Tetberga (fl. 9th c.)

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Tetberga (fl. 9th c.)

Queen of Lorraine. Name variations: Theutberga of Valois. Flourished in the 9th century in Lorraine, also known as Lotharingia; sister of Hubert, abbot of Saint-Maurice; married Lothar also known as Lothair II (c. 826–869), king of Lorraine (r. 855–869), in 855; no children.

The Frankish queen Tetberga was involved in a divorce case which altered the patterns of marriage in the Frankish empire. She had come from a politically important noble family and married King Lothair II of Lorraine. Yet after two years she had not given birth to any children, considered the first duty of any queen. Lothair's mistress Waldrada had given birth to a child, however, which led Lothair to decide to rid himself of Tetberga and marry Waldrada. The king assumed he had enough power to dissolve his own marriage without any trouble, but the dissolution lasted several years and became known across Western Europe, for Tetberga was adamantly opposed to the divorce, as were most Church officials. Lothair had to take more drastic measures than simply casting his wife out.

He first accused his queen of incest with her brother Hubert, abbot of Saint-Maurice. Such a charge was one of the few acceptable reasons for an annulment. But Tetberga defiantly maintained her innocence, and even suffered through an ordeal by fire to prove it. She was imprisoned soon afterwards and possibly threatened with torture, until she claimed she wanted to join a convent. Lothair took her message to the Frankish bishops, but they still refused to end the union. Eventually the poor prisoner was forced to "confess" in public to incest, aborting a fetus, and various other sins.

Still the bishops supported her right to remain married; with their assistance, a desperate Tetberga wrote to Pope Nicholas for help. The pope agreed to aid her, but Lothair bribed the pope's legates and married Waldrada. In response, Nicholas called a synod, annulled Lothair's recent actions, and ordered Lothair to restore his lawful wife. Under immense political pressure, Lothair put Waldrada aside and brought Tetberga out from her prison cell and made her queen again.

Even this did not end Lothair's scheming; the issue had gone beyond this particular marriage and was now a power struggle between king and pope. In 866, Tetberga "requested" a divorce herself on grounds that she wanted to enter a convent; this request was almost certainly forced out of her, for there are no signs that the queen had given up hope of retaining her position, although the awkwardness and bitterness she must have felt are difficult to imagine. Pope Nicholas refused Tetberga's entreaty and declared that she could enter a monastery but Lothair was still bound to her as her husband and could never remarry. Since this would not serve Lothair's purposes, Tetberga remained at court, the question unresolved, until 869, when Lothair died just after receiving the permissions he needed to divorce Tetberga from Nicholas' successor, Pope Hadrian II.

This long, drawn-out legal and ecclesiastical battle had long-term implications for marriage in the Frankish Empire after Lothair's death. While the Church continued to deny divorce to petitioning husbands, marriages were ended through desertion and separation much more frequently than before; the Church was beginning to lose some of its authority over the laws and procedures of marriage.


Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, ed. A History of Women in the West, vol. II: Silences of the Middle Ages. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1992.

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

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