Born probably at the end of 1031, married Duke William of Normandy in 1049-50, and dying in 1083, she was duchess of Normandy and queen of England and wielded her power with class and dignity.
Let’s get started with her ancestry. There are at least two pathways by which Matilda descends from Charlemagne.
Here is the first route.
Here is Michael Idomir Allen’s Table 8, which he put together for his translation of Pierre Riché’s The Carolingians. It goes from Charlemagne Adele who married Arnulf I, count of Flanders, Matilda’s ancestor (on the right):
In the above table also see Beatrix, daughter of count Herbert of Vermandois. She married Robert, king of West Franks. Their son was Hugh the Great, and his son was Hugh Capet, the founder of the Capetians. His son was Robert II, the pious. Matilda descends from him.
For the primary documents proving the link from Charlemagne to Herbert I and to Beatrix , click on Herbert I, Count of Vermandois, and scroll down to the Addendum.
Here is Allen’s Table 4:
In the above table, note Robert II, the Pious, at the bottom.
Let’s insert a genealogical table from historian W. L. Warren’s superb biography of Henry II, the first Plantagenet. Remember, Robert the Pious is Hugh Capet’s son.
On the right is Matilda’s mother Adela (Adele), and below her is Matilda of this post.
Robert Pious, as do all the Capetians, has his own post, here:
Also see these two Capetians, who are relevant to this post:
The second route
Here is the table about Matilda’s ancestors by historian Tracy Borman:
In the above table, note Arnulf I, who also appeared in the first table.
Next, here are the shared ancestors of William and Matilda, and the couple’s descendants in a table also by Tracy Borman:
Here are the Anglo-Normans all the way to Henry II, the first Plantagenet, from C. Warren Hollister’s Henry I:
Finally, here are the early Capetians, from the Encyclopedia of Medieval France‘s table:
This is a nineteenth century drawing that may be based on earlier, more accurate ones. It shows her short size.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT WILLIAM AND MATILDA
Let’s first summarize the basics of Matilda’s life.
Also named Maud, she was of diminutive (short) size. 4 feet, 2 inches, per excavations at the abbey at La Trinité, by Michel de Boulard, in 1961, where he found her remains. (William was about five feet, ten inches tall.)
It is not known when she was born, but probably toward the end of 1031. She married William the (future) Conqueror about1049-1050. The pope finally agreed.
Her parents were Baldwin (Baudouin) V, the Count / Marquis of Flanders, from 1035 to 1067 and Regent of France 1060-1067, son and heir. He was born about 1010. One researcher says Baldwin married at Paris in 1028 Adele (Adela) of France, daughter of Robert II, King of France, son of Hugh Capet, namesake of the Capetian dynasty of French kings. Adele was Robert’s daughter by his third wife Constance, daughter of William II, Count of Arles. Adele was born at Ypres, probably in 1009. Baldwin died at Lille on 1 Sep 1067 and was buried in the church of St. Pierre (Peter), Lille. Adele retired to the Abbey of Messine near Ypres, where she died on 8 Jan 1079.
Matilda’s ancestor, the first known count, Baldwin I, eloped with Judith, the daughter of Charles the Bald, descendant of Charlemagne. This means Matilda descends from Charlemagne, as the genealogical tables show.
Baldwin II, her ancestor, married Aelfthryth, daughter of King Alfred the Great (r. 871-899), which will strengthen the ties to England when William will conquer it in the future.
Matilda died 2 Nov 1083 and was buried in St. Trinité in Caen. The inscription around her tombstone survives.
Baldwin and Adele had two sons: Baldwin (VI) Count / Marquis of Flanders, Count of Hainault; and Robert the “Frisian,” Count of Flanders;
They also had one daughter: Matilda, also called Maud. She is the one who married William, the (future) Conqueror.
Matilda died 2 Nov 1083 and was buried in St. Trinité in Caen. The inscription around her tombstone survives.
William was born probably at Falaise 1027-28, probably in fall of 1028. He was injured while riding a horse at the border town of Mantes. He was carried back to Rouen and moved to the Priory of Saint Gervais outside the city. Surrounded by clergy and magnates, he died on 9 Sep 1087. His corpse was transported by river and sea to Caen and was buried in the Abbey church of Saint-Etienne (Stephen).
