Not much is known about Ermentrude of Orléans. She was born on September 27, 823, the daughter of Odo, Count of Orléans and his wife Engeltrude and married Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor, in 842. She had a gift for embroidery and an interest in religious institutions, particularly the Abbey of Chelles, given to her by her husband. When Charles executed her brother, William, in 866, she left him for life in a convent where she died on October 6, 869.
Before leaving her husband, Ermentrude had 10 children including Louis the Stammerer who succeeded his father as King of West Francia, and Judith who left quite a legacy although removed by several generations.
As with many girls during that time, Judith was a child bride. She was twice a Queen of Wessex, by marriage to Æthelwulf and Æthelbald, but remained childless until she married Baldwin I of Flanders. With marriage to Baldwin, she became Countess of Flanders and through her children an ancestor of Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror, and thus of future kings of England.
Judith’s birth and death dates are approximate c. 843 and c. 870, but we do know that she was the oldest surviving child of Charles the Bald and Ermentrude. On October 1, 856, she married the fifty year old Æthelwulf of Wessex. Although it wasn’t customary, Charles insisted that his daughter be crowned Queen. This prompted a rebellion by Æthelwulf’s eldest son Æthelbald and in a compromise the kingdom was divided between father and son. If Æthelbald feared being displaced by a half-brother, his fears were unrealized when Æthelwulf died in 858 without any children with Judith. Being married to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor definitely added prestige, so Æthelbald married his stepmother Judith, but he soon died in 860 and Judith was still childless.
After Æthelbald’s death, Judith returned to her father who sent her to the Monastery at Senlis. Still young, it’s likely that Charles planned to arrange another marriage for Judith, but in 861 she eloped with Baldwin. This infuriated her father and he ordered the bishops to excommunicate the couple. They fled and eventually went to plead their case before Pope Nicholas I.
The Pope took their side and asked Charles to accept the couple and their marriage. He agreed and welcomed them home where they were officially married in 863. Baldwin was given the land which would eventually be the County of Flanders where he was in a position of warding off attacks by Vikings. He proved to be successful and expanded his army and territory. In spite of the rocky beginning to the relationship, Baldwin was a faithful supporter of Charles and the County of Flanders became a powerful principality.
With Baldwin, Judith had three sons. The first, Charles, died young; the third, Raoul went on to become the Count of Cambrai; but the second, Baldwin II went on to succeed his father as Count of Flanders, marry Ælfthryth (also known as Elftrude,) daughter of Alfred the Great, and give rise to kings.
Find out what else happened on September 27 in Women’s History.