After writing about Florine of Burgundy, I thought it would be interesting to look at Ida of Austria, another high-ranking noblewoman who took part in the early crusades. Like Florine, finding information on Ida is difficult, and there are conflicting results.
Margravine Ida of Austria was said to have been one of the greatest beauties of her day. The parentage of Ida is not certain. There are several different theories about who her parents could have been. The most accepted theory is that her parents were Count Rapoto IV of Cham, and his wife, Mathilde. Therefore, she is also known as Ida of Cham. Because Ida’s parentage is uncertain, her year of birth is too, but it is thought to have been sometime between 1050 and 1060. She married Leopold II, Margrave of Austria at an uncertain date, suggested to have been around 1065. In Ida’s time, Austria was still a margraviate, ruled by a margrave. It was not until 1156 when Austria became a duchy. Ida’s grandson, Henry was Austria’s first duke. Leopold II became Margrave of Austria in 1075.
Ida and Leopold had several children. Their only son was Leopold III, who succeeded his father as margrave in 1095. The younger Leopold was canonised as a saint in 1485. They also had at least four daughters. Their known daughters include Helbirga (or Gerberga) who married Duke Borivoj II of Bohemia, and Ida, who married Duke Luitpold