Statue of Matilda in the Jardin de Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) in the 6th Arrondissement de Paris (6th District of Paris).
William and Matilda had four sons:
1.. Robert: He was nicknamed Curthose or shortstocking or short-shanks because he himself was short; he was also another “fat prince.” He would later become duke of Normandy. He was born about 1054, but some place the range from 1051 to 1054. He married in Italy in Sep 1100 Sibyl of Conversano, daughter of Goffredo (Geoffrey), Count of Conversano and Bindisi. They had one son, William Clito, soon to be installed as Count of Flanders (“Clito” is the Latin equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon “Ætheling,” and the Æthelings were direct descendants of the sixth-century warrior Cerdic, the first Saxon King of Wessex). Robert had two illegitimate sons Richard and William and one illegitimate daughter (unnamed), who married of Helie de Saint-Saens. Sibyl died 18 (or 21) Mar 1103. He died in comfortable confinement at Cardiff Castle, where he lived the contemplative life, wrote poetry, and learned Welsh, on 10 or 11 Feb 1134, and was buried before the altar in the Abbey church of St. Peter, Gloucester.
2.. Richard: He was born before 1056 and died 1069-75, in a hunting accident.
3.. William: he was nicknamed Rufus or ruddy or reddish, later king of England. He was also nicknamed Longsword, indicating military prowess. He was born 1056-1060, but probably 1058. Normandy and Maine passed over to his older brother Robert. Now what about him? He was crowned at Westminster 26 Sep 1087. He was killed in a hunting accident (or murder), shot by an arrow through the heart, on 2 Aug 1100. He was buried in Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire.
4.. Henry: He was later king of England. He was born in late 1068. He married Matilda (or Maud) of Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scots, by his second wife St. Margaret, daughter of Edward Aetheling, a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon kings. Matilda was born in 1079 and died at Westminster on 1 May 1118.
He remarried at Windsor, Berkshire 29 Jan 1121, to Alice, young daughter of Gottfried or Godfrey I, duke of Lower Lorraine, Count of Louvain. They had no issue.
Henry I died at Lyon-la-Foret (near Rouen, Normandy), 1 Dec 1135 and was buried at Reading Abbey, Berkshire. His widow Alice remarried.
William the Conqueror and Matilda are supposed to have had six daughters, though not much is known of their birth order; the evidence of Agatha’s and Adeliza’s separate existences is thin, and so is Matilda’s:
1.. Agatha: Betrothed successively to Harold, earl of Wessex, to Alphonse of Leon, and possibly to Herbert, count of Maine. She died a virgin.
2.. Adeliza or Alice: nun at St. Leger in Préeaux. She died in 1073.
3.. Cecily: She was born before 1066, abbess of Holy Trinity in Caen, Normandy; d. 30 July 1126 (one researcher says she was born after Constance).
4.. Adela: She was born about 1060-2. She married at Chartres in 1080, Stephen-Henri, Count of Blois; He was born about 1046. He was killed at the siege of Ramallah 19 May 1102. Adele died at the monastery of Marcigny 8 Mar 1138 and was buried in the Abbey of Holy Trinity, Caen. They had four children: William, Count of Chartres; Theobald, Count of Blois, Champagne and Troyes; Eude or Stephen, future King of England; and Henry, Bishop of Winchester. They also had five daughters: Maud (wife of Richard, earl of Chester); Agnes, Adele (wife of Milon II de Montlhery; Alix or Alice (wife of Renaud III, Count of Joigny); and Eleanor (wife of Raul, Count of Vermanois).
5.. Constance: She married in 1086, Alan IV, Count of Brittany, son and heir of Hoel, Count of Duke of Nantes. They had no issue. Constance died 13 Aug 1090 and was buried in the church of St. Melans, near Rhedon in Brittany. He remarried.
6.. Matilda or possibly Maud: If they are the same, then she died 26 Apr, year unknown.
