Agnes of Burgundy (Duchess of Aquitaine)

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Agnes of Burgundy

Agnes of Burgundy (also Agnes of Mâcon ; * around 995 in Burgundy ; † November 9 or 10, 1068 in Saintes ) was a French noblewoman. She became Countess of Poitou and Duchess of Aquitaine in 1019 through her first marriage, and Countess of Anjou in 1040 through her second marriage .


Lineage and Early Life

Agnes was the youngest daughter of the Count of Burgundy, Otto Wilhelm and the Ermentrude von Roucy , a daughter of Count Raimund von Roucy, born in the 990s, at the latest around 1000 . She received a very careful upbringing and also insight into the relationships between the families of the French feudal nobility.

First marriage to William V of Aquitaine

In 1019 the ambitious and politically ambitious Agnes entered into a marriage arranged by her father with the much older, namely 50-year-old Duke Wilhelm V the Great of Aquitaine and (as William III) Count of Poitou.

The couple had three children:

  1. Peter Wilhelm (Pierre-Guillaume) (* 1023; † autumn 1058), as William VII the Eagle (Guillaume l'Aigle) Duke of Aquitaine and (as William V) Count of Poitou 1039-1058
  2. Guido Gottfried (Guy-Geoffroy) (* around 1025; † September 25, 1086), as William VIII. Duke of Aquitaine and (as William VI.) Count of Poitou 1058-1086
  3. Agnes of Poitou (around 1025 - December 14, 1077); ⚭ 1043 Heinrich III. (* October 28, 1017; † October 5, 1056, Duke of Bavaria , Duke of Swabia , King of Burgundy , co-king in HRR from 1028, king from 1039, emperor 1046-1056)

Wilhelm V of Aquitaine was a friend of Abbot Odilo of Cluny , and Agnes also continued to work with Odilo after her husband's death and made donations to his monastery. She tried in vain to persuade her husband to make her eldest son his heir instead of his eldest son from his first marriage, Wilhelm (VI.) . Rather, Wilhelm V handed over power to his eldest son from his first marriage while he was still alive and retired to Maillezais Abbey in 1029 , where he died on January 31, 1030.

Second marriage to Gottfried Martell; Fight against the stepsons

As a widow, Agnes was left with three small children, while her 26-year-old stepson, preferred by his father, was named Wilhelm VI. Duke of Aquitaine and when William IV became Count of Poitou. Agnes tried not to completely lose her position of power and also ruthlessly tried to enforce the rule of her sons in the sphere of influence of her different husband, which led to her relatively negative assessment by the chroniclers. To strengthen her position, she married the 26-year-old Gottfried Martell on January 1, 1032 , whose father was the powerful Count Fulko III. from Anjou was. The wedding took place in the absence of Fulkos III. instead, since his resistance to this marriage was to be expected; but in the end Fulko III accepted. his son's decision to marry.

Gottfried Martell sent troops to an incursion into Poitou in 1033 and was supported by some nobles who sympathized with Agnes, such as Guillaume I. de Parthenay . William VI. Aquitaine was captured during the Battle of Mont-Couer on September 20, 1033 and was only released at the end of 1036 for a large ransom; he died on December 15, 1038, probably without offspring. Thereupon Aquitaine and Poitou fell to the son of William V from his second marriage, Odo , who was already Duke of Gascony. In the fight against Agnes and her second husband in defense of his inherited territories, he fell on March 10, 1039 during the siege of the castle of Mauzé .

Reign in Aquitaine and Poitou; Stay in Germany and Italy

Now Agnes' eldest son became Duke of Aquitaine as Wilhelm VII and Count of Poitou as William V, but since he was still quite young to take power, his mother reigned for him from 1039 to 1044, apparently without hers Husband to participate. When the latter took over the rule in Anjou after the death of his father in June 1040 as Gottfried II, Agnes also became Countess of Anjou. In order to preserve the calm in Aquitaine and Poitou, she sought to bind the larger ecclesiastical institutions there to her, for example had the Abbey of Saint-Jean-d'Angély make an important donation and Archambaud, the son of a baron who supported her, became Abbot of Saint-Jean-d'Angély. Choose Maixent. It later enabled Archambaud to be elected Archbishop of Bordeaux . Some of the generous donations to the church were made with the help of their relatives. Together with her husband, Agnes had also founded the Abbey La Trinité in Vendôme in 1034 , the inauguration of which took place on May 31, 1040 with great pomp.

After Agnes left the government of Aquitaine and Poitou to her eldest son Wilhelm in 1044, she nonetheless retained great influence over the administration of these territories. She married Wilhelm to Ermesinde, a woman of unknown origin. For her second son Guido Gottfried she arranged a marriage with Garsende von Périgord , a daughter of Count Audebert II of Périgord , who brought her inheritance rights to the Duchy of Gascogne into the marriage. Furthermore, a German-Poitevin marriage alliance had already come about, in which Agnes' daughter of the same name had celebrated her wedding to the Roman-German King Heinrich III in Ingelheim at the end of November 1043 .

