Judith of Flanders, (c 843 AD to c 870 AD) was the eldest daughter of the Frankish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald and his wife Ermentrude of Orleans. Through her marriages too two different Kings of Wessex (Aethelwulf and Aethelbald) she was Queen twice. Her first two marriages were both childless. Her third marriage to Baldwin, Count of Flanders made her the first Countess of Flanders. One of her sons by Baldwin married Aelfthyth daughter of Aethelbald’s brother Alfred the Great. She was also an ancestor of Matilda of Flanders the Queen consort to William the Conqueror and thus the later monarchs of England. This places her quite highly as things stand in the history of both Wessex and England.
In 855 AD King Aethelwulf of Wessex, made a pilgrimage to Rome and on his way back in 856 AD he stayed at the court of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the Bald. In July of that year he became engaged to Charles’s daughter, Judith. On 1st October 856 AD they wed at Verberie in northern France. The marriage formed a diplomatic alliance between Wessex and the Holy Roman Empire. Both kingdoms had been suffering from numerous Viking raids and an alliance between the two would make them stronger to repel the attacks.
The marriage itself gave Aethelwulf trouble at home, provoking a rebellion led by his eldest surviving son Aethelbald. A compromise was reached between Aethelwulf and Aethelbald in where they split the kingdom between father and son.
Judith had no children with Aethelwulf, who died 13th January 858 AD. He was succeeded by his son Aethelbald who married Judith. Judith would have been only roughly 15 at the time. It is believed that Aethelbald would of married Judith to enhance his own status and claim to the throne. The marriage was condemned by Asser in the Life of Alfred the Great
One King Aethelwulf was dead. Aethelbald his son, against God’s prohibition and Christian dignity and also contrary to the practice of all pagans, took over his father’s marriage bed and married Judith, daughter of Charles, king of the Franks, incurring great disgrace from all who heard of it.
Judith was still childless when Aethelbald died in 860 AD after a reign of only two and half years.
Following Aethelbald’s death Judith sold all her properties in Wessex and returned to France. She was then sent by her father to the Monastery of Senlis. Charles would have presumed due to her childless state that he would be able to rearrange another marriage of political alliance if he could prove she had kept her virtue. However in 861 AD, around Christmas Judith eloped with Baldwin, the later Count of Flanders and it is believed the two were married at this time in the Monastery of Senlis. This time Judith was not depicted as the victim bride but part of the plot, and with the consent of her brother Louis the Stammerer. Maybe third time lucky she got to marry for love!
Judith’s problems did not stop there though. Her father unsurprisingly was unhappy and ordered his Bishops to excommunicate the couple. They couple fled to Judith’s cousin Lothair II of Lotharingia for protection before going to Pope Nicholas I to plead their case. The Pope intervened for the couple and asked Judith’s father to accept the marriage and welcome the young couple to his court. The couple returned to France and were officially married in Auxerre in 863 AD.
Baldwin was given the land south of Scheldt and the County of Flanders. His main task was to ward off and deflect any Viking raids. You would have to wonder with King Charles not liking Baldwin, whether there was an alternative motive behind making sure Baldwin took part in many battles. This plan if it was in Charles thoughts didn’t work though. Baldwin did well and quelled the Viking threat, increased his army and also his land holdings. He became a very faithful supporter of Charles.
Judith and Charles had three children
- Charles (born after 863 AD and died young.
- Baldwin II (c 864 AD – 918 AD) succeeded his father as Count of Flanders and married Aelfthyth daughter of Alfred the Great
- Raoul/Rodulf (c 869 AD – 896 AD) became the Count of Cambrai around 888 AD and was killed by Herbert I of Vermandois in 896 AD
Judith died in about 870 AD just a few years before her father became Holy Roman Emperor.