FEMALE Hildegarde

Wife of Charlemagne.

Date of birth: probably between 2 May 757 and 30 April 761.
Place of birth:
See the discussion in the Commentary section.

Date of death: 30 April 783.
Place of burial: Metz.
["Tunc obiit domna ac bene merita Hildegardis regina pridie Kal. Mai., quod evenit in die tunc in tempore vigilia ascensionis Domini" ARF, s.a. 783, 64; buried at Metz: MGH SS 1: 70, 164]

Father: Gerold, prob. d. 784×6, count in Alemannia.
Gerold is not directly documented as the father of Hildegarde, but he is documented a husband of Imma, and the fact that Hildegarde had a brother named Gerold confirms the connection.

Mother: Imma, d. 798, daughter of Nebi, count in Alemannia.
["Quicum in iuventute erat, supradictus imperator desponsavit sibi nobilissimi generis Suavorum puellam, nomine Hildigardam, quae erat de cognatione Gotefridi ducis Alamannorum. Gotefridus dux genuit Huochingum, Huochingus genuit Nebi; Nebe genuit Immam, Imma vero genuit Hiltigardam beatissimum reginam." Thegan, Vita Hludowici, c. 2, MGH SS 2: 591].

Spouse: m. 1 May 770 × 30 April 772, Charlemagne, b. prob. 2 April 748, d. 28 January 814, king of the Franks, emperor.
See the Commentary section for the date of the marriage.

See the page of Charlemagne for details.

MALE Charles/Karl "the younger", b. 772×3, d. 4 Dec. 811, king of Neustria 788-811.

FEMALE Adélaïde/Adelheid, b. Sep. 773×June 774, d. July or August 774.

FEMALE Rotrude, b. ca. 775, d. 6 June 810, mistress of Rorico, d. ca. 840, count of Maine.

MALE Pépin (originally Carloman), b. 777, d. 8 July 810, king of Italy, 781-810.

MALE Louis I (Ludwig I "der Fromme"), b. 778 (twin), d. 20 June 840, king of Aquitaine, 781-814, emperor 813-840 (jointly 813-4);
m. (1) 794, Ermengarde,
daughter of count Ingram;
m. (2) 819, Judith,
daughter of count Welf.

MALE Lothair, b. 778 (twin), d. 779×780.

FEMALE Berthe, b. 779×780, d. after 14 Jan. 823, mistress of Angilbert, d. 18 Feb. 814, abbot of Saint-Riquier.

FEMALE Gisèle, baptized 781, living 800.

FEMALE Hildegarde, b. 782 (after 8 June), d. (bef. 8) June 783.


The dates of birth and marriage of Hildegarde

In his epitaph of Hildegarde, Paul the Deacon states that Hildegarde was twelve years old (or in her twelfth year) at the time of her marriage, and that she died twelve years (or in the twelfth year) after her marriage:

Alter ab undecimo iam te susceperat annus,
   Cum vos mellifluus consotiavit amor;
Alter ab undecimo rursum te sustulit annus,
   Heu genetrix regum, heu decus atque dolor!
[Paul the Deacon, Gesta Episcop. Mettensium, MGH SS 2: 266; also MGH Poet. Lat. 1: 58-9]

The main question here is how the words alter ab undecimo ... annus should be interpreted. As has been often recognized, it appears to be modelled on a statement of Vergil ["alter ab undecimo tum me iam acceperat annus" Verg. Ecl. VIII, 39, as cited in Pike (1922)]. As J. B. Pike pointed out, alter means in this case "following" or "next to" [Pike (1922)], and thus alter ab undecimo should be interpreted "the next after eleven", or twelve. The next question is whether the reckoning is inclusive or exclusive, i.e., does it mean "in the twelfth year" or "after twelve full years" (i.e., in the thirteenth year)? Since Hildegard's death on 30 April 783 is well documented, interpreting as alter ab undecimo as "in the twelfth year" would place her marriage between 1 May 771 and 30 April 772, while interpreting it as "in the thirteenth year" would place the marriage between 1 May 770 and 30 April 771. The first interpretation would then place her birthdate between 2 May 759 and 30 April 761, while the second would put her birth between 2 May 757 and 30 April 759 (assuming that we use the same interpretation for both calculations). The latter interpretation is supported by a charter of Charlemagne dated 1 May 783, the day after his wife's death, in which he states that Hidegarde died in the thirteenth year of their marriage ["a. inc. 783 in die ascensionis dom., in cuius vigilia ipsa dulciss. coniux obiit, in a. XIII coniunctionis nostrae" BM2, 107 (#262)].

