Born: c. 1031, Flanders
Daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders and his wife, Adela
Married: William of Normandy (Conqueror) c. 1051
Reign as Queen Consort of England: 1066 – 1083
Died: 3rd November 1083, Normandy
Burial: Abbey aux Dames, Normandy
Queen Consort to William the Conqueror, Matilda’s life was anything but ordinary. At only 16-years-old, Matilda was proposed to by William who was four years her senior. Initially she refused, which led the tall and strong William to violently pull the 4 foot girl by her plaits and give her ‘a good kicking’. Strangely, this made her reconsider him.
Matilda’s father, Count Baldwin of Flanders who was an influential figure with close contacts to the Anglo-Saxon monarchy. This gave Matilda an early understanding of diplomacy foreign policy that would be useful in her later years.
Despite the challenging start to their relationship, Matilda and William had a good marriage. They did encounter problems early on, specifically owing to the fact that they were cousins, which during the time was considered a sin. William was determined for the marriage to happen, even without the Pope’s permission, whom subsequently excommunicated both of them. This was overturned when they promised to build an Abbey, which the did.
The marriage produced 10 children, four sons and six daughters, some were born in France while they were Duke and Duchess of Normandy. The final children were born in England once Matilda was the Conqueror’s Queen. Matilda was a supportive wife. When William decided to invade England, Matilda was not only encouraging but she also assisted with funds, and provided William with a specially built ship, the Mora. In thanks after his success, he had Matilda crowned Queen consort in Winchester Cathedral.
Matilda’s understanding of diplomacy was vital for William as he was able to entrust her with the daily governing while he was away on campaigns. When he was not campaigning, Matilda was by her husbands side, travelling the country showing herself to be a supportive and respected consort.
The couple’s relationship deteriorated towards then end of her life, owing to Matilda siding with their son Robert over William and even providing him with the funds to campaign against him. William lost his trust in Matilda and she returned to France where she stayed for the remainder of her life. Matilda died in November 1083 at the age of 52. William was said to be so upset over her death he vowed to never hunt again, which was his favourite sport.
Matilda was buried in Abbey aux Dames in Normandy which was the Abbey she had built to marry William.