Mathilde of Flanders

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Matilda of Flanders (English: Matilda of Flanders , French: Mathilde de Flandre , Dutch: Mathildis van Vlaanderen ; * to 1030 / 1031 ; † 2. November 1083 in Normandy ) was the daughter of Baldwin V , Count of Flanders , and Adela of France . Through her marriage to William I (known as William the Conqueror ), Duke of Normandy and later King of England , she became Duchess of Normandy and in 1068, two years after the conquest of England in 1066, as Mathilde I, Queen of England crowned.

Mathilde of Flanders , statue by Jean-Jacques Elshoecht in the Jardin du Luxembourg , Paris (1850).


In general, there is little to be found in contemporary sources about the life of the English queens of the early Middle Ages, as the king is reported much more frequently than his wife. Little is known about Mathilde of Flanders in comparison with Edith of Scotland and Mathilda of Boulogne , who succeeded her as Queen of England. Often, important stages in her life can only be reconstructed with the help of the biographies of the contemporaries around her - most prominently her husband Wilhelm the Conqueror. However, in many cases only approximate information can be given when it comes to reliable data on your biography. This is particularly true of their youth, which, according to Brewer's British Royalty, “is surrounded by mystery” .

1031 to 1050/51: Birth and marriage
over the birth of Mathilde have survived neither the place nor the date. However, since the marriage of her parents took place after 1031, it can be concluded that Mathilde was born sometime after 1031 or - since she is nowhere listed as the oldest child of this marriage - probably even after 1032. The place of her birth was undoubtedly in Flanders, where she probably grew up, both of which can only be conjectures, since even with the help of contemporary sources, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about Mathilde's life before her marriage to Duke Wilhelm II.

The date of marriage cannot be determined with certainty these days. The English sources have not documented the event, while the Norman chronicles of this time contain imprecise and divergent statements. It was probably planned for or before 1049, when Pope Leo IX. had the connection of the two forbidden during the Council of Rheims . The marriage must have taken place sometime after October 1049 and before the end of the year 1053, when Mathilde had attested two dated documents as the wife of the duke. Within this period of time, historians discuss several different times for the marriage, whereby a date around 1050/51 seems to be favored. On the way to her wedding from Flanders to Normandy, Mathilde was accompanied by her father to Eu , where she first met her future groom, whose mother Herleva and stepfather Herluin de Conteville , before they moved to Rouen , where the real Ceremony took place.

1050/51 to 1066: Children
Little is known about Mathilde's life after her marriage and before her husband set out to conquer England. Only one stay in Cherbourg between 1063 and 1066, during which Wilhelm fell ill and she prayed for his recovery, has been recorded by the monks there. Mathilde probably gave birth to her first son Robert around 1050/51 , followed by Richard before the year 1056 and Wilhelm between 1056 and 1060. As far as the number, names and dates of birth of her daughters are concerned, the sources are very unclear contradicting statements. Only Cecilia is known for certain that she must have been born before 1066. The reason for this is a document dated June 18, 1066, which is connected with the consecration of the Sainte Trinité convent in Caen and confirms the oblation of Cecilia to the associated convent. Mathilde and her sons Robert, Richard and William attested to the certificate, which proves that at least by then those four children had already been born.

1066 to 1083: reign and coronation
When her husband left for England in September 1066, Matilda took over the reign in Normandy. After his triumphant return in March 1067, William organized a splendid Easter celebration in the ducal Abbey of Fécamp and, probably together with Mathilde, undertook a triumphal march through his duchy before he left for England on December 6th. In the following year Mathilde traveled to England herself to be crowned queen at Whitsun - which fell on May 11th in 1068 - either in Westminster Abbey or Winchester Cathedral . In the same year, their last child, Heinrich, was born. The birth is believed to have taken place in September, in what is commonly believed to be Selby , Yorkshire. Mathilde stayed in England until 1069, before finally returning to Normandy, where she continued to take care of the affairs of the duchy when her husband was absent.

Mathilde's grave in St. Trinité Abbey, Caen (sketch, 19th century).

Important events in the last decade of her life are likely to have been the consecration of her daughter Cecilia as a nun at Easter 1075, i.e. on April 15, as well as the marriage of her daughter Adela to Stephan , Count of Blois around the year 1080. In the late summer of 1083 Mathilde fell seriously ill and died on November 2nd in Normandy, probably in Caen, where she was also buried in the church of the Sainte Trinité monastery she had founded. Her grave was first destroyed in 1562 by the Calvinists and - after it was repaired in a simpler form - then again during the French Revolution . It was restored in 1819, but only the tombstone of the original grave remains today.


