Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Portuguese Connection, Berengaria and her family

The Danish kings Eric IV, Abel and Christopher I  had Portuguese grandparents via their mother, queen Berengaria, who was a Portuguese infanta and the fifth daughter of Portuguese King Sancho I and Dulce of Aragon.She was the member of a large family, and she had ten siblings. Her mother died in 1198, when Berengaria was about three years of age - and her father died in 1212. In various annals and ballads she is known as Bringenilæ, Bengerd, Bengjerd and related forms. In 1211, at the age of sixteen she was at the French court together with her brother Ferrante (Ferdinand). King Philip II August (another of Berengaria's and Ferdinand's cousins) had arranged a marriage for Ferdinand to Jeanne of Flanders, which made him count of Flanders. Here, at the French court, was Berengaria introduced to King Valdemar, whose sister Ingeborg was married to King Philip. It seems that the marriage between Valdemar and Berengaria might have been Ferdinand's wish of connecting Valdemar Sejr to the alliance against France, which Ferdinand in the summer 1213 entered together with King John  of England and the German emperor Otto IV. It was probably because of Berengaria that Valdemar entered another connection to the Portuguese royalty, when his eldest son Valdemar the Young in 1229 was married to Berengaria's niece, Alfonso 2.'s daughter Eleonora.  Berengaria was married to King Valdemar in May 1214. They were married for seven years until her death in childbed in 1221, and they had four surviving children:

Erik IV of Denmark (1216-1250) King of the Danes (1241-1250).
Sophie (1217-1247), married John I; Margrave of Brandenburg.
 Abel of Denmark (1218-1252), King of the Danes (1250-1252).
Christopher I of Denmark (1219-1259), King of the Danes (1252-1259)

Berengaria, beautiful and haughty versus Dagmar, soft and pious.
 It was an almost impossible task for Berengaria to follow in the footsteps of the popular Dagmar of Bohemia, King Valdemar's first wife. Dagmar was blonde and with Nordic looks - and Berengaria was the opposite, a dark-eyed, raven haired beauty. In 1214, when she got married to Valdemar, she was a young woman of nineteen - and she arrived in a Danish court and a strange country , which must have seemed immensely foreign to a girl from the warm southern Europe and the more refined French court. The Danes did not exactly welcome her with open arms. They made up folk songs about her and blamed her for the high taxes, which seems awkward. She had probably not much to do with Valdemar's decisions about taxation, except that she might have been blamed for the costy wedding and her possible luxurious habits around clothes and jewels. Or else she was noted for having made donations to churches and convents, but it must have been difficult for her to win peoples trust and sympathy. Old folk ballads says that Dagmar on her deathbed had begged Valdemar to marry Kirsten, the daughter of Karl von Rise and not the "beautiful flower" Berengaria. Although this is merely legend and there's no historical prove of this. The tradition about Berengaria and Dagmar was written down in the 1500s which makes it rather doubtful. Valdemar's two queens play a prominent role in Danish ballads and myths - Dagmar as the soft, pious and popular ideal wife and Berengaria (Bengjerd) as the beautiful and haughty woman.

Concrete knowledge about Berengaria
The concrete knowledge about Berengaria's life is minimal and at random. The popes Innocens 3. and Honorius 3. confirmed her morning gift, which is unusual. The size of the morning gift, which the bridegroom gives in order to secure his wife's possible widowhood, is not known. Berengaria was the first Danish queen known to have worn a crown, which is mentioned in the inventory of her possessions (1225). Her personal possessions were kept apart from the ransom in 1225 for King Valdemar and his eldest son after their capture at Lyø two years earlier, and among these possessions was her crown. It is the first time a crown of a Danish queen is mentioned in documents. In 1221 Berengaria, after giving birth to three future kings, died in childbirth. Queen Berengaria is buried in St. Bendt's Church in Ringsted, on one side of Valdemar II, with Queen Dagmar buried on the other side of the King.When queen Berengaria's grave was opened in 1885, they found her thick plait of hair, her finely formed skull and finely built body bones, proving the legends about her reported beauty. A portrait drawing was made to show how she might have looked.

