On this day in 1100 King Henry I of England married Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland. According to historian Warren Hollister, Henry and Matilda were emotionally close, but their union was also politically motivated. Matilda was a member of the West Saxon royal family, being the niece of Edgar Ætheling, the great-granddaughter of Edmund Ironside and a descendant of Alfred the Great. Marrying Matilda gave Henry's reign increased legitimacy, and and gave future English monarchs a direct line back to the Saxon Royal House. As she was brother to Edgar, who was king of Scotland between 1097 and 1107 and Alexander I who succeeded him. It also bought closer relations with England's northern neighbour, which in the past had often disintegrated into conflict and violence.
Henry was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and brother of his predecessor William II, often known as William Rufus. He was present at his brother's death, which was possibly a murder.
His reign ran between August 2nd 1100 and December 1st 1135. He is reputed to have been an effective ruler, although some consider him harsh. He skillfully manipulated the barons in England and Normandy. In England, he built on the existing Anglo-Saxon system of justice, local government and taxation. He encouraged ecclesiastical reform, but became embroiled in a serious dispute in 1101 with Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, which was resolved through a compromise solution in 1105.
Matilda was intelligent and resourceful and wielded a level of agency that was uncommon for women of the time, taking an active role in government when her husband was away; many surviving charters are signed by her. She took a great interest in architecture and instigated the building of many Norman-style buildings, including Waltham Abbey and Holy Trinity Aldgate. She also commissioned the building of the first arched bridge in England, at Stratford-le-Bow, as well as a bathhouse with piped-in water and public lavatories at Queenhithe. Her court was one of literature and culture, filled with musicians and poets. She was also pious and sympathetic with the poor, with William of Malmesbury describing her as attending church barefoot at Lent, and washing the feet and kissing the hands of the sick.
Henry and Matilda had two children. Their daughter Matilda would become Holy Roman Empress, German Queen and Queen of Italy while their son William Adelin would die in the White Ship disaster of 1120.
Henry's failure to produce a legitimate son from his second marriage led to the succession crisis of The Anarchy.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of England. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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