Book Review: Tracy Borman’s Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I

Posted October 27, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Tracy Borman’s Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William IQueen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I is a hardcover edition on April 3, 2012 and has 296 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.


A dispassionate biography of Queen Matilda, wife to William the Conqueror.

My Take

Queen of the Conqueror is primarily about the legacy Matilda left for future queens of England along with an evaluation of the powers of past queens and how it enabled Matilda.

Considering how little Borman had to work with, she put together an interesting analysis of Matilda and her family. Some things I “knew” turned out to be malicious bits of propaganda while other bits were revelations. I hadn’t realized how incredibly vicious, or as Borman puts it, bullying William was. I had thought Domesday Book had been started shortly after his conquest of England. Borman’s comment on the true reason behind its compilation was interesting.

It does seem to be the way, however, what a powerful man creates, his family quickly loses after his death. Mostly, it seems, because that man just doesn’t share well with others. In this case, neither parent shared well. Nor did it help that William was horrible to Robert, his oldest son. Stupid attitude. Naturally, Matilda overcompensated for his father, although she too kept him from exercising any power.

Borman works hard to provide a detached view of Matilda and the rest. She points out the good and the bad along with an assessment as to its veracity, proven by examining other contemporary chronicles of the time as well as stating the earliest known appearance of stories or comments.

Matilda’s mother Adela sounds like she was pretty amazing. A feminist for her time, insisting on decent education for both her sons and daughters. An insistence that continued through Matilda’s daughter, Adela. Although, I’d’a thought that writing would be part of that education…

I didn’t enjoy the repetitive downgrading. If Borman’s intent was to provide tension, it worked. I kept waiting for the negative to happen which rather spoiled my enjoyment.

I must say that the descriptions of their funerals certainly pointed out the esteem in which Matilda and then William were held. Makes me wonder if William had known ahead of time, if he would have tempered his actions?

I did enjoy the brief summary of Flanders’ rise to prominence. Makes me want to go back and re-read Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Nicolò.

Nice description of the motte-and-bailey construction style.

Interesting that Borman contends that the eleventh century was a time of enlightenment for women; that it was considered important for women to be better educated while their men concentrated on warfare. And she goes on to point out other strong female rulers. Very practical and yet a few centuries later, the emphasis was on women being subservient and modest. I have to wonder if the example of strong queens trickling down to strong ladies caused the men to fear their women and push for the more submissive education.

Certainly Henry I’s declaration of his daughter Matilda as his heir caused a great deal of consternation. It does speak well of his belief in women as equal and competent. An excellent example set by his own mother and his sister Adela. Hmmmm, now I’m curious as to Adela’s daughters. Did any of them go on to rule as their mother and grandmother did?

The Cover and Title

The cover is queenly with a palace corridor in the background and a close-up of a woman in a pink brocade dress of the time, wearing a jeweled girdle, rings on her fingers, and a fur-trimmed sleeve.

The title says it all for she is Queen of the Conqueror.


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