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and all the other distinctions to which her high birth entitled her.
This afforded a pretence to his ungallant subjects for a general revolt, headed by his eldest son Ethelbald, by whom he was deprived of half his dominions. Yet Ethelbald, on his father's death, was so captivated by the charms of the fair cause of his parricidal rebellion, that he outraged all christian decency by marrying her.
The beautiful and unfortunate Elgiva, the consort of Edwy, has afforded a favourite theme for poetry and romance; but the partisans of her great enemy, Dunstan, have so mystified her history, that it would be no easy matter to give an authentic account of her life.
Elfrida, the fair and false queen of Edgar, has acquired an infamous celebrity, for her remorseless hardness of heart. She did not possess the. talents necessary to the accomplishment of her design of seizing the reins of government on the murder of her unfortunate step-son, for in this she was entirely circumvented by the political genius of Dunstan, the master spirit of the age.
Emma of Normandy, the beautiful queen of Ethelred, and afterwards of Canute, plays a conspicuous part in the Saxon Annals. There is a Latin treatise written in her praise by a monkish contemporary, entitled "Encomium Emmce" but, notwithstanding the florid commendations there bestowed upon her, the character of this queen must be considered a doubtful one. The manner in which she sacrificed the interests of her children by her first husband, Ethelred, to those by her second unnatural marriage with the Danish conqueror, is little to her credit, and was certainly never forgiven by her son Edward the Confessor; though that monarch, after he bad witnessed the triumphant manner in which she cleared herself of the charges brought against her by her foes, by passing through the ordeal of walking barefoot, unscathed, over the nine red-hot ploughshares in Winchester Cathedral, threw himself at her feet in a transport of Blial penitence, implored her pardon with tears, and offered to submit to the same discipline, as a penance for having exposed her to such a test of her innocence.
Editha, the consort of Edward the Confessor, "that rose from Godwin's thorny stem," as she is termed by the Norman chroniclers, was not only an amiable but a learned lady. Editha is perhaps the most interesting of all our Saxon queens, and it was not without regret that we felt precluded, by the nature of the plan we have adopted, from including her life in our present series of the Lives of the Queens of England.
MATILDA OF FLANDERS.
THE QUEEN OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
Title of Queen—Regina—Matilda first so called—Her descent from Alfred— Parents — Education — Learning — Beauty—Character — Skill in embroidery—Sought in marriage by William of Normandy—His passionate love — Unsuccessful courtship — Brihtric Meaw, the English envoy—Matilda's love for him—Perseverance of William of Normandy—Objections against bis birth—Interdict on uccount of relationship—Seven years delay—William surmounts obstacles—Furious conduct of William to Matilda—Their marriage—Rich apparel— William's early life—William's life saved by his Fool—Matilda's father —William and Matilda excommunicated—Dispensation obtained by Lanfranc — Matilda's taste for architecture — Conjugal happiness— William's visit to Edward the Confessor — Matilda's sister married to Tostig — Birth of Matilda's eldest son — Children — Harold's visit to Normandy — Betrothed to Matilda's daughter — Breaks his contract — William's wrath—William's meditated invasion of England—Letter to Matilda's brother—Comet—Matilda's delineation of the Comet in her embroidered chronicle—Matilda appointed Regent of Normandy—Her son Robert—Happy arrival of Matilda in
VOL. I. B
the Mora—Ship presented by her—William sails in it to EnglandLands—Matilda's delineations— Her hushand's courser—Battle of Hastings—Death of Harold—News of victory brought to Matilda— Our Lady of Good Tidings—William's Coronation at Westminster Abbey—Harold's hanner.
Matilda, the wife of William the Conqueror, was the first consort of a king of England, who was called regina.1 This was an innovation in the ancient customs of the land, for the Saxons simply styled the wife of the king "the lady his companion,"2 and to them it was displeasing to hear the Normans speak of Matilda, as la rcine, as if she were a female sovereign, reigning in her own right. So distinct in those days was the meaning attached in this country to the lofty title of reine, or regina, from that of queen, which, though at present the highest female title of honour used in England, then only signified companion.
The people of the land murmured among themselves at this unprecedented assumption of dignity in the wife of their Norman sovereign, yet "the strange woman," as they called Matilda, could boast of royal Saxon blood.1 She was, in fact, the direct descendant of the best and noblest of their monarchs, Alfred, through the marriage of his daughter, Elstrith, or Elstrude, with Baldwin II. of Flanders, whose son, Arnold the Great, was the immediate ancestor of Matilda,—an interesting circumstance, which history passes over in silence. Few of the queens of England, indeed, can claim a more illustrious descent than this princess. Her father, Baldwin V., surnamed the Gentle Earl of Flanders, was the son of Baldwin IV. by Eleanora, daughter of Duke Richard II. of Normandy; and her mother was Adelais, daughter of Robert, King of France, and sister to Henry, the reigning sovereign of that country; and she was nearly related to the emperor of Germany, and most of the royal houses in Europe.
1 Thierry's Anglo-Normans. In the Doomsday-book, Matilda, tin wife of the Conqueror, is called Matilda Hegina.
2 Hlafdige se cu-ene is the Saxon phrase. Hlafdige, or lady, means tl giver of bread. Cwene, or Quen, was anciently used as a term oi equality, indiscriminately applied to men or women. In the old Norman chronicles and poems, instead of the Duke of Normandy and his peers, the phrase used is the Duke of Normandy and his Quens; likewise, the Quen di Flandres, the Quen de Leicestre. So late as the thirteenth century, a collection of poems, written by Charles of Anjou and his courtiers is quoted as the songs of the Quens of Anjou. Also in a chant of the twelfth century, enumerating the war-cries of the French provinces, we find
"And the quens of Thihant,
'Champagne,' and * pessavant' cry!"
Matilda was born about the year 1031, and was very carefully educated. She was possessed of fine natural talents, and was no less celebrated for her learning than for her great beauty. William of Malmsbury, when speaking of this princess, says, "She was a singular mirror of prudence in our days, and the perfection of virtue."
Among her other acquirements, Matilda was particularly famed for her skill in ornamental needlework, which, in that age, was considered one of the most important and desirable accomplishments which princesses and ladies of high rank could possess. We are told by
1 See Matilda's pedigree in Ducarel's Norman Antiquities.