Ermengarde of Anjou (d. 1147)

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Ermengarde of Anjou (d. 1147)

Duchess of Brittany. Name variations: Ermengarde of Brittany; Ermengarde de Gatinais. Died in 1147 (some sources cite 1146) in Brittany; daughter of Fulk IV, count of Anjou, and Audearde de Beaugency ; married William IX, duke of Aquitaine, in 1088 (divorced 1091); married Alan IV, duke of Brittany, in 1091 or 1092 (died 1119); children: (second marriage) Conan III, duke of Brittany (d. 1148). Became a nun.

Ermengarde was born into the ruling house of Anjou. Around 1088, she married Duke William IX of Poitiers, a renowned warrior and troubadour and duke of Aquitaine. Their marriage lasted only three years; Ermengarde's rather quiet, conventional character contrasted too sharply with William's irreverent behavior (he was even excommunicated), and both agreed they should separate. Ermengarde married again in 1091 or 1092, becoming the wife of Count Alan IV of Brittany. They seem to have had a happy marriage, although Alan was absent much of the time, on crusade as well as for other military exploits. During his long absences (1096–1101, 1112–1119), he appointed Ermengarde to act as his regent. She was a successful ruler and gained the approval of many Bretons for her even-tempered sense of justice and her attempts to improve their living conditions.

Alan died in 1119, and their son succeeded as duke of Brittany. Ermengarde continued her work as regent for him, as he was not yet of an age to rule. She also began a campaign to regain her title as duchess of Aquitaine, which she had long since given up after her separation from Duke William. Determined, she even petitioned the pope on the matter, but her claims were too weak and the pope refused to comply. Ermengarde then turned her energies to more attainable goals closer to home; one of her most successful projects was the rewriting of the law code of Brittany. Under her direction, laws were made more fair and less burdensome on poor Bretons.

Around 1131, with her son old enough to reign alone, Ermengarde left Brittany for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This journey, and perhaps also her advancing age, altered her perspectives and values; she returned to Brittany several years later with a more devout religiosity, intent on serving God and helping others do the same. She used her wealth to found at least one monastery and donated generously to several local religious houses. Duchess Ermengarde earned widespread respect for these efforts and was well-remembered by the Bretons for many years after her death in 1147.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Ermengarde of Anjou (d. 1147)

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