BASIC FACTS AND STORIES
- Normandy was a rich and big duchy on the northern coast of (today’s) France. Centuries earlier it had been invaded by Vikings, of whom Rolf or Rollo (Latin form) was the founder, William’s third great-grandfather.
- France at this time was a patchwork of counties, duchies, principalities, and the royal domain, where the king of the French was seated. Sometimes a duke or count could be stronger than the king, but no one seemed strong enough to take the other over completely by military conquest. Continuous fighting.
- Flanders became a rich county (some say duchy or principality) through the textile industry and imports from England and Spain.
- Matilda’s father, Baldwin V, commissioned the building of new roads and canals, to ease the flow of goods and to stimulate the economy.
- Most of her childhood was spent at the comital (related to word count) palace at Bruge, a city that still thrives today.
- Her mother Adele’s name appears in more than half the charters (usually land and building grants, but they could be about smaller things) in Flanders during her husband’s reign. She is styled in many of them as the “sister of the king of France (Robert II, the Pious).
- At this early stage in the Middle Ages, mothers were expected to learn more intellectual subjects, while men learned fighting and, in effect, management.
- Therefore, daughters were expected to spend their leisure time reading. Royal women were usually better educated than men. Adele and Matilda were probably fluent in Latin.
- She also had religious instruction, reading the Bible. Religious revival, in a Catholic sense, surged with the support of wealthy women, in the sixth to the tenth centuries. Each of about 50 religious houses appointed their first abbess from royal households.
- Her mother Adele founded several religious colleges, including Aire, Lille, and Harelbeke, and the abbeys at Messines and Ename.
- When Robert, William’s father, died at Nicaea, Turkey, in July 1035, William succeeded him in that year. William was a bastard, and older men claimed the title of duke.
- Assassination attempts and plots drove Richard and Baldwin, William’s guardians, to seek refuge in Flanders. They met young Matilda. Did this meeting provide the spark of a marriage arrangement between young Matilda and William? Possibly.
- She set her sights, however, on a man of England, named Brihtric Mau (Meaw), an ambassador of King Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066). He was the wealthiest man in England. He was handsome, tall, stalwart, and blond.
- He arrived in Flanders in the 1040s, when Matilda was fifteen to eighteen years old. She offered marriage herself, to the outrage of her father. Problem: He spurned her. How will she exact revenge, if she ever got the chance? Hint: She will.
- There is a story that Matilda’s father was arranging her marriage to the young duke William of Normandy. The story says that she flatly refused to marry a bastard. When William heard of it, he rode on his horse all the way to Bruge, Flanders, nonstop. He saw her leaving the palace chapel and roughed her up within an inch of her life, dragging her to the ground by her hair and tossing her into the mud (maybe the first recorded incident of mud wrestling). He rode back home.
- Baldwin was about to declare war (or a skirmish), but Matilda, after she recovered, changed her mind. She announced that she would marry no one else but William, for he “must be a man of great courage and high daring to have” … “come and beat me in my own father’s palace” (qtd. in Borman 35-36). Baldwin was contented because he wanted the match to begin with. Probably just a story. But it reveals he may have used physical force to suppress any (perceived) rebellion from Matilda, in their future marriage.
- In Oct 1049, Pope Leo IX arrived at Rheims (Reims) to sort out the marriage arrangement between the two. The pope opposed it, probably because of consanguinity (too closely related) because like William, she too was descended from Rolf or Rollo, the Viking who took over Normandy. But this usually posed no problem that a papal dispensation (special permission) could not solve.
- He probably opposed it because William was accruing more land and wealth and power. An alliance with Flanders meant an alliance with the king of France. So the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry (Heinrich) III, may have nudged the pope to reject the marriage, as well. He was at war with Baldwin V.
- In any case, William and Matilda married, probably in 1049-50, despite the negotiations that went on for two years. Later the couple signed two charters for abbeys, St. Étienne and La Trinité, to compensate for their defiance of the pope.
- Now on to the wedding.
- An inventory of the treasures of Bayeux Cathedral in 1476 uncovered two expensive gowns. Could they be the wedding attire of William and Matilda? If so, his garment was covered in small golden crossed, as well as flowers, cameos and precious stones. A band of a cloth of gold with embroidered images was on the back. He also wore a helmet during the ceremony—he had already won some military battles.
