Book Review: Matilda: Wife of the Conqueror, First Queen of England

Luxembourg_-_La_Reine_Mathilde (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)  Statue of Matilda of Flanders


This biography is well researched and draws upon a variety of sources.  The author, Tracy Borman, does an excellent job of taking what could otherwise be dry, lifeless text and makes it into a relatable and accessible work of prose.  The work sets up Matilda in context of her relations to her natal family as well as some of the political climate of the time.  There are plenty of examples of other ruling females from the time, which I would be keen to know more about.  However, this work seem to, at least at this point, have one major flaw: even though it is a work centered around Matilda, much of it is a revisit of historical thought on the men in her life, not on her.  This may be due to scant evidence, but I was honestly excited to find out more about her, not William, not the Bayeux Tapestry, not the Battle of Hastings… her.  While it is fascinating to see more work done on William that paints him in a more sympathetic light (instead of only a warlike and cruel invader), this central focus on this work is purportedly Matilda, not her husband.  And while the author’s gift of prose is shown in describing the Battle of Hastings in detail (as well as setting up the context of the battle, in terms of Harold, the Oath, and the battles he’d fought against Tostig just before) that brings the battle to life and helps the reader to connect with the important event… where is Matilda?  Oh, she’s at home, ruling Normandy.  Doing a bang up job of it too, which Borman does a fantastic job of relating to the reader.  Also interesting that while the Tapestry was rightfully mentioned in the book, there are other volumes that do a better job of describing in detail and research the various theories of where it was created, who commissioned it, and for what reasons.  Andrew Bridgeford’s 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry is one such work.  Borman, after discussing the various origin stories of the Tapestry concludes that it most likely wasn’t Matilda, after all, who commissioned it or worked on it.  So, then, why spend so much time and valuable space to bring it up?

Without the filler of work on William, Matilda’s family or the Tapestry, the book would probably be 3/4 of its final length.  However, especially for a casual reader, this book is still a valuable and engaging read.  As an introduction to the world of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, this does a fantastic job of making the peoples, ideas and political climate of the time and place relatable and interesting.


Rating: 4.5/5 Owls

Why Owls?  Because everyone is fond of owls, and they’re wise.

In which we learn about a Hoist House, Exploring, and CCI

While exploring the Iron Ore Heritage Trail on a run last week, I found something interesting and quite unexpected!  This area I’m currently living in, the around surrounding Marquette, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, has a lot of ties to mining in its history.  Honestly, mining is what provided the boom for enough people to come and settle here to actually give the area its population. One of the major players in the mining industry up here has been the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Company, and love them or hate them, the company has provided a lot of jobs over the years here in the U.P.  CCI was huge here, and one of the endeavors of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives has been to collect and preserve the documentary history of the company and the impact it had on the residents, natural landscape, and economic situation of the Upper Peninsula.

Hoist House

Old Hoist House, Ishpeming, Mich.

Well, on this particular exploration of the Trail, I found that, literally just lying on the trail, was an old book.  I looked at the first page (the cloth bound book’s front and back covers were missing), and saw that it was a ledger for processing preferred stocks from CCI dating 1929-1931.  I immediately grabbed it and brought it home (as it had begun to violently storm).  After letting it dry and letting the bugs run out, I contacted my friends at NMU’s archives and they were thrilled to say the least.  I brought it to them the next day and then we went on a field trip so I could show them the building where I was pretty sure it had been stored.  There was only one building that was close to that part of the trail, and it is an old hoist house, and according to An Old Finnish Man, it is actually the oldest building left in Ishpeming.  A hoist house is something that I’m trying to learn a little more about, but it looks like this was just storage for the mine.  Typically, a hoist house literally houses the mining hoist.  There are a few examples of remaining hoist houses around the UP – one being the Quincy Mine No. 2 Hoist House in Houghton, Michigan.  This one has been preserved, rather than abandoned like the one in Ishpeming.  It is on the National Register of Historic Places, which is pretty significant.  Regardless, the one here in Ishpeming seems to house previously unknown documents relating to CCI and hopefully this means that there will be more exploration of the building and its possibly historical contents!!  I am excited and hope I get to be a part of this adventure into history!


Hello and welcome!

Welcome to the redesign of Temporal Exploits, a virtual museum and archives.  With the shift to WordPress and back to a blogging background, this site will feature works and stories that inspire me to continue my sojourn into academia as well as to publicly house my own personal works. We are now called Semper Eadem (always the same), to emphasize the important link between the past and the present, and the present and the future. Thank you for visiting the site today and I hope that you enjoy your stay!