Gertrude of Merania was born in 1185 to Berthold IV, Duke of Merania(part of the Holy Roman Empire) and Agnes of Rochlitz. Gertrude married Andrew, the younger son of King Béla III of Hungary. Andrew was in conflict with his elder brother King Emeric, and when Emeric became seriously ill, he had his four-year-old son Ladislaus crowned King of Hungary. Emeric died on 30 November 1204. Ladislaus died suddenly (and perhaps suspiciously?) just six months into his reign, paving the way for Andrew to become King of Hungary. Not much is known about whether or not the marriage was happy. They had five children in 6 years.
- Anna Maria of Hungary (c. 1204 – 1237), wife of Tzar Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria
- King Béla IV of Hungary (1206 – 3 May 1270)
- Saint Elisabeth of Hungary (1207 – 10 November 1231), wife of Landgrave Louis IV of Thuringia
- King Coloman of Galicia-Lodomeria (1208 – June 1241)
- Prince Andrew II of Halych (c. 1210 – 1234)
Gertrude was a woman who had much influence over her husband, and she used that influence to help her relatives at court, mostly by giving them lands. Gertrude was often regent when her husband was away, and it is said she ruled like a man, which I suppose is a compliment! However, not everybody appreciated her influence and style of government and in 1213 tragedy struck. While her husband was away a group of Hungarian nobles wanted to be rid of her, and she was killed during a hunt in the Pilis forest. Apparently, her body was torn to pieces. Her younger brother Berthold and Duke Leopold VI of Austria were also present at the hunt and only just managed to escape. For some reason, her death went unpunished during her husband’s lifetime. Her son, King Béla, confiscated lands belonging to those involved in the plot against his mother. She was buried in the Cistercian abbey in Pilisszentkereszt, Hungary. The abbey was destroyed during the Turkish occupation of the region in 1526. The Ferenczy Museum in Szentendre had an exhibition on the Abbey and Queen Gertrude two years ago.
Her husband remarried twice after Gertrude’s death. First to Yolanda de Courtenay, with whom he had a daughter (Violant of Hungary) and second to Beatrice d’Este with whom he had a posthumous son, Stephen, but his paternity was questioned by his half-brothers. However, Stephen’s son later became Andrew III of Hungary. Gertrude appears as a woman of very strong character from the little information we have, and it is this strong character that probably got her killed by the male-dominated society of the time. She was only queen for eight years and was only around 27 years old when she died. We’ll never know what she could have achieved with a little more time.