By Catholic Digest Staff
Feast Day: March 14
Her beauty rivaled only by her piety, Matilda was the daughter of a Westphalian Count and a noble woman from the Danish Court. Born in 895 she was a descendant of the famed Saxon hero Widukind, the chief opponent of Charlemagne. Her parents entrusted her to the care of her grandmother, the wise abbess of the convent of Erfrut, who raised her to be well educated and devout.
She was eventually married to Henry, the son of Duke Otto of Saxony, a fine warrior and skilled hawker. Many called him Henry “The Fowler” due to his enjoyment of hunting with birds of prey. The two of them were remarkably happy together, and Henry eventually became of King of Germany. War was ongoing at that time, and Henry was known for his prowess on the battlefield. However, both the King and his subjects credited his success in combat to the prayers of Matilda, his pious and loving queen. Henry both adored and trusted Matilda, and allowing her to give generously to the poor and religious orders. Despite residing in a palace she lived like a religious herself, and was known for being compassionate to everyone. Her presence had a positive influence on the King as well as the court.
When Henry passed away in 936, Matilda immediately removed all the jewels that she wore and renounced her royal life in mourning. Their five children grew up to become archbishops, Kings, and hold other positions of importance.
Although Matilda withdrew from courtly life she continued to actively serve the poor and support religious orders. Her son Otto, who succeeded her husband as King, accused her of recklessly throwing the crown’s money away through her charity work and demanded that she keep a detailed records of her donations. Another son, named Henry after her husband, agreed with his brother and the two sent spies to monitor her almsgiving.
Not wishing to cause any further discord in the royal family, Matilda surrendered her generous inheritance from her husband and retired to the country estate where she had been born. Almost immediately, her son Henry became bedridden with illness and the court fell apart. The kingdom viewed these unfortunate events as punishment for the unfriendly way in which Matilda had been treated. The court pleaded with her son Otto’s wife to intervene, and on her urging Matilda finally returned to the palace where she forgave her sons. She continued to help the poor and Religious, found monasteries, and prophesized the death of her son Henry and her grandson William.
Right before she died she gave everything she owned to the poor, even passing on her burial sheet to bishop William, who died suddenly right before she did. Thankfully her daughter sent a beautiful gold embroidered cover for her casket, and when Matilda died she was immediately venerated as a local saint.