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Judith of Flanders

Judith of Flanders
Queen consort of Wessex
Tenure1 October 856 – 13 January 858
858 – 20 December 860
Countess of Flanders
Tenure13 December 862 – c. 870
Bornc.  844
Diedafter 870
SpouseÆthelwulf of Wessex
(m. 856; d. 858)
Æthelbald of Wessex
(m. 858; d. 860)
Baldwin I of Flanders
(m. 861/62)
Issue
more...
Baldwin II of Flanders
DynastyCarolingian
FatherCharles the Bald
MotherErmentrude of Orléans

Judith of Flanders (c. 843 – c. 870) was a Carolingian princess who, by her three successive marriages, became Queen of Wessex and Countess of Flanders. The daughter of Emperor Charles the Bald, she married the elderly King Æthelwulf of Wessex as an adolescent and was crowned queen in contravention of the custom in Wessex. After Æthelwulf's death in 858, Judith married his son and successor, Æthelbald. Her marriage with her stepson, considered scandalous by her contemporaries, ended with his death in 860. Queen Judith then returned to her father, only to elope in 861 or 862 with the Flemish forester Baldwin. Having thus provoked her father's wrath, Judith and Baldwin went into exile. They were reconciled with Charles in late 862, after which Baldwin was granted the march of Flanders.

Family background

Judith was the eldest daughter of Charles the Bald, King of West Francia, and his first wife Ermentrude of Orléans. Named after her paternal grandmother, Judith of Bavaria, her exact date of birth is uncertain, but her parents were married on 13 December 842, and Judith was their eldest child, born a little over a year later, probably in early 844.[1]

Queen of Wessex

Marriage and coronation

In 855, King Æthelwulf of Wessex made a pilgrimage to Rome with his youngest son Alfred, who was about six years old. On the way back, in 856, he stayed at the court of Charles the Bald. Back in July, on the way to Rome, Æthelwulf negotiated his marriage with Judith, who was twelve years old, while he was probably in his mid-fifties. It was a diplomatic alliance: both kings suffered from Viking attacks,[2] and for Æthelwulf, this union had the additional advantage of an alliance with the prestigious Carolingian dynasty.[3] By contemporary and even modern historiography, the event was considered an extraordinary event: Carolingian princesses rarely married and were usually sent to nunneries, and it was almost unknown for them to marry foreigners.

The wedding took place on 1 October 856 at the royal palace of Verberie-sur-Oise. During the ceremony, which was celebrated by Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, the bride was put on a wedding ring and presented with magnificent gifts. Part of the ritual was Judith's coronation with the blessing of the archbishop. After the ceremony, she was anointed with myrrh. Æthelwulf honored his bride by calling her queen after the ceremony.[4] The peculiarity of this step was that in Wessex it was not customary for kings' wives to be queens. According to their customs (described by Asser as "perverse and detestable") was that the wife of a king of Wessex could not be called queen or sit on the throne with her husband—she was merely the king's wife.[5] However, all chroniclers pay attention to the fact that Charles the Bald insisted on the coronation of his daughter:[6][7]

When the Bishop of Rheims, Hincmar, blessed the marriage and placed the crown on its head, he declared her queen, which neither he nor his people had in the past in the custom.

— Annales Bertiniani, 856.

Judith, daughter of King Charles, was recently married to Æthelwulf, King of England, accepting the title of queen and royal consecration.

— Flodoard.

