I’m on day 10 of Dry January and happy to report that I’m feeling great!
Back on the historical front: you might not be aware, but there were only like three female names in the Middle Ages (#facts) and ‘Matilda’ was clearly a popular choice for Medieval girl babies.
I’m only up to King John (1166 – 1216) with Mr Crowther and there have already been about 87 Matildas. But I’m here today to fill you in on a lesser known, non-queen Matilda de Braose.
This broad was a bit like Catelyn Stark — a tough cookie, hater of Jons/Johns, possibly lacking in sense of humour, who would do anything to protect her children (unless you are the bastard son of her husband, in which case she will glare at you without mercy and never welcome you into the familial fold).
So, in our last historical instalment, we saw dear Alys narrowly escape a union with King John. I say ‘escape’ because John’s character tends to garner pretty negative press both then and now. He was the youngest son of Henry and Eleanor and originally dubbed ‘John Lackland’. I guess the Lackland title (rub it in much??) gave him a bit of a chip on his shoulder ’cause he grew up to be suspicious and reactionary and generally …
The collapse of the Angevin empire is also attributed to John — whooooooopseee!
Anyway, John was super distrusting of his barons and he would often seize their children as hostages to ensure that the barons were bending to his will.
So one of John’s blessed barons was Matilda’s hubby, William de Braose IV. Apparently, William was in excellent favour with our capricious king until his wife went and bitched about John being a nephew-murderer* — rude (probably true)! Mayyyybe because of these alleged comments, John insisted that William and Matilda hand over their eldest son (naturally also named William so… Will V**) as a hostage to prove their loyalty.
Even though she had 16 children (so what’s one less?) Matilda was not keen to hand her son Will V over to the king. In fact, she staunchly refused to do so and once again threw out some choice remarks about John’s nephew-murdering tendencies within earshot of John’s officers.
Well, that did it.
John was displeased… and we all know what it’s like when Joffr–I mean, John is displeased.
As King John sent troops out to seize all of the castles and Welsh lands belonging to William, Matilda and Will V escaped to Ireland and found refuge in Trim Castle in 1208. However, John was not one to let go of a grudge, and in 1210 he sent an expedition over to Ireland to find Matilda and her son. They were eventually captured and brought back to England where John set up them up in some lovely new accommodations: the dungeon of Corfe Castle.
It grieves me to report that Matilda and Will V were starved to death in the dungeon. Starvation is perhaps not as gruesome as the Red Wedding Joffrey cooked up for Catelyn and Robb, but it was effective enough, I’d say!
Interestingly, this atrocity later led to a clause in the Magna Carta that states:
No man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.
Put your pen to that, John!
*King John was rumoured to have been involved in the murder of his nephew Arthur of Brittany. Be on the lookout for more about Arthur’s sister Eleanor coming up in a future instalment.
One of the contemporary chroniclers described Matilda as ‘beautiful, very wise, doughty, and vigorous’. When I heard ‘doughty’ on the podcast it sounded like ‘dowdy’ and I immediately thought — ‘Hey! It’s not Matilda’s fault she had to wear all that drapery and those funny hats!’
But of course, he was saying doughty not dowdy, and I guess all the confusion merits it becoming a Weekes Word. Listen up: it’s actually a pretty badass word to use to describe a woman!
Doughty: Middle English word derived from the Old English word ‘dohtig’ and meaning brave and persistent, steadfastly courageous, valiant. Ex: There was no doubting that Weekes was doughty when she signed up to participate in Dry January.
Keep dry and well-fed,
xWG // #dazeandweekes