Countess of Hainault and Flanders. Name variations: Richildis, Richilda; countess of Namur. Born about 1034 in Hainault (Belgium); died on March 15, 1086, in Flanders; daughter of Renier or Rainier V, count of Hainault; married Herman, count of Hainault; married Baldwin VI the Peaceable, count of Flanders (r. 1067–1070), in 1055; married William FitzOsbern, 1st earl of Hereford; children: (second marriage) Arnulf III the Unlucky (1055–1071), count of Flanders; Baldwin II (b. 1056), count of Hainault; Gilbert de Gant.
Richilde was the daughter of Rainier V, the ruler of Hainault, an important medieval province of northwestern Europe. As his only surviving child, Richilde inherited the county on his death. Her first husband, Herman, from the Flemish ruling family, became count of Hainault at the time of their marriage. After Herman's death, Richilde married his relative Baldwin VI, the reigning count of Flanders, around 1055. The counties of Flanders and Hainault were temporarily united under their joint rule, and the couple had three sons.
In 1070, Baldwin VI was killed in battle against his brother, Robert the Frisian, who disputed Baldwin's right to rule Flanders. Though Richilde became regent of Flanders for her eldest son Arnulf III, she ruled for only a few months. In 1071, Robert the Frisian, who claimed that Richilde had no right to rule and that she was exploiting her subjects with heavy taxation, attempted to seize control of Flanders with the support of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV. Richilde successfully appealed to the emperor's enemy, King Philip I of France, for aid in protecting her son's inheritance, and war ensued. In February 1071, Richilde led her own troops to meet Robert the Frisian's army at the battle of Ravenshoven, near Cassel in Prussia. Her army was defeated, she was taken prisoner, and her son Arnulf was killed. Philip I gave up Richilde's cause after this disastrous battle, and Robert was invested as count of Flanders.
Richilde was released from prison some time later and allowed to return to her county of Hainault. She married a third time and continued to rule jointly with her son Baldwin II of Hainault until her death in 1086, about age 52.
Echols, Anne, and Marty Williams. The Annotated Index of Medieval Women. NY: Marcus Wiener, 1992.
Nicholas, David. Medieval Flanders. London: Longman, 1992.
Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California