Matilda of Flanders was born circa 1031 as the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and Adela of France. It is likely that she could read and write, but there is very little information on her upbringing.
In 1047, William, Duke of Normandy, who was of illegitimate birth, wanted to ally himself with someone with a good lineage. He attempted to abduct Matilda but was unsuccessful, and in 1049, he made a formal proposal. The abduction attempt was probably forgotten by then because her father approved the match. They married around 1050 when Matilda was around 19 and William was around 23. It turned out to be a love match, and they went on to have several children. The exact number born to them is not recorded, but it was probably eight.
William always asserted that Edward the Confessor, King of England, had named him as his heir but he was not named on Edward’s deathbed and the crown was taken by Harold Godwin. William began building his invasion fleet, and Matilda was in Normandy when she heard of William’s victory at the Battle of Hastings. They were finally reunited in Normandy in March 1067, and Matilda’s remained there until Easter 1068 when she was summoned to England. She was crowned Queen of England on 11 May 1068 by the Archbishop of York.
Matilda was unable to cut ties with her son Robert as his father did when his opposition grew, and it caused the only known conflict between Matilda and William. William ordered her not to sent gifts to Robert, but she continued to do so. William supposedly exclaimed, “How very true here and now is the maxim of a certain sage, “A faithless wife brings ruin to the state”. After this who in this world shall ever find himself a trustworthy helpmate? The wife of my bosom, whom I love as my own soul, whom I have set over my whole kingdom and entrusted with all authority and riches, this wife, I say, supports the enemies who plot against my life, enriches them with my money, zealously arms and succours and strengthens them to my grave peril.” Matilda replied, “O my lord, do not wonder that I love my first-born child with tender affection. By the power of the Most High, if my son Robert were dead and buried seven feet deep in the earth, hid from the eyes of the living, and I could bring him back to life with my own blood, I would shed my life-blood for him and suffer more anguish for his sake than, weak woman that I am,I dare to promise.”
Matilda died quite suddenly of the plague on 2 November 1083 in Normandy. She was given a splendid funeral at the Holy Trinity in Caen and William never remarried. He died just four years later. 1