Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
by Tracy Borman and Tracy Joanne Borman
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (September 2011)
Publisher: Random House (April 2012)
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.
Tracy Borman is the author of Henrietta Howard: King's Mistress, Queen's Servant and Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen, as well as The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings, 1066-2011, which she co-authored with Alison Weir, Kate Williams, and Sarah Gristwood. Borman studied and taught history at the University of Hull and was awarded a Ph.D. in 1997. She has worked for various historic properties and national heritage organizations, including the National Archives and English Heritage. She is now chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust and also works for Historic Royal Palaces. Borman is a regular contributor to history magazines, such as BBC History Magazine, and is a frequent guest on television and radio.
Tudor Book Reviews by TheAnneBoleynFiles.com
London Review of Books (part)
Queens and female rulers of the early Middle Ages have claimed a good deal of attention in recent years, and deserve to receive more. Of several books about or inspired by Queen Emma, wife successively of Æthelræd ‘the Unready’ and Canute ‘the Great’, the best is Pauline Stafford’s Queen Emma and Queen Edith
(1997), which brackets Emma with her successor, wife of Edward ‘the Confessor’. Stafford’s earlier Queens, Concubines and Dowagers
(1983) took a broader view, as does Lisa Hilton’s Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens
If one were to pick out another powerful ruler too often forgotten, one might ask for a biography of King Alfred’s daughter Æthelflæd, ‘Lady of the Mercians’, who in partnership with her brother Edward ‘the Elder’ and her extremely mysterious husband, ‘Alderman’ Æthelræd, played the Isabella role in the tenth-century reconquista
of central England from the pagan Vikings, and left her mark on the map of England to this day.
Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, was the first woman to be crowned Queen of England and formally recognised as such by her subjects. Beyond this, though, little is known of her life. No contemporary images of her remain, and in a period where all evidence is fragmentary and questionable, the chroniclers of the age left us only the faintest clues as to her life. So who was this spectral queen? In this first major biography, Tracy Borman elegantly sifts through the shards of evidence to uncover an extraordinary story. In a dangerous, brutal world of conquest and rebellion, fragile alliances and bitter familial rivalries, Matilda possessed all the attributes required for a woman to thrive. She was born of impeccable lineage, and possessed of a loving and pious nature, she was a paragon of fidelity and motherhood. But strength, intelligence and ambition were also prerequisites to survive in such an environment. This side of her character, coupled with a fiercely independent nature, made Matilda essential to William's rule, giving her unparalleled influence over the king. While this would provide an inspiring template for future indomitable queens, it led eventually to treachery, revolt and the fracturing of a dynasty.
Characterised by Tracy Borman's graceful storytelling, Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror takes us from the courts of Flanders and Normandy to the opulence of royal life in England. Alive with intrigue, rumour and betrayal, it illuminates for the first time the life of an exceptional, brave and complex queen pivotal to the history of England.
reproduced for promotional purposes