in bruges a church

flickr

Bruges by Aubrey Stoll

6

Queens of England + Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083)

Matilda, was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and Adèle of France. According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda’s hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants and rode off.

Naturally, Baldwin took offense at this but, before they could draw swords, Matilda settled the matter by refusing to marry anyone but William; even a papal ban by Pope Leo IX at the Council of Reims on the grounds of consanguinity did not dissuade her.

When William was preparing to invade England, Matilda outfitted a ship, the Mora, out of her own money and gave it to him. This indicated that she must have owned rich lands in Normandy to be able to do so. Additionally, William entrusted Normandy to his wife during his absence. Matilda successfully guided the duchy through this period in the name of her fourteen-year-old son; no major uprisings or unrest occurred.

Even after William conquered England and became its king, it took her more than a year to visit her new kingdom. Even after she had been crowned queen, she would spend most of her time in Normandy, governing the duchy, supporting her brother’s interests in Flanders, and sponsoring ecclesiastic houses there.

Matilda was crowned queen on May 11, 1068, in Westminster during the feast of Pentecost, in a ceremony presided over by the archbishop of York. Three new phrases were incorporated to cement the importance of English consorts, stating that the Queen was divinely placed by God, shares in royal power, and blesses her people by her power and virtue.

Matilda bore William nine or ten children. He was believed to have been faithful to her and never produced a child outside their marriage. Despite her royal duties, Matilda was deeply invested in her children’s well-being. All were known for being remarkably educated.

Matilda fell ill during the summer of 1083 and passed away in November 1083. Her husband was present for her final confession. Without her presence, a distraught William became increasingly tyrannical until his death four years later in 1087. (x)