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Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  772 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews

Around the year 1049, William, Duke of Normandy and future conqueror of England, raced to the palace of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. The count’s eldest daughter, Matilda, had refused William’s offer of marriage and publicly denounced him as a bastard. Encountering the young woman, William furiously dragged her to the ground by her hair and beat he
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published April 3rd 2012 by Bantam (first published September 1st 2011)
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A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian MortimerEleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirThe Plantagenets by Dan JonesThe Year 1000 by Robert Lacey
Best Medieval History Books
22nd out of 450 books — 188 voters
Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison WeirShe-Wolves by Helen CastorQueen Isabella by Alison WeirQueen of the Conqueror by Tracy BormanEleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy  Kelly
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4th out of 32 books — 21 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 23, 2013 Nikki rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I was quite enjoying this -- a lot of research seems to have gone into it, but there are significant problems too. Borman doesn't seem to have known how to be selective with her sources; she repeats myths as if they're true and only then explains the dubious provenance of the story -- and she still uses it as part of her narrative, suggesting that it may reflect elements of the truth.

Matilda was surely a formidable woman, and at its best this work shows us that side of her, the woman who was dec
I found this book to be ultimately, a very frustrating read. Part of the frustration comes from the fact that there isn't that much historians know about Matilda; the records just aren't there, so a lot of the book isn't about her.

But a much bigger part of the frustration comes from the author and her writing style. I started questioning what I was reading when the author stated that bones thought to be Matilda's meant that she was only 4'2". This is just not true. There was a miscommunication w
Although everyone may have heard of William the Conqueror; less is known about his influential wife, Matilda. Tracy Borman attempts to open the windows into Matilda’s life with “Queen of the Conquer: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I”.

The life (and sometimes plight) of Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror; is unfortunately loose in resources. Thus, “Queen of the Conqueror” begins like many other biographies surrounding ill-documented figures by describing the world and events surrounding
Pete daPixie
As biographies of historical figures of the eleventh century go, Tracy Borman's 'Matilda-Queen of the Conqueror' (2011) is quite good. She writes historical narrative in a very colourful way that makes for easy reading.
She relies heavily for her sources upon Norman and English 11th and 12th century writers. William of Jumieges for the Norman histories and William of Malmesbury and Orderic Vitalis for the more English perspectives, as well as the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and all the way into the ni
Apr 21, 2012 Kim rated it really liked it
Tracy Borman chose a difficult subject for a biography, and succeeded at it remarkably well. Though a significant person in the affairs of western Europe during her lifetime, concrete information on Matilda of Flanders is difficult to find and ascertain.

Nonetheless, Borman builds as comprehensive picture as possible on the wife of William the Conqueror, placing her at the center of their new dynasty and utlimately making her the glue that bound the family together.

There were a few places where t
Cori Sherman North
Aug 22, 2012 Cori Sherman North rated it it was ok
In general this was a decent narrative biography, but the writing style left Much to be desired. Regularly throughout the book, the author would write up a "known" historical bit as if it were a continuation in the Matilda story, comment on it, and Then announce it was from a 19th c writer or some other source that would obviously be unlikely to be factual. It would have been so much more interesting if the author had collected all these later glosses and had a last chapter of Matilda's developm ...more
Dec 24, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography of Matilda of Flanders is one of the things I have been hoping for, for many years. Tracy Borman has written a very good book which would appeal to a wide-ranging audience. I highly enjoyed it.

There are a few things which may surprise people - for example that Judith, wife of Tostig Godwineson, may have been Matilda's aunt and not her sister as has been assumed for years. I am not entirely convinced by many of the Brihtric stories that form part of Matilda's legend, and I would have
Tracy Borman’s book about Queen Matilda (William the Conqueror’s wife, if you’re not keeping score at home) does a very good job with tracing the live of a medieval woman (much better than Weir’s Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life , but it is also only 3/4s the length of that book), but manages to be irritating on a regular basis.

