Five Things About the Real Matilda Empress by Lise Arin
Today we have the pleasure of introducing author Lise Arin! She's written a historical fiction novel about a real historical figure, Empress Matilda. For this post she's written up a list of 5 things about the real woman.
How do you feel about fiction books based on real characters? Are there any historical figures that you are drawn to?
The real, historical Matilda is most remembered by two lines of the epitaph inscribed on her tomb: Great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring, Here lies the daughter, wife and mother of Henry. For Matilda Empress, I transformed this verse into a witch’s prophecy.
Matilda was married twice, first betrothed at age 8 to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, and secondly at age 26 to Geoffrey of Anjou, a Plantagenet.
She was Eleanor of Aquitaine’s mother-in-law!
She bore only sons: Henry II, Geoffrey and William. I have given my heroine another (illegitimate) boy, Gervase, and chosen to believe the stories of another (still-born) son born to her first husband, the Emperor.
She died in 1167, in Normandy, and was buried in the abbey church of Bec-Hellouin, which was later destroyed by fire in 1263 and then pillaged and by the English in 1421. In 1684, her remains, sewn into a shroud of ox-skin with scraps of silk, were identified and reburied. Unfortunately, Napoleon’s forces decimated the abbey church in the early 19th century, again disturbing her peace. Finally, in 1846, she was reinterred in the Cathedral of Rouen.Matilda Empress
A novel of the medieval queen who lost her empire and her heart.
Matilda, a twelfth-century Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and daughter of Henry I, is twenty-four years old and a widow. She returns to inherit her father's double realm of England and Normandy, but is promptly married against her will to Geoffrey, a minor continental nobleman. Absent from England at the time of her father's death, Matilda loses her throne to her cousin, Stephen, despite their ongoing and secret love affair.
For almost twenty years, anarchy reigns throughout the empire, and their illicit passion fluctuates between hatred and obsession. The only hope is the Empress' growing faith and their illegitimate son, whose rightful claim to the English throne could finally halt the bloody, endless war.
In the vein of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, Matilda Empress illuminates the real history of the early English monarchs, while exploring what is at stake when a strong woman at the center of great upheaval refuses to play by the rules laid out for her.
Lise Arin has a PhD in English Literature from Columbia, and an undergraduate degree in History and Literature from Harvard. She has two children, and lives with her husband in New York City. This is her first novel, although it has been in the making for twenty years. Please follow her on Instagram @lise.arin