R. Andrew McDonald

title.none: Huneycutt, Matilda of Scotland (R. Andrew McDonald)

identifier.other: baj9928.0406.006 04.06.06

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: R. Andrew McDonald, Brock University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Huneycutt, Lois L. Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003. Pp. ix, 207. $70.00 0-85115-994-x. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.06.06

Huneycutt, Lois L. Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003. Pp. ix, 207. $70.00 0-85115-994-x. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

R. Andrew McDonald
Brock University

Matilda of Scotland was the daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland (d. 1093)(not Malcolm II (d. 1034), as the error on the dust jacket proclaims) and his Anglo-Saxon queen, Margaret (d. 1093). Her marriage to Henry I of England in 1100 transformed her from a Scottish princess, recently in exile, into a powerful queen who exercised considerable influence and authority until her death in 1118--"one of the most powerful and influential women of the twelfth century" claims Huneycutt (1). Huneycutt's careful study demonstrates that Matilda wielded a great deal of power and enjoyed a considerable degree of prestige among her contemporaries, even if modern scholars have (astonishingly) tended to neglect her. Neglect is, however, a term that can no longer be applied to Matilda, and Lois Huneycutt is well positioned to bring us this important and stimulating study. Much of Huneycutt's scholarly output over the past decade has concentrated upon Matilda's career as queen, as well as the related topic of the Life of St Margaret as a mirror of medieval queenship. This book conveniently brings together the various strands of Huneycutt's work in one place, providing the first full-scale study of Matilda.

Rather than writing a strictly chronological study, Huneycutt has sensibly divided the book into thematic chapters, concentrating on political, religious and artistic aspects of Matilda's reign. Chapter 1 considers Matilda's ancestry, childhood, education, and marriage to Henry I, and is, of necessity, based heavily upon narrative sources, all of which are given detailed analysis. Not surprisingly there is considerable discussion of Matilda's mother, Margaret, and her influence in the Scottish kingdom of the late eleventh century; there is also a detailed analysis of the problems surrounding Matilda's marriage to Henry I. Scottish historians will read this chapter of the book with interest, given its forays into both Anglo-Scottish relations in the reign of Malcolm III and its consideration of Scottish court culture in the same period. Chapter 2 considers English queenship before 1100 and offers context for Matilda's reign by examining the structures and traditions of queenship emphasized by some of Matilda's illustrious eleventh-century predecessors, including Emma and Edith. The next two chapters provide analysis of political aspects of Matilda's career as queen. Chapter 3 utilizes a wide range of sources to reconstruct the household and resources of Matilda--resources which allowed her to play such a substantial role in Henry's reign, and which allowed her both to work within traditions from earlier reigns while at the same time establishing precedents for her successors. Included in this chapter are detailed discussions of both her dowry and dower--problematic subjects which Huneycutt tackles with acuity. In Chapter 4 Matilda's political role is examined, including her administration of the realm in her husband's absences; there is also consideration of her own household, and the births of her children. The final two chapters of the book consider broadly Matilda's role as a patroness of both the church and the arts and culture. Chapter 5 examines Matilda's generous ecclesiastical patronage, including motives, connections, and grants, again emphasizing personalities. Chapter 6, Matilda and the Arts, delves into her well-known interest in the arts and culture, exploring which artists and media she favored and why. Here Huneycutt does a particularly fine job of demonstrating how both insular and European traditions and motifs were favored by the queen. A brief conclusion considers Matilda's death, burial, posthumous reputation and sanctity before pulling together the strands of the book to argue that, "Matilda of Scotland was an unparalleled success in her role as England's queen" (150). Two appendices follow; the first provides a handlist of all of Matilda's known acta, while the second offers a new translation of The Life of St Margaret of Scotland, which was, of course, composed in the reign of Matilda and may have held up her saintly mother as a mirror of effective queenship.

The book succeeds admirably at demonstrating both the personal andInstitutional or structural facets of Matilda's queenship, and the interplay between the two forms a dominant theme of the book as a whole. Huneycutt prefers to keep personal factors firmly in the foreground here, arguing that "one key to understanding Matilda's success is to look at her relationships with other powerful people of her era" (149). Perhaps partly as a result of this emphasis, we never lose sight of Matilda herself, who emerges as a powerful, sometimes formidable, sometimes compassionate, queen who exerted a tremendous influence on both her husband and her kingdom, justifying Huneycutt's central thesis that Matilda "succeeded at queenship to an extraordinary degree because the political structures of her day allowed her the opportunity to do so and because she herself was skilled at manipulating those structures" (7).

The book is crisply written and Huneycutt displays a mastery of her subject matter, particularly the vast, complicated, and sometimes contradictory array of primary source material through which she is forced to maneuver; hardly a scrap of relevant material is overlooked or omitted here. Of the two appendices, the study of Matilda's acta will be useful for scholars in a variety of disciplines, but it is an open question whether any real purpose is served by providing yet another translation of the Life of Margaret. One other minor quibble pertains to sigillographic and other visual evidence, which does not receive its due here: Matilda's well-preserved seal, proudly displayed on the dust jacket, is passed over in one sentence and would have warranted some further discussion as "one of the earliest known seals of a European queen and a rare use of the seal of a queen-consort to seal an official document" (89).

To sum up: Matilda of Scotland is a stimulating and important study that will almost certainly assume a place alongside Pauline Stafford's Queen Emma and Queen Edith (Oxford 1997) and Marjorie Chibnall's Empress Matilda(Oxford 1991) as a seminal work dealing with an eleventh/twelfth century English queen. What is really remarkable about this book, however, is that it moves well beyond the confines of its title and contributes substantially to our understanding of many facets of late-eleventh and early twelfth-century British history, and it will be read with profit by scholars of many different stripes.