Adela of Blois (1062–c. 1137)

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Adela of Blois (1062–c. 1137)

Countess of Blois and Chartres, known by historians as "the heroine of the First Crusade." Name variations: Adele; Adela of Normandy; Adela of England. Born in 1062 in Normandy, France; died on March 8 around 1137 or 1138 at the convent of Marcigny, France; fourth daughter of Matilda of Flanders (1031–1083) and William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy (r. 1035–1087), king of England (r. 1066–1087); sister of Henry I, king of England; married Stephen Henry also known as Etienne (d. 1102), count of Blois, Tours, Chartres, and Champagne; children: seven, though some authorities claim nine, including William de Blois;Stephen, king of England (r. 1135–1154); Thibaut also known as Theobald II, count of Champagne (whose daughter was Adele of Champagne , 1145–1206); Henry (bishop of Winchester); Philip (held the See of Chalone); Matilda de Blois (drowned in 1120); Lucy de Blois (drowned in 1120).

Born and raised in her father's provinces of Normandy, in northwestern France, Adela of Blois was deeply religious, extremely well-educated, and could read and write in several languages, including Latin. She married Stephen Henry of Blois, one of her father's supporters, and became a trusted companion to her husband. At Adela's encouragement, Stephen left their provinces to participate in the First Crusade. He named Adela as regent of their lands.

Setting aside her needlework on the famous Bayeux tapestry, which her mother Matilda of Flanders had left for her to complete, the countess ruled ably from 1096 to 1109. Called by historians "the heroine of the First Crusade," Adela also became known as a generous patron of poets and writers, inviting them to her court and rewarding them amply for their works. When Stephen died in the battle of Ramula while on crusade in 1102, Adela continued to rule. She was of such importance that Pope Paschal II spent the Easter of 1107 as her guest, and many of the letters written to her by Hildebert, bishop of Le Mans, on ecclesiastical matters are still extant.

On the death of Adela's brother King Henry I in 1135, her son Stephen claimed the throne of England and was crowned, but, with his mother's financial and political support, he had to fight a civil war against Henry's daughter Empress Matilda , (1102–1167), Adela's own niece and another claimant of the throne. Adela retired to the convent of Marcigny in the diocese of Autun sometime in the 1130s, and she died there at age 75. She is buried, along with her mother and her sister Cecilia (c. 1059–1126), in the Abbey of the Holy Trinity at Caen, France.

Laura York , Anza, California

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Adela of Blois (1062–c. 1137)

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