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Randy Reges

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1342139.  Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:44 pm Reply with quote

Hello, everyone.

I brought this up for the Q series, but I think it bears repeating, and expanding-upon. In early medieval France, the reigning Merovingian dynasty had some pretty crazy marital habits (from a medieval perspective). They either practiced only serial monogamy on a scale that would not be seen again until Elizabeth Taylor, or they were both serial monogamists and polygamists (I have written a paper arguing in favour of the latter), in addition to the usual practice of having many concubines.
One of the earlier monarchs, Chlothar I, king of Soissons, married Guntheuc (his brother's widow), whose ultimate fate is not known, in c. 524. He then married Radegund (daughter of the king of Thuringia) in 540, and sent her to a nunnery after repudiating her sometime after that (she was later canonized and had an early monastic community named after her in Cambridge, and Jesus College is dedicated to her, among others). Chlothar then married Ingund, and, shortly afterwards, her sister Aregund, with strong evidence that they were both his wives at the same time. This would not be the last time two sisters were married to the same Merovingian king, by the way (in a later example, one of the sisters was a nun). There is also a likely wife named Chunsinna, about whom we know virtually nothing.
Obviously, I can't go into the entire marital history of the Merovingian dynasty here, but Chlothar is only one of at least four kings about whom we have indications of polygamy. I also argue that the association with the Merovingians of such an un-Christian practice eventually led to the pope okay-ing their ouster in favour of the Carolingians.

Alexander Howard
1342151.  Sat Feb 08, 2020 4:26 pm Reply with quote

That's not surprising for the age.

When Henry VIII wanted to marry Anne Boleyn there was long correspondence with Rome to obtain a divorce and apparently the Pope suggested that Henry could have two wives at a time.

(Incidentally, the phrase "serial monogamy" seems to be a recent one - the phrase used to be "serial polygamy" as it means having many wives, but in series not in parallel.)

1342164.  Sat Feb 08, 2020 9:38 pm Reply with quote

I would argue that it is surprising in the context of the first major Catholic kingdom in northern Europe, where societal conversion began (according to all surviving records) with the royal family. I'm no expert on other early medieval cultures, but the fact that polygamy is such a big issue among merovingianists and the absence of any other polygamous culture mentioned in the secondary literature means its probably pretty surprising all on its own.

I've heard it said that the pope offered to legitimize his potential offspring with Anne Boleyn, though I've never seen any mention of a source. This two wives at a time business is news to me. I'd love to see a source, if you have one.

I took the phrase "serial monogamy" from p. 38 of Suzanne Fonay Wemple's book Women in Frankish Society (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981), so it's not that recent.

1342293.  Mon Feb 10, 2020 5:09 pm Reply with quote

For any elves that might be reading, "Radegund" (see first post in this thread) is a pretty great r-name. Dagobert I had a concubine named "Ragnetrude."

1342297.  Mon Feb 10, 2020 5:56 pm Reply with quote

Radegund is indeed a rather good name!

The long form name of Jesus College, Cambridge is "The College of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and the Glorious Virgin Saint Radegund, near Cambridge". You will note that the fellow who gives it its common name doesn't appear anywhere in the long form name, and the common name is taken from the college's chapel. (Which was originally a Benedictine nunnery, but was dissolved by the then Bishop of Ely some time before Henry VIII dissolved all the others, and re-dedicated to the Christ.)

St Radegund is one of three claimants to be Patron Saint of Cambridge and its University. The others are St Etheldreda (aka Audrey), or if you're of the Catholic persuasion St John Fisher.

There is general agreement that the patron saint of Oxford and its University is St Frideswide, and the good folks of these forums once made fun of John Humphrys for pronouncing her name "Freeda Sweeda". Maybe it's good Old English, but we were assured that the people of Oxford have pronounced it "Fried's Wide" for as long as anyone can remember.


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