Sichelgaita of Salerno (1040–1090)

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Sichelgaita of Salerno (1040–1090)

Duchess of Apulia. Born in 1040 in Salerno; died in 1090 in Normandy; daughter of the duke of Salerno; sister of Gisulf II, Lombard prince of Salerno; second wife of Robert Guiscard (d. 1085), a Frankish noble, duke of Apulia and Calabria, count of Sicily (r. 1057–1085); children: Roger Gorsa or Borsa, duke of Apulia and Calabria (r. 1085–1111); Helena (betrothed to Constantine, son of the emperor Michael VII); Matilda (who married Raymond Berengar II, count of Barcelona); Mabel (who married William of Grandmesnil); Emma (who married Odo, the marquis); and others.

Sichelgaita of Salerno was a princess of Lombardy and the hereditary duchess of Apulia in southern Italy. She was the second wife of the Frankish noble Robert Guiscard (his first wife was Aubrey of Buonalbergo ) and became his most valuable ally in the constant wars in which he engaged. She is described in chronicles, most notably those of Byzantium's Anna Comnena , as Amazonian, a tall woman, strong and muscular. Anna's chronicle tells of the Battle of Durazzo, in which Robert led an army of Normans against the Byzantines. Sichelgaita rode beside her warrior husband, dressed from head to toe in armor, urging on their troops. According to Anna, Sichelgaita even ordered some retreating Normans to return to the fight, chasing after them with a spear until she managed to herd them back into the battle. As they aged, Robert and Sichelgaita returned to Normandy and became actively involved in the politics of the Frankish kingdom.


LaBarge, Margaret. A Small Sound of the Trumpet: Women in Medieval Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California