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Garsenda (1170–c. 1257)

Garsenda (1170–c. 1257)

Troubadour and countess of Provence and Forcalquier. Name variations: Garsende; Garsenda de Forcalquier; Gersende de Forcalquier; Garsinde of Sabran. Born in 1170 in southern France; died around 1257 in Provence; daughter of Garsenda and Bernard de Forcalquier (some sources cite father as Raimund of Sabran); grandmother of Eleanor of Provence (c.1222–1291); married Alphonse II, count of Provence (r. 1196–1209), in 1193; children: Raymond Berengar V (1198–1245), 4th count of Provence; Garsenda.

Garsenda was one of the female troubadours (poet-singers) who flourished in southern France in the 12th century. The daughter of Garsenda and Bernard de Forcalquier, she married Count Alphonse II of Provence, brother to the king of Aragon, in 1193. When Garsenda's grandfather took part of her dowry lands away from Alphonse and gave it to Garsenda's sister, Garsenda found herself in the middle of a bloody war between her family and her husband's family.

Despite the war, Garsenda created an important cultural center at her court, where she patronized several male troubadours. Two of them, Gui de Cavaillon and Elias de Barjols, were reputed to have been in love with her, according to their biographers. In 1209, Alphonse died and Garsenda became regent of Provence; she held this title until her son came of age as count of Provence. In 1225, she retired to an abbey, where she remained until her death, around 1257.

Garsenda's poetry was probably written during the years before her husband's death, although this cannot be confirmed. The one extant poem of hers is a tenson, written with a troubadour whose identity is obscure. The subject of the poem is Garsenda's elevated social position and the real danger inherent in their illicit love affair.

sources:

Bogin, Meg. The Women Troubadours. NY: Two Continents, 1976.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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