- Steps or elements of the wedding: giving away the bride, exchange of promises, and blessing the ring. A wedding feast, too. A large company blessed the bridal chamber (in those days they did not ride off for the honeymoon).
- After the festivities, they traveled back to the ducal palace at Rouen and were greeted by cheering crowds. Her parents went with them, and they too were celebrated.
- Internationally, Matilda enhanced her husband’s profile. She was the granddaughter of King Robert II, the Pious, of France, and claimed descent, as noted from Alfred the Great. Is this why childless King Edward the Confessor, of England, sent messengers to promise William, the duke of Normandy, that he was to be the one to succeed (take over the throne)?
- Edward did not like earl Godwine (Godwin) of Wessex (= West Saxony, elided to Wessex). Plus there was an affinity with England and Normandy: Geographical proximity (over the Channel); Scandinavian heritage; Duke Richard II’s sister’s union with Aethelred the Unready in the late tenth century.
- In any case the promise was given—or so William claims.
- Henry I, king of France, Matilda’s uncle, was turning hostile to William, for the king formed an alliance with Geoffrey, the duke of Anjou, the foremost leader in northwestern France.
- Matilda remained loyal to William in all of this. In around 1053, she gave birth to Robert, named after Matilda’s grandfather and William’s father. He was nicknamed Brevis-ocrea,” or “short-boots,” which the French chroniclers called Curthose (Courte-Heuse), probably because of his short stature, taking after his mother.
- In 1057, she birthed Adeliza (or Adelaide); Cecilia in 1058 or 1059; Agatha, though she is probably the same as Adeliza. In 1060, she gave birth to William, known as Rufus, or red-head, like his father. (See above list for more children, like Richard.) A small woman giving birth so many times is a wonder.
- She did her most important function: she provided his with an heir (and a spare).
- She probably did not breast-feed them, but hired wet nurses from the noble cases who were breast feeding their own children.
- It seems Matilda preferred her first-born son, Robert (was he short so she sympathized?), while William preferred his namesake. Sibling rivalry down the road.
- These ducal palaces were the residences of William and Matilda: Falaise. Bayeux, Bonneville-sur-Touques, Rouen, and Fécamp. Only little of them survived. Apparently Bonneville-sur-Touques was their favorite.
- The beds were surrounded by curtains—four-poster beds.
- They maintained a court, which Matilda oversaw in the day-to-day running of the palace, keeping track of the accounts and receiving important visitors. She got involved in legal affairs, ranging in complexity.
- She particularly oversaw a court of culture and refinement. She hired musicians, playing harps, viols, and horns, and poets. She and her ladies played instruments too. They also played chess and “tables,” a form of backgammon. She and her ladies were occupied with embroidering, reading, or conversing.
- In January 1059 Nicholas II deposed Benedict X and was elected pope. William offered support against Benedict if Nicholas would lift the ban against William’s marrying Matilda. It worked. The ban was lifted.
- Matilda’s main project, though she did not control very much money in her own right, for her estates were small, was La Trinité (The Trinity)—a convent for nuns. (William built St. Étienne, a convent for monks). As noted, it was in compensation for her defiance of the pope’s refusal to permit their marriage.
- La Trinité was built in rapidly and in good form, probably because she learned something about architecture, from her mother Adela, since she provided funds for abbeys and collegiate churches. It was functional by 1059, but not entirely completed. Its first abbess was appropriately named Matilda. She was a stern disciplinarian.
- The duchess loaded it with a collection of relics. Count Baldwin had given her a vial of the Holy Blood. She had splinters from the manger and the cross; fingers of St. Cecile, hair of St. Denis, the blood of St. George and several entire corpses.
- Peasants with supernatural gifts, a “wise woman” and “soothsayer,” occupied positions at court, so social boundaries could break a little.
- In 1063 she began work on the cathedral Notre Dame du Pré at Emendreville, a suburb of Rouen. She also founded two other abbeys, St. George at Boscherville and St. Florent at Saumur.
- She put her signature to a total of one hundred charters (grants). That’s a huge number, which surpassed many women before and since, in her role as duchess.
