Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Adeliza [Adeliza of Louvain]locked

(c. 1103–1151)
  • Lois L. Huneycutt

Adeliza [Adeliza of Louvain] (c. 1103–1151), queen of England, second consort of Henry I, was a daughter of Godfrey, count of Lower Lorraine and duke of Brabant (d. 1139), and his first wife, Ide, daughter of Henri (III), count of Namur. Adeliza's birth date is unknown, but the often cited approximate date of 1103 cannot be far wrong, since chroniclers refer to her as puella (a girl) at the time of her marriage to Henry I (1068/9–1135) in 1121, and she bore seven children after 1135. Charlemagne was an ancestor of both her parents, a fact that was celebrated by Adeliza's descendants but unknown or irrelevant to contemporaries.

Nothing is known of Adeliza's education, but her later patronage of French poetry suggests early exposure to literature. King Henry, whose first wife had died in 1118, married her soon after his only legitimate son was drowned in 1120, when he stood in urgent need of a male heir. Eadmer of Canterbury reports that Henry's advisers agreed that she had the necessary beauty, morals, and character to become queen of England. In addition to giving Henry the possibility of fathering more children, the marriage strengthened England's existing diplomatic alliances within the German empire.

The chronicler John of Worcester states that Adeliza was chosen queen before her wedding and formal coronation, which took place in Windsor on 24 and 25 January 1121. Henry's decision to have the ceremonies performed by the diocesan bishop, Roger of Salisbury (d. 1139), led to a dispute with the archbishop of Canterbury, culminating in the articulation of the archbishop's right to serve as the royal chaplain anywhere in England. In marked contrast to her predecessor, Queen Matilda, Adeliza took little part in governing the realm. Although she attested a few of her husband's charters, and accompanied Henry to Normandy in 1125, 1129, and probably 1131, she never served as a regent, and does not appear as part of the king's curia. Personal inclination probably contributed to her absence from the public sphere, as did the diminishing need for day-to-day administrative involvement by members of the royal family as Henry's government developed. Adeliza did receive and administer substantial dower properties, including the county of Shropshire. Several of these properties, such as Queenhithe in London and the custody of Barking and Waltham abbeys, both in Essex, had been held by Henry's first wife and were claimed by subsequent queens consort as belonging to them by right of office. Adeliza maintained her own household, bringing several staff members from Lorraine. Her first two chancellors were promoted to bishoprics during Henry's reign, Godfrey to Bath in 1123, and Simon to Worcester two years later. She retained ties to her natal family, giving wedding gifts of land to both a brother and a cousin.

The chronicler Henry of Huntingdon quotes a Latin poem written to celebrate Adeliza's beauty, but she is perhaps best remembered as a patron of French literature. She sponsored Philip de Thaon's Bestiaire, and the Anglo-Norman version of the Voyage of St Brendan was rededicated to her. Geoffrey Gaimar implies that she commissioned a lost verse biography of Henry I from the poet David. But her most significant contribution to the Anglo-Norman realm into which she had married was a negative one: although there is no reason to doubt the fertility of either husband or wife, Adeliza failed to bear the looked-for son to Henry I.

After Henry's death in 1135, and probably after 1137, Adeliza married William d'Aubigny (Pincerna), Henry's butler (d. 1176). William took the title of earl of Arundel after property belonging to the dowager queen. They had seven children who survived to adulthood. In 1139 Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda (d. 1166) landed in Sussex to claim the English throne. William of Malmesbury reports that Adeliza had sent messengers to Normandy guaranteeing the empress's safety, but after receiving her at Arundel Castle, she surrendered her to King Stephen when threatened with an army. Adeliza did, however, negotiate a safe conduct allowing Matilda to join her half-brother, Robert, earl of Gloucester (d. 1147), in Bristol. Throughout the rest of the civil war Adeliza and her husband remained loyal to King Stephen.

Like most other aristocratic women of the era, Adeliza patronized a number of religious houses. Among the recipients of her charity were Boxgrove Priory, Sussex, the cathedral church at Chichester, Henry's monastic foundation of Reading, her own foundation of the Augustinian priory of Pynham, Sussex, and several leper houses. The date of Adeliza's death is reported in continental sources as 24 March 1151. Her last datable charter was issued in 1150, at which time she had retired to the continental monastery of Affligham in Flanders, which had been founded by her father and uncle. The annals of Margam claim that the queen is buried in Affligham, but a charter issued by Adeliza's half-brother Jocelyn in favour of Reading Abbey states that she was buried there, presumably next to her first husband.

Sources

  • L. Wertheimer, ‘Adeliza of Louvain and Anglo-Norman queenship’, Haskins Society Journal, 7 (1995), 101–15
  • Reg. RAN, vol. 2
  • Eadmeri historia novorum in Anglia, ed. M. Rule, Rolls Series, 81 (1884)
  • William of Malmesbury, The Historia novella, ed. and trans. K. R. Potter (1955)
  • ‘Arundel’, GEC, Peerage
  • A. Strickland and [E. Strickland], Lives of the queens of England, new edn, 1 (1902)
  • E. M. C. van Houts, ‘Latin poetry and the Anglo-Norman court, 1066–1135: the Carmen de Hastingae proelio’, Journal of Medieval History, 15 (1989), 39–62
  • The Anglo-Norman voyage of St Brendan by Benedeit, ed. E. G. R. Waters (1928)
  • Ann. mon., vol. 1

Archives

  • priv. coll., charter

Likenesses

  • seal (after a seal of Queen Matilda I and Queen Matilda II), priv. coll.

Wealth at Death

Honour of Arundel and other properties

H. W. C. Davis & others, eds., , 4 vols. (1913–69)
Camden Society
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
H. R. Luard, ed., , 5 vols., RS, 36 (1864–9)