Matilda Of England, Duchess Of Saxony (June, 1156, Matilda Of England, Duchess Of Saxony

Matilda of England was born on January 6, 1156, at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. Named after her paternal grandmother Empress Matilda, Lady of the English, she was the eldest daughter and the third of the eight children of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Through her youngest son Wilhelm of Winchester, she is an ancestor of the House of Hanover which ascended the British throne in 1714.

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Matilda’s parents, King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine; Credit – Wikipedia

Matilda was baptized by Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury in the Priory Church of the Holy Trinity in Aldgate, London. She was brought up in both England and Normandy.

Matilda had seven siblings:

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13th-century depiction of Henry and his legitimate children: (l to r) William, Young Henry, Richard, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan, and John; Credit – Wikipedia

In 1165, Rainald of Dassel, Archbishop of Cologne came to Rouen, Normandy with the purpose of negotiating two marriages with King Henry II, one between his second daughter Eleanor and a son of Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor, and the other between his eldest daughter Matilda and Heinrich the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, who was a cousin of Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor. The marriage plans for Eleanor fell through, however, her sister Matilda did marry Heinrich the Lion.

Heinrich the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Duke of Bavaria was one of the most powerful princes of his time, one of the most important allies of his cousin Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor, and was the founder of several German cities including Munich and Brunswick, which was his capital. He was born circa 1129, so he was about 27 years older than Matilda. He was a member of the House of Welf (also Guelf or Guelph) which has included many German and British monarchs from the 11th to 20th centuries. Heinrich’s first marriage to Clementia of Zähringen had been annulled due to political reasons.

At the end of September of 1167, Matilda left England with her mother Eleanor of Aquitaine bound for Normandy with three ships carrying a large entourage, her trousseau, and a large dowry totaling £4500, worth nearly one-quarter of England’s annual revenue. From Normandy, Matilda traveled with her future husband’s envoys to Germany. On February 1, 1168, at Minden Cathedral in the Duchy of Saxony, now in Saxony, Germany, 11-year-old Matilda married 38-year-old Heinrich. Despite the age difference, the marriage was a happy one and led to an increase in trade between England and the Holy Roman Empire.

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Wedding of Matilda and Heinrich from a portrait on their tomb; Credit – Wikipedia

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Matilda’s effigy: Credit – By de:Benutzer:Brunswyk – de:Benutzer:Brunswyk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69965062

In 1172, Heinrich went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and Matilda served as regent during his absence. Matilda was a strong supporter of the 1173 canonization as a saint of Thomas Becket who had been murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by four of her father’s knights in 1170. Brunswick Cathedral where Matilda and Heinrich are buried had been dedicated to St. Thomas Becket, St. Blaise, and John the Baptist upon its consecration.

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Heinrich governed his lands independently of the Holy Roman Empire and his independent government and expansion efforts caused conflict with clergy and other nobles as well as Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor. Eventually, Heinrich was overthrown in 1180. After fighting a losing war, he was forced into exile in 1182 and sought refuge with his father-in-law King Henry II of England. Matilda accompanied her husband into exile along with their daughter Richenza and their sons Heinrich and Otto. Their son Lothar remained in the Holy Roman Empire. Until June of 1184, the family lived at Henry II’s court in Normandy (Henry was also Duke of Normandy). The family then moved to England for about a year where Matilda and Heinrich’s youngest child was born in Winchester and where they spent Christmas of 1184 at Windsor Castle.

Through diplomatic efforts with Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor, King Henry II of England, and the Pope, Heinrich was allowed to return to his lands after three years of exile. In the spring of 1185, Heinrich and his family traveled from England to Normandy where his children Richenza (who had changed her name to Matilda while in exile), Otto and Wilhelm were left to be raised in their grandfather’s court. At the end of September of 1185, Heinrich the Lion returned to Brunswick with Matilda and their eldest son Heinrich.

Early in 1189, the Holy Roman Emperor again ordered Heinrich to go into exile, but this time Matilda remained in Brunswick to protect her husband’s interests. Heinrich would not make peace with the Holy Roman Emperor, this time Heinrich VI, Holy Roman Emperor, the son of Friedrich I (Barbarossa), until 1190, nor would he ever see his wife Matilda again. On June 28, 1189, Matilda died at Brunswick at the age of 33, about a week before the death of her father King Henry II of England. She was buried at the still incomplete Brunswick Cathedral where her husband Heinrich was also buried upon his death in 1195.

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Tomb of Matilda and Heinrich; Photo Credit – Von Brunswyk – DE:Wiki, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4217450

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Crypt of Heinrich the Lion, Sarcophagus of Heinrich on left and Matilda on right; Photo Credit – Von Brunswyk, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18904214

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Works CitedAbrufstatistik. “Heinrich der Löwe.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 2008. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.Abrufstatistik. “Mathilde Plantagenet.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.“Henry the lion.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.Kelly, Amy. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. New York: Book-of-the-Month-Club, 1950. Print.“Matilda of England, Duchess of Saxony.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.Weir, Alison. Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England. London: Jonathan Cape, 1999. Print.Williamson, David. Brewer’s British Royalty. London: Cassell, 1996. Print.

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This entry was posted in British Royals on February 21, 2017 by Susan.

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