Bertrade of Laon



Bertrade of Laon

Bertrade was born at some point between 710 and 727 CE. Yeah, real specific there, thanks history. She was born in Laon, which is Aisne, France today to Count Charibert of Laon and Gisele of Aquitaine. She was either the only or second wife of Pepin the Short but due to how closely related they were their marriage was not recognized by the Church until 749, 8 years after they married. A few years, and children, into their marriage Pepin tried to get a divorce in favor of another woman named Angla but the request was denied. Bertrade had seven children with her husband, some like Pepin died in childhood but three lived to adulthood and we have knowledge of, Gisela joined a convent and her sons shared their kingdoms, those sons: Carloman and Charlemagne.

When Pepin died in 758 Bertrade lost her title of queen and her sons split the kingdoms between them. Bertrade stayed at court to help work out squabbles between her sons and her support of Charlemange and her advice is thought of as part of the reason his early reign was so successful. The only major dispute that they had was when she encouraged her son to divorce his wife, Himiltrude, to marry Desiderata. That marriage ended in divorce as well.

After Carloman’s death in 771, Bertrade retired from public life to Choisy-au-Bac where Charlemagne had set up a house for her. She died there on July 12, 783 and was buried in the Basilica of St Denis near Pepin.

She was referenced in a poem by Adenes Le Roi written in 1270 called Li rouman de Berte aus grands piés where she is called Bertha the Broadfoot, there is no earlier mention of her being called such or documented reason for it. This title is referenced again in the 15th century by François Villon in his poem, Ballade des dames du temps jadis. Some think this references her having a club foot others a link to the goddess Perchta as at that time many cultures linked those with a club foot to the spiritual realm.



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