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The career of the Empress Judith, 819-843
By Elizabeth F Ward
PhD Dissertation, King’s College University of London, 2002
Abstract: This thesis examines the career of Judith (819-843), the second wife of the Carolingian emperor Louis the Pious (814-840). Judith is an important figure in the history of early medieval queenship, not least because she is the first queen for whom there is enough evidence to enable a study of her career.
The introduction challenges Judith’s negative historical reputation and assesses its basis in the contemporary sources. In chapter 1, the emperor’s choice of Judith as his second wife is seen not as a capricious decision but as indicative of Louis’s commitment to a new style of imperial court which required a queen.
The evidence for Judith’s dos, San Salvatore, Brescia is presented in chapter 2. Judith’s impact on the royal household in the 820s is examined in chapter 3, chiefly from contemporary sources for that decade, which reveal her relationship with key magnates. It is argued that the birth of Charles the Bald in 823 was not a novel cause of tension in Carolingian family politics. Chapter 4 describes Judith’s experience during Pippin’s rebellion of 830 and analyses the meanings and background of the charge of adultery against her. Judith’s return to the palace after the failure of the coup and her developing role as a significant political patron at court, are addressed in chapter 5.
Analysis of Agobard’s polemic attacking Judith and her exercise of queenship forms the centre of chapter 6. Chapter 7 addresses Judith’s efforts to form a political alliance at court to ensure the endowment of Charles the Bald with a share of the empire. The politics of queenly widowhood, the shifting relationship of mother and son, before and after the battle of Fontenoy, and in the months before Judith’s death, are analysed in chapter 8. The conclusion assesses the significance of Judith’s career in the development of Frankish queenship.
Top Image: Empress Judith, second wife of Emperor Louis the Pious (from a c. 1510 manuscript)