Agnes of Aquitaine (c. 995–1068)

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Agnes of Aquitaine (c. 995–1068)

French noblewoman who became duchess of Aquitaine. Name variations: Agnes of Anjou; Agnes of Burgundy; Agnes, countess of Burgundy. Born around 995 in Burgundy; died on November 10, 1068, at the convent of Notre Dame des Saintes, France; daughter of Otto William, duke of Burgundy, and Ermentrude de Roucy ; married William V the Grand or the Pious (d. 1030), duke of Aquitaine, in 1019; married Geoffrey Martel, count of Anjou, around 1032 or 1040 (marriage dissolved, 1050); children: (first marriage) William VII, duke of Aquitaine; another son; Agnes of Poitou (1024–1077), Holy Roman empress.

Born into the Burgundian ruling house, Agnes of Aquitaine was extremely well-educated as a girl, not only in the accomplishments considered suitable for a noblewoman but also in the web of loyalties and enmities between the ruling feudal families of France. She showed an ambitious, politically motivated nature and was pleased when her father arranged a marriage for her to the powerful lord Duke William V the Grand of Aquitaine in 1019. She and William had two sons and a daughter. Upon William's death in 1030, Agnes was left to struggle to gain control of the duchy for her children, because William's eldest son (William VI) from his previous marriage had inherited the title of duke. Agnes' eldest son, also William, inherited the duchy upon William VI's death in 1038, but Agnes retained her title as duchess and became regent of Aquitaine in his name. Even after he came of age to rule, Agnes played a principal role in the administration of the large duchy.

Two years later, Agnes married Geoffrey Martel, count of Anjou. The two continued their maneuvers for increased political power for ten years, the highlight of which was the alliance of the House of Anjou with the Holy Roman Empire in 1043, when Agnes' daughter Agnes of Poitou married Emperor Henry III. However, Agnes of Aquitaine and Geoffrey had no children together, and the marriage was dissolved in 1050. When Geoffrey remarried and attempted to bestow Agnes' dower lands on his new wife, Agnes refused to give up the territory that was rightly hers. A small civil war ensued, during which Agnes' son William VII died in battle.

After William's death, Agnes more or less withdrew from politics. Within a few years, she had turned from the temporal realm of land and power to more spiritual endeavors, using her personal wealth to found the abbey of Notre Dame des Saintes and the Abbey of the Trinity. She retired to Notre Dame des Saintes a few years before her death in 1068.

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Agnes of Aquitaine (c. 995–1068)

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