Matilda of Flanders, Queen consort to the Conqueror

Matilda of Flanders was born in roughly 1031, to Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and Adele of France.  Grand daughter of Robert II of France, she would go on to become Queen consort of England and mother of two Kings of England.

She married William the Conqueror in about 1051-52, although the route to marriage was not an easy one.  It is said that when William sent his representative to ask Matilda to marry him she replied saying that she was to high-born to marry a bastard.  It was also rumoured that Matilda truly loved the English ambassador to Flanders, a Saxon named Brihtric who declined her advances.

After hearing Matilda’s initial response William rode from Normandy to Bruges and found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her from her horse by her long braids and threw her to the floor in front of flabbergasted attendants and rode off.  Another version of the story states William rode to Matilda’s father’s house in Lille and threw her to the ground in her room and violently battered her before leaving.

Baldwin was angered by the events but before he could draw swords to avenge the incident Matilda resolved the matter by decreeing that she would marry no one but William.  Even a banning of the wedding by Pope Leo IX on the grounds of consanguinity did not stop or dissuade Matilda.  The marriage took place in 1051/52 and a papal dispensation was granted in 1059 by Pope Nicholas II on the grounds that the couple agreed to found two churches as penance.

When William was preparing to invade England Matilda ruled Normandy in his absence.  She also outfitted a ship called the Mora which she gifted to her husband and he used as his flagship.  This indicated that she had funds and lands of her own within Normandy to be able to afford such a gift.

Even after William conquered England Matilda would remain mainly in Normandy looking after the duchy for the duke.  She would only have one of her nine children in England.  Henry who would later become Henry I of England was born in Yorkshire when his mother accompanied his father during the harrying of the North.

Matilda would be crowned Queen of England on 11th May 1068 at Westminster during the feast of Pentecost in a ceremony presided over by archbishop of York.  She invested her time mainly in her children, who were all known to be well educated.  It is also said that William was faithful to her and never produced a child out side of the marriage.

She was godmother to Matilda of Scotland who would become Queen of England through her marriage to the French Matilda’s son Henry.  During the christening the young Matilda pulled the headdress of her godmother down onto herself which was seen as an omen that she would one day be queen.

Matilda became ill during the summer of 1083 and died in November of the same year.  William was present during her final confession and is said to be lost and distraught without her and became tyrannical during the last four years of his reign before he died himself in 1087.

Matilda of Flanders, Carle Elshoecht (1850)

Matilda of Flanders, Carle Elshoecht (1850)


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