Matilda is the wife of William the Conqueror, and is one of the least written about English queens. Matilda came from a lineage of strong and smart women, and proved herself both during her marriage. William has been long known for his winning of England in 1066, but Matilda ruled his duchy during his campaigns away, one of the few women to hold that sort of power. Her background made William a more acceptable choice of king for the English, and she proved a fertile mother, with nine children. She also was a determined mother, who went against her husband to protect her oldest son's rights, at the cost of her husband's trust.
I'm a fan of English historical fiction, reading almost everything there is about English royalty, but I've not read anything about Matilda or this time period. Tracy Borman did a superb job bringing Matilda to life, shining a light on a woefully under-examined female role model. Her book reminded me of Alison Weir's wonderfully crafted books, making Tracy Borman a must-read author for history fans. I look forward to seeing what historical figure she writes about next.
Around the year 1049, William, Duke of Normandy and future conqueror of England, raced to the palace of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. The count’s eldest daughter, Matilda, had refused William’s offer of marriage and publicly denounced him as a bastard. Encountering the young woman, William furiously dragged her to the ground by her hair and beat her mercilessly. Matilda’s outraged father immediately took up arms on his daughter’s behalf. But just a few days later, Baldwin was aghast when Matilda, still recovering from the assault, announced that she would marry none but William, since “he must be a man of great courage and high daring” to have ventured to “come and beat me in my own father’s palace.”
Thus began the tempestuous marriage of Matilda of Flanders and William the Conqueror. While William’s exploits and triumphs have been widely chronicled, his consort remains largely overlooked. Now, in her groundbreaking Queen of the Conqueror, acclaimed author and historian Tracy Borman weaves together a comprehensive and illuminating tapestry of this noble woman who stood only four-foot-two and whose role as the first crowned Queen of England had a large and lasting influence on the English monarchy.
From a wealth of historical artifacts and documents, Matilda emerges as passionate, steadfast, and wise, yet also utterly ruthless and tenacious in pursuit of her goals, and the only person capable of taming her formidable husband—who, unprecedented for the period, remained staunchly faithful to her. This mother of nine, including four sons who went on to inherit William’s French and English dominions, confounded the traditional views of women in medieval society by seizing the reins of power whenever she had the chance, directing her husband’s policy, and at times flagrantly disobeying his orders.
Tracy Borman lays out Matilda’s remarkable story against one of the most fascinating and transformative periods in European history. Stirring, richly detailed, and wholly involving, Queen of the Conqueror reveals not just an extraordinary figure but an iconic woman who shaped generations, and an era that cast the essential framework for the world we know today.