Matilda of Flanders came from a high born family that could trace its roots to Alfred the Great. Her father the Duke of Flanders was wealthy and her mother assured the children were well educated. Matilda was said to be passionate, loyal and intelligent.
When William requested her hand in marriage Matilda publicly denounced him as a bastard and said she was much too high born to consider his request. Infuriated, he raced to Flanders, accosting Matilda on her way to church. The story has it that he grabbed her by the braids, threw her to the ground and struck her.
Here is where the tale becomes strange. When her father the Duke was ready to retaliate, she declared she would marry no one but William as he had proved himself to be a man of courage and daring to come to attack her at her father's home. Unusual beginning to a love story.
She took on the taming of the beast and married him. It turned out against the odds to be a success story. They had nine children together and accounts show he was faithful to her during marriage, something that was very rare in those days.
William was a claimant to the English throne as a cousin of the childless Edward the Confessor. When Edward died and the throne was claimed by Harold, William prepared to invade England. Matilda helped by outfitting from her own funds a warship and giving it to her husband. He entrusted Normandy to her while he was gone.
Matilda was a tiny woman, the shortest of all English Queens. Some early accounts say she was four feet two, but more recent testing sets her height at probably five feet. She made sure her children all received education in languages and arts. Every English monarch to this day is a descendant of William and Matilda.
She fell ill in 1083 and died in the autumn. William was present for her final confession. He lived four years after her death becoming increasingly tyrannical without her influence. He never remarried and appears to have remained faithful to her even after her death.