Yes, there was the Empress Matilda (that title came from her first marriage) who was the only remaining legitimate child of Henry I, who died in 1135. He left the crown to her but her cousin Stephen took the it on Henry's death. Matilda fought Stephen for the crown, but never really secured power, and she was never actually crowned Queen, where Mary I was. One could also make a case for Jane Grey to be considered a Queen Regnant before Mary, but again, she was never officially crowned. BTW, Matilda's son ended up becoming Stephen's heir and was Henry II, who married Eleanor of Aquitaine. Quite the interesting family!The period of conflict between Stephen and Matilda is the period the Brother Cadfael mysteries are set in. I'm a fan of the novels of Sharon Kay Penman who wrote a book in the period called "When Christ and His Saints Slept".
As Lara notes, the issue is complicated by the fact that Matilda and Jane were never crowned. Both were recognized, albeit briefly, by a majority of the nobility as the legitimate heir and as Queen of England. Matilda lasted much longer as a claimant than did Jane, though Matilda never had control over the entire country, and Jane never had much control over ANY of the country beyond London. Nonetheless, both held councils (Privy Councils, not Parliaments), both issued official writs and warrants, and the government of the realm operated for a time under each of their names and royal authority. But if a king or queen is rendered truly a king or queen by the acts of recognition, anointing, and swearing of fealty contained in the coronation ceremony, and not by simply claiming and exercising the title, then neither Matilda nor Jane was truly a Queen Regnant. That would make Mary the first, since she was the first to undergo the coronation ceremony.
"When Christ and his Saints Slept" is my favorite novel by Penman. She kept all the antagonists so alive. Although that period of time was crowded with comings and goings, I never got lost along the trail.A tidbit about Empress Matilda...she was never called Queen, even when she took London. She was known as "Lady of the English". Anonymous Tracey
Ah, Matilda! I knew I had heard of one before. Thanks for clearing that up, I assumed she was crowned and wondered why everyone kept saying Mary was the first. I saw a book on Matilda that I may get. True about Lady Jane...interesting!
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