Norman Conquest Encyclopedia
Matilda was the daughter of Baldwin V, count of Flanders, a man who had been increasingly inclined to ally himself with the king of France rather than the Holy Roman Empire. When the marriage with William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, was proposed it was forbidden by Pope Leo IX at a council at Reims in October 1049. The reasons for this prohibition are obscure, but may have been simply political as, at the time, William enjoyed the support of Henry I of France and perhaps the alliance of all these forces was too much to contemplate. In any case, William was furious and determined to marry the girl. It is said that, on being told Matilda would have none of him because of his bastardy, William went in secret to Bruges and forced his way into her room where he administered a sound thrashing. Matilda was only seventeen years old and was a small woman, about four feet tall, so it must have been a terrifying experience. She took to her bed, but declared she would never marry anyone else! It is an unlikely tale. However, in spite of ecclesiastical disapproval, they were married and in 1068 she was crowned at Westminster. By this time, possibly through the good offices of Lanfranc of Bec, the papal disapproval had been lifted. Matilda bore William ten children. She died in 1083.