Berengaria's Father
Sancho I, nicknamed the Populator, was second monarch of Portugal. Sancho belonged to the Portuguese branch of the House of Burgundy, a cadet branch of the Capetian dynasty. He was born on 11 November 1154 in Coimbra and died on 26 March 1212 in the same city. He was the second but only surviving legitimate son and fourth child of Afonso (Alfonso) I Henriques of Portugal by his wife, Maud of Savoy. Sancho succeeded his father in 1185. He used the title King of the Algarve and/or King of Silves between 1189 and 1191. In 1170 he was knighted by his father, King Afonso I, and from then on he became his second in command, both administratively and militarily. With the death of Afonso I in 1185, Sancho I became the second king of Portugal. Coimbra was the centre of his kingdom; Sancho I dedicated much of his reign to political and administrative organization of the new kingdom. He accumulated a national treasure, supported new industries and the middle class of merchants. Moreover, he created several new towns and villages (like Guarda in 1199) and took great care in populating remote areas in the northern Christian regions of Portugal, notably with  Flemings and Burgundians – hence the nickname "the Populator". The king was also known for his love of knowledge and literature. Sancho I wrote several books of poems and used the royal treasure to send Portuguese students to European universities.

Berengaria's Mother
Dulce of Aragon (or of Barcelona) (1160–1198) was the wife of King Sancho I of Portugal. She was the eldest daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Barcelona and his wife, Queen Petronila of Aragon.Dulce was married to Prince Sancho in 1174, an event that renewed the alliance between Portugal and her native Aragon. The union was arranged by her brother, King Afonso II of Aragon. With her husband's ascent to the throne in 1185, she became Queen consort

Sancho and Dulce's children were:
Teresa, (1178/1181-1250) married to King Alfonso IX of Leon.
Raymond (c.1180-1189)
Sancha ( a. 1182-13 March 1229) Abbess of Lorvao in Penacova.
Constance (c. 1182-3 August 1202)
Afonso II (23 April 1185-25 March 1223) Succeeded Sancho I of Portugal as 3rd King of Portugal.
Peter (23 February 1187-2 June 1258) Count of Urgell and Lord of the Balearic islands, lived in Leon and married Countess Aurembiaix of Urgell.
Ferdinand (24 March 1188- 4 March 1233) Lived in France and married Jeanne of Flanders
Henry (1189-1189)
Branca (c. 1195-1240) Lady of Guadalajara.
Berengária (c.1195- 1221) Married to King Valdemar II of Denmark
Mafalda (c. 1198-1256) married to King Henry I of Castile By Maria Aires  ( -1180?)had Sancho a natural son and daughter: Martim/Henrique Sanches (c. 1200-1229) and Urraca Sanches (c. 1200-1256) - and by Maria Pais Ribereira (Ribeirinha) (c.1170-1258) had Sancho 6 natural children: Rodrigo, Gil, Nuno, Teresa, Constanca and Maior Sanches.

Berengarias sisters and brothers:
Teresa/Theresa was the oldest daughter of Sancho and Dulce.  She was about 14- 16? years old, when Berengaria was born and might have been like a mother to three year old Berengaria, when their mother died in 1198. Theresa was born October 4, 1178 and died June 18 1250. She was also known as Tarasia of Portugal and later as the infanta-rainha (English: Princess-Queen). She was married to Alfonso IX of Leon and the mother of three children: two daughters and a son who died young. Her marriage to Alfonso was declared invalid because they were first cousins, and she returned to her familial home of Lorvao, Portugal, where she founded a Benedictine monastery. She converted the monastery into a large Cistercian convent with over 300 nuns.  Alfonso's second marriage was also annulled, because his second wife Berengaria of Castile was his first cousin  - and later was a dispute among the children as to who would inherit the throne after Alfonso's death in 1230. Teresa stepped in and allowed Ferdinand II of Castile, Berengaria's eldest son, to take the throne of Leon. She returned to Lorvao and finally took her convent wovs after years of living as a nun. She died in the convent on June 18, 1250 of natural causes. On December 13, 1705, Teresa was beatified by Pope Clement II's papal bull Sollicitudo Pastoralis Offici, along with her sister Sancha of Portugal. Her Catholic feast day is June 17.

Infanta Sancha of Portugal , was a Portuguese princess, second daughter of King Sancho and Dulce. She was born on an unknown date, prior to 1182 and died in the Monastery of Celas, on March 13, 1229. Her body was moved to Lorvao Abbey, which she had founded and became the first abbess of. She was also the feudal Lady of Alenquer. On December 13, 1705 Sancha was beatified by Pope Clement XI's papal bull Sollicitudo Pastoralis Offici, along with her sister Theresa of Portugal.

