Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror
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Matilda of Flanders

stone church
Abbaye aux Dames, Caen

About 1050 AD, William the Conqueror married Matilda of Flanders. Because they were both rich Normans, and there weren't that many rich Normans yet at this time, they were distantly related to each other. The Pope had said that people who were related shouldn't get married, even if they were only second cousins or even third or fourth or fifth cousins. William's enemies pointed this out to the Pope, and they got the Pope to say that God was against this marriage.

To get God on their side again, William and Matilda promised to build two big abbeys in Caen. William built an abbey for men, and Matilda built another one for women.

Learn by doing: build a castle
More about William the Conqueror

Bibliography and further reading about the Normans:

William the Conqueror
William's castle at Caen
The men's abbey in Caen
The women's abbey in Caen
Tower of London
Medieval Europe
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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