- Normandy may have been an exception, for in a collection of charters about the Caen abbeys, twenty-three out of thirty showed women as signatories, grantors, attestees or involved in some other way. Maybe Matilda led the way in her duchy for women’s involvement in matters beyond the domestic sphere.
- William fell serious ill at Cherbourg, to the point that he was laid out on the ground, ready for burial. He made a deal with God—he would establish canons at a cathedral church of St. Mary in Coutances if she raised him up from his illness. Matilda showed up at the church in her informal attire and her hair loose. The monks were surprised. She may have stayed at her husband’s side all night, so her appearance was disheveled.
- He made a full recovery, so their prayers were answered. She helped him in her joy to re-establish the church of St. Mary and to build a new one outside the castle walls in Coutances.
- In 1063 William designated Robert as his official heir. As it turns out, Robert was never made king, though Rufus was, while Robert was still alive. But for now Matilda must have been thrilled.
- In that year William conquered the province of Maine, which lay south of his duchy. He arranged a marriage between his son Robert and Margaret, sister to the count of Maine, Herbert II, but she died before the marriage could happen. Herbert asked William for the hand of one of his daughters, and William agreed, but Herbert died. On his deathbed he promised his county to William. Done. Expansion.
- Something remarkable, unexpected happened. Earl Harold of Wessex landed on Normandy’s shore at Ponthieu in a shipwreck. A local lord, Count Guy, imprisoned him, binding his feet and hands in shackles. He was about to be the main competitor to William for England’s throne.
- William took over from Guy, unshackled the English earl, and showed off his power and wealth by letting him stay in apartments with jewels, fabrics, and ornaments. He entertained him lavishly. He feted him with luxury and hunting and even a military campaign.
- Rumor says that Matilda flirted with the earl, spending time with him talking at the drinking table, while William went to bed. William heard about it and got angry
- William made him swear an oath that if he let the earl go, William could succeed Edward the Confessor. He offered the earl his daughter Adeliza and took Harold’s handsome brother Wulfnoth as a hostage against Harold reneging on his promise.
- Of course, he broke his promise, and William and Harold had to fight it out in 1066.
- Before setting sail with a navy (or sorts) loaded with an army, to invade England, William asked for his wife’s prayers. She dedicated the abbey La Trinité. A charter shows the noble ladies and nobles were in attendance.
- William dedicated his daughter Cecilia as a novice, being about seven years young, an unusual age even for back then. He gave her to God, now God must give him England. La Trinité was Matilda’s favorite abbey, so she visited her daughter often (one can suppose).
- In preparation for the invasion, Matilda commissioned a magnificent new ship named Mora (literally meaning “mansion” or “habitation,” probably after her family name Morini. Apparently it outpaced the other ships when they finally set sail.
- Her father Baldwin supported William, but only after a promise of 200 marks per year, if he conquered England.
- It is probable that Matilda became pregnant shortly before her husband departed.
- Nonetheless, William appointed her the ruler of his real, along with their son Robert. He was the designated heir, so he stayed home. Now she could dote on him even more. She could levy taxes, dispense justice, and mint money.
- William made his magnates (large landowners) swear an oath of loyalty of fidelity to him at Bonneville-sur-Touques.
- William won at the Battle of Hastings on 14 Oct 1066. For more information see William’s own post: William the Conqueror.
- He was crowned king on 25 Dec 1066. Before then and afterwards he had to mop up, treating the rough English severely, chopping off their hands and looking away when rapes occurred.
- William gave Matilda these rich estates: Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall. Annual revenue: £1070 (about £500,000 today). Huge.
- So why did Matilda stay in Normandy for so long? She probably birthed a daughter in June 1067 or before. Her name was Adele (Adela), after her mother, daughter of Robert II, the Pious, king of France. This would remind the stubborn English of William’s wife’s distinguished pedigree.
- Great Romanesque building went up, and so did eighty-four castles in the Norman style. The English called (and call) Romanesque Norman. They were mostly made of wood, because they had to build fast. The English and Saxon natives were restless and rebellious. And the Norman overlords were oppressive.