Afonso II and his wife Urraca of Castile (her mother a Plantagenet)
Afonso II  (English Alphonzo), or Affonso , Alfonso or Alphonso or Alphonsus , nicknamed "the Fat" (Portuguese o Gordo), third king of Portugal, was born in Coimbra on 23 April 1185 and died on 25 March 1223 in the same city. He was the second but eldest surviving son of Sancho I of Portugal by his wife Dulce, Infanta of Aragon. Afonso succeeded his father in 1212.Since military issues were not a government priority, Afonso established the state's administration and centralized power on himself. He designed the first set of Portuguese written laws. These were mainly concerned with private property, civil justice, and minting. Afonso also sent ambassadors to European kingdoms outside the Iberian Peninsula  and began amicable commercial relations with most of them. The Church:  Afonso II endeavoured to weaken the power of the clergy and to apply a portion of the enormous revenues of the Roman Catholic Church to purposes of national utility. These actions led to a serious diplomatic conflict between the pope and Portugal. After being excommunicated for his audacities by Pope Honorius III, Afonso II promised to make amends to the church, but he died in 1223 before making any serious attempts to do so.
Afonso was married to Urraca of Castile (1186, 28 May 1187 - 3 November 1220) who was a daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleonora of England. Her maternal grandparents were Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was originally considered as a prospective bride for Louis VIII of France, but Eleanor of Aquitaine objected to her name (Urraca means magpie in Spanish) preferring the Spanish name of Urraca's sister Blanche, (Blanca) In 1206 Urraca married Afonso II of Portugal. They were the parents of five children. (Sancho II, Afonso III, Eleanor, Ferdinand and Vicente. The daughter Eleanor was married to Valdemar III the Young of Denmark.)  

Two years younger than Afonso, Peter I (Portuguese: Pedro) was born in Coimbra, February 23, 1187 and died on the Balearic Islands, June 2, 1258.  He was the second son of King Sancho and Dulce, and would eventually become Count of Urgell and Lord of the Balearic Islands.  After the death of his father, Peter took the side of his sisters Mafalda, Sancha and Theresa, in their quarrel with his elder brother, now King Afonso II, over inheritance of the castles of Seia, Alenquer and Montemor-o-Novo, Peter got the protection of his sister Theresa, then Queen of Leon, from whose territory he launched several inconclusive attacks on the Portuguese border province of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, but eventually had to concede defeat and perpetual exile from Portugal. Peter then left León to become a mercenary in the service of Yusuf II, the Almohad Caliph of Morocco. Subsequently, Peter moved to Aragon, his mother's homeland, where he became involved in the schemes and campaigns of his relative , the young and ambitious King James I .
In 1229 Peter married Countess Aurembiaix of Urgell, who had long been exiled from Urgell by the ururper Guerau IV de Cabrera, and who had been James I's mistress. With Peter as her husband and co-ruler, James helped Aurembiaix regain Urgell under the Aragonese overlordship - after she and Peter agreed to hand over to the King the city of Lleida. In 1230, Peter helped the Bishop of Tarragone to conquer the Balearic island of Ibiza from the Moors. Following Aurembiaix's death in 1231, Peter continued as Count of Urgell in a titular capacity, but this position was disputed by his overlord James I. In 1236 they came to an agreement by which Peter gave up Urgell. In exchange, Peter got the newly-conquered Balearic islands of Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera as well as some important castles.Peter ruled these Balearic possessions until his death, in 1258. As he left no legitimate issue, they then reverted to the Aragonese Crown, later becoming the core of Kingdom of Majorca ruled by a minor branch of the Aragonese Royal Family. Peter left two illegitimate sons, Rodrigo and Fernando.

