda!"
The East hollered: "Come along, Steve!"

The Battle of the Standard
The Battle of the Standard

The two armies met up in Yorkshire,
Both leaders the same tactics tried.
To each soldier they gave a big standard to wave,
In hopes they'd impress t 'other side.

It were known as the battle o't Standard,
Though no battling anyone saw,
For with flags in their right hands, the lads couldn't fight,
And the referee called it a draw.

The next time they met were at Lincoln,
Where Stephen were properly beat,
At the end of the scrap he were led off a captive,
With iron balls chained to his feet.

They took him in triumph to Tilda,
Who, assuming an arrogant mien,
Snatched the Crown off his head and indignantly said
"Take your 'at off in front of your Queen!"

Stephen taken captive
Stephen taken captive
'Ats off in front of the Queen
'Ats off in front of the Queen

So Stephen were put in a dungeon,
While Tilda ascended the throne
And reigned undisturbed for best part of a year,
Till she looked on the job as her own.

But Stephen weren't beat by a long chalk
His plans for escape he soon made,
For he found Tilda's troops were all getting fed up,
Having heard that they wouldn't be paid.

So when Tilda got snowed up at Oxford,
Where she'd taken to staying of late,
She woke one fine morn, to the sound of a horn,
And found Stephen outside her front gate.

Her troops gone, her castle surrounded,
She saw she hadn't a chance,
So, the ground being white, she escaped in her nightie
And caught the next packet for France.

She didn't do badly at finish,
When everything's weighed up and reckoned
For when Stephen was gone the next heir to the throne
Were Matilda's son, Henry the second.

Troops hear they are not going to be paid
Troops hear they are not going to be paid
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