Hildegard, wife of Charlemagne

Hildegard of the Vinzgau
Hildegard 1499.jpg
Hildegard from Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum
Died(783-04-30)30 April 783 (aged 29)
SpouseCharlemagne (m. 771)
FatherGerold of Kraichgau
MotherEmma of Alemannia

Hildegard (c. 754[1] – 30 April 783 at Thionville,[2] Moselle), was the second[3] wife of Charlemagne and mother of Louis the Pious. Little is known about her life, because, like all women of Charlemagne, she became important only from a political background, recording her parentage, wedding, death, and her role as a mother.[4]


She was the daughter of the Germanic Count Gerold of Kraichgau (founder of the Udalriching family) and his wife Emma, in turn daughter of Duke Nebe (Hnabi) of Alemannia and Hereswintha vom Bodensee (of Lake Constance).[5] Hildegard's father had extensive possessions in the dominion of Charlemagne's younger brother Carloman, so this union was of significant importance for Charlemagne, because he could strengthen its position in the east of the Rhine and also could bind the Alemannian nobility to his side.[6]


It is unknown if Charlemagne planned his marriage before the sudden death of Carloman or was just a part of the purposeful incorporation of his younger brother's Kingdom, in detriment of the claims of his nephews.[7] In any event, the wedding between Charlemagne and Hildegard took place at Aix-la-Chapelle certainly before 30 April 771, after the repudiation of the Lombardian princess Desiderata, Charlemagne's previous wife.

No exact date of birth of Hildegard was recorded, but a birthdate of 754 has been suggested. She could hardly have been younger than 16 or 17, because she gave birth to her first child in the year following her wedding. Girls could be married at any time after puberty, and in Roman law, which the Church upheld, the age of 12 was well established as being adequate.[8] An intense physical relationship between the spouses was demonstrated by the fact that, during her 12 years of marriage, Hildegard had 8 pregnancies (including one set of twins). Quite remarkably, the chronicles never mention either miscarriages or stillbirths, indicating that she was of sturdy health and that she was probably not too young at the time of the wedding.

Hildegard accompanied Charlemagne on many of his military campaigns. She gave birth to her second child and first daughter, Adelaide, during the siege of Pavia, capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards (September 773/June 774), but the child died during the return journey to France. In 778, Hildegard accompanied her husband as far as Aquitaine, where she gave birth to twin boys Louis and Lothair.[9] In 780/781, she traveled with Charlemagne and four of their children to Rome, where the sons Louis and Carloman (the latter renamed Pepin after his baptism by Pope Adrian I) were appointed sub-kings of Aquitaine and Italy respectively. This contributed to the strengthening of the alliance between the Carolingians and the Papacy.[10] Because of her frequent pregnancies, it can be presumed that Hildegard accompanied her husband on further campaigns, at least temporarily.

Hildegard died on 30 April 783, according to Paul the Deacon, from the after effects of her last childbirth.[11] She was buried the following day (1 May 783) in the Abbey of Saint-Arnould in Metz. Following the wishes of Charlemagne, near her grave were burning candles and daily prayers were said for her soul.[12]

Interaction with the Church and Donations[]

Hildegard made several donations to the monasteries of St. Denis and St. Martin of Tours.[13] She was a friend of Saint Leoba, who reportedly lived some time with her at court. She intervened in Hildegard's religious education and also offered her spiritual advice.[14] Together with her husband she commissioned the Godescalc Evangelistary,[15] where for the first time she was explicitly mentioned as Queen -also of the Lombards- through the joint signature of documents with her husband.[16]

Hildegard enjoyed in her own lifetime from a high reputation, as was demonstrated in her obituary written by Paul the Deacon.[17] However, these compliments are to be regarded with some skepticism. In her Epitaph were included phrases that may have been introduced to flatter Charlemagne: for example, the reference to the fact that Hildegard was the epitome of beauty, wisdom and virtue. This were common words used by medieval writers to their rulers.[18] Pope Adrian I, in a letter to Charlemagne, expressed his condolences over the untimely death of Hildegard.

Hildegard used her position as Queen consort to obtain for her siblings several territorial and monetary benefits; as far was known, she was the only of Charlemagne's wives or concubines who managed to obtain for a relative an office after her marriage.[14] In addition, was also assumed that she, like other medieval queens, held several roles, such as ruling the court or being the representative (or regent) of the sovereign during his absence. This could mean that she was in close contact with all the government decision of her husband.[19]

Together with her husband, she was the main benefactress of the Monastery of Kempten (founded in 752), who received financial and political support. From Italy they brought after the conquest of the Kingdom of the Lombards in 773/774 the relics of the Roman martyrs Saints Gordianus and Epimachus to Kempten, whom, along with the Virgin Mary, are the patrons of the monastery.

