The Disaster of the White Ship
In 1120 Matilda's elder brother William Adelin and heir to the English throne died returning from Normandy when his ship, called the White Ship, hit rocks and sank. As Henry I had no other children, Matilda was declared heir to the English throne. Henry made the Barons swear allegiance to Matilda and made them swear that they should crown her as Queen upon his death. One of these barons was Stephen of Blois, Henry's nephew.
Stephen becomes King of England
When Henry died in December of 1135 Stephen saw his chance to take the English throne for himself and came to England to take control. Stephen was supported by many of the English Barons who did not want a woman to rule their country and also by his brother the Bishop of Winchester. Back in Normandy, Matilda and Geoffrey were planning to take back the throne that should have been theirs.
The civil war between Stephen and Matilda began in 1136 when Matilda's half brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, rebelled against Stephen. Matilda arrived in England in 1139 and after a series of battles Stephen was captured in 1141 at the Battle of Lincoln.
Matilda fails to become Queen of England
After the success at Lincoln Matilda was temporarily elected Queen, but as she entered London for her coronation angry Londoners opposed to her mistreatment of them ran her out of the city. At this point Stephen's wife arrived from France with an army and at Winchester captured the Earl of Gloucester. Matilda managed to escape to the south-west of the country where she had more support. Stephen's imprisonment was ended when he was exchanged for the Earl of Gloucester.
Matilda leaves England
In 1147 the Earl died and Matilda, now without her chief supporter, left England for Normandy. Back in Normandy she planned her son's attempts to win back the English throne. Her son was to become Henry II, King of England.