Andrea Cefalo is a Medieval fiction author and Medieval history blogger. Her debut novel, The Fairytale Keeper, was a quarter-finalist in Amazon’s 2013 Breakthrough Novel Contest. The sequel–The Countess’s Captive—was published earlier this year. She regularly posts about Medieval history on Facebook and Twitter.
Thought the new Windsor princess’s name would be Khaleesi? Sites like paddypower.com let us put our money where our mouths are. So while William and Kate mulled over the name for their baby girl, the rest of us were able to make wagers. With odds at eleven to four, Alice was the safest bet. Charlotte, Olivia, and Elizabeth were, too. But what if the royal couple had looked to England’s most famous Medieval queens for inspiration? Which name might they have picked?
Odds: Forty to One
Who was she? The most famous queen from the House of Normandy, Empress Matilda was born to Henry I of England in 1102. After the untimely death of her brother, King Henry made Matilda his heir. But when he died, Stephen of Blois usurped the crown—resulting in civil war. Despite a failure to definitively take the English throne for herself, Matilda secured her son’s position as heir after the death of King Stephen’s son, Eustace.
What made her a good candidate? Matilda was a strong independent woman who often ruled in the stead of her first husband, Holy Roman Emperor Henry V. She fought for twelve years to rule England. Some people in London called her harsh and others named her arrogant, but she compromised when she had to—especially if those compromises benefited her family and friends.
Odds: Sixty-six to One
Who was she? Eleanor of Aquitaine is arguably the most famous Medieval queen of England—and France. When she inherited the duchy of Aquitaine upon her father’s death, the king of France scooped her up for his son. Within months of the marriage, the king died and the two were crowned king and queen. But the marriage was an unhappy one. Citing consanguinity (being blood relatives), they sought an annulment from the pope. It was granted.
Despite their shared blood, Eleanor chose Empress Matilda’s son, Henry, for her second husband. The two were crowned king and queen of England two years later. The marriage was adulterous and tumultuous, but still produced eight children.
In 1173, Eleanor supported her son’s efforts to overthrow his father. Furious and mistrusting of Eleanor, Henry imprisoned her for sixteen years. It was her son, the famous Richard the Lionheart, who freed her after his father’s death.
What made her a good candidate? Eleanor was as determined as she was beautiful. When she wanted something, she usually found a way to get it. During her lifetime, Eleanor was a duchess, a queen of France, a crusader, a queen of England, an attempted kingmaker—and an inventor. She developed Europe’s first built-in fireplaces.
Odds: Sixty-six to One
Who was she? When Isabella of France married Edward II in 1308, Edward’s strange favoritism toward incompetent commoner, Piers Gaveston, left Isabella—and Edward’s barons—feeling angry and forgotten. In the end, the barons executed Gaveston.
For the next decade, the queen and king seemed happily married and had four children. Then Edward found a new and dangerous favorite in Hugh Despenser. Isabella had had enough. She set sail for France to discuss an unrelated peace treaty, but she returned with a lover and an army. Isabella and English Baron Roger de Mortimer ousted Edward II and put young Edward III on the throne. While the two lovers were serving as co-regents for fourteen-year-old Edward, the old king was violently killed. Edward III later sentenced Mortimer for his part in the crime and had him hanged. It was only at Isabella’s pleading that Mortimer wasn’t drawn and quartered. Isabella spent two years under house arrest. After that, she led a quiet life as a pious Christian and doting mother and grandmother.
What made her a good candidate? For many years, Isabella tried to be a loyal queen and wife. Whether viewed as a woman who killed her husband or a monarch who saved England from a weak king, Isabella’s resourcefulness and cunning can’t be denied. She led the most successful invasion of England since William the Conqueror.
If William and Kate wanted to name their daughter after a Medieval English queen, these three women would have been worthy candidates. I placed my money on Matilda and lost. The royal couple announced the name this morning: Charlotte. I guess I’ll have to forego my skinny soy mocha frappuccino today.
So I want to know, did you make a wager? If you did or if you simply guessed what the princess’s name would be, tweet me @AndreaCefalo.