The Queen Matilda Tavern is named after the wife of William the Conqueror, who lived in Avening. Matilda was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. According to legend, when Duke William II of Normandy (later known as William the Conqueror) sent his representative to ask for Matilda’s hand in marriage, she told the representative that she was far too high-born to consider marrying a bastard. After hearing this response, William rode from Normandy to Bruges, found Matilda on her way to church, dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street and rode off. Naturally, Baldwin took offense at this but, before they could draw swords, Matilda settled the matter by refusing to marry anyone but William and did so in c.1051.
There were rumours that Matilda had been in love with the great Saxon Brictric and he declined her advances. Years later when she was acting as regent for her husband William in England, she is said to have used her authority to confiscate Brictric’s lands and throw him into prison, where he died. When Matilda became Queen she built the Church of the Holy Cross in Avening as penance for this and this beautiful church still stands in the heart of Avening.
Matilda was crowned queen on May 11, 1068, in Westminster during the feast of Pentecost, in a ceremony presided over by the archbishop of York. Three new phrases were incorporated to cement the importance of English consorts, stating that the Queen was divinely placed by God, shares in royal power, and blesses her people by her power and virtue.
She was buried and she is entombed in Caen at l’Abbaye aux Dames, which is the community of Sainte-Trinité.
Reputed to be 4’2″ (127 cm) tall, Matilda was England’s smallest queen, according to the Guinness Book of Records.