Matilda was born around 1080 in Dunfermline, Scotland, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scotland and Saint Margaret. She was baptized Edith and became Matilda following her marriage.
Much of Matilda’s early life was spent in a convent, where she received a good and varied education, being able to read English, French and Latin.
Matilda was very sought after as a bride, and had previously turned down a proposal from William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey. Her parents then betrothed her to Alan Rufus, Lord of Richmond, but due to a dispute the marriage did not take place.
It is believed that Henry and Matilda were familiar with each other when he chose her as his wife, although there was doubt he could marry her, as it was believed, living in a convent, she was a nun. A council of bishops was called to determine if Matilda was eligible to marry, and following Matilda confirming that she had never taken holy vows, the marriage was granted.
Matilda and Henry were married on 11 November 1100 at Westminster Abbey, by Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury and she was crowned as Matilda.
The marriage of Henry and Matilda of Scotland, formed a union between Scotland and England that created a period of peace between the two.
Matilda’s marriage produced four children although two of them did not reach adulthood.
Matilda lived mainly at Westminster, however she did join Henry on his travels throughout England and possibly to Normandy in 1106 – 1107. She also acted as regent of England when Henry was absent.
During the ‘English Investiture Controversy’ of 1103 – 1107 (conflict between the church and European monarchies over the appointing of local church officials), Matilda acted as negotiator between her husband and Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Although Henry was not a faithful husband, he and Matilda seem to have had a happy and contented union.
Matilda, like her mother before her, was devoted to helping the poor. She is described by William of Malmesbury (English Historian of the 12th Century) as attending church barefoot. She often washed the feet of the poor and kissed the hands of the sick. She was particularly interested in Leprosy and founded two leper hospitals; one later became the parish church of St Giles-in-the-Fields in London, more commonly known as the Poets Church.
Receiving a good education made Matilda interested in many things including architecture and she set in motion many buildings including Waltham Abbey and the Holy Trinity Aldgate. She also filled her court at Westminster with poets and musicians.
Matilda died on 1 May 1118 at Westminster Palace and is buried at Westminster Abbey.
She is remembered as ‘Matilda the Good Queen’ and ‘Matilda of Blessed Memory’.