Monday, September 14, 2009

Queen Fredegund's Life Condensed

I was having a chat with a teenaged friend of my daughter's who told me that she did not like history. It was boring. I got out Gregory of Tours History of the Franks because I thought that the story about Queen Fredegund's fights with her daughter Rigunth are very funny and interesting, too. So I looked in the back of the book for the index to find the story I was looking for faster.
Fredegund was one busy girl. Her section in the index goes on for more than a page. A sample of entries go as follows:
- sends two emissaries to assassinate King Sigibert at Vitry
- expelled from Soissons
- is furious when she learns that Merovech has escaped from Anille
- persuades Duke Guntram Boso to lead Merovech into an ambush, but it fails
- tries to infect her stepson Clovis with dysentery
- tortures Clovis's girlfriend and the girl's mother
- has Clovis murdered for alleged conspiracy ( I sense a trend here)
- she and Chilperic have Leudast tortured to death (definitely a trend)
- grief at the death of her son Theuderic
- tortures and kills a number of Parisian housewives for allegedly causing Theuderic's death ( I am shocked)
- tortures Mummolus the Perfect for alleged implications in Theuderic's death ( I am really shocked. Really.)
- takes refuge in the cathedral in Paris when her husband is assassinated (Someone let her in? She knew where a church was?)
- her crimes listed (that probably took a few days)
- she is pregnant again (good grief! She gave birth four months before this and her husband is dead. Who is the daddy? Inquiring minds want to know.)
- rages when she hears how badly Rigunth is being treated
- sends a cleric to assassinate Brunhild
- murders him when he fails (probably would have killed him if he succeeded too)
- wanted Eberulf, King Chilperic's Treasurer, to be her lover (isn't she pregnant? ew!)
- accuses him of having killed Chilperic ( this looks bad)
- encourages Claudius to kill Eberulf (he should have just given in or run away)
- exchanges bitter remarks with Praetextatus ( the saint)
- Praetextatus is murdered in his own cathedral, apparently at the instigation of Fredegund
- she goes to watch him die (Of course. Wouldn't you?)
- poisons one of the Rouennais who says that it is a bad thing to murder bishops (The truth hurts.)
- her endless quarrels with her daughter Rigunth lead to her trying to choke the girl with the lid of Chilperic's treasure-chest (almost killed her, too)
This is just a sample of Fredegund's life as recorded by Gregory of Tours. The teen, that I was reading this to, agreed that this history is not boring. You just have to find something you like.
I think we can safely say that Fredegund burned the candle at both ends. In a cage fight to the death, you have to wonder who would come out alive - Fredegund or the Empress Theodora? I think an empress trumps a queen but that is just me.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lol, a highly entertaining history - that good Fredegund would make Cersei look like an innocent kitten and blush with shame (Cersei is a moderately unpleasant queen from ASOIAF, by Mr. Martin if anybody asks). I suppose she would kill poor Theodora with one malicious look and a bit of spittle. You must wonder who guarded her so she wasn't murdered in her sleep. Horrible woman. If you don't like your mom-in-law call her Fredegund - better than any other epithet

Bridget

The Red Witch said...

I think Theodora could hold her own. After all she grew up in the mean streets of Constantinople and was a survivor. She refused to flee the city during the Nike riots when her husband was ready to bolt.
Fredegund outlived Gregory so he does not relate how she died.
But part of the reason she fought with her daughter was because of the daughter's habit of sleeping around. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
And these people are the Merovingians that Dan Brown said were carrying the holy bloodline of Mary and Jesus.

Kristin said...

Wow, what an entertaining story. LOL Next time my daughter tells me I'm mean, I'm going to tell her that story.

The Merovingians intermarried with the Visigoths. Maybe that's where the bloodthirstiness comes from.

I actually kind of like Theodora. If it wasn't for her, Justinian would have lost his entire empire. She was smart, she was beautiful, and she was sassy.

Kristin

Tracy said...

Fredegund is one sadistic bitch!
But is Gregory of Tours an objective witness? Or is this corroborated by other accounts?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Theodora would hold her own after all but the result would be still too close to call anyway. Of course she was definitely more likeable than Fredegund but both of them were not even a royal

Originally a servant, Fredegund became Chilperic's mistress after he had murdered his wife and queen, Galswintha (c. 568). But Galswintha's sister, Brunhilda, in revenge against Chilperic, began a feud which lasted more than 40 years.
And Gregory seems to be the only source, Tracy so we either believe him or not.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2d/Witt_1887_5.jpg/180px-Witt_1887_5.jpg - the famous scene of suffocating her own daughter.

Anonymous said...

By the way, do you know that Fredegund and Rigunth weren't a mother and a daughter? Rigunth was the daughter of the previous queen, murdered apparently by Chilperic; so she was a "real" princess and Fredegund - the evil step-mother, a former handmaid. This pair was apparently the model of Cinderella and her evil step-mother or even the Sleeping Beauty and the evil queen.

Bridget

Tracy said...

That is interesting, Bridget - I would never have thought that those fairy tales were based on a real story! I suspected that Gregory of Tours was the only source, but he's not always an unbiased source.

And these people are the Merovingians that Dan Brown said were carrying the holy bloodline of Mary and Jesus.
Maybe the story of Fredegund will be the inspiration for Dan Brown's next book - if he can only get an albino monk in there somewhere!

The Red Witch said...

LOL I kinda liked the albino monk. Gregory has been viewed as a fairly reliable source. As sad as the current events make him, he never censures the royals for the shocking things they do.
I didn't know the Rigunth wasn't Fredegund's biological daughter. In that case she was lucky to be female or she wouldn't have lived. Fredegund was not shy about getting rid of stepsons so that her sons would inherit the throne.
The Merovingins were Franks, a Germanic tribe as well and probably had their own streak of bloodthirtiness don't go slandering the Rohirrim.
:-)

Jesi said...

In a bizarre turn of the family tree research I've done... it seems that I'm a direct decedent of one of the most vicious women in history. :/

The Red Witch said...

She wasn't as bad as the Countess of Bathory. How do you know you are descended from the Merovingians? I thought that line died out since they had a bad habit of killing each other.