Saturday, 25 February 2023

Medieval Queens in the Family Tree - Matilda of Scotland

 Matilda of Scotland (1080-1118)

Matilda of Scotland married King Henry I.

Matilda, christened with the Anglo Saxon name of Edith, was born in Dunfermline in Scotland in 1080. She was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Margaret (after her death Saint Margaret) of Scotland. Edith's godfather was Robert Curthose, son of King William I of England, while her godmother was Matilda of Flanders, King William's wife. 

Edith's mother was related to former Anglo Saxon kings. Margaret's brother, Edgar, would have been the successor to King Harold who was killed at the Battle of Hastings. However when William the Conqueror won the battle, Edgar's family, including Margaret, sought refuge in Scotland.

Matilda (Edith) had six brothers and one sister.

Edith and her sister Mary were sent to England to Romsey Abbey in Hampshire where their aunt was the abbess. Edith was about six years old. The girls also spent time at Wilton Abbey in Wiltshire. Subjects included English, French and some Latin. Edith left Wilton Abbey in 1093.

At Westminster Abbey on 11 November, 1100, Edith married King Henry I who was 32 and needed a wife. Henry chose Edith because of her strong connections with the former Anglo Saxon royalty which he hoped would encourage the acceptance of the Normans in England. The Archbishop of Canterbury objected to the marriage as he argued that as Edith had been educated in an abbey she must have taken holy orders. Eventually he was convinced that this was not the case and the marrige went ahead.

After the wedding Edith was crowned Queen Matilda using the name of Henry's mother. She is normally referred to as Matilda of Scotland.

Although Matilda and Henry had four children only two survived to adulthood. Then in November 1120, their son, William, drowned when the White Ship sank in the English Channel during a storm. This left their daughter, Matilda, as Henry's legitimate heir although he is said to have fathered around 25 children with other women. 

As queen, Matilda travelled with her husband throughout England and Normandy. Her many years living in abbeys no doubt influenced Matilda's life as she was always generous to the poor. Matilda had a leper hospital built in London. She also founded the Holy Trinity Priory at Aldgate. Matilda commissioned a biography about her mother to be written - The Life of St Margaret.

Matilda died on 1 May 1118 when she was 38. It is not known for certain where she was buried.

After Matilda of Scotland's death, Henry married again in the hope of fathering a legitimate son. When this did not happen he made his nobles swear that they would support his daughter, the Empress Matilda, as the next monarch. All did not go as planned, but that is another story.

When we visited Edinburgh Castle in 2014 we took time to visit St Margaret's Chapel which King David had built in the castle grounds in honour of his and Matilda of Scotland's mother.

Medieval Queens in the family tree - Matilda of Flanders

Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083)

Impression of what Matilda might have looked like

Matilda of Flanders married King William the Conqueror.

Matilda was born in Flanders, France, in 1031. She was the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders and Adela, daughter of King Robert II of France. Possibly in 1052 or 1053 Matilda married William, Duke of Normandy, - an alliance to secure the relationship between Flanders and Normandy. The Pope did not approve of the marriage initially but the wedding took place anyway and some years later a papal blessing on the marriage was given.

Matilda and William had four sons, including the future Henry I of England, and five daughters.

In Normandy Matilda worked with William managing the region including preciding over the courts and witnessing charters. She often travelled with her husband when he was visiting parts of his duchy. When William travelled to England for the Battle of Hastings, Matilda was left in charge.

Duke William of Normandy and Edward the Confessor, King of England, were related and William believed that as the English king had no children he was heir to the English throne. However, before his death, the English king selected Harold Godwinson, a military leader, as his successor. William and his army then headed to England to fight Harold for the right to rule England. King Harold II won a victory against an attempted Viking invasion shortly before facing William at the Battle of Hastings which William won on 14 October, 1066. 

William, Duke of Normanby, was crowned William 1 of England in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066. Matilda was crowned as Queen of England in 1067.

During the following years, much of William's time was spent securing his position as King of England. At times Matilda joined him in England but much of her time was acting as his regent in Normandy until their eldest son, Robert Curthose, was old enough to be more involved. Unfortunately William and Robert did not get along for much of the time resulting in much antagonism between the two men. For a while Matilda supported her eldest son providing him with money to support his campaign against his father. The matter was eventually resolved and when William died he left the governance of Normandy to Robert and the kingdom of England to his youngest son, Henry.

Although Matilda was usually busy keeping law and order as regent in Normandy in her husband's absence, there are reports of her spending some of her time with her husband in England. When in England she would attend to court matters as required including land disputes and travel to different parts of England with her husband. 

Crossing the English Channel between Normandy and England was dangerous  and reports suggest that Matilda made the two way journey five times. In total she may have spent only four years in England. Most of her life was spent in Normandy. But her role as ruler of Normandy allowed her husband to concentrate on ruling England, despite some opposition.

Matilda was also responsible for the education of her children and ensured that her daughters also had a good education. Being from France the family spoke French, not just at home but in the court. Latin was the language used for writing documents.

During their reign William and Matilda built many Norman castles and churches. As Queen, Matilda was expected to be a benefactress of the church by making endowments to religious institutions. There are also references to her charity to the poor and sick. 

However the Queen also owned large landholdings in England, particularly in Buckinghamshire and Surrey as well as land between Cornwall and Winchester. The Queen had a large staff to run the estates as well as household staff.

Matilda died on 2 November 1883. She was buried at the Convent of the Holy Trinity at Caen in Normandy.

This statue of Matilda of Flanders is in the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, Paris.

Apart from her French connections, Matilda was also a direct descendant of Alfred the Great, the Anglo Saxon king of England.

Medieval Queens in the Family Tree

Some years ago I decided to investigate the family story that one line of the family tree included royalty. The blog post Royalty in the Family describes the hunt to check if this was indeed true. The label, Royal Connections, in my Family Connections blog provides links to some of the posts written on this topic so far.

Going back through time, the stories of our ancestors largely focussed on men but in many cases the women in the family played an important role - not just with involvement with the family but also in ruling the country. 

In royal households, marriage was frequently the opportunity to form stronger relationships between countries or regions. In medieval times daughters of rulers were  promised in marriage to the son of a ruler of another country. In some cases the daughters were very young when these arrangements were made though the actual marriage was delayed until the girl was considered of 'a marriageable age' - much younger than the mariage age today.

As in much history, in the past and also today, the quest for Power was paramount.

Medieval queens in our family tree include:

Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083)

Matilda of Scotland (1080-1118)

Empress Matilda (1102-1167)

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1128-1202)

Isabella of Angoulême (1188-1246)

Eleanor of Provence (1223-1291)

Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290)

Isabella of France (1295-1358)

Philippa of Hainaut (1311-1369)


Margaret of Scotland (1045-1093)

A number of books have been written about medieval queens.

Alison Weir has written a series of books in the series England's Medieval Queens. The three that include the stories of the queens listed on this page include:

Queens of the Conquest

Queens of the Crusades

Queens of The Age of Chivalry.

She-Wolves by Helen Castor includes chapters on Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella  of France.

Links to other posts on this topic in the blog:

Medieval Monarchs in the Family

Royalty in the Family

Family Legend

Connection to Royalty?

Recently my grand-daughter and I made a costume 'fit for a queen' to be worn to school for the experience of life in medieval times.