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Now there appeared in Lombardy at the head of her numerous squadrons the young maid Matilda, armed like a warrior, and with such bravery that she made the world know that courage and valor in mankind is not indeed a matter of sex, but of heart and spirit.

Matilda of Tuscany, also known as Gran Contessa and Matilda of Canossa, was a powerful feudal ruler ruled in Northern Italy and the chief Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy; in addition, she was one of the few medieval women to be remembered for her military accomplishments, thanks to which she was able to dominate all the territories north of the Church States.

In 1076, she came into possession of a vast territory that included present-day Lombardy, Emilia, the Romagna, and Tuscany, and made the castle of Canossa, in the Appennines Mountains south of Reggio, the centers of her domains. Between 6 and 11 May 1111, she was crowned Imperial Vicar and Vice-Queen of Italy by Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor at the Castle of Bianello.

She was certainly one of the most important and interesting figures of the Italian Middle Ages: she lived in a period of constant battles, intrigues, and ex-communications, and was able to demonstrate an extraordinary force, even enduring great pain and humiliation, showing an innate leadership ability.