Ferdinand of Portugal, Count of Flanders, the brother with whom Berengaria went to the French court. He was born in Coimbra, March 24, 1188  and died in Noyon, July 27, 1233; (Portuguese: Fernando, Old French Ferrand), fourth son of Sancho and Dulce. He was Count of Flanders by marriage to Countess Joan/Jeanne of Flanders, eldest daughter of Baldwin/Balduin IX of Flanders. Ferdinand married Joan on January 1212 in Paris.While on their way to Flanders the newlyweds were captured by Joan's first cousin Louis (the future Louis VIII of France), eldest son of Philip Augustus and Joan's aunt, Isabella of Flanders. Louis' aim was to acquire his dead mother's dowry, a large piece of Flemish territory including Artois, which Joan's father had taken back by force after Isabella's death. Released after this concession, Joan and Ferdinand soon joined the old allies of her father, king John of England, and Emperor Otto IV, in an alliance against France. They were decisively defeated at Bouvines in July 1214, where Ferdinand was taken prisoner. Ferdinand was to remain in French hands for the next 12 years, while Joan ruled alone. He was set free in January 1227 by Blanca of Castile after Louis VIII's death. Ferdinand died in Noyon on July 27, 1233. From his marriage to countess Joan was a daughter, born in 1231, but she died in 1235.

Infanta Branca of Portugal (c. 1192- died in Guadalajara, November 17, 1240), English: Blanche; was a Portuguese princess, eighth child of King Sancho and Dulce. She was the feudal Lady of Guadalajara. Branca was co-founder of, and a nun at the Dominican convent at Coimbra. She is buried in Santa Cruz de Coimbra. 

Infanta Mafalda of Portugal (c. 1197 –died in Rio tinto, Amarante, May 1, 1256); was a Portuguese princess, later Queen consort of Castile for a brief period. She was the second youngest daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal and Dulce.In 1215, Mafalda married Henry I of Castile. As he was very young, the marriage was not consummated, and it was dissolved in 1216. After that she became a nun in Arouca and died in Rio tinto (Amarante)  on May 1, 1256. On June 27, 1793 she was Beatified. 

Sources: Wikipedia (English, German, Danish,) Dansk Kvindebiografisk Lexicon)

grethe bachmann  ©copyright

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ælfgifu/Aelfgifu of Northampton (c. 990 - after 1040) , consort of King Cnut of England and Denmark.,


Ælfgifu of Northampton (c. 990 – after 1040) was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who became the first consort of King Cnut of England and Denmark, and mother of King Harold I of England (1035–1040). She served as regent of Norway from 1030 to 1035. She is not to be confused with her rival Emma of Normandy, whose name could be rendered as Ælfgifu in Old English, nor with King Ætehlred's first wife, Ælfgifu of York.

Ælfgifu was born into an important noble family based in the Midlands ( Mercia). She was a daughter of Ælfhelm, ealdorman of southern Northumbria, who was killed in 1006. John of Worcester names his wife Wulfrun, but it is possible that he had her confused with the Wulfrun, who was Ælfhelm's mother and possibly patron of the community at Wolverhampton. Another noteworthy figure who belonged to this family was Ælfhelm's brother (hence Ælfgifu's uncle)Wulfric Spot, a wealthy nobleman and patron of Burton Abbey. her cognomen of Northampton attached to her in Manuscript D of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in order to distinguish her from Emma of Normandy, and consequently adopted by later historians such as John of Worcester. It would seem to indicate that she was a prominent landholder in the area.

Ælfgifu's date of birth is unknown. Any conjectures are largely based on the date of her father's death (1006), the approximate date of her betrothal to Cnut (1004 x 1016, see below) and the time by which she had borne him sons, whose ages are themselves difficult to establish. To remain on the safe side, it can be assumed that she was born sometime between the (mid-)980's and (mid-)990's.

In 1013 Swein Forkbeard (Sven Tveskæg),King of Denmark, invaded northern England. The northern peoples, many of them of Scandinavian descent, immediately submitted to him. He then married his young son Cnut to Ælfgifu to seal their loyalty. Swein went on to conquer the whole of England and was accepted as King, but he died in February 1014 after a reign of only five weeks. Æthelred then sent an army which forced Cnut to flee back to Denmark, leaving his wife and their baby son,Svein (Svend Alfifasen) the future King of Norway, behind with her family. They were anxious to make their peace with Æthelred, but unwilling to hand Ælfgifu and her son over to Æthelred to be murdered, so they sent the mother and child with King Swein's body to Denmark. There she became pregnant again and in 1015 or 1016 she gave birth to Harold Harefoot (Harald Harefod).