Judith was a "cultivated lady" like most Frankish princesses of the time, and her queenship probably brought the "aura of the Carolingian monarchy" to the court of Wessex.[8] For Carolingian kings and queens was customary at that time being both crowned and anointed and Charles the Bald, with his insistence to make his daughter the first crowned Queen of Wessex, probably wanted to secure her position in her new home as the indisputable royal consort.[9]

It seems that since Judith, Wessex queen consorts were not crowned for over a century. The next was Ælfthryth, crowned by her husband, King Edgar the Peaceful, at Bath on 11 May 973. From that time onwards, queens were usually crowned with their husbands if they were already married, or separately if the marriage was contracted by the reigning king. With the coronation, the queens received official status. For centuries, the essence of the ceremony - anointing and wedding, accompanied by a solemn church service - remained unchanged.[10]

After the celebrations, Æthelwulf with Judith and Alfred return to Wessex. But back in his kingdom, Æthelwulf faced difficulties. His eldest surviving son, Æthelbald, supported by Eahlstan, Bishop of Sherborne and Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, conspired to dethrone him.[11] The marriage with Judith may have played a role in this conspiracy: Æthelbald probably feared that his father's new young wife, the great-granddaughter of Charlemagne, would give birth to a higher-born heir than himself. In addition, some of the nobles were outraged that Judith was crowned and called queen, which was contrary to local custom. However, other Saxon Thans did not agree to remove Æthelwulf, because they did not want to participate in the riots.[6] There is a version that Æthelbald's rebellion was not provoked by his father's new marriage. According to this point of view, the prince rebelled against his father not because of his marriage, but before it. Æthelwulf knew about this, stayed at the court of Charles the Bald and married his daughter for this very reason. The marriage with Judith was intended to demonstrate to his subjects that Æthelwulf had strong supporters abroad.[3] As a result, father and son negotiated a compromise under which Æthelwulf received the eastern districts of the kingdom and Æthelbald the western. It is not known whether this meant that Æthelwulf took Kent and Æthelbald Wessex, or whether Wessex itself was divided.[6]

Judith had no children from Æthelwulf, who died on 13 January 858.[6]

Controversial remarriage

Æthelwulf, King of the West Saxons, has passed away. His widow, Queen Judith, was married by his son Æthelbald.

— Annales Bertiniani.

Shortly after the death of Æthelwulf, the new king, Æthelbald, married his stepmother. By agreeing to this marriage, Judith may have tried to avoid the usual fate of dowagers - a nunnery.[12] To Æthelbald, this marriage gave weight due to Judith's belonging to the Carolingian dynasty and allowed him to enhance his status, put himself above his brothers and reign in the domain of his father.[6] Judith's name appears in several charters during the reign of Æthelbald, which confirms her exceptional queenly status. Her personal prestige also explains the marriage; according to Asser, who condemned this event in his Life of Alfred the Great:

Once King Æthelwulf was dead, Æthelbald, his son, against God's prohibition and Christian dignity, and also contrary to the practice of all pagans, took over his father's marriage-bed and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, incurring great disgrace from all who heard of it.[13]

Asser's additional comment on the "great disgrace" was not reflected in the Frankish record of the event. Asser's assertion that marriage is contrary to even pagan practice is refuted by Bede's account of the marriage of King Eadbald of Kent his father's widow in 616 and the intervention of Augustine of Canterbury in front of Pope Gregory I with the question of the legality of Eadbald's marriage with his stepmother.[6] As you can see, similar cases happened before. Obviously, the dowager queen was considered in some sense the embodiment of the rights of her deceased husband, and marriage to her allowed her to claim the kingdom.[6]

Judith was still childless when Æthelbald died on 20 December 860, after a reign of two-and-a-half years.[13]

Countess of Flanders

Elopement

Meeting of Judith and Baldwin. Bruges seminary, Bruges.
Baldwin I of Flanders and Judith by Félix de Vigne, 1849. Album du Cortége des Comtes de Flandre, p.63

Æthelbald's death left Judith with no future in Wessex. She was no more than seventeen years old, and she was still childless. According to the Annales Bertiniani and Flodoard,

Sold the property that she had acquired and returned to her father, who sent her to the Monastery at Senlis, where she was to remain under his royal protection and episcopal guardianship, with all the honour due to a queen, until such time as, if she could not remain chaste, she might marry in the way the apostle said, that is suitably and legally.[6][14]

