Monday, May 11, 2009
Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083)
was Queen consort of England and the wife of William I the Conqueror. She was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, and Adele, daughter of Robert II of France. She is my 23rd great grandmother. Matilda was England's tiniest queen being only 4'2" and very slender. They must have made an odd couple, Matilda being very small and William reportedly being quite tall, muscular and robust(heavy)in later years. How a woman of her stature carried and delivered 10 children is amazing, especially in those days. She bore for William 6 daughters and 4 sons. Henry I being the royal heir.
She was a little spit fire, a woman who knew her mind and was not afraid to voice her opinions. Legend has it that William asked her father, Baldwin V. Count of Flanders for Matilda in marriage, and when Matilda heard of this, told William's representative that she wouldn't marry a bastard, she was far too high born for that, after all she was a direct descendant of Alfred the Great and William's father being Robert the Magnificent was one thing, but his mother Arlette was a mere daughter of a local Tanner and his parents were never married. This news infuriated William to the point that he traveled from Normandy to Flanders and found Matilda on her way to church. He dragged her off her horse by her braids and threw her in the street in front of her royal convoy and then rode off. William's fury apparently appealed to Matilda, because it was shortly afterwards that she agreed to marry him. Even the papal ban for consanguinity(having common ancestors) didn't dissuade her. The Pope didn't like it, and said God was against it. To get God on their side again, William and Matilda each had an abbey built in Caen, one abbey for women and one for men. Matilda was wealthy in her own right and help finance many of William's campaigns. William left her as Royal Regent in conquered England while he was on French campaigns. She died in November of 1083 at the age of 51. After her death William became tyrannical and people blamed it on his having lost her. She is buried next to William at l'Abbaye aux Dames (the abbey for women) in Caen. Of particular interest in 1961, their graves were opened and their bones measured to determine their actual statures.
The Conqueror ~ Georgette Heyer
The Bastard King~Jean Plaidy