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Matilda of Scotland (1080 – May 1, 1118), also known as Good Queen Maud, or Matilda of Blessed Memory, was Queen of the English and Duchess of Normandy as the first wife of King Henry I. She acted as regent of England on several occasions during Henry’s absences: in 1104, 1107, 1108, and 1111.

Henry I, King of the English

Born in 1080, in Dunfermline, Scotland, Matilda’s parents were King Malcolm III and Margaret of Wessex. Margaret of Wessex was the daughter of the English prince Edward the Exile and his wife Agatha, and also the granddaughter of Edmund Ironside, King of the English. Matilda had originally been named Edith, an Anglo-Saxon name, and was a member of the West Saxon royal family, being the niece of Edgar the Ætheling, the great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside and a descendant of Alfred the Great.

Present at the baptismal font for the christening of Edith/Matilda were Robert Curthose standing as her godfather, and Queen Matilda of England as her godmother. The infant Edith pulled at Matilda’s headdress, which was seen as an omen that the child would one day be a queen.

Matilda had been educated in a sequence of convents, however, and may well have taken the vows to formally become a nun, which formed an obstacle to the marriage progressing. She did not wish to be a nun and appealed to Anselm for permission to marry Henry, and the Archbishop established a council at Lambeth Palace to judge the issue.

Despite some dissenting voices, the council concluded that although Matilda had lived in a convent, she had not actually become a nun and was therefore free to marry, a judgement that Anselm then affirmed, allowing the marriage to proceed.

The pair had probably first met earlier the previous decade, possibly being introduced through Bishop Osmund of Salisbury. Historian Warren Hollister argues that Henry and Matilda were emotionally close, but their union was also certainly politically motivated.

On November 11, 1100 King Henry I married Matilda, in Westminster Abbey. Henry was now around 31 years old, and Matilda was around 19 or 20 depending on the exact date of her birth. The union was late but late marriages for noblemen were not unusual in the 11th century.

Matilda of Scotland

For Henry, marrying Matilda gave his reign increased legitimacy, and for Matilda, an ambitious woman, it was an opportunity for high status and power in England.

Matilda proved an effective queen for Henry, acting as a regent in England on occasion, addressing and presiding over councils, and extensively supporting the arts.

The couple soon had two children, Matilda, born in 1102, and William Adelin, born in 1103; it is possible that they also had a second son, Richard, who died young. Following the birth of these children, Matilda preferred to remain based in Westminster while Henry travelled across England and Normandy, either for religious reasons or because she enjoyed being involved in the machinery of royal governance.

Henry had a considerable sexual appetite and enjoyed a substantial number of sexual partners, resulting in many illegitimate children, at least nine sons and 13 daughters, many of whom he appears to have recognised and supported. It was normal for unmarried Anglo-Norman noblemen to have sexual relations with prostitutes and local women, and kings were also expected to have mistresses.

Some of these relationships occurred before Henry was married, but many others took place after his marriage to Matilda. Henry had a wide range of mistresses from a range of backgrounds, and the relationships appear to have been conducted relatively openly. He may have chosen some of his noble mistresses for political purposes, but the evidence to support this theory is limited.