Queen of the Conqueror

The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I.
Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I. Bantam. Apr. 2012. c.336p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780553808148. $30. BIOG
Borman (chief executive, Heritage Education Trust; Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen) traces the life of the important but often forgotten Matilda of Flanders (1031–83). While women at this time played solely a background role in social and political spheres, Borman argues that Matilda showed great agency both before her marriage to William the Conqueror and during her time as Duchess of Normandy and Queen of England. Drawing from contemporaneous chronicles and legal documents, Borman creates a vivid portrait of a strong woman who was not at all uncomfortable delving into the antagonistic and decidedly masculine realm of court politics. Further, she contends that Matilda's refined presence as queen helped calm the newly conquered English and assisted in providing a smooth transition for the Norman dynasty in England, as her haughty lineage—she was, after all, granddaughter of the King of France—made up for her husband's well-known illegitimacy.
VERDICT A highly useful work that sheds light on the life of a surprisingly obscure but important figure in English history. As Borman suggests, Matilda did perhaps serve as an exemplar for later authoritative q ueens such as Elizabeth I and Victoria.
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