Matilda (Maud) of Flanders (1028-1083)
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Matilda (Maud) of Flanders (1028-1083)

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If Robert, my son, were buried seven feet under the ground and I could bring him to life by shedding my heart's blood, gladly would I give it.
Matilda, on her son Robert, who had been exiled by his father William after an argument.

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Matilda (Maud) of Flanders (1028-1083)

Daughter of the rulers of Flanders and a descendant of Alfred the Great, Matilda was a good match for the bastard son of the Duke of Normandy and at first resisted his every advance, even being supported by a Papal prohibition in 1049. However, it is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, that William suddenly appeared one evening as she was returning home from church, leapt off his horse, gave her a sound thrashing and threw her down in the gutter. He then remounted and rode off. Soon after this she agreed to become his wife! They were married in 1053 and their alliance caused two unsuccessful invasions of Normandy by Henry I of France and Geoffrey of Anjou and Maine. In 1059 they did manage to get a Papal dispensation for their marriage (because of the original prohibition), but only by agreeing to build two abbeys, to St Stephen and to the Holy Trinity, in Caen - the 'Abbaye aux Hommes' and the 'Abbaye aux Dames'.

In spite of her tiny stature, she was only 4'2" tall, Matilda produced ten children, of whom nine lived to maturity. William was completely faithful to her and trusted her so much that he even left her in charge of Normandy when he invaded England. Remarkably she initiated the Bayeux Tapestry, with the help of her ladies-in-waiting, which tells the story of the Norman Conquest in a 231-foot graphic record of the events, in needlework. The project was subsequently handed over to the Bishop of Bayeux and the nuns of his diocese.

Matilda joined William in England and was crowned queen, co-equal to him, not just 'lady companion' as previously had been the case, with great ceremony in 1067. This was the high point of her life, as it subsequently descended into quarrels with William over Robert, her much-loved eldest son who was later, after many fights, to become the Duke of Normandy. She hated William Rufus, their homosexual second son, who succeeded his father as King of England.

After Matilda's death in 1083 aged fifty, her husband William fell into decline and became immensely fat, dying from a fall from his horse four years later. They were buried in the respective abbeys in Caen and it was only when her tomb was opened in 1967 that her diminutive size was discovered. Advanced Category Search

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