Matilda was heir to the English king, Henry I, but was usurped by Stephen resulting in civil war.
Matilda was born in 1102, the daughter of Henry I, King of England. In 1114, she married the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. The death of Matilda's brother in 1120 made her Henry I's sole legitimate heir. When her husband died in 1125, Henry recalled her to England and, in 1127, he insisted that the nobles accept her as his successor. In 1128, she married Geoffrey of Anjou with whom she had three sons. A woman ruler was unprecedented and her marriage to Geoffrey was unpopular. When Henry I died in 1135 Matilda's cousin Stephen of Blois immediately had himself crowned king.
Though the church and most nobles supported Stephen, Matilda's claims were upheld by her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and her uncle, David I of Scotland. Matilda and Robert landed at Arundel in September 1139 and England descended into civil war. The war was used as a cover for the settling of local feuds, leaving much of the country in anarchy.
Stephen was captured at Lincoln in February 1141 and Matilda now controlled the country. However, her perceived arrogance alienated many of her supporters and she was never crowned. Stephen was released in exchange for Robert of Gloucester. Civil war continued but in 1147, Matilda's greatest supporter, Robert of Gloucester, died. Disheartened, she retired to France the following year. She never returned. The struggle was taken up by Matilda's son, Henry, but he did not have the resources to defeat Stephen, and returned to Normandy himself.
In 1153, Stephen's son, Eustace died and in the Treaty of Wallingford, Stephen agreed that Henry should succeed him. He became Henry II in 1154. Matilda spent the remainder of her life in Normandy, dying at Rouen in September 1167.