The introduction of the book gives a commonly told story of Matilda, upon hearing that she was to be betrothed to Duke William “the Bastard” of Normandy, rejecting the idea
Jan 04, 2016 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
What a treat it was, to read Tracy Borman's book, Queen of the Conqueror! Matilda of Flanders was said to have paved the way, for other strong willed Queens yet to come. That she did, and in a big way. Tiny Matilda was not going to be pushed around by anyone, not even her husband Duke William, who would in the year 1066, defeat King Harold at the battle of Hastings and become the next King of England. William's victory would bring about much change in England, since he was the first Norman King ...more
Rebecca Huston
A very coherent, thorough biography of one of the lesser known queens of English history, Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror. A great deal is given over to the beating that he gave her when she refused his offer of marriage, the familial background of the couple, their many children and the role that Matilda played in shaping what would be the queen's duties as the consort of an English king. She was cultured, well-educated, generous to the Church and to the poor. I was very surp ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Seonaid rated it really liked it
Writing the biography of a woman from the 11th century is never going to be an easy task, due to a lack of primary sources that often fail to even record the birth (or death) of a daughter, let alone the social restrictions placed on women of the period, but Matilda, being an unusually powerful woman, has left a greater amount of recorded activity than just about any other woman of her period. So yes, there are issues of real evidence in the biography that Borman deals with by a liberal use of t ...more
Jul 11, 2014 Laurie rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographies
Up front, I want to admit that I read this book on my Kindle. If, after reading this review, you choose to purchase it, PLEASE buy a hard copy. My Kindle immediately started me at the Introduction, and I therefore missed four fairly important pages of genealogy and maps that are virtually unreadable on the Kindle. In reality, the book could have used additional pages of genealogical charts showing the connections of important relatives and other kings and queens (Henry, King of France? Emma, the ...more
Jun 22, 2014 Christie rated it liked it
Around the year 1049, William, Duke of Normandy and future conqueror of England, rode furiously to the palace of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, in Bruges.

Matilda of Flanders, wife of William I the Conqueror, remains a mystery to history. Who was the woman behind the man who conquered England? How did her tempestuous marriage come about? In this biography, Tracy Borman tries to make sense of the conflicting accounts of Matilda's life and how she became the queen that every monarch of England is
Steven Peterson
Jun 01, 2013 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
As one goes back in time, it often becomes more and more difficult to create a convincing biography. When I first read about this book, I wondered how a biography of a king's wife could be sustained. But Tracy Borman has accomplished exactly that. Using what sources are available and extrapolating sensibly (not going far beyond what is based on documentation--however uncertain those sources might be), Borman develops a pretty compelling story of Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, who became ...more

Not too long ago the only thing I had ever heard about was the year 1066 and enable William the Conqueror. I'm not saying I know a whole lot more now, but I do know considerable more than I did before, and I'm so glad I read this twice about Matilda, Williams wife. She was not some helpless female that William chose, and although she didn't want to marry him at first, she finally relented. It is not easy to keep track of how many children they had, but there are records of about 9 although
James Spurgeon
Aug 27, 2015 James Spurgeon rated it really liked it
I have read a couple of books on William the Conqueror, and they have often left out parts concerning his wife, Matilda, and their children... with the exception of when the eldest son rebelled. So to close some of these gaps, I decided to learn more about Matilda. Little did I realize how influential this woman really was. I did learn about her and the children more in this book than in anything I have read on William. She had a royal pedigree going back to Charlemagne. She had the tenacity to ...more
Jul 15, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
This is an interesting read--a biography of Matilda, Duchess of Normandy and Queen of England, wife to William the Conqueror and mother of nine. She was an amazing woman and made a great difference for good in curbing the brutality and excesses of her husband (although not enough) and keeping her family from disintegrating into quarreling and treachery among the sons--which it finally did, with one son during her lifetime and completely after her death. My only complaint is that the author sever ...more
Jan 09, 2016 Rose rated it it was ok
This was a generally clearly written and easy to read account of the life of Matilda. I was particularly interested to read it to fill myself in on the life of William & Matilda and their family following the Conquest in 1066. It fulfilled that purpose. But what I didn't like about the book was the author's use of appositives and other asides to characterize the character of her characters (hee hee) in a way that didn't seem supported by the evidence she presented. For example, in discussing ...more
May 08, 2014 M.J. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and indeed, the writing style is pleasant enough and it reads well. However, it falls into that category of history book which has to be labelled 'apologist'. The author can excuse her heroine almost anything in her attempts to present a picture of the alleged, First Queen of England. And in juxtaposing her against William the Conqueror, she paints a bleak picture of what he was like as a person. I'm under the impression, after reading the book, that the autho ...more
Regina Beard
Feb 23, 2014 Regina Beard rated it liked it
Many have heard of William the Conqueror, but few know of his wife, Matilda of Flanders. In this biography, Tracy Borman examines Matilda's life in a passionate prose that draws the reader into the narrative. Although Queen of the Conqueror is well researched, there is too much attention placed on rumors about Matilda written centuries after her death. The author is correct in addressing later writers who slander Matilda to point out that misogyny is the main reason historians know so little abo ...more
M A Redhead
Jan 01, 2016 M A Redhead rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an excellent book and have re-read it several times. I don't know anything about how to tell whether she is writing historically accurately (although you would hope she is as far as possible given the subject genre) but I thought the book was well written, had a great flowing narrative and read very easily for anyone with any amount of knowledge of the era. She states in the introduction that there is little documented evidence for Matilda's life so it is clear from the outset ...more
There is little information on Matilda, the wife of William I. As a result, the biography makes many assumptions about Matilda's life, her personality and relationships with family. However, Borman draws on contemporaries opinions and known facts of the time, and creates a characters behind the unknown Queen of England.