The picture is somewhat complicated by two additional considerations. The Annals of Lorsch state that Charlemagne's mother Bertha brought the daughter of Desiderius to Francia in 770 ["... et Berta adduxit filiam Desiserii in Francia" Ann. Lauresh., s.a. 770, MGH SS 1: 30], and Einhard states that Charlemagne repudiated this daughter after being married to her for a year, and then married Hildegarde ["Deinde cum matris hortatu filiam Desiderii, regis Langobardorum, duxisset uxorem, incertumqua de causa, post annum eam repudavit, et Hildegardem de gente Suavorum, praecipuae nobilitatis feminam, in matrimonium accepit, ..." Einhard, Vita Caroli, c. 18, MGH SS 2: 453]. This would appear to imply that the marriage of Charlemagne and Hildegarde did not take place until 771 at the earliest, but two later sources, apparently based on an unknown common earlier source, state that he repudiated the daughter of Desiderius immediately ["770. Karolus filiam Desiderii regis Langobardorum, adducente Bertha matre sua, uxorem duxit, sed statim eam repudiavit." Hermann von Reichenau, Chron., s.a. 770, MGH SS 5: 100; "3. 770. Karolus filiam Desiderii regis Langobardorum uxorem duxit et statim repudiavit." Chronicon Suevicum Universale, MGH SS 13: 63]. Abel and Simson correctly pointed out that Hermann and the Suevian chronicle have less authority that Einhard, and that the account in the Suevian chronicle could very well have been adapted from Einhard's account [Abel-Simson (1883-8), 1: 672]

The second complication is that there appears to be a record that mentions Hildegard's eldest child Charles the younger in July 771, ["Karolus gratia Dei rex Francorum vir i[n]luster, ... unde legitimo redebet mitio, sub sermone tuitionis nostrae vel immunitatis ipsius monasterii, vel mundeburdo filii nostri Karoli, qui causas ipsius abbatis vel monasterii sui habet in tuitione receptas; ... Data mens. jul. anno III [regni nostri]" Havet (1887), 226-7 (#11); Cart. S. Calais, 18 (#11)]. If accurate, this would imply that Hildegard was married in Fall 770 at the latest. Known from a copy made in 1709, this charter had been regarded as a forgery, but Havet argued that it was genuine [Havet (1887), 46-51]. Other than the late date of the copy, the charter had the suspicious feature that large parts of the charter had been taken verbatim from an earlier charter of Charlemagne's, father Pépin le Bref, which mentions the latter's son Charles (i.e., the future Charlemagne) in nearly identical wording ["Pippinus rex Francorum vir inluster, ... unde legitimo redebet mitio, sub sermone tuitionis nostrae vel emunitatibus ipsius monasterii, vel mundeburdo illustris viri Karoli filii nostri, qui causas ipsius abbatis vel monasterii sui habet in tuitione receptas; ... Data mens. jul. anno III [regni nostri]" Havet (1887), 223 (#9); Cart. S. Calais, 14-5 (#9); underlining emphasizes one place where word order has changed, and the other differences in the passage are denoted in bold face]. In addition, there is another charter mentioning the younger Charles, dated 17 November 779 (a date which causes no doubt, since the younger Charles was clearly born by that time) in which the corresponding passage appears in wording identical to the 771 charter [Havet (1887), 228 (#12); Cart. S. Calais, 19-20 (#12)]. Thus it would seem that, genuine or not, the two later charters used the earlier charter of Pépin as a model and that some of the wording was copied verbatim from that charter.

If we accept the obvious and reasonable hypothesis that in 770 Bertha was bringing the daughter of Desiderius back to Francia for the purpose of getting married, then the most straightforward interpretation of Einhard's statement would put the repudiation of this wife in 771, meaning that the elder Charles could not have married Hildegarde and had the younger Charles by July 771. Havet accepted the 771 charter as genuine, and concluded that Charlemagne married the daughter of Desiderius in Spring 770 and Hildegarde in Fall 770. More cautious, Abel and Simson concluded only that the evidence was insufficient to rule it out. The ranges of 757×9 for Hildegarde's birth and 770×1 for her marriage seem more likely, simply because the marriage of a girl slightly older than twelve is more likely than the marriage of one under twelve, supported by the above charter evidence, but the entire ranges of 2 May 757 × 30 April 761 for the birth and 1 May 770 × 30 April 772 for the marriage need to be considered as possible.


Abel-Simson (1883-8) = Sigurd Abel & Bernhard Simson, Jahrbücher des Fränkischen Reiches unter Karl dem Großen (Leipzig, vol. 1 2nd. ed. 1888, vol. 2 1883).

ARF = Georg Pertz & Friedrich Kurze, Annales Regni Francorum (Annals of the kingdom of the Franks), MGH SRG 6 (Hannover, 1895)

BM2 = Johan-Friedrich Böhmer & Engelbert Mühlbacher, Die Regesten des Kaiserreichs unter den Karolingern (2nd ed., vol. 1, Innsbruck, 1899).

Cart. S. Calais = L. Froger, Cartilaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Calais (Le Mans, 1888).

Havet (1887) = Julien Havet, "Questions mérovingiennes. IV. Les chartes de Saint-Calais", Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes 48 (1877): 5-58, 209-247.

MGH Poet. Lat. = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Poetae latini aevi carolini.

MGH SRG = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum (separate editions).

MGH SS = Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores series.

Pike (1922) = J. B. Pike, "Vergil, Eclogue VIII, 39, The Classical Journal 17 (1922): 227.

Werner (1967) = Karl Ferdinand Werner, "Die Nachkommen Karls des Großen bis um das Jahr 1000 (1.-8. Generation)", Karl der Große 4 (1967): 403-483 & table.

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

First uploaded 16 August 2012.

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