Galswintha

(d. 567)
   Spanish Visigothic princess, whose marriage with and subsequent murder by the Merovingian king, Chilperic I, may have caused a terrible blood feud between Galswintha's sister Brunhilde and Chilperic's new wife, Fredegund.
   The daughter of King Athanagild (r. 550-568), Galswintha was sought after in marriage by Chilperic after his brother King Sigebert had married Brunhilde. Sigebert had broken recent Merovingian tradition by seeking marriage with a princess rather than a lowborn woman. His marriage to Brunhilde brought a woman of high status and also a sizeable dowry. Although already married to several women, according to Gregory of Tours, Chilperic sought marriage with Galswintha and promised the king that he would dismiss all his other wives if he were granted his request. Athanagild did so and sent Galswintha with a substantial dowry, just as he had with Brunhilde. Chilperic welcomed and honored his new wife greatly after her arrival at court. Gregory notes that Chilperic loved Galswintha dearly because "she had brought a large dowry with her"(222). To honor her new husband, Galswintha converted from the Arian Christianity practiced in her father's kingdom to the Catholic Christianity of the Merovingians.
   Unfortunately the marriage was not to last; Chilperic still loved Fredegund, either a mistress or wife before Galswintha's arrival. He once again began to favor Fredegund, and Galswintha complained bitterly. She claimed that Chilperic showed her no respect and repeatedly asked to be allowed to return home, even if it meant leaving the dowry behind. Chilperic sought to placate her and denied his relationship with Fredegund. In the end, however, Chilperic had one of his servants murder Galswintha so that he could return to Fredegund. He kept the dowry after the murder and faced the rage of Sigebert and the other Merovingian kings.
   The murder of Galswintha had serious repercussions for Chilperic and the Merovingian kingdom; civil war broke out shortly after the murder. It is possible that Sigebert was motivated by his wife's grief and anger to attack Chilperic. The bitter struggles between Brunhilde and Fredegund over the next several decades may also have been rooted in the murder of Galswintha. According to Gregory of Tours, God rendered judgment over Galswintha some time after her death by performing a miracle at her tomb. Whatever the exact consequences of the murder of Galswintha were, her life at the Merovingian court demonstrates the flexible nature of marriage among the Merovingians and the uncertain condition of women, no matter what their social rank.
   See also
   Bibliography
 ♦ Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks. Trans. Lewis Thorpe. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1974.
 ♦ James, Edward. The Franks. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.
 ♦ Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Long-Haired Kings. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1982.
 ♦ Wemple, Suzanne. Women in Frankish Society: Marriage and the Cloister, 500 to 900. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985.
 ♦ Wood, Ian. The Merovingian Kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman, 1994

Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe. 2014.

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