Mathilde came from the house of the Counts of Flanders . She was the daughter of Count Baldwin V of Flanders (* 1012; † 1067) and Adela of France (* 1014; † 1079), daughter of King Robert II, the pious , and his third wife Constance of Provence . She had at least two brothers:

Mathilde grew up with her father's half-sister, Judith von Flandern (* around 1031; † 1094). Their parents were Count Baldwin IV of Flanders and his second wife Eleanor, daughter of Richard II of Normandy and Judith of Rennes .

Marriage to Wilhelm

Foreign policy motives for the marriage alliance

Open resistance against the Pope, Leo IX., Who ruled from 1049 to 1054, was afforded by Wilhelm, Duke of Normandy, by marrying Mathilde of Flanders. The first reform pope had forbidden them to marry at the Council of Reims on the occasion of the inauguration of the predecessor building of today's Gothic cathedral in October 1049, as is known from the relevant files - in contrast to unions of the French nobility, which were branded at the same time, without giving a reason.

Possible reasons for the papal ban on marriage

Chroniclers (Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury) and novelists (Robert Wace) of the 12th century, without mentioning the Reims Council, spoke of an incest which, according to them, was only discovered after marriage. However, it is not only questionable whether they provide us with the reason for the fuss about the marriage between Wilhelm and Mathilde. There were family connections between the two of them (in addition to the above-mentioned second marriage of grandfather Mathildes to an aunt of Wilhelm, which is well documented, a common descent of Rollo is also possible, as well as Mathilde's mother as a girl to marry Wilhelm's uncle was promised), but it is unlikely that the Pope was actually aware of these, and even less likely that they actually already posed a problem under canon law in 1049. The barriers to marriage due to incest had only increased in the second half of the 11th century. In 1059 it was stipulated that relatives up to the 7th degree are not allowed to marry, and only in 1076 that these degrees are not according to Roman inheritance law, which counts the steps from person to person that connect woman and man (according to her, cousins ​​are in fourth degree related), but according to the canonical method of counting, which counts the generation steps from both spouses to the common ancestor (cousins ​​are related according to her in the second degree). In this case, however, there were always controversial questions as to whether the relatives of a later partner, a later partner of an ancestor or an ancestor other than the union from which the lineage of a person originated, are also related to this person or whether they are already engaged in blood ties creates. Of the contemporary chroniclers, Guillaume von Poitiers and Guillaume von Jumièges, who portrayed the marriage of Wilhelm and Mathilde as well thought out and happy in its course, the latter stated that the marriage between Wilhelm and Mathilde was "legal".

Presumably Pope Leo IX wanted. The marriage between Wilhelm, who in the acts of the Council of Reims is typically not addressed in his duchy, but probably only because of his illegitimate and thus controversial legitimacy, and the Flemish duke's daughter, much more likely for political reasons. The Duke of Flanders, a double vassal of the French king and the German emperor who had great resources and behaved like a king, was at the time an open opponent of the latter, to whom Pope Leo IX, who came from a German noble family, was. however owed his appointment as Pope. Furthermore, the Emperor and Pope watched the Normans' desire for expansion, which had been successfully realized, not only in northern France, but also in Sicily and southern Italy with great concern.

Domestic political consequences of marriage

The whole affair seems to have petered out with the change in the general political climate. In any case, there is no evidence in the sources of the 11th century that the relationship between Rome and Normandy and Flanders was particularly strained after the trial of power in 1049 in the 1950s.

Public role

Mathilde as Duchess of Normandy

While Mathilde von Flanders was only called "wife" in the early documents of the Norman court, from the 1960s onwards her noble parentage and the official position as "Duchess", which she increasingly assumed, was consciously expressed. She had proven herself ideologically as well as practical in supporting her husband's ambitions. She was descended from the Carolingians through her father and from the Capetians through her mother . She sat on the council of barons and prelates, with which Wilhelm surrounded herself, for many important decisions. During the campaign in Maine in 1062, she worked for the first time as regent in the tribal land and was to take on this function during the conquest of England and other expeditions her husband made across the English Channel without her. Always a woman with considerable wealth, Wilhelm also gave her large estates on the island; some of the proceeds went to the Sainte Trinité monastery in Caen and other pious foundations. In 1067/1068, however, she followed William to England, who had her consecrated Queen in Westminster Cathedral and singing hymns, which emphasized the equality of King and Queen. The good cooperation between the two was only questioned during the rebellion of the eldest son, Robert , whom Mathilde supported with financial means. However, this did not lead to an actual break between the couple. Mathilde remained highly influential at the Norman-English court.

