Matilda (1080-1118) (DNB00)

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MATILDA, MAUD, MAHALDE, MOLD (1080–1118), first wife of Henry I, king of England [q. v.], was a daughter of Malcolm III, king of Scots, and Margaret, grand-daughter of Eadmund Ironside [see Margaret, Saint]. She was probably born in the autumn of 1080, as her godfather was Robert, duke of Normandy, who was in Scotland then, and, so far as is known, at no other time. She was baptised Eadgyth (Edith), but Matilda or Maud, in various forms, is the name by which she is known in history. Her education was entrusted to her mother's sister Christina, who was a nun at either Romsey or Wilton. Christina compelled the girl to wear a nun's black veil, as a protection against ‘the brutality of the Normans, which was then raging;’ according to another account, it was the abbess who made her wear it for fear of William Rufus. ‘I trembled under my aunt's rod,’ said Matilda long afterwards; ‘when I threw off the veil, she tormented and insulted me with sharp blows and shameful words, so that in her presence I wore it, groaning and shuddering, but whenever I could get out of her sight I flung it on the ground and trod it under foot.’ Once Malcolm came to visit his daughter, found her wearing the veil, and pulled it off angrily, swearing that he intended her not for a nun, but for the wife of Count Alan, i.e. Alan II. of Richmond; and it seems that he took her back with him to Scotland. This was apparently in 1093. Before the end of that year, Alan, Malcolm, and Margaret were all dead, and Donald, the new king of Scots, drove Margaret's children out of his realm. Matilda seems to have found a shelter in England by the help of her uncle, Eadgar the Ætheling [see Edgar Atheling]. Earl William of Warren sought her hand, but it was reserved for a loftier bridegroom. Henry I was no sooner king (August 1100) than he set himself to win the attachment of his English subjects in various ways, and among others by a marriage with Matilda, the child of ‘Margaret the good queen, king Eadward's cousin, and of the right kingly kin of England.’ She was quite willing to marry him, but objections were raised against the marriage of one who, being known to have worn the black veil, was supposed to be a professed nun. Matilda went straight to Archbishop Anselm [see Anselm, Saint] and told him her story; he and an assembly of bishops, nobles, and clergy, decided, after careful inquiry, that the story was true, that she had never taken the vows, and was therefore free to marry. Matilda received their verdict ‘with a happy face,’ and on 11 Nov. (1100) she was married and crowned by Anselm in Westminster Abbey. Her first child seems to have been born at Winchester, at the end of July or beginning of August 1101 (Wace, Roman de Rou, ed. Pluquet, vv. 15453–5), and to have died an infant. A daughter, Matilda [see Matilda, 1102–1167], was born in London (W. FitzStephen, in Robertson, Materials for Hist. Becket, iii. 13) before 5 Aug. 1102, and a son, William, before 5 Aug. 1103 (Gerv. Cant., ed. Stubbs, i. 91–2). In that year Matilda persuaded Duke Robert of Normandy to give up the pension from England secured to him by his treaty with Henry in 1101. In 1105, when Henry exacted heavy sums from the English clergy, they begged the queen to intercede for them; she burst into tears, but dared not meddle in the matter. She kept up an affectionate correspondence with Anselm throughout his exile (1103–6), and when he came back in autumn 1106 she gave him an eager welcome; ‘neither worldly business nor worldly pleasure could keep her from hastening to every place through which he was to pass,’ hurrying to prepare him a lodging, and to be always the first to meet him. In 1111 she was present at the translation of St. Ethelwold's relics at Winchester. On 28 Dec. 1116 she was with Henry at the consecration of St. Albans Abbey Church (Rog. Wendover, ed. Coxe, ii. 193). She died at Westminster on 1 May 1118, and was buried in the abbey. Westminster had been her abode for many years; soon after the birth of her son she had ceased to follow the wanderings of her husband's court. It is possible that she accompanied him in one visit to Normandy, in 1105–6 (Ann. Winton. a. 1107; the date, as regards her, must be a year too late); but in later years, while he was ‘busy elsewhere,’ she stayed at home. Like her mother, she was very pious, wearing a hair shirt, going barefoot round the churches in Lent, and devoting herself especially to the care of lepers, washing their feet and kissing their scars, besides building a hospital for them at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ed. Luard, ii. 144; Monast. Angl. vol. vi. pt. ii. p. 635). The first Austin priory in England, Holy Trinity, Aldgate (London), was founded by her in 1108 (Hearne, Will. Newb. vol. iii. App. p. 690). Another of her good works was the construction of two bridges, with a causeway between them, over the two branches of the river Lea, near Stratford, instead of the dangerous passage of Old Ford; she gave the maintenance of these bridges in charge to the nuns of Barking, with a grant of land to provide funds for the purpose (Abbr. Placit. 6 Edw. II. p. 316). In her convent days she had ‘learned and practised the literary art,’ and six letters written by her to Anselm (Ans. Epp. 1. iii. epp. 55, 93, 96, 119, 1. iv. epp. 74, 76), as well as one to Pope Paschal II (Migne, Patrol. vol. 163, cols. 466–7) display a scholarship unusual among laymen, and probably still more among women, in her day. Another of her correspondents was the learned Bishop Hildebert of Le Mans, who had probably made her acquaintance in England in 1099, and who wrote to her several friendly letters (Hildeb. Cenom., Epp. l. i. epp. 7, 9, l. iii. ep. 12, ed. Migne, vol. 171), and two highly complimentary poetical addresses (ib. vol. 171, cols. 1408, 1443–5). He sings of her beauty; William of Malmesbury thought her merely ‘not ill-favoured.’ She was a warm patroness of verse and song; she gave lavishly to musical clerks, to scholars, poets, and strangers of all sorts, who were drawn to her court by the fame of her bounty, and who spread her praises far and wide. On the other hand, the tenants on her estates were too often fleeced by her bailiffs in order to provide funds for this ill-regulated generosity. Yet in English tradition she is emphatically ‘Mold the good queen.’ Not only was the Confessor's prophecy of the re-grafting of the ‘green tree’ (Vita Edw. Conf. ed. Luard, p. 431) fulfilled through her marriage and her children; Robert of Gloucester over and over again ascribes to her a direct, personal, and most beneficial influence on the condition of England under Henry I, and finally declares that ‘the goodness that she did here to England cannot all be here written, nor by any man understood.’

[English Chronicle, ed. Thorpe; Eadmer's Historia Novorum, ed. Rule; William of Malmesbury's Gesta Regum, ed. Stubbs, vol. ii.; Annals of Winchester, in Annales Monastici, ed. Luard, vol. ii.; Robert of Gloucester, ed. Wright, vol. ii., all in Rolls Series; Ordericus Vitalis, in Duchesne's Hist. Norm. Scriptt.; Herman of Tournay, De Restauratione Tornacensis Ecclesiæ, in D'Achéry's Spicilegium, vol. ii.; Freeman's William Rufus, vol. ii. App. EE and WW; Strickland's Queens of England, vol. i.]

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