Presumably Charles the Bald was going to arrange another marriage for his daughter. Some historians have argued that neither Judith's first nor second marriage was consummated. There are also claims, more similar to legend, that the future count of Flanders, Baldwin (who according to tradition, would be the son of forester called Odoacre[15]), became interested in Judith even before her first marriage.[16] But, most likely, Baldwin met Judith in 861, when he visited the monastery of Senlis; the Encyclopedia Britannica claims that Baldwin fell in love with the Wessex dowager queen during this visit.[17] Around Christmas 861[18] (or early 862[6]) Judith either fled with Baldwin, or was kidnapped by him. According to the Annales Bertiniani, Judith was not abducted at all: there she is depicted not as the passive victim of bride theft but as an active agent, eloping at the instigation of Baldwin and apparently with her brother Louis the Stammerer's consent:[18]

She followed him, changing her way of life, after Count Baldwin harassed her, and this was facilitated by her brother Louis.[4]

Flodoard's description is similar:

Judith followed Count Baldwin with the assistance and consent of her brother Louis.

The couple probably even married in the same monastery of Senlis, before the elopement.[6]

Excommunication

Judith's father was furious.[6] He immediately organized search parties to bring her home and capture Baldwin. Flodoard mentioned the letter of Archbishop Hincmar to Bishop Hunger of Utrecht, where he informed Hunger about the Baldwin's excommunication because he had kidnapped Judith and married her without royal consent.[19]

Contemporary chronicles stated that in 862 Charles the Bald held a council with the bishops and nobles of his kingdom. According to Hincmar, the king ordered (or, according to Flodoard, asked) the bishops to pass a canonical verdict on Baldwin and Judith, according to the decrees of Pope Gregory II: “if anyone marries, having kidnapped a widow, let him be anathematized himself, as well as those who contributed to this”.[4] Judith's brother Louis was also punished: he was imprisoned in the abbey of St. Martin.[4]

Apparently, Baldwin and Judith firstly sought refuge with the Viking Rorik, ruler of Frisia,[6] and later fled to the court of Judith's cousin Lothair II of Lotharingia for protection before going to Rome in order to plead their case to Pope Nicholas I.[6]

Reconciliation

Having fled to Rome, Baldwin and Judith tried to come to terms with Pope Nicholas I and asked him to come out in their defense in the conflict with Charles the Bald. The Pope listened to their arguments and sent his legates to the King for negotiations: Bishops Radoald of Porto and John of Cervia.[4] At the behest of the Pope, the legates asked Charles to recognize the marriage as legally binding and welcome the young couple into his circle; however, Charles and Hincmar were not easy to convince. In the end, in a letter dated 23 November 862, the Pope expressed to the king his fears that Baldwin, after his excommunication from the church, might have joined forces with the "Jute prince Rorik". Rorik already fought against Charles the Bald on the side of his brother Lothair I, who after the conclusion of the Treaty of Verdun, tried to get rid of the dangerous assistant and imprisoned Rorik, accusing him of treason. Rorik fled and began to attack the Middle Francia kingdom. Unable to cope with the Vikings, Lothar I gave him Frisia on condition of protection from the rest of the Normans. According to Flodoard, in 863

Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims, reminded Hunger that the Norman Rorik could help Baldwin, who had kidnapped the beautiful Judith.

According to the later chronicler Albert of Stade, was Bishop Hunger who turned to Rorik, urging him not to provide any support to Baldwin.[19]

Institution of Baldwin I 'Bras de Fer', the first count of Flanders by Charles the Bald, the Frankish king by Jean Dreaux, ca. 1450/60. Aegidius of Roya, Compendium historiae universalis.
Baldwin I of Flanders and his wife Judith of France, by Jan van der Asselt, ca. 1372/73. Currently displayed at the Gravenkapel, Kortrijk, Belgium.

