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The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I

by Tracy Borman

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-553-80814-8
Publisher: Bantam

A British historian brings to life Queen Matilda’s enormous accomplishments in consolidating early Norman rule. 

Alongside her warrior husband, William I, Matilda brought legitimacy, a deeper degree of education, diplomatic savvy and artistic and religious flowering to the shared Norman-English throne. Borman (Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen, 2010, etc.) the chief executive of Britain’s Heritage Education Trust, fleshes out the personality of this fascinating woman, who set the steely precedent for subsequent English female sovereigns by displaying great longevity and stamina in a rough, paternalistic time. The daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, one of the most illustrious houses of Europe, Matilda, apparently diminutive and comely, demonstrated early on her extraordinarily strong will by not only pursuing a suitor on her own, and suffering rejection, but initially rejecting the suit of William of Normandy because he was an illegitimate son of Duke Robert I. Nonetheless, William won her, and their fruitful, long marriage established a powerful, solid dynasty in Normandy before William even cast his eyes covetously across the English Channel. Leaving her as regent to keep Normandy in line—the records show that she was a hands-on, effective ruler—William set out to conquer England. While his methods won few admirers from the English, Matilda proved politically astute, generously endowing monasteries, encouraging cultural integration and ensuring her last son, Henry, was born in England and viewed as its natural heir. Indeed, her fierce loyalty to her sons would prove nettlesome later in the marriage.

A richly layered treatment of the stormy reign that yielded the incomparable Bayeux Tapestry and the Domesday Book.