Matilda of Scotland

Queen of England 1100 - 1118

Matilda of Scotland, Queen of England
Matilda of Scotland, Queen of England. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Matilda of Scotland Facts

Known for: queen consort of King Henry I of England, mother of Empress Matilda; her sister, was the mother of Matilda of Boulogne, wife of King Stephen of England who fought a civil war with the Empress Matilda for succession
Occupation: Queen of England
Dates: about 1080 - May 1, 1118
Also known as: Edith (name at birth), Maud of Scotland

Background, Family:

  • Father: Malcolm III of Scotland
  • Siblings: Edward, Edmund of Scotland, Ethelred (became an abbot), King Edgar of Scotland, King Alexander I of Scotland, King David I of Scotland, and Mary of Scotland (who married Eustace III of Boulogne and was the mother of Matilda of Boulogne who married King Stephen of England, a nephew of King Henry I of England)

Matilda of Scotland Biography:

From the age of six, Matilda (named Edith at birth) and her sister Mary were raised under the protection of their aunt Cristina, a nun in the convent at Romsey, England, and later at Wilton. In 1093, Matilda left the convent, and Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered her to return.

Matilda's family turned down several early marriage proposals for Matilda: from William de Warenne, second Earl of Surrey and Alan Rufus, Lord of Richmond. Another rejected proposal, reported by some chroniclers, came from King William II of England.

King William II of England died in 1100, and his son Henry quickly seized power, supplanting his older brother through his quick action (a tactic his nephew Stephen would use later to supplant Henry's named heir). Henry and Matilda apparently knew each other already; Henry decided that Matilda would be the most suitable bride.

Matilda's Value as a Wife

Matilda's heritage did make her an excellent choice as a bride for Henry I. Her mother was a descendant of King Edmund Ironside, and through him, Matilda was descended from the great Anglo Saxon king of England, Alfred the Great.

Matilda's great uncle was Edward the Confessor, so she was also related to the Wessex kings of England.

Thus, marriage to Matilda would unite the Norman line to the Anglo-Saxon royal line.

The marriage would also ally England and Scotland. Margaret's three brothers each served in turn as King of Scotland.

Impediment to Marriage?

Matilda's years in the convent raised questions of whether she had taken vows and was thus not free to marry legally. Henry asked Archbishop Anselm for a ruling, and Anselm convened a council of bishops. They heard testimony from Matilda that she had never taken vows, had worn the veil only for protection, and that her stay in the convent had only been for her education. The bishops agreed that Matilda was eligible to marry Henry.

Marriage and Children

Matilda of Scotland and Henry I of England were married at Westminster Abbey on November 11, 1100. At this point her name was changed from her birth name of Edith to Matilda, by which she is known to history.

Matilda and Henry had four children, but only two survived infancy. Matilda, born 1102, was the elder, but by tradition was displaced as heir by her younger brother, William, born the next year.


Matilda's education was valuable in her role as Henry's queen. Matilda served on her husband's council; she was vice regent when he was traveling; she often accompanied him on his travels. Henry I built Westminster Palace for Matilda.

Matilda also commissioned literary works, including a biography of her mother and a history of her family (the latter was completed after her death). She kept up a correspondence with Archbishop Anselm, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and several other religious leaders. She administered estates that were part of her dower properties.

Matilda's Children

Matilda and Henry's daughter, also named Matilda and sometimes known as Maud, was betrothed to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry V, and she was sent to Germany to be married to him.

Matilda and Henry's son, William, was heir apparent to his father. He was betrothed to Matilda of Anjou, daughter of Count Fulk V of Anjou, in 1113.

Matilda's Death and Legacy

Matilda of Scotland, Queen of England and consort of Henry I, died on Mary 1, 1118, and she was buried at Westminster Abbey. A year after her death, in June 1119, her son William was married to Matilda of Anjou. The next year, in November 1120, William and his wife both died when the White Ship capsized crossing the English Channel.

Henry married again but had no more children. He named as his heir his daughter Matilda, by that time widow of Emperor Henry V. Henry had his noble swear fealty to his daughter, then married her to Geoffrey of Anjou, brother of Matilda of Anjou and son of Fulk V.

Thus Matilda of Scotland's daughter was set to become England's first reigning queen -- but Henry's nephew Stephen seized the throne, and enough barons backed him so that the younger Matilda, though she fought for her rights, was never crowned queen. Her son -- grandson of Matilda of Scotland and Henry I -- eventually succeeded Stephen as Henry II, bringing the descendants of both Norman and Anglo Saxon kings to the throne.

Books About Matilda of Scotland:

  • Lois L. Huneycutt. Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship. 2004.
  • John Carmi Parsons. Medieval Queenship. 1997.
  • Warren C. Hollister. Henry I. 1996.
  • Marjorie Chibnall. The Empress Matilda. 1992.
  • William Forrbes-Leith, editor. Medieval Women: The Life of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland. 1896.

    Letters of and to Matilda of Scotland:

    Marriage, Children:

    • husband: Henry I of England (married 1100)
    • four children, two of whom survived infancy:
      • William Adelin, Duke of Normandy (1103 - 1120)
      • Empress Matilda, Lady of England, named by Henry I as his heir though she never was crowned Queen of England (1102 - 1167)


    With her sister Mary, she was educated by her aunt, Cristina, a nun, at Romsey, England, and later at Wilton.

    More: Norman Queens Consort of England: Wives of the Kings of EnglandMedieval Queens, Empresses, and Women Rulers