Lady of the English – Elizabeth Chadwick

The Story

1120 is a disastrous year for Henry I of England. His only legitimate son, William Adelin, drowns along side The White Ship. To have another son and an heir, Henry marries

The death of Henry's only male legitimate heir throws England in a bloody civil war. Who deserves the Crown? Empress Mathilda, a woman but the daughter of Henry. Or Stephen of Blois, a man but only a nephew of Henry...

The death of Henry’s only son leaves England without a legitimate male heir. The result is a bloody civil war known as the Anarchy

Adeliza. But after ten years of marriage, no son is born. To secure his throne, Henry makes his barons swear allegiance to his only legitimate heir: Mathilda. She will act as regent until her son is of age and can take his rightful throne.

When Henry dies in 1135, Mathilda is far away in Anjou and her nephew Stephen usurps the throne. It’s the start of a bloody civil war which holds England in his grip for almost twenty years.


Caught between her love for her stepdaughter and her loyalty to her new husband is dowager queen Adeliza. She believes Mathilda’s son, Henry Plantagenet is the rightful heir, while her husband is a stern supporter of king Stephen and his son.


In a time where women had to serve and obey their husbands in everything, both Mathilda and Adeliza face difficult choices. For which they pay a high price.


My Opinion


The struggle between King Stephen and the would be Queen Mathilda is an interesting period in English History. By telling the story of Empress Mathilda and the Dowager Queen Adeliza, both sides of the story are told. I am not a great fan of changing POV’s, but this time it worked. Mathilda was not in England during the battles, so the story needed someone who was in England and who was close to the battles. Enter Adeliza, who was married to a stern follower of King Stephen. 


Empress Mathilda is known as a prideful and an arogant woman who knew her status. After her brother’s unfortunate death, she was the heir and she acted like it. It was her pride that kept her going, but it was that same pride that made London shut their gates and didn’t let her through. Mathilda’s character is splendidly covered and I could really relate to her. It was a men’s world and she choose to fight for her son.


Adeliza’s character I was minder fond of. I thought she was too meek and soft. She was necessary for the story, but her character was a bit flat for me. Lady of the English is a enjoyable read, but not a page turner. I enjoyed the novel, but would not read it again.


Language: English
Dutch translation: /
Pages: 532
Publisher: Little Brown Bookshop

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