- The most famous was the Tower of London of stone, still standing (after subsequent refurbishments and improvements).
- In any case Matilda visited England about eight times and stayed in the castles
- When William went back to Normandy, he was feted and celebrated as a conquering hero, and so he should be, from a Norman point of view.
- One of the duke’s knights, Grimoult du Plessis spread a rumor that Matilda had been unfaithful during the duke’s two-year absence. The story goes that he dragged Matilda by her hair and roughed her up and locked her in a dungeon. She pleaded her innocence. Finally he believed her and punished the knight horrifically—as William was prone to do back then
- But that is probably just a story without basis in fact. She had the motive to support William and to stay faithful. He became the alpha male, after all.
- When she went to England, she possibly took revenge on Brihtric, who had spurned her twenty years earlier. The reports are exaggerated, for he attended her coronation. However, Domeday Book says she did indeed take over some of his lands across the south. So maybe the emotional elements in the story have some basis in fact.
- Adeliza was put on the international marriage market. Her father wanted Alfonso VI, King of Leon. She refused to marry some Spaniard she had never seen; she had wanted Harold Godwineson, king of England. In any case, negotiations with Alfonso ended. Who now? Earl Edwin of Mercia? They were betrothed.
- On 1 Sep 1067, Count Baldwin V died. Matilda was heartbroken.
- She went to England to be crowned, which happened on 11 May in Westminster Abbey, on Pentecost or Whit Sunday. She was certainly pregnant at the time.
- Coronation ceremony: (1) She prostrated herself in prayers before the altar, which symbolized the end of her previous life and the start of a new one. (2) Anointing with holy oil; (3) a ring, which symbolized her marriage to the kingdom; (4) She was crowned. (5) Special laudes—ritual chants—were written and performed. They omitted female saints and included only males. This indicates her power. (6) A magnificent banquet; (7) a “champion” entered and challenged anyone who dared to deny Matilda her right to be queen. No one took him up on his defiant challenge.
- In summer 1068 she decided to join her husband in Yorkshire up north, maybe to inspire loyalty in her subjects. In any case she gave birth to Henry (who will become Henry I). She was thirty-seven—very old for back then.
- Henry, as Henry I, will conquer the west half of France and of course keep England. Many Saxons will consider him as the only lawful heir in England, not Robert, Richard, and William. But all that is in the future.
- These public relations “progresses” sometimes worked, but sometimes the revolts still erupted. William put them down severely. Even he regretted some of his scorched earth policies.
- On the royal side of things, the new king and queen of England had to keep up appearances. They provided lavish feats. On one occasion: 130 porkers, 32 bacon hogs, 480 hens, 1,600 eggs, 100 cheeses, 52 lambs, 420 fleeces, 162 acres of unreaped corn (grain).
- Now back at home, Richard was killed in a hunting accident, in about 1075. He was riding his horse at full speed and hit a branch. Everyone grieved, especially Matilda.
- Now strife erupted between Robert and William Rufus. She favored Robert, while the duke favored William.
- Rebellion: Robert abandoned his family and sought refuge with Matilda’s brothers in Flanders. Then he went to the French king, Philip I, who was eager to exploit the family strife. He set Robert up in the Castle of Gerberoy, a powerful fortress in southeastern Normandy. He raided and ravaged parts of Normandy. Provocation.
- Shortly later, in 1078 the duke attacked the castle. In a battle, Robert could have killed his father, but spared him. Humiliating for the duke / king. (Remember that William is duke of Normandy and king of England.)
- For more information about the strife, see these posts: William the Conqueror, William II Rufus, and Henry I.
- Though favoring Robert, Matilda was stressed at the warring between father and son. She appealed to the pope and even King Philip to bring peace. The pope wrote Robert and told him to submit to his father.
- Did it do any good? Maybe. At a great assembly at Rouen, in early April 1080, important guests from overseas and envoys from the pope witnessed the formal reconciliation.
- But it won’t last long. William insulted his son in public whenever he could, pointing out his failings. Never pleasant to go through public insults.
- One piece of news: Matilda’s youngest daughter Adele married Stephen, the son and heir of Theobald III, count of Blois. Their son Stephen will struggle with Henry II’s mother Matilda for the throne of England. But that’s in the future.