Charles the Bald could do nothing, so in the end, he reluctantly forgave the couple and allowed Judith and Baldwin to marry.[6] They returned to France and were officially married at Auxerre on 13 December 862. The king did not want to be present (according to the Annales Bertiniani this happened in 863[4]), but gave Baldwin the March of Flanders and shortly after Ternois, Waas and the lay abbacy of St. Peter of Ghent. Some scholars have suggested that the king had hoped for Baldwin's death by giving him land just south of the Scheldt river, a region who was frequently attacked by the Viking. Baldwin, however, managed the situation remarkably well: he succeeded in quelling the Viking threat (earning the nickname of "Iron" [Ferreum] from his contemporaries, which later generations replaced with the nickname "Iron Hand"), expanded both his army and his territory quickly, and became a faithful supporter of Charles the Bald. His possessions became known as the County of Flanders, one of the most powerful domains in France.[20]

In Flanders, Baldwin chose a small island for his residence, formed at the confluence of the Boterbeke and Roya rivers. From the earliest times, there was a fortress, possibly built by Vikings and surrounded by a small number of huts. The Vikings gave this place the name "Bruggia" (Bryghia – a pier, a place for loading ships, brugge – a bridgehead). Not far from the confluence of the rivers there was a small ancient sanctuary, the construction of which was attributed to Saint Amandus. Upstream of Boterbeke there was a larger church that was said was built by Saint Eligius. The site had long since fallen into disrepair, and Baldwin built a new fortress with a residence, chapel, retinue houses and the cathedral where the relics of Saint Donatian of Reims were placed. The residence of Baldwin and Judith stood on the site that is now occupied by the Palace of Justice and the Town Hall, and the cathedral was located on the north side of the current Palace of Justice. The residence was surrounded by a high wall with four gates, fortified with rising lattices and drawbridges. Remains of buildings from the time of Judith in Bruges remained, possibly in the Baptismal Chapel behind the crypt of St. Basil, and in this case they can be identified with the Amandus chapel. There was also a mint in the residence.[20]

The exact date of Judith's death is unknown. It is believed that this happened no earlier than 870.[6] Between 893 and 899, her eldest surviving son, Baldwin II, married Ælfthryth, daughter of Alfred the Great.[6] If Judith was alive, she probably was instrumental in the marriage negotiations due to her knowledge of the Wessex court as queen.[6]

Baldwin I died in 879 in the city of Arras. He was buried in Abbey of Saint-Bertin near Saint-Omer.[6]

Legacy

Judith's marital history was considered scandalous and a violation of church prohibitions. But in the middle of the 10th century, she was described by the compilers of the genealogy of the counts of Flanders as "the wisest and most beautiful", who brought the Carolingian blood to the comital dynasty, while her scandalous stories were forgotten.[6]

Asser said that he expressed surprise to Alfred the Great at the lack of the status of the wives of the Wessex kings. In response, Alfred told him the story of Eadburh, daughter of Offa of Mercia, to explain why Wessex had no queens in the proper sense. Eadburh was queen as the wife of King Beorhtric. Eadburh's defiant behavior culminated in her alleged poisoning of her husband and subsequent escape to Charlemagne's court in search of protection. No doubt her story was embellished and exaggerated in the interests of later propaganda in Wessex against both Mercia and Beortrick, and to justify the limited role of royal wives.[21] The anointing and coronation of Judith allowed to restore the status of queens and improve the position of the wives of the kings of Wessex.[21]

Issue

From her marriage with Baldwin I of Flanders, Judith bore at least three sons:[22][23]

  • Charles (c. 864/865 – died young), ostensibly named after his maternal grandfather. "Karolus brevis vite" is named as first of the three sons of Baldwin and Judith in the list of counts of Flanders recorded in the Cartulaire de Saint-Bertin.[24] It is assumed that Charles died young as no other reference to him has been found.
  • Baldwin (c. 865/867 – c. 10 September 918). He is named as second of the three sons of Baldwin and Judith in the list of counts of Flanders recorded in the Cartulaire de Saint-Bertin.[24] He succeeded his father in 879 as Baldwin II, Count of Flanders; married between 893 and 899 with Ælfthryth of Wessex, daughter of Alfred the Great.
  • Ralph (c. 867/870 – murdered 17 June 896). "Rodolphus Cameracensis comes" is named as third of the three sons of Baldwin and Judith in the list of counts of Flanders recorded in the Cartulaire de Saint-Bertin.[24] Installed as Count of Cambrai around 888, was killed by Herbert I of Vermandois.

