Matilda At Arundel
I’m James Parson, most loyal servant to the fair Queen Matilda…and although I am, only a mere servant, I have found it necessary to write an account of the events that have happened to my brave and corageous superior.
Matilda was the daughter of Henry the first and his wife Edith of Scotland. She was born in 1102. To the family’s sorrow, Matilda’s brother, William drowned in 1120 in white ship leaving Matilda as the heir to the throne.
Henry felt, that even though she was a woman, Matilda was the only one true ruler after his death. This was also was reinforced when she married Geoffrey of Anjou in 1128. In 1133, Matilda gave birth to a son named Henry.
Matilda’s father died when she was in Normandy with her husband in 1135 and was unable to do anything about the fact that her cousin Stephen, who thought he was the primary and rightful heir to the throne and crowned himself King at Westminster because he was the male with the most royal blood.
Many barons supported Stephen because they did not want a woman as their leader because women are too emotionally unstable and their strength is far that of a man; but in my opinion, that didn’t matter because Queen Matilda should be the leader as she is from the direct line of Henry, and although Stephen was of royal blood he was only a nephew.
When Matilda got back, she Knew Stephen would attack, Matilda requested Adeliza, her stepmother for refuge. Adeliza, who is married to William d’Aubigny, who owns Arundel allowed her to stay in the castle.
While she stayed there, I served her to the best of my ability. Her room was dimly lit, with only a candle on a side table and a few torches on the flint-stone walls. The window was only just bigger than that of an arrow slit, the floors were laid of wood and the bed was hard and lumpy. The covers were few as supplies were limited, (we only had a weeks worth of food and were all rationed to the bare minimum. Soldiers getting priority to stay strong.) The nights were cold even with a fire, which warmed the room.
It was hard for Matilda to sleep; I know this because I, many times, was woken by my Queen’s restless nights.
It was not because of the room that made it so difficult to get comfortable, but the fear that ran through everyone in the castle, (including myself). We all feared the attack from Stephen, for we knew it was to come, but did not know when.
Soldiers guarded the castle day and night, some by the front gates, and some from arrow slits with their bow at the ready, but most were guarding the well and the west side of the castle.
The keep was adjacent to the Queen’s room, so she could get to it easily. The Keep is the safest part of the castle; you would leave her room, turn right and open the big, solid five-inch Norman door, which was a strong defence with it’s enormous height.
The Keep is the shape of the arena and holds our food and water. This is why it is such an important part of the castle. We were afraid that when Stephen cam, he would try and starve us out, so we made sure we had a plentiful supply.
After many days of waiting for an attack, William sent one of his most trusted spies down the sally port, to find out what Stephen had planned. Before he got back, one of the guards caught sight of movement from the distance. It was Stephen’s mighty army, with Stephen in the front line, ready to take the castle.
My heart skipped many a time, for I was just a servant and had no experience with war. I had no idea what to do and could only follow lead. All the servants were split into groups with men who had experience with battles. I was told by one of them that his brother was killed three years ago by one of his own friends, accidentally when he poured boiling oil from the Bettrice door.
Hearing these words terrified me; not only could you be killed by the enemy, but by one of your own troops. How was I going to survive this ordeal?
Stephen, as expected attacked from the west, the most vulnerable part of the castle. We killed many soldiers from the top of the castle, with our skilled bowmen, but Stephen’s army kept coming up the hill. I was fearful of defeat as they approached the entrance, but it was so thick it was too hard for them to get through. From the top of the lookout soldiers threw stones at Stephen’s army, but they still came nearer.
Finally a group of men charged up from the moat and though trapped by a portcullis, preventing them from entering the castle, they managed to kill all our men that fought them. The men above them however did manage to pour boiling hot oil over them, burning them so much that they were unable to fight and were in fact captured.
It was at that point that Adeliza burst into the keep where we all had retreated; she rushed Matilda out and told her to take the sally port as a way of escape. Matilda fled, but I was still here; unable to fight, unable to do anything, but stay in the keep.
It was protected by another portcullis and was round in shape, like an arena.
In the middle was the storage room, which was also used as a dungeon. At that moment though, the only thing in it was food.
We were on ground floor of the three in the keep and I felt fairly secure here as we were near the well that guards were protecting.
A few guards were in the castle chapel, guarding the sally port, which Matilda had gone down, but fortunately Stephen’s army had not yet advanced that far.
As for the rest of castle – Stephen’s men were advancing on it. Arrows hit the towers, bringing down pieces of stone, I was sure that we had lost the battle; I could hear my heart beating, but more so I could hear the castle falling. Had they broken into the castle? I still do not know to this day; even if they didn’t considerable damage was done.
I heard guards give howls of pain at arrows shot through their body. It must have been excruciating, but in a short period of time the fight died down as Stephen started calling a retreat on his men! I couldn’t believe it. He was winning. I discovered that one of his own castles was being attacked; he had fled to defend it, although that surely must have been lost as well, for it was not well protected at the time.
Stephen had gone, Arundel was safe and Queen Matilda was alive. Against the odd we won the battle.
I was so relieved and amazed that I survived, when such great warriors fell. It took two months for Matilda to return to Arundel, in which time I served Adeliza and William while repairs to the castle were made.
When Matilda finally returned, I took my role as her servant once more and a week later left to Normandy, with her, Geoffrey and Henry, who later became King Henry the second.