Galswintha (d. around 568)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Galswintha (d. around 568)

Frankish queen and saint. Name variations: Chilswintha; Gaisuenta; Galsonda; Galeswintha; Queen of the Merovingians. Died around 568 in Rouen, France; daughter of Athangild also known as Athanagild, king of the Visigoths, and Queen Goiswintha of Spain; sister of Brunhilda (c. 533–613); second wife of Chilperic I, king of Soissons (Neustria), king of the Franks (r. 561–584); no children.

A Visigothic princess, Galswintha was the daughter of Queen Goiswintha of Spain and King Athanagild of the Visigoths. She married the polygamous Frankish king Chilperic I, becoming his second wife. Fredegund was jealous of his attraction to Galswintha. Fredegund had been the force behind Chilperic's separation from his first wife but had since been put aside herself in favor of the Visigothic princess; now she aimed to rid Chilperic of the pious Galswintha as well. Fredegund remained a servant at Chilperic's court (the position in which she had begun her career) and regained Chilperic's favor when his attraction to Galswintha diminished.

Galswintha, humiliated daily by Fredegund and Chilperic's relationship, asked to be returned to her own people. But the king was afraid of losing the large dowry Galswintha had brought him and refused to let her go. Some time later, Galswintha was strangled in her bed by a pageboy, and few people doubted Fredegund's guilt. The Frankish people despised the cruel Fredegund, now Chilperic's third wife, and mourned the loss of Galswintha deeply. They began to attribute miracles to the spirit of the murdered queen, and soon she was regarded as a holy woman for her patient suffering of Chilperic's ill treatment. She was eventually canonized.

The death of Galswintha prompted a war which lasted several decades between Fredegund (who reigned after Chilperic's death) and Galswintha's loving sister Brunhilda , who had become queen of Austrasia.

Laura York , Riverside, California