Mathilde as Queen of England

Whether the fact that Mathilde von Flanders was a great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of King Alfred von Wessex , called "the great", through his daughter Elfrida (* approx. 875; † 929), the count's wife Baldwin II of Flanders , what, in the eyes of his contemporaries, gave William the Conqueror additional legitimation for the English throne, can no longer be determined today.

More important was probably that Queen Emma (* around 987, † 1052) was a daughter of Duke Richard I and the sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy. She married the English King Æthelred in 1002 and gave birth to Alfred and Eduard, who later became King Eduard III. the confessor . Emma was thus a great-aunt of Duke Wilhelm, Mathilde's husband. In addition, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , the childless Eduard the Confessor is said to have promised William the throne of England in 1051, which, however, can be considered rather unlikely. He also derived other dynastic claims to the English royal crown that led to the Norman invasion of England in 1066 .

Mathilde as patroness and patroness

So it is also questionable whether it is actually true that Wilhelm and Mathilde founded the two Benedictine monasteries for communities of both sexes in Caen in order to get Nicholas II (1058-1061) in a favorable position to lift an excommunication because of their blood-molesting union. This was also only asserted in the 12th century. The ladies' abbey ( Abbaye-aux-Dames ) may have been tackled as early as 1059 and its first church was inaugurated in June 1066, a few weeks before the conquest of England. The Lord's Abbey ( Abbaye-aux-Hommes ), which was only inaugurated in 1077 or 1078, probably did not begin until 1063 to 1064. The two abbeys were more likely to be donated as future burial places for the couple, as was the case with the royal complex Residential cities, for which the Caen settlement was expanded in the 1060s and 1070s, was a common custom in the Middle Ages and beyond.

marriage and family

Mathilde's children and descendants

  • Robert II. Curthose (* approx. 1054; † 1134), Duke of Normandy ⚭ Margaret of Maine
  • Richard (* approx. 1054; † 1081), Duke of Bernay
  • Adeliza (* 1055; † 1065), Countess of Maine
  • Cecilia (* 1056; † 1125), Abbess of Caen
  • Wilhelm II. Rufus (* 1056; † 1100), 1087–1100 King of England (without descendants)
  • Adela (* 1062; † 1138), Countess of Blois and Chartres
  • Agatha (* 1064; † 1080), died as the bride of King Alfonso VI. of Castile (* 1037; † 1109)
  • Konstanze (* 1066; † 1090), ⚭ 1086 Duke Alain IV. Fergent of Brittany († 1119)
  • Heinrich I. Beauclerc (* 1068; † 1135), 1100–1135 King of England
  1. Edith ( Mathilda ) of Scotland (* 1081; † 1118), daughter of King Malcolm III.
  2. Adeliza of Louvain (* ~ 1104; † 1151)

The assertion made in the 19th century that Gundrade (* 1053; † 1085); Countess of Surrey, who is another daughter of Mathilde of Flanders, is based on the late medieval copy of an English document. This has been refuted today.

Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry was originally thought to have been made by Mathilda of Flanders, but today it is more likely that it was commissioned by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux .

Individual evidence

  1. Fryde: The English Kings ... , p. 68.
  2. ^ Williamson: Brewer's British Royalty , p. 275.
  3. David C. Douglas : William the Conqueror , p. 398; Barlow: William Rufus , p. 8, n.14.
  4. ^ Prentout: Le Mariage de Guillaume , pp. 5f; after Wilhelm de Jumièges the marriage took place after the revolt of Wilhelm von Talou in 1052/53, after Wilhelm de Poitiers after the siege of Alençon in 1051/52.
  5. ^ Douglas: William the Conqueror , p. 397; Barlow: William Rufus , p. 8, n.13.
  6. For the scientific discourse see: Douglas: Wilhelm der Eroberer, p. 397f and Barlow: William Rufus , p. 8, n. 13; the dating 1050/51 a. a. at Douglas, van Houts, Cannon.
  7. ^ Van Houts: ODNB, p. 318.
  8. ^ Van Houts: ODNB, p. 320.
  9. ^ Douglas: Wilhelm der Eroberer , p. 400f and van Houts: ODNB, p. 320.
  10. ^ Barlow: William Rufus , p. 22.
  11. See: Easter calculator .
  12. Both details can be found, s. Weir: Britain's royal families , p. 43.
  13. van Houts: ODNB, p. 319; DNB, p. 51; Williamson: Brewer's British Royalty , p. 275; Douglas: William the Conqueror , on the triumphal procession 1067 p. 213, on the coronation 217f.
  14. Van Houts: ODNB, pp. 318, 320; DNB, p. 51; Weir: Britain's royal families , p. 43; Williamson: Brewer's British Royalty , p. 275.