Hildegard was extensively mentioned in Kempten as one of the founders; her bust graced the pin crest and some coins of the later Imperial Abbey. In the late Middle Ages it was alleged that Hildegard was buried in Kempten, as well as her son Louis the Pious; there was built the called Hildegard Chapel (Hildegardkapelle), who quickly became in a place of pilgrimage and were several miracles are reported. This explains that the Queen was revered as a saint in the Allgäu and always presented with an aureola. In the 17th century the building of another Hildegard Chapel at the Fürstäbtliche of Kempten was projected, but this was abandoned after the secularization.

Even in modern times, the memory of Hildegard and her importance in the urban development at Kempten is still very noticeable: The central square in front of St. Lorenz Basilica was named the Hildegard Square (Hildegardplatz) in her honor. In 1862 a Neo-Gothic Hildegard fountain (Hildegardsbrunnen) was erected in the square, which was closed in the 1950s. At the facade of the local Landhaus, appeared her idealized portrait painted by Franz Weiß. Also, in 1874 was founded the originally exclusive for girl Hildegardis-Gymnasium Kempten Lyceum. At the Lindau Road, close to the school, was also located another Hildegard Fountain. On the facades of some houses were shown the image of the Queen, and on the edge of the Kempten forest there was the Hildegard Oak (Hildegardseiche) for several years until was replaced by a new plantation. Until the 1950s, many girls born in Kempten were named after Hildegard.


Although Charlemagne already had an older son (Pepin the Hunchback) from his first union with Himiltrude, he was not considered an heir after the rebellion in which he participated in 792. In his will of 806 (the called Divisio Regnorum), he divided his domains between the three surviving sons of Hildegard. Because her son Louis the Pious succeeded Charlemagne as Emperor, Hildegard is often called "mother of Kings and Emperors".



Epitaphium Hildegardis reginae[]

Latin English
[1] Aurea quae fulvis rutilant elementa figuris,

Quam clara extiterint membra sepulta docent.
Hic regina iacet regi praecelsa potenti
Hildegard Karolo quae bene nupta fuit.
[5] Quae tantum clarae transcendit stirpis alumnos,
Quantum, quo genita est, Indica gemma solum.
Huic tam clara fuit florentis gratia formae,
Qua nec in occiduo pulchrior ulla foret.
Cuius haut tenerum possint aequare decorem
[10] Sardonix Pario, lilia mixta rosis.
Attamen hanc speciem superabant lumina cordis,
Simplicitasque animae interiorque decor.
Tu mitis, sapiens, solers, iocunda fuisti,
Dapsilis et cunctis condecorata bonis.
[15] Sed quid plura feram cum non sit grandior ulla
Laus tibi, quain tanto complacuisse viro?
Cumque vir armipotens sceptris iunxisset avitis
Cigniferumque Padum Romuleumque Tybrim,
Tu sola inventa es, fueris quae digna tenere
[20] Multiplicis regni aurea sceptra manu.
Alter ab undecimo iam te susceperat annus,
Cum vos mellifluus consotiavit amor
Alter ab undecimo rursum te sustulit annus,
Heu genitrix regum, heu decus atque dolor!
[25] Te Francus, Suevus, Germanus et ipse Britannus.
Cumque Getis duris plangit Hibera cohors.
Accola te Ligeris, te deflet et Itala tellus,
Ipsaque morte tua anxia Roma gemit.
Movisti ad fletus et fortia corda virorum,
[30] Et lacrimae clipeos inter et arma cadunt.
Heu, quantis sapiens et firmum robore semper
Ussisti flammis pectus herile viri.
Solatur cunctos spes haec sed certa dolentes,
Pro dignis factis quod sacra regna tenes.
[35] Iesum nunc precibus, Arnulfe, exores eorum
Participem fieri hanc, pater alme, tuis

The golden yellow glow elements shapes,
How bright been buried by members teach.
Here lies the king, here lies the Queen the exalted power
Hildegard was married to Charles the first, which turned out well.
[5] The only bright stock exceeds the pupils
As it was born, Hindi gem alone.
To this was prosperity for his own grace of God, in as clear a form,
By which neither the more beautiful up in the lower: there would be.
He whose misfortunes they can be as tall as the beauty of a tender
[10] Sardonix Paros, lilies mixed roses.
However, the advantage of this kind of lights;
Simplicity of more internal décor.
You are gentle, wise and skills, pleasant for you;
A liberal and all adorned goods.
[15] However, what is more wild and can not be any bigger
Praise to you, how much complacuisse man?
When a powerful thrust through a junction grandfatherly
Cigniferumque establishment Romuleumque Tyber,
You only discovered are the things that you hold
[20] Multiple Kingdom gold scepter in his hand.
I have taken the eleventh year;
When you love mellifluus consotiavit
I picked up again after eleven year;
Alas, the Mother of God of the kings of, alas, the beauty and pain of it!
[25] We French Suevus, the Germans and the British.
And when they had scrubbed with the Getae, the hard and bitter complaint about the gang.
Would live as aliens you with the Loire, you will, and the weeping in the earth of Italy,
Death is very anxious Rome laments.
Move the hearts of weeping and accessories;
[30] And the tears fall shields and weapons.
Oh, how wise and strength is always stable
Ussisti breast tolerates the flames.
These hopes have all but certain consoles;
For that to deserve the hold.
[35] Jesus is now the request, Arnulf, started their
To become a participant in this, kind father, to thy servants

