Death of Queen Adela of France, King Louis VII’s third wife

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Queen Adela of France, King Louis VII of France’s third wife, died on the 4th of June 1206 and was buried in the Church of Pontigny Abbey near Auxerre. She was also known as Adelaide, Alix, and Adela of Champagne. She was the third child of Theobald II, Count of Champagne; she was named after her grandmother Adela of Normandy. She briefly appears in our Robin Hood Trilogy.

Queen Adela with King Louis VII and their son, Philippe

Desperate for a son, King Louis VII married young Adela soon after the death of his second wife, Constance of Castile. The wedding happened in 1160 when she was 20 and he was a mature man of 40. The marriage served as a peace treaty between one of the king’s most rebellious and most powerful vassals, Theobald II of Champagne. The French court was in mourning for the monarch’s deceased Spanish wife, but the intelligent Adela respected the existing rules, showed herself as a model queen, and conquered Louis’ heart bit by bit.

Birth of Philippe by Queen Adela

Perhaps because of the infrequency of Louis’ visits into his wife’s chambers, it took Adela 4 years to produce the much-desired male heir. Louis’ only son – the future Philippe Augustus, also called Philippe ‘Dieu-Donne’ or ‘God-given’ – was born in August 1165. In 1171, Adela gave birth to a daughter named Agnes of France, who later became a Byzantine Empress by marrying two Byzantine emperors – Alexios II Komneno and Andronikos I Komnenos. Agnes’ third marriage was to Theodore Branas, a general of Byzantine Empire.

Queen Adela was an intelligent and well-educated woman. She was politically active even during her husband’s reign, together with her brothers – Henry I, Count of Champagne, Theobald V, Count of Blois, and William of the White Hands (he was a French cardinal). The four of them retained their power upon Philippe’s accession in 1180. Adela acted as regent of France from 1190-1191, while her son participated in the Third Crusade.

All images are in the public domain.

Text © 2020 Olivia Longueville

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