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Edith of Scotland aka Matilda of Scotland

Edith of Scotland was born in 1080, as the eldest daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and Margaret of Wessex. Her godparents included Matilda of Flanders and Robert Curthose. During the christening, Edith was reported to have pulled Matilda of Flanders' veil from her head, which was interpreted as many that she would be a Queen. And she was.

In 1086, when Edith was six and her sister Mary was just four, they were sent to the prestigious Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, the top place for girls' education in England. Here, the sisters were taught obedience, to read, and skills that they would need in maintaining a great household in later life. Another reason for choosing Romsey Abbey was that the girls' Aunt, Cristina was a nun there.


However, from the start, Cristina tried to make Edith become a nun. From when she was a small girl, a piece of black cloth was put on her head, and she was made to wear a black veil at her father's court during visits. This would prove to be a problem when she was later trying to get permission to marry. As Edith got older, this continued, although now it was reportedly to protect her from the Norman's. Saxon women were particularly vulnerable and were constantly threatened by their Norman invaders. Possibly was a result of Edith's complaining, she was moved to Wilton Abbey in Wiltshire - another of England's prestigious Abbeys. Wilton had been rebuilt by Edward the Confessor's wife, Edith, who had died there in retirement in 1075.


As Edith grew older, she chose to pretend to be a nun to get out of unsuitable or honourable marriages. In 1093, William de Warenne was rejected by Edith, probably on grounds that she was a 'nun'. Another notable event was later that year, when William II rode into Wilton unexpectedly, and the Abbess ordered Edith to dress as a nun and go to Vespers in case William's intentions weren't honourable. William recognised Edith as a nun (which probably meant he had visited her before), and quickly rode out of the Abbey. This may have been as a result of his anger, if he was planning to marry her, or if he felt that she was avoiding him. Within a week, King Malcolm arrived at Wilton, having probably found out about the event with William II. He by chance saw Edith dressed as a nun, and ripped the veil off her head, sending her back to Scotland in disgrace, angered at the thought of one of his daughters becoming a nun.


Once he had packed Edith back to Scotland, Malcolm led a raid against William, and was killed with his eldest son with Margaret, Edward. Margaret died a few weeks later.


Edith was thirteen, Mary was eleven. They were driven out of Scotland by Donald III, and escaped, possibly with help of Edgar Aetheling and probably now returned to Wilton. This pleased Anselm, who had been very angry at Edith leaving, thinking that she was a nun. This also suited William Rufus. The girls now finished off their education, and wondered what would happen next. With their father's death, their status of Scottish Princesses had disappeared, and no-one was quite sure whether or not they were nuns.


In 1100, when William Rufus was killed, Edith's circumstance changed again when she became the much sought after bride of Henry I. In 1097, her eldest brother, Edgar had overthrown Donald and her status had been restored. Edith was initially reluctant to marry Henry, although she eventually accepted, on condition that Henry used the laws of Edward the Confessor. She had a very little marriage portion, little or no fortune but impeccable linage and manner. By this time, Henry had also had most of his twenty-five illegitimate children, and loved Edith.


Now began the problem of nun or not nun. When Henry asked Anselm for his advice and opinion in October, Anselm advised him not to marry Edith, but she went to meet him at Salisbury. Anselm refused to give a judgement, but when he asked all the major clergy of the realm they eventually came to the conclusion that she had worn the veil in protection and had never taken the vow, so was free to wed Henry. However, Anselm was never happy about the marriage, and said that nothing good would ever come of it.


Edith was soon married and coronated, now England's second Queen Matilda, having changed her name on her marriage or when she arrived in England. Their marriage was one of partnership, and Edith a popular Queen, being known as the good Queen. She put up with Henry's infidelities, having his children, like Robert of Caen, at Court. She had significant political influence, issuing and assisting Henry in a large amount of Charters, in a model for a Queen that her predecessors would look up to and aspire to fulfil. She helped to strengthen the tie between England and Scotland, as her brothers were found brides at the English court. Alexander I of Scotland was married to one of Henry's illegitimate daughters, Sybilla of Normandy, and her youngest brother, to become David I was married to Maud, heiress of Huntington, Henry's cousin.


Matilda loved Westminster. She would often reside at the New Palace, and would spend hours in the Abbey, pious like her mother. In contrast, Henry spent much of his reign in Normandy, and elsewhere. Unlike his brothers or father, he preferred other methods to war, but still spent much of his reign on campaign. While he was away, Edith would be regent. Like William the Conqueror, Henry trusted his consort, and knew that she could rule in his absence and keep the peace, or manage the situation. During this time, she also had two children, and a possible still-birth or miscarriage in 1101:

  • Matilda, Born in 1102, died in 1167, this was Empress Matilda who married Emperor Heinrich V, and then Count Geoffrey of Anjou, with whom she had three sons

  • William Aetheling, born in 1103, died in 1121 on the White Ship, who was married to Matilda of Anjou (sister to Geoffrey who Matilda married)

There are few major actions of Edith's to comment on, but she still left her mark as Queen, and was looked back to as a model. She was a patron of arts, filling her court with musicians, poets etc. She loved architecture, and used some of her income and wealth in great building projects across the country, including Waltham Abbey. She enjoyed carrying out the traditional duties of the Queen, and used her influence to save prisoners. She was devoted to the poor, and was reported to have kissed the hands of the sick. She was much loved by her subjects and was a true Norman Queen in every sense, enjoying the power, influence and love that her predecessors and successor, Matilda of Bolougne would also enjoy.


Edith died in 1118, while still relatively young, only aged around thirty eight. Henry was grieved by her death, and didn't remarry until their only son, William Aetheling died in the White Ship in 1121, and the Kingdom was desperate for an heir.