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.

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