Kathryn Hughes at The Guardian:
In 1142 Empress Matilda escaped from Oxford Castle where she was being held by her dynastic rival, Stephen of Blois. Since it was a snowy December, the self-proclaimed “Lady of the English” wrapped herself in a white fur cloak to blend into the snowy landscape before skating down the frozen river Thames to freedom. As a bedtime story for history-mad girls, Matilda’s flight has always had everything: a heroine outtricking a boy and a nod to the enchantment of Narnia.
Catherine Hanley, though, is writing for grown-ups, and her intention in this impressive study is to remove Matilda’s cloak of invisibility – there have been remarkably few books written about the woman who was arguably England’s first regnant queen – and restore her to full subjecthood. For while Matilda never actually led her troops into battle like Jeanne d’Arc, she was present in the generals’ tent, directing the next stage in her campaign to conquer the country.