Edith of Scotland

Edith of Scotland, (c.1080-May 1, 1118) was the first wife of Henry I of England. She was the daughter of Malcolm III of Scotland and St. Margaret of Scotland. Robert Curthose had stood as godfather at her christening. The English queen Matilda of Flanders was also present at the font and may have been her godmother.

When she was about six-years-old Edith and her sister, Mary, were sent to Romsey, where their aunt Cristina was abbess. During her stay at Romsey and Wilton, Edith was much sought-after as a bride; she turned down proposals from both William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey, and Alan Rufus, Lord of Richmond. Hermann of Tournai even claims that William Rufus considered marrying her.

After the death of King William Rufus in August 1100, his brother Henry quickly seized the royal treasury and the royal crown. His next task was to marry, and Henry's choice fell on Edith. Because Edith had spent most of her life in a nunnery, there was some controversy over whether or not she had been veiled as a nun and would thus be ineligible for marriage. Henry sought permission for the marriage from Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury, who returned to England in September 1100 after a long exile. Unwilling to decide so weighty a matter on his own, Anselm called a council of bishops in order to determine the legality of the proposed marriage. Edith testified to the archbishop and the assembled bishops of the realm that she had never taken holy vows. She insisted that her parents had sent her and her sister to England for educational purposes, and that her aunt Cristina had veiled her only to protect her "from the lust of the Normans". Edith claimed she had pulled the veil off and stamped on it, and her aunt beat and scolded her most horribly for this. The council concluded that Edith had never been a nun, and gave his permission for the marriage.

Edith and Henry seem to have known one another for some time before their marriage -- William of Malmesbury states that Henry had "long been attached" to her, and Orderic Vitalis says that Henry had "long adored" Edith's character. Through her mother she was descended from Edmund II of England; this was very important as Henry wanted to help make himself more popular with the English people and Edith represented the old English dynasty. In their children the Norman and Anglo-Saxon dynasties would be united. Another benefit of the marriage was that England and Scotland became politically closer; three of her brothers served as kings of Scotland and were unusually loyal to England during this period.

Edith and Henry were married on November 11, 1100 at Westminster Abbey by Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury. She was crowned as "Matilda", a fashionable Norman name. She and Henry had two children:

  1. Matilda, born February 1102
  2. William Adelin, born 1103

She maintained her court primarily at Westminster, but accompanied her husband in his travels all across England, and in 1106/1107, Edith visited Normandy with Henry. Her court was filled with musicians and poets; she commissioned Turgot to write a biography of her mother, Saint Margaret. She was an active queen, and like her mother was renowned for her devotion to religion and the poor. William of Malmesbury describes her as attending church barefoot at Lent, and washing the feet and kissing the hands of the sick. She also administered extensive dower properties and was known as a patron of the arts, especially music. After her death in 1118 she was remembered by her subjects as "Matilda the Good Queen" and "Matilda of Blessed Memory", and for a time sainthood was sought for her, though she was never canonized. Henry married again four years after her death.

Preceded by:
Matilda of Flanders
Queen Consort of England
11 November 1100 - 1 May 1118
Succeeded by:
Adeliza of Louvain


  • Chibnall, Marjorie. The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother, and Lady of the English, 1992
  • Hollister, Warren C. Henry I, 2001
  • Parsons, John Carmi. Medieval Mothering, 1996
  • Parsons, John Carmi. Medieval Queenship, 1997

Huneycutt, Lois L. "Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship"." 2004.

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