- Matilda visited England and eventually made her way up to Scotland, where Queen Margaret gave birth to a daughter named Edith, who will be known also as Matilda. Her father was Malcolm III. Matilda was to be her godmother. Edith-Matilda will later marry (future) Henry I.
- By the end of 1081, Matilda is in her duchy. She still loved her favorite abbey, La Trinité. Total donations to it: £650,000 in modern terms.
- Strife again: Robert and Duke William are recorded together at Caen on 18 July 1083 (a charter), with Matilda and 9 Jan 1084, witnessing another charter. Robert left soon afterwards.
- Matilda’s health deteriorated soon afterwards. She made out her will. Bequests: chasuble made by an English noblewoman; a cloak worked in gold from her chamber, used to make a cope; two gold chains, each with a cross; one chain with carved decorations for hanging a lamp in front of the altar; candlesticks at St. Lo; a chalice and vestments made in England; all horse accoutrements; all her vases.
- She died in the early hours of 2 Nov 1083, confessing her sins with bitter tears and taking the saving sacrament.
- The duchy was plunged into morning. Her body was transported to La Trinité (where else?), where William ordered a splendid funeral.
- Surviving children: Robert, William Rufus, and Henry; Cecilia, Constance, and Adela.
- Five centuries later marauding Calvinists plundered the tombstone in the French wars of Religion. Admiral Gaspard of Coligny took a gold ring set with sapphire on one of her fingers. The abbess, Anna de Montmorenci, protested so much that he gave it to her.
- A new monument was erected in 1708, but the French Revolutionaries destroyed it, though her coffin was spared.
- In 1819 the eleventh-century tombstone, made of black and white Tournai marble, in honor of her Flemish origins, was restored and placed in the middle of the choir before the high altar, where it can still be seen today.
Tomb of Matilda in the Women’s Abbey Church, St. Trinité (Trinity), her favored church.
The lofty structure of this splendid tomb
Hides great Matilda, sprung from royal stem;
Child of a Flemish duke; her mother was
Adela, daughter of a king of France,
Sister of Henry, Robert’s royal son.
Married to William, most illustrious king,
She gave this site and raised this noble house,
With many lands and many goods endowed.
Given by her or by her toil procured;
Comforter of the needy, duty’s friend;
Her wealth enriched the poor, left her in need.
At daybreak on November’s second day
She won her share of everlasting joy.
(qtd. in Borman 218)
Tracy Borman has the last word of summary about Matilda:
In the dangerous, brutal world of conquest and rebellion, fragile alliances and bitter familial rivalries, Matilda had possessed all the attributes for a woman to thrive. Her impeccable lineage, combined with her loving, pious, and loyal nature, had made her a paragon of fidelity and motherhood. But strength, intelligence, and ambition were also prerequisites to survive in such an environment. This side of her character, coupled with a fiercely independent nature, had made her essential to William’s rule, giving her unparalleled influence over the king. She had proved such an able and effective ruler that he had come to rely upon her completely (226).
She was the wife of a king, and a mother of two kings.
HOUSES OF NORMANDY AND BLOIS
Matilda, William the Conqueror’s wife and queen
Tracy Borman, Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William (Bantam, 2011).
Marjorie Chibnall, The Normans (Blackwell, 2000).
Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (Metro Books, 2006).
David Crouch, The Normans: The History of the Dynasty (Hambledon and London, 2002).
David C. Douglas, William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact upon England (UC P, 1964).
C. Warren Hollister and Amanda Clark Frost, Henry I, Yale English Monarchs (Yale UP, 2001).
Dan Jones, The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England (Penguin, 2012).
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).
Earl of Onslow, The Dukes of Normandy and their Origin (Hutchinson, 1945)
John Le Patourel, Norman Barons (The Historical Association, Hastings and Bexhill Branch, 1966).
—, The Norman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1976, and special edition for Sandpiper Books, 1997).
Medieval France: An Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kibler and Grover A. Zinn (New York: Garland, 1995).
The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).
Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 volumes (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).
W. L. Warren, Henry II (Berkeley: University of California P, 1973).