Matilda is an intelligent woman - an obedient and humble wife when she has to be but also, a fierce woman capable of betraying her powerful husband to support her son. We see a wo
Elis Madison
This is a historical biography, rather than a novel, but it grabbed and kept my interest where dry historical texts tend to lose it. The author relates what is known about Matilda of Flanders, based on contemporary accounts that aren't always trustworthy, and the author's extrapolation based on information on record. This one will end up on my "keeper" shelf because of the author's meticulous research and mostly reasonable suppositions, about one of the most fascinating women of the Conquest era ...more
Jul 24, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, despite the obvious challenge the author faced in writing a biography of someone who lived in a time for which we have so few remaining records. Matilda was certainly a fascinating figure, and I gained a more nuanced understanding of her role in the complicated political landscape of Normandy and England. I appreciated the way the author drew reasonable conclusions about Matilda's character, outlook, and talents. I also thought the author did well in reminding the reader abo ...more
Mercedes Rochelle
Sep 24, 2014 Mercedes Rochelle rated it liked it
Queen Matilda, small but never diminutive, seems to have cast a large shadow over the pages of history. Beloved by her husband the great William I, strong-willed and intrepid, she demonstrated to Europe how a powerful woman could provide more to her country than just heirs. In many ways she reminded me of Eleanor of Aquitaine: one might call her marriage a great love match which eventually went bad; she loved one son to excess and supported him against his father; she was perfectly capable of ru ...more
Aug 21, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I had never heard of Matilda until I picked up this book and I am so glad I picked it up. Matilda was not only a wife to William the Conqueror but also it seems was quite literally “the wind beneath his wings”. She was a woman who provided her husband not only with 9 children but the kind of steadying influence which enabled him to successfully conquer and rule England and Normandy for many years. There is not much in the way of biographical details about Matilda’s everyday life in the historica ...more
Dec 09, 2014 Dee rated it really liked it
From the title and the cover, I feared this would be a Philippa Gregory-type abomination. I hate "historical" books that imbue historical figures with motivations and emotions that can't be known, that alter events, that try to make them sexy and modern.

This is not that book. While not as dense as a scholarly treatise, Borman takes care to always cite her sources, and to offer competing narratives of an event for the reader's understanding. If three historians offer three variations, Borman lay
Cassy Collins
Dec 09, 2014 Cassy Collins rated it really liked it
A wonderful portrait of an unknown, and yet, incredibly famous Queen. She, as the power behind the throne, is the only reason William the Conqueror was ever successful at conquering. Without her expertise in politics, England would likely be an incredibly different land than it is today. This book does a magnificent job in bringing to life an era much romanticized, but poorly understood. It takes the time to re-examine assumptions made about Queen Matilda, and looks at the evidence that remains; ...more
Glen Stott
Aug 20, 2014 Glen Stott rated it it was amazing
This is the biography of Matilda, queen of William the Conqueror. The story begins in 1049 when William, Duke of Normandy and future conqueror of England rides to the palace of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders to drag the Count’s daughter to the ground and beat her mercilessly for refusing his offer of marriage. Two days later she shocked her family by declaring she would marry William. She was a small woman physically, but she took on the challenge of conquering William. She established a new model ...more
Jun 18, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it
As a fan of historical fiction, I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book or not, but I found myself drawn into an ancient world where Matilda, the first Queen of England, proved to have a strength of character unknown for women of her time. It’s an absorbing story of ruthless men used to having their own way and women who were used as chattel to gain territory and allies for their fathers or were sent to nunneries where they served their families in a spiritual and religious way.

There were times
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 16, 2015 11:12AM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN13: 9780099549130 5 13 Mar 31, 2014 07:45AM  
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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where
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