Matilda of Flanders

William the Conqueror's Queen

Matilda of Flanders
Matilda of Flanders. Artist: Henry Colburn. Hulton Archive/The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

About Matilda of Flanders:

Known for: Queen of England from 1068; wife of William the Conqueror; occasionally his regent; was long reputed to be the artist of the Bayeux tapestry, but scholars now doubt that she was directly involved

Dates: about 1031 - November 2, 1083
Also known as: Mathilde, Mahault

Family, Background:

  • Father: Baldwin V of Flanders
  • Mother: Adele (Alix) of France, a daughter of Robert II of France, formerly married to Richard III of Normandy, brother of Hugh Capet, King of France
  • Brothers: Baldwin, Robert

Marriage, Children:

Husband: William, Duke of Normandy, who later was known as William the Conqueror, William I of England

Children: four sons, five daughters survived childhood; eleven children total.  Children include:

  • William Rufus (1056-1100), King of England
  • Adela (about 1062-1138), married Stephen, Count of Blois
  • Henry Beauclerc (1068-1135), King of England

More About Matilda of Flanders:

William of Normandy proposed marriage to Matilda of Flanders in 1053, and, according to legend, she first refused his proposal. He is supposed to have pursued her and thrown her on the ground by her braids in reaction to her refusal (stories differ). Over her father's objections after that insult, Matilda then accepted the marriage. As a result of their close relationship -- they were cousins -- they were excommunicated but the Pope relented when each built an abbey as penance.

After her husband invaded England and took the kingship, Matilda came to England to join her husband and was crowned queen in Winchester Cathedral. Matilda's descent from Alfred the Great added some credibility to William's claim to the English throne. During William's frequent absences, she served as regent, sometimes with their son, Robert Curthose, assisting her in those duties.

When Robert Curthose rebelled against his father, Matilda served alone as regent.

Matilda and William separated, and she spent her last years in Normandy separately, at l'Abbaye aux Dames in Caen -- the same abbey she had built as penance for the marriage, and her tomb is at that abbey. When Matilda died, William gave up hunting to express his grief.

Matilda of Flanders Height

Matilda of Flanders was believed, after an excavation of her tomb in 1959 and measurements of the remains, to have been about 4'2" tall.  However, most scholars, and the original leader of that excavation, Professor Dastague (Institut d'Anthropologie, Caen), do not believe this is the correct interpretation. A woman so short would likely not have been able to give birth to nine children, with eight making it to adulthood.   (More about this: "A historical obstetric enigma: how tall was Matilda?", Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecolory, Volume 1, Issue 4, 1981.)