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Matilda held her own with William

Chronicle of oft-ignored queen engrossing

By Kathy Habel

For The Free Lance-Star

AT A TIME when women were thought good only for procreation, a woman  emerged who set the standard for female rulers of the future.  As the wife of William the Conqueror, Matilda demonstrated that a woman with a sharp mind, deep faith, tenacity and loyalty could overcome obstacles to become the first crowned queen of England.

Tracy Borman’s “Queen of the Conqueror” this oft- overlooked, chronicles this remarkable woman’s life.

Of royal lineage, Matilda attracted many suitors including William, Duke of Normandy, whom she refused.  Infuriated, William rode to her residence, dragged her to the ground and beat her senseless.   Matilda then said that she would marry no one but William, since “he must be a man of great courage and high daring.”

Over their long and eventful marriage, Matilda demonstrated her ability to rule along with her husband while bearing and raising nine children.  When William launched his campaign to conquer England, Matilda took over the reins of leadership of Normandy ruling wisely and keeping Normandy safe for her husband and their sons while his time and attention was focused on England.  In return, William made Matilda queen, the first woman to rule jointly with her husband, providing her with land, castles and riches of her own.  She demonstrated her deep faith in the church by providing funds to build churches and abbeys. One of her daughters eventually became abbess of one.

Matilda set the stage for generations to come.  With her as an example, rulers such as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Isabella, wife of Edward II, would aspire to gain the same influence as Matilda.  Her bloodline continues, including even Queen Elizabeth II.

Borman demonstrates her ability to tenaciously research her topic and find well hidden information on a woman far ahead of her time.  She presents Matilda’s story in an interesting and engrossing manner, sifting through fact and fiction about her.

Kathy Habel is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.

Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I

By Tracy Borman

(Bantam, $30, 336 pp.)


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