Note: translated from the German translation recorded in Karl Neff: Critical and explanatory ion of the poems of Paul the Deacon in: Sources and Studies on Latin Philology of the Middle Ages, Ludwig Traube, 3rd volume, 4th book, Munich 1908 (ed.)


  1. ^ It is not recorded an exact date of her birth, because at that time the Queens consorts are important when they became part of the ruling family and previously they were barely mentioned in the chronicles. See Achim Thomas Hack: Alter, Krankheit, Tod und Herrschaft im frühen Mittelalter, (= Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 56), Stuttgart 2009, p. 42.
  2. ^ Reinhard Barth: Karl der Große, Munich 2000, p. 97.
  3. ^ As described by historians such as Pierre Riché (The Carolingians, p.86.), Lewis Thorpe (Two Lives of Charlemagne, p.216) and others. Other historians list Himiltrude, described by Einhard as a concubine, as Charlemagne's first wife, and reorder his subsequent wives; accordingly Hildegard is sometimes numbered as his third wife. See Dieter Hägemann (Karl der Große. Herrscher des Abendlands, Ullstein 2003, p. 82f.), Collins (Charlemagne, p. 40.).
  4. ^ Ingrid Heidrich: Von Plectrud zu Hildegard. Beobachtungen zum Besitzrecht adliger Frauen im Frankenreich des 7. und 8. Jahrhunderts und zur politischen Rolle der Frauen, in: Rheinische Vierteljahresblätter 52 (1988), p. 10.
  5. ^ Reinhard Barth: Karl der Große, Munich 2000, pp. 97-98.
  6. ^ Matthias Becher: Karl der Große, München 1999, p. 108.
  7. ^ Martina Hartmann: Die Königin im frühen Mittelalter, Stuttgart 2009, p. 97.
  8. ^ Achim Thomas Hack: Alter, Krankheit, Tod und Herrschaft im frühen Mittelalter, (= Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 56), Stuttgart 2009, p. 51.
  9. ^ Martina Hartmann: Die Königin im frühen Mittelalter, Stuttgart 2009, p. 100.
  10. ^ Wilfried Hartmann: Karl der Große, Stuttgart 2010, pp. 50-51.
  11. ^ Pauli Gesta Episcop. Mettensium, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 267.
  12. ^ Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), p. 10.
  13. ^ Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), p. 8.
  14. ^ a b Rosamond McKitterick: Karl der Grosse, Darmstadt 2008, p. 91.
  15. ^ Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 9-10.
  16. ^ a b Silvia Konecny: Die Frauen des karolingischen Königshauses. Die politische Bedeutung der Ehe und die Stellung der Frau in der fränkischen Herrscherfamilie vom 7. bis zum 10. Jahrhundert, Vienna 1976, p. 65.
  17. ^ Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 4-5. The "Epitaphium Hildegardis reginae" is printed in MGH poat. lat. aevi Carolini I, pp. 58-59. Cf. Franz Bittner: Studien zum Herrscherlob in der mittelalterlichen Dichtung, Dissertation Würzburg 1962, pp. 43-44.
  18. ^ Klaus Schreiner: "Hildegardis regina". Wirklichkeit und Legende einer karolingischen Herrscherin, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 57 (1975), pp. 4-5.
  19. ^ Matthias Becher: Karl der Große, Munich 1999, p. 111.
  20. ^ Scholz, B. W. with Rogers, B. (2000) Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories (University of Michigan Press) (RFA) 811, p. 94.
  21. ^ a b Pauli Gesta Episcop. Mettensium, Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 265.
  22. ^ RFA 810, p. 91.
  23. ^ Einhardi Vita Karoli Imperator 18, 'Monumenta Germaniæ Historica Scriptorum II, p. 453.
  24. ^ Angilberti (Homeri) Carmina, I, MGH Poetæ Latini ævi Carolini I, pp. 359-60.
  25. ^ RFA 787, p. 64.
  26. ^ Wilfried Hartmann: Karl der Große, p. 50.
  27. ^ RFA 781, p. 59.
Hildegard of the Vinzgau
Udalriching dynasty
Born: 754 Died: 783
Preceded by
Desiderata and Gerberge
Queen of the Franks
c.  771–783
Succeeded by