Her two sons were to figure prominently in the empire which their father built in northern Europe, though not without opposition. After his conquest of England in 1016, Cnut married emma of Normandy, the widow of King Æthelred It was then regarded as acceptable to put aside one wife and take another, a which might be described as "serial monogamy".Emma's sons, Edward and Ælfred by Æthelred and Harthacnut (Hardicanute) by Cnut, were also claimants to the throne of her husband. Exactly how the second marriage affected Ælfgifu's status as Cnut's first consort is unknown, but there is no evidence to suggest that she was repudiated.

Cnut sent Ælfgifu with their eldest son Svein to rule Norway, in 1030. Their rule was, however, so harsh that the Norwegians rebelled against them. They were driven out, in 1034 or 1035, while Svein died of wounds in Denmark shortly after, probably in 1036. In Norway, where she was known as Álfífa in Old Norse, this period entered history as 'Álfífa's time' (Álfífuǫld), remembered for her severe rule and heavy taxation. In the Norwegian Ágrip, for instance, the following verse is attributed to her contemporary, the skald Sigvatr (Sigvard:
Ælfgyfu’s time
long will the young man remember,
when they at home ate ox’s food,
and like the goats, ate rind.
Cnut died at Shaftesbury in 1035. Symeon of durham and Adam of Bremen suggest that Cnut had reserved the English throne for Harold, while the Encomium Emmae Reginae claims that he done so for Harthacnut. In any event, on Cnut's death, Ælfgifu was determined that her second son Harold should be the next English king. She had returned to England (at least) by 1036, while Emma's son Harthacnut was away in Denmark, at war with the Norwegian king Magnus I, and the Swedes under their king Anund Jacob. Emma's other sons, Ælfred and Edward, stayed in Normandy. With help from her supporters, Ælfgifu was able to secure the throne for her son. In the view of Frank Stenton, she was probably the real ruler of England for part, if not the whole, of his reign. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (versions C, D and E) describes how Harold and his men forcefully laid claim on the treasury house in Winchester, where Cnut was buried and Emma had taken up residence: That Ælfgifu was such a key figure in these political machinations is spelled out in messages which reached the German court. Immo, a chaplain and cathedral canon at the court of Worms, reported to the bishop of Worms that Anglo-Saxon messengers (legati Anglorum) had come to Worms and there informed Gunhild, daughter of Cnut and Emma, about the latest developments.
It is unfortunate that most of the sources are extremely biased in favour of Emma and her sons. While in the previous letter, which can hardly be called neutral, Ælfgifu is accused of using deception, lavish feasts and bribery in order to wheedle support, Emma's encomiast attributes to her even more seriously dishonest methods. Apart from claiming that Harold was only accepted as a temporary regent, he makes Ælfgifu an accomplice in the murder of Ælfred Ætheling by suggesting that she was responsible for sending a forged letter to Normandy inviting Ælfred to England.

Another way in which the legitimacy of Harold's succession was disputed in the wake of the succession crisis was by focusing on his and his brother's parentage:
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Harold's claim that he was the son of Cnut and Ælfgifu is either distrusted or simply denied.
Encomium Emmae Reginae: heard that Harold was secretly a servant's son
John of Worcester: heard tales in which the fathers of Svein and Harold were respectively a priest and a shoemaker. 
Adam of Bremen  states that Svein and Harold were sons to Cnut and a concubina (but that Cnut nevertheless reserved England for Harold, Denmark for Harthacnut).

Ælfgifu fell into obscurity after Harold's death in 1040, and the crowning of Harthacnut, the legitimate heir to Cnut and also the King of Denmark. It is unknown when she died. 

Source: Wikipedia
grethe bachmann   ©copyright
Primary sources:

 Secondary literature

  • 'Ælfgifu 1', 'Ælfhelm 17', 'Wulfrun', 'Wulfric 52', Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England.
  • Campbell, M.W. "Queen Emma and Ælfgifu of Northampton. Canute the Great's women." Medieval Scandinavia 4 (1971): 60–79.
  • Rognoni, L., "Presenza e azione di Ælfgifu di Northampton, regina madre e reggente nell'Impero del Nord di Canuto il Grande (1013–1040)" (in Italian) [1]
  • Stenton, Frank. Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford, 1971. 397–8.
  • Stevenson, W.H. "An alleged son of King Harold Harefoot." English Historical Review 28 (1913): 112–7.