In addition, are attributed two daughters born from Judith and Baldwin:[23]

  • The mother of Walter. The History of Waulsort monastery names "Walterus...Rodulfi sororis filius" recording that he attempted to avenge the death of his maternal uncle Ralph of Cambrai. No other reference to this person has been found and, because the History of Waulsort monastery is such a confused source, her existence should be treated with caution.[25]
  • Guinidilde or Gunhild (died before 19 February 904), who married before 27 June 875 Count Wilfred the Hairy of Barcelona. According to Allison Weir, this parentage is confirmed on the Gestis Comitum Barcinonensium which records that Charles the Bald gave an unnamed daughter of the count of Flanders in marriage to "Pilosi" at the same time as granting him the County of Barcelona, although this source is unreliable in some points of detail concerning the family of the counts of Barcelona.[26][27] This supposed Flemish origin is incorrect: The true parentage of Guinidilde is confirmed by charters dated 875, 877 and 878 under which "Winidildes commitissa" donated property "de comparatione de cuondam patrem meum...Seniofredo" to San Juan de Ripoll monastery.[28]

Notes

  1. ^ Nelson 1992, pp. 127, 130.
  2. ^ Enright 1971, pp. 291–292.
  3. ^ a b Enright 1971, p. 293.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Annales Bertiniani
  5. ^ Stafford 1981, pp. 3–4; Story 2003, pp. 240–242; Biographical Dictionary 1991, p. 210.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Janet L. Nelson, Æthelwulf, Oxford Online Dictionary of National Biography, 2004
  7. ^ Stafford 1981, pp. 3–4; Biographical Dictionary 1991, p. 36.
  8. ^ Wormald 1982, p. 142.
  9. ^ Ward 2006, p. 120.
  10. ^ Ward 2006, pp. 120–121.
  11. ^ Biographical Dictionary 1991, p. 18.
  12. ^ Stafford 1978, p. 85.
  13. ^ a b Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge eds., Alfred the Great: Asser's Life and Other Contemporary Sources, Penguin 1983 (2004 reprint), p. 73.
  14. ^ Geary 2009, p. 52.
  15. ^ Jacques Paul Migne, Nouvelle encyclopédie théologique, 1854, p. 919.
  16. ^ Le Glay 1843, pp. 35–40.
  17. ^ Baldwin I, Count of Flanders: Encyclopaedia Britannica
  18. ^ a b Geary 2009, p. 53.
  19. ^ a b Aleksashin 2016, pp. 30–41.
  20. ^ a b Gilliat-Smith 1901, pp. 5–20.
  21. ^ a b Stafford 1981, p. 4.
  22. ^ Sainte-Marie 1726, pp. 713–714; Le Glay 1843, p. 44.
  23. ^ a b COUNTS of FLANDERS [863]-1128 in: Foundation for Medieval Genealogy (FMG) [retrieved 3 August 2020]
  24. ^ a b c Cartulaire de Saint-Bertin, p. 11
  25. ^ Historia Walciodorensis Monasterii 8, Monumenta Germaniae Historica SS XIV, p. 509.
  26. ^ Weir 2011, p. 6.
  27. ^ Gestis Comitum Barcinonensium I, Rerum Gallicarum et Francicarum scriptores 9, p. 68.
  28. ^ Bofarull y Mascaró 1836, vol. I, p. 17, citing Real Archivo, armario de S. Juan de las Abadesas num. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

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