Elisabeth was born around 1143 as the eldest daughter of Ralph I, Count of Vermandois and his second wife of Petronilla of Aquitaine. Petronilla was the sister of the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine who was both Queen of France and of England. Her parents’ marriage was controversial. Ralph repudiated his first wife, Eleanor of Blois, to marry Petronilla and was excommunicated for it. The excommunication was later lifted but the couple divorced in 1151. Petronilla remained with her sister Eleanor during her imprisonment in England. Ralph went on to marry a third time, to Laurette of Flanders.
When Elisabeth’s father died in 1152, he was first succeeded by her elder half-brother Hugh. Hugh wanted to become a monk, and he abdicated in favour of Elisabeth’s younger brother Ralph II. Elisabeth was married to Philip I, Count of Flanders in 1159. In 1160 her brother Ralph would marry Philip’s sister Margaret. This Margaret would later succeed as Countess of Flanders in her own right. Ralph would die childless in 1167 from leprosy. His widow would marry Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut two years later. Elisabeth became Countess of Vermandois in her own right, but she ruled it jointly with her husband.
Her marriage would remain childless, and we do not know why. We do know that Elisabeth had a lover in 1175 and Philip used that opportunity to seize complete control. Her lover was a knight, Walter de Fontaines. Walter was beaten with clubs, hung upside down in a sewer and suffocated to death. Walter must have been married to another woman as well, though we do not know if she was still alive at that point, but he did have several sons who fortified their castles in rebellion and savaged Philip’s lands.1 We don’t know exactly what happened to Elisabeth after that, except that she gave up full control of her lands to her husband. Elisabeth would die at the age of 39 or 40 in 1183, and with the help of the French King, her sister succeeded as Countess Regnant. Unfortunately, she too would die childless as she had but a short-lived single daughter from her third marriage. The French king took control of the lands. Elisabeth was buried in Amiens Cathedral which still exists today.