The Monnaie de Paris has launched (June 7) the latest set of coins in its “Women of France” series, which highlights prominent women who have shaped the history and culture of France. The new coins feature Matilda of Flanders (1031 – 1083), wife of William the Conqueror, who was a capable administrator with a public role in forming national policy, which was unusual for a woman of the time.
Born the daughter of Boudewijn V of Flanders and of Adele of France in the year 1031, she was a granddaughter of King Robert II of France through her mother’s family. Matilda is described in recent biographies as beautiful, intelligent, pious, and generous, known for playing an important role in helping William keep control of both Normandy and England after his victory at the battle of Hastings in 1066.
In a world where status and social position was everything, the coming together of the daughter of a reigning count and the illegitimate son of a ruling duke was nearly unthinkable. Initially, Matilda rejected William’s marriage proposal because of her higher birth and his illegitimacy — to which it is said that William swiftly rode from Normandy to Bruges in Flanders, found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down onto the street in front of flabbergasted attendants, and rode off.
This act of defiance and disregard for rank on William’s part apparently worked, for they were married shortly after this incident in the year of 1051. William and Matilda’s marriage is described historians and biographers as a mostly happy union, a claim supported by the lack of mistresses and illegitimate children on the part of William.
During William’s numerous battle campaigns and conquests, Matilda, as Duchess of Normandy, stood in for her husband, and did so admirably according to many accounts of the day. Aside from taking charge of their children’s education, paying special interest to educate her five daughters to a comparable level as her four sons, Matilda also supported her husband’s campaigns financially. The Duchess of Normandy provided her own funds for the building of a battleship named the Mora. This vessel was to become William the Conqueror’s flagship, the largest and fastest vessel in his invasion fleet of 700 or more ships used during the Norman conquest of England in 1066.
After William’s conquest of England, he became the the first Norman king in 1066, and Matilda became Queen of England. As England’s new Queen consort, Matilda first visited her new realm the year after William’s conquest in 1067. The royal couple’s first and only child Prince Henry (later King Henry I) was born in England in 1068, the same year William and Matilda attended their coronation on May 11.
Despite the wealth and size of England, Matilda chose to return to Normandy and rule in her husband’s place, but in the name of their eldest son Robert. Matilda died in November of 1083, believed to be just 51 years old. She died in the presence of her husband who followed her in death four years later.
Popular belief credits Queen Matilda with the commissioning of the Bayeux Tapestry, an elaborately embroidered cloth measuring nearly 70 meters (230 feet) long and ½ meter (20 inches) tall. The extraordinary tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England between William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, then-King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. It is likely that the tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, and made in England from the 1070’s (not Bayeux), but Queen Matilda is forever associated with this exceptional craft.
The three coins — two gold and one silver — share the same obverse and reverse designs. The obverse includes a crowned portrait of Matilda. A graphical pattern enhances the central drawing. The reverse shows William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings (October 14, 1066) in a scene depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. When the majority of Norman soldiers feared their leader had fallen in battle, William dispelled the rumor by removing his helmet so that his men would recognize him and take courage. On the upper part of the reverse, close to the reference to the Hastings Battle, Halley’s comet is depicted as it was visible in the sky on the day of the battle. The coin’s denomination, year of issue, and the initials RF appear below the primary design.
|10 €URO||.900 Silver||22.2 Grams||37 mm.||Proof||5000 pieces|
|50 €URO||.920 Gold||8.45 Grams||22 mm.||Proof||1000 pieces|
|200 €URO||.999.9 Gold||31.10 Grams||37 mm.||Proof||500 pieces|
The series will consist of three releases for 2016; the third coin in the series will appear in July and will be dedicated to Joan D’Arc, military leader and emblematic figure of the Hundred Years’ War. The style of minting for the Women of France series follows closely of the successful French coin series “From Clovis to the Republic.”
For more information on this and other coins offered by the Monnaie de Paris, please visit their Web site. International orders will be dispatched where applicable.