Judith

(c. 800-843)
   The second wife of Louis the Pious and the mother of Charles the Bald, Judith was an important figure in Carolingian political affairs in the early ninth century. She was her husband's trusted advisor, especially after the death of Benedict of Aniane in 821. The birth of her son Charles and her strenuous efforts on his behalf have traditionally been seen as contributing to the collapse of the Carolingian Empire. At the very least, she was accused a variety of crimes by her husband's enemies and suffered a number of indignities at the hands of her stepsons, especially Lothar. She survived these insults to see her husband and son triumph over their enemies, as well as seeing her son succeed to the throne, along with his half brothers Lothar and Louis the German, after the death of Louis. She also developed a reputation as a patron of letters and learning.
   After the death of his first wife in 818, Louis the Pious was encouraged, despite his reputation, to marry again to save himself from the temptations of the flesh. According to the Royal Frankish Annals, he married Judith "after looking over many daughters of the nobility"(Scholz 1972, 105). She was a member of a powerful and important noble family, whose alliance seemed likely to benefit Louis, and she was also recognized by contemporaries for her beauty and intelligence. She and Louis were married in February 819, and two years later they had their first child, Gisela. She bore Louis a son on June 13, 823, the future king and emperor, Charles the Bald. At the time Louis had three sons from his first marriage and had also already established a plan of succession in which his oldest son, Lothar, was to share the imperial title with him and succeed as sole emperor on his father's death. Louis's two other sons shared in the inheritance as subordinate kings of parts of the Carolingian Empire. The birth of Charles and the need to find a place in the succession for him eventually led to some difficulty.
   From the time of her son's birth until 829, Judith worked to find a share in the succession plan for Charles. At first Louis found help from Lothar, who agreed to protect his young stepbrother. But this situation did not last, and Judith herself found little comfort in the promises of Lothar. According to Nithard, Lothar consistently sought to undermine the agreement with his father. Judith and Louis were not unaware of this and found an able ally in Louis's trusted supporter Bernard of Septimania, an association that later came back to haunt Judith. Bernard proved a capable ally for both Louis and Judith, and he helped stabilize the southeastern frontier of the empire. Louis felt secure enough with the support of Bernard and Judith to alter the plan of succession in 829 to include Charles.
   The change in the succession proved almost fatal for Judith and Louis; Louis faced two major revolts in the 830s that nearly ended his reign. His older sons, led by Lothar, rebelled against Louis in 830 and 833-834. In reaction to the changed settlement of 829, and with the support of the so-called imperial party of bishops, the older sons of Louis revolted against their father, with Lothar eventually taking charge. Numerous allegations were made against Judith, including sorcery and adultery with Bernard of Septimania, who was himself married to Dhuoda, a noblewoman and the author of a famous manual on the duties of a prince addressed to her son. Judith was forced to take the veil, and Louis and Charles were held by Lothar. But Louis quickly recovered, and the rebellion was put down. Judith was recalled from the convent and swore a solemn oath of purgation, thereby establishing her innocence before a great council of the nobles and bishops of the realm. Judith and her husband, however, had not seen the last of their troubles; a second and more serious revolt broke out in 833. Once again, Louis's older sons revolted, in part because of the new division of the empire forged after the first revolt. Judith again was dispatched to a convent, and Louis was forced to resign his office. Again, Louis was able to restore himself to power, and again Judith was called to his side and restored in a great ceremony.
   For most of the remaining decade of her life, Judith witnessed the triumph of her husband and son, bittersweet as those victories may have been for her. She ruled with Louis until his death in 840. In 837 she persuaded Louis to restructure the succession to power in order that Charles might receive an inheritance, and Louis granted his son a kingdom that included much of modern France. She also helped restore good relations between Lothar and his father and stepbrother. In 839, Lothar returned from Italy, was brought back into the good graces of his father, and granted a sizeable portion of the empire as his legacy. Lothar also agreed to aid and support his godson Charles, who promised aid and support in return. Not only did Judith consolidate her position and that of her son, she also, according to some accounts, exacted vengeance on her enemies. Despite these successes, Judith also witnessed the outbreak of civil war after her husband's death. Although she helped her son secure his position in his part of the empire and witnessed the marriage of her son, Judith was sent into retirement at Tours by that same son, who also seized her lands from her. She, no doubt, was consoled by her son's successes, and died on April 19, 843, shortly after her "retirement."
   Best known for her important role in her husband's reign, Judith was also a patron of the arts and education. She sponsored several works by important Carolingian scholars, including a work of history and biblical commentaries. Among those who received her patronage was Rabanus Maurus, who dedicated biblical commentaries on the books of Judith and Esther to her and praised her learning, wit, and desire to imitate holy women. Walafrid Strabo, who was made tutor for Charles the Bald from 829 to 838 by Judith, described Judith as pious, loving, and clever. She may also have been responsible for the establishment and expansion of her husband's court library.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Ferrante, Joan M. "Women's Role in Latin Letters from the Fourth to the Early Twelfth Century." In The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women, ed. June Hall McCash. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996, pp. 73-105.
 ♦ Halphen, Louis. Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Trans. Giselle de Nie. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1977.
 ♦ McKitterick, Rosamond. The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987. London: Longman, 1983.
 ♦ Nelson, Janet. Charles the Bald. London: Longman, 1992.
 ♦ Riché, Pierre. The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe. Trans. Michael Idomir Allen. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.
 ♦ Scholz, Bernhard Walter, trans. Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's History. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972.
 ♦ Ward, Elizabeth. "Caesar's Wife: The Career of the Empress Judith, 819-829." In Charlemagne's Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious, ed. Peter Godman and Roger Collins. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990, pp. 205-227.
 ♦ Wemple, Suzanne. Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981.

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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