In my previous post, I explored the beginnings and first marriages of Matilda and Mary. I hope I encouraged you to think about how much their lives changed when their first husbands went to early graves, and how much they felt the importance of their royal statuses. In this article I will focus on their later lives, sons and deaths.
Matilda was declared her father’s heir when she returned to England following her husband’s death; her father’s nobles swore to him that they would uphold her as queen. However, she was still expected to make another marriage and give birth to princes who would grow up to be kings. Matilda was probably dismayed to be sent to marry the much younger, inferior Geoffrey of Anjou – but she had to obey her father in all things, and he needed the political advantages and lands this match could bring. The marriage was not a happy one, and Matilda surely yearned to be able to escape it. It was a few years until she gave birth to a son, Henry.
Mary, Queen of Scots, also made a second marriage which was not as regal as her first. She had fallen in love with the handsome Lord Darnley, her cousin, and another contender for England’s throne. However, the first feelings of lust soon wore off as it became apparent that Darnley expected to rule Scotland through Mary and was generally an obnoxious young man. Mary was by this time pregnant, and hoping to produce a prince to strengthen her claim to England over the childless Elizabeth.
This is where the differences between our two queens become most apparent, as Mary became embroiled in murder and scandal, and was imprisoned in England for 19 years. She would never now realise her claim to England. Catholic plots were rumoured in her name and she became a threat that Elizabeth could not ignore – or allow to live. She met her death via the axe in 1587. Though Mary never realised her true ambition of becoming queen of England, her son James became the first Stuart king to rule that land. James had grown up without his mother, and perhaps did not think favourably of her.
On the other hand, Matilda’s young son Henry grew up with the support and love of his mother, despite often being apart. When Henry I died, and the nobles did not uphold their oath to Matilda, she had to fight for the throne; but she never gained their trust or support over her cousin Stephen. She gave up her right to England in favour of her son, Henry II, like Mary would centuries later. Whilst Mary was sent to the block, Matilda always lived with the love and admiration of her son, and was a valued adviser to him as king. Perhaps towards the end of her life, being a mother was more important than being Queen of England – something Mary never had the opportunity of discovering.
Look out for future posts on Mary and Matilda!