Matilda of Flanders (French: Mathilde de Flandre; Dutch: Mathilda van Vlaanderen) (c. 1031 – 2 November 1083) was the wife of William the Conqueror and, as such, Queen consort of the Kingdom of England. She bore William eleven children, including two kings, William II and Henry I.
Matilda, or Maud, was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders and Adèle Capet, herself daughter of Robert II of France. According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda's hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born, to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, and dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street in front of her flabbergasted attendants, and rode off. Another version of the story states that William rode to Matilda's father's house in Lille, threw her to the ground in her room (again, by the braids), and hit her (or violently battered her) before leaving. Naturally, Baldwin took offense at this but, before they drew swords, Matilda settled the matter by agreeing to marry him, and even a papal ban on the grounds of consanguinity did not dissuade her. They were married in 1053.
There were rumors that Matilda had been in love with the English ambassador to Flanders, a Saxon named Brihtric, who declined her advances. Whatever the truth of the matter, years later when she was acting as Regent for William in England, she used her authority to confiscate Brihtric's lands and throw him into prison, where he died.
When William was preparing to invade England, Matilda outfitted a ship, the Mora, out of her own money and gave it to him. For many years it was thought that she had some involvement in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry (commonly called La Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde in French), but historians no longer believe that; it seems to have been commissioned by William's half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and made by English artists in Kent.
Matilda bore William eleven children, and he was believed to have been faithful to her, at least up until the time their son Robert rebelled against his father and Matilda sided with Robert against William. After she died, in 1083 at the age of 51, William became tyrannical, and people blamed it on his having lost her.
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