Friday, March 05, 2010
Matilda of Flanders
(1031 - 1083)
Queen consort of the English
Duchess consort of the Normans
My true name is Maud Le-Vieux, but I was crowned Matilda of Flanders. I was Queen consort of the Kingdom of England and the wife of William I the Conqueror.
I was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, and Adèle (1000-1078/9), daughter of Robert II of France.
I was extremely short of stature and gained fame as being England's smallest queen.
When the representative of William, Duke of Normandy (later king of England as William the Conqueror), came to ask for my hand in marriage, I replied that I was far too high-born (being descended from King Alfred the Great of England) to consider marrying a bastard.
When that was repeated to William, he rode from Normandy to Bruges, found me on my way to church, dragged me off my horse by my long braids, threw me down in the street in front of my flabbergasted attendants, and then rode off.
Naturally my father took offense at this but, before they drew swords, I settled the matter by deciding to marry him, and even a papal ban (on the grounds of consanguinity because we were cousins) did not dissuade me. We were married in 1053after we promised the pope to build an abbey.
There were rumours that I had been in love with the English ambassador to Flanders, a Saxon named Brihtric, who declined y advances. Whatever the truth of the matter, years later when I was acting as Regent for William in England, I used my authority to confiscate Brihtric's lands and throw him into prison, where he died.
When William was preparing to invade England, I outfitted a ship, the Mora, with my own money and gave it to him. For many years it was thought that I had some involvement in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, but it was commissioned by William's half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and made by English artists in Kent.
I bore my husband eleven children, and he was faithful to me, at least up until the time our son Robert rebelled against his father and I sided with Robert against William.
After I died, in 1083 at the age of 51, William became tyrannical, and people blamed it on his having lost me in death. Contrary to the belief that I was buried at St. Stephen's, also called l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen, Normandy, where William was eventually buried, I am entombed at l'Abbaye aux Dames, which is the Sainte-Trinité church, also in Caen.
Of particular interest is the 11th century slab, a sleek black stone decorated with my epitaph, marking my grave at the rear of the church. It is of special note since the grave marker for William was replaced as recently as the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1819 and 1959 my incomplete skeleton was examined in France, and my bones were measured to determine my actual height. The 1819 estimate was under five feet, while the 1959 estimate was 5' (152 cm) tall.
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