Throughout European history your family bloodlines determined your position in society and your wealth. There was always somebody wanting to kick down your door and take your lands, together with your fortune, making the medieval period a seething, festering cauldron of intrigue and bloodshed. Into this world in 1046 was born Matilda, daughter to the incredibly powerful and wealthy Boniface III. Talk about bloodlines; he was considered the most powerful north Italian prince of his age. By inheritance he was Count (or lord) of Brescia, Canossa, Ferrara, Florence, Lucca, Mantua, Modena, Pisa, Pistoia, Parma, Reggio, and Verona from 1007 and, by appointment, Margrave of Tuscany from 1027 until his assassination in 1052. A year later her older sister Beatrice died and in 1055 a brother Frederick passed away in the custody of the Germany emperor Henry III, leaving the eight year old Matilda heir to her father’s vast lands and numerous titles! Her enemies surely clasped their hands with glee, thinking how easy it will be to take by force, if necessary, the kingdom of this girl child. How wrong they were and how remarkable was the life of Matilda of Canossa – la Gran Contessa (“the Great Countess”).
Her world was a whirlwind of important people and important events and records clearly show that she and her family’s armies and resources protected the popes against the so-called antipopes! Arduino della Padule was her military tutor; he taught her to ride a horse, carry a lance and pike, and wield an axe and sword. In her adulthood he was the commander of her armies no less. The child was now a female warrior and she unleashed her armies and military genius against such adversaries as King Henry IV and Prince Jordan I of Capua. She ordered or commanded successful expeditions against Ferrara (1101), Parma (1104), Prato (1107) and Mantua (1114). In 1111, at Bianello, and she was made viceroy of Liguria by the Emperor Henry V. Her enemies were either dead or licking their wounds in Germany. In 1115 Matilda’s own death was brought on by gout! She left a vast empire and without an heir or anybody close to her caliber as a leader to keep it all intact, the leading citizens of the main cities within her vast tracks of landholdings took control, and the era of the city-states in northern Italy began. The image above shows Matilda seated with Hugh of Cluny and the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. (completetd in 1115 AD)
Her legacies are many but we only have to look towards her beloved Florence to acknowledge one? She and her father nursed the city forward with their wealth, vision and protection. During her lifetime Matilda had built the fourth ring of walls (those Dante mentioned as the “old ring of walls”), and, in 1075, granted the city the dignity of a Free Commune, creating the basis for the historical Florentine Republic. A city that became the jewel of the Renaissance.
Her legacy is in every stone of that great city and where Michelangelo himself said that he and his family were descendant from this woman; Matilda of Tuscany!
Source by Peter John Kilby