Primary literature

Contemporary sources and chronicles

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle → Excerpt: 1042–1154 in: David C. Douglas (Ed.): English Historical Documents , Vol. 2, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode 1953, pp. 160ff.
  • Domesday Book


Sources and chronicles from the 12th century


Secondary literature

  • Frank Barlow: William Rufus , Methuen, London 1983.
  • Shirley Ann Brown: The Bayeux Tapestry: history and bibliography , Boydell, Woodbridge 1988.
  • Matilda , in: John Cannon, Anne Hargreaves: The Kings & Queens of Britain , Oxford University Press 2001, p. 179.
  • David Carpenter: The struggle for Mastery - Britain 1066-1284 , Allen Lane, London 2003.
  • David C. Douglas: William the Conqueror - Duke of Normandy , Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag, Kreuzlingen / Munich 2004.
  • Josef Fleckenstein, Marie Luise Bulst-Thiele : Foundation and rise of the German empire ; in: Gebhardt - Handbook of German History , Vol. 3, Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag, Munich 1973.
  • Natalie Fryde: The English kings in the Middle Ages - from William the Conqueror to Richard III. , Beck, Munich 2004.
  • Matilda of Flanders , in: Juliet Gardiner (Ed.): The History Today Who's Who in British History , Collins & Brown, 2000, p. 556.
  • Laura L. Gathagan: The trappings of power: the coronation of Mathilda of Flanders , in: Haskins Society Journal , 13 (1999), Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk 2000, pp. 21-39. ISSN  0963-4959
  • William HuntMatilda (d.1083) . In: Sidney Lee (Ed.): Dictionary of National Biography . Volume 37:  Masquerier - Millyng. , MacMillan & Co, Smith, Elder & Co., New York City / London 1894, pp. 49 - 52 (English).
  • Rosemary Mitchell: A stitch in time? Women, needlework, and the making of history in Victorian Britain , in: Journal of Victorian Culture , Vol. 1.2 (1996), Edinburgh University Press, pp. 185-202. ISSN  1355-5502 .
  • H. Prentout: Études sur quelques points de l'Histoire de Guillaume le Conquérant: II. Le Mariage de Guillaume , in: Mémoires de l'Académie national des sciences, arts et Belles-Lettres de Caen - Nouvelle séries , vol. 6, Caen 1931, pp. 28-56.
  • Agnes Stickland: Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest , Vol. I, 3rd ed., Blanchard and Lea, Philadelphia 1852.
  • Andreas Thiele: Narrative genealogical family tables for European history , Vol. II., Tbd. 1, 2nd edition, RG Fischer Verlag 1996.
  • Elisabeth MC van Houts: The ship list of William the Conqueror , in: Anglo-Norman studies , 10 (1987), pp. 159-183.
  • Elisabeth MC van Houts, Christopher Harper-Bill: A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World , Boydell Press, 2003.
  • Elisabeth van Houts: Matilda (d.1083). In: Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , from the earliest times to the year 2000 (ODNB). Volume 37: Martindale – Meynell. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861387-3 , pp. 318-320, ( license required ), as of January 2008.
  • Alison Weir: Britain's royal families: the complete genealogy , Pimlico, London 2002.
  • Karl Ferdinand Werner: royalty and principality of the French 12th century ; in: Problems of the 12th century: Reichenau lectures 1965–1967 (lectures and research 12), Thorbecke, Konstanz a. a. 1968, pp. 177-225.
  • Matilda of Flanders, Queen of England , in: David Williamson: Brewer's British Royalty , Cassell, London 1996, p. 275.
  • Adriaan Verhulst, Walter Prevenier, Geert Berings: Flanders, County . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 4, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-7608-8904-2 , Sp. 514-532.

Web links

Commons : Mathilde von Flanders  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office Successor
Ealdgyth of Mercia Queen Consort of England
Matilda of Scotland