After a short stay in Anjou, Agnes and her husband Gottfried went to Germany, accompanied by a large number of retinues, mainly from Poitou and Anjou, and stayed at the court of Henry III since Christmas 1045. in Goslar . Agnes then accompanied the German king with her husband on his Italian expedition and took part in the Synod of Sutri on December 20, 1046 , at which the deposition of Popes Gregory VI. and New Year III. took place. Soon after, Benedict IX had to. resign, and a confidante of the king was appointed as Clement II as the new head of the church. Agnes stayed for the coronation of her daughter as empress and Heinrich III. to the emperor, which ceremony Clement II performed on the day of his elevation to pope (Christmas 1046). Subsequently, Agnes and Gottfried stayed with the emperor and made a pilgrimage to the Apulian foothills of the Gargano . They accompanied the imperial couple to Mantua and then traveled back to Anjou in 1047.

With her husband, Agnes founded the Notre-Dame des Saintes Abbey, which was consecrated on November 2, 1047 in the presence of the couple, their eldest son and several prelates. Agnes also added a donation already made in 1040 for the Abbey of La Trinité in Vendôme and completed the reconstruction of the basilica Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers , at whose consecration on November 1, 1049, in addition to Agnes, her eldest son and 13 archbishops and bishops participated. Between 1047 and 1049, Agnes founded the Saint-Nicolas Abbey outside the walls of Poitiers. In 1050 she took part in the dedication of the Saint-Jean-d'Angély church.

Separation from Gottfried Martell; later life and death

Agnes had no children with Gottfried Martell and was divorced from him between 1049 and 1052 when the alliance with the German Kaiser came to an end. Perhaps this separation was conducive to the reconciliation between Gottfried Martell and the French King Henry I, which took place in 1052 . She retired to Poitiers and continued to exert considerable influence on the government of her eldest son Wilhelm. In 1053 her now newly married ex-husband invaded Poitou and stayed in this war against Wilhelm Sieger. After that, Agnes lost political power, and Wilhelm ruled more independently without his mother. In 1058 he led a new military dispute against Gottfried Martel, probably attacking him because Gottfried Agnes' Wittum had passed on to his last wife Adelheid. The Count of Anjou was surprised by the attack and this time seemed to lose the war when Wilhelm died during the siege of Saumur Castle on the Ruhr .

Now Agnes' second son Guido Gottfried followed his various older brother under the name Wilhelm VIII. As Duke of Aquitaine and under the name Wilhelm VI. as Count of Poitou after which the political influence of his mother finally disappeared. He maintained good relations with his former stepfather Gottfried Martel, at the end of 1058 rejected his wife Ermesende, whom his mother gave him at the time, and married a woman named Mathilde or Mathéode of unknown origin. Furthermore, in 1059 he deposed Archambaud, who was serving as an advisor to his mother, as Archbishop of Bordeaux. Agnes retired to the Notre-Dame des Saintes convent, but continued to have some contact with her son.

Agnes also remained active in the last decade of her life, often leaving her monastery and traveling around Poitou to take part in gift ceremonies or to visit her son. In Saintes she kept a small court. She used her daughter, the former empress, as an advocate for the Pope in order to receive various benefits from him for the founding of churches. So in 1062 her daughter turned to Alexander II with the request that he put the Saint-Nicolas abbey in Poitiers under the protection of the Holy See. Agnes died in Saintes on November 9 or 10, 1068 and was buried in Saint-Nicolas in Poitiers, as she wished.


  • Salvini: Agnès 17 . In: Dictionnaire de Biographie française . Vol. 1 (1932) Col. 741-745.
  • Agnes of Aquitaine . In: Anne Commire (Ed.): Women in World History . Vol. 1 (1999), ISBN 0-7876-4080-8 , pp. 112f.
  • Olivier Guillot: Agnes 5 . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , column 213.


  1. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 744; Olivier Guillot: Agnes 5 . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 1, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1980, ISBN 3-7608-8901-8 , column 213.
  2. ^ Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands Agnes de Mâcon .
  3. ^ Agnes of Aquitaine , Women in World History , Vol. 1, p. 112.
  4. ^ A b Gertrud Thoma: Empress Agnes . In: Karl Schnith (ed.): Women of the Middle Ages in life pictures . Verlag Styria, Graz Vienna Cologne 1997, ISBN 3-222-12467-1 , p. 124.
  5. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 741.
  6. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 741f.
  7. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 742; Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands Guillaume de Poitou and Eudes de Poitou .
  8. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 742; Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands Agnes de Mâcon .
  9. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 742f.
  10. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 743; Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands Geoffroy of Anjou .
  11. ^ Egon Boshof : Heinrich I. In: Joachim Ehlers , Heribert Müller , Bernd Schneidmüller : The French kings of the Middle Ages. CH Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-406-40446-4 , p. 107.
  12. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 743f .; Charles Cawley, Medieval Lands, Guy d'Aquitaine
  13. ^ Salvini, Dictionnaire de Biographie française , Vol. 1, Col. 744.
  14. ^ Gertrud Thoma: Empress Agnes . In: Karl Schnith (Ed.): Women of the Middle Ages in Life Pictures , p. 146.