Queen Matilda is Brought to Life at Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens

by Poppy Roou
20th October 2023

Matilda and her Lute player
Lizzie Bryant (right) and Leon Tadman (left) performing ‘Matilda of Flanders – Conquest Queen of the Chase’ at Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens


Storyteller Lizzie Bryant performed ‘Matilda of Flanders – Conquest Queen of the Chase’ at Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens, an original, in-character performance of this new work commissioned by the Chase & Chalke Landscape Partnership Scheme, as part of the Characters of the Chase project. 

The audience were transported back to the year 1080, to discover Matilda, the first Norman Queen and owner of Cranborne Chase. Matilda was the wife of William the Conqueror, and had her own coronation as queen of England, however relatively little is known about this remarkable woman who was the first queen of England to have a distinct coronation ceremony in her own right.

Lizzie Bryant Matilda Shaftesbury Abbey

Lizzie’s story follows Matilda’s imagined journey through Cranborne Chase in the year 1080, lands that she held in her own name, and included a visit with Eulalia, the first Norman Abbess of Shaftesbury Abbey.

The audience were enraptured by this tale of piety, politics, and power, and by tales of scorn, revenge and family conflict brought to life by Lizzie in a wonderful performance in such an enigmatic setting.

To discover the story of Queen Matilda, Lizzie was helped with research carried out by Chase & Chalke volunteer Anna McElenny and by staff and volunteers at Shaftesbury Abbey. Lizzie was also assisted with her costume by Penny-Jane Swift, volunteer at Shaftesbury Abbey and period clothing maker. Lizzie was joined by the very talented volunteer Lute player Leon Tadman, who welcomed the audience with period music.

Matilda Shaftesbury Abbey
Local resident Lindsey Dedden (centre right) who attended the performance can trace her ancestry back to Queen Matilda.


Following the hour-long performance, Lizzie then answered audience questions about the character.

The Characters of the Chase project is planning to bring more historic individuals to life through storytelling and performance in 2024, with the help from volunteer researchers, professional actors, and storytellers. Keep in touch as we will release more information in the coming months. Thank you to everyone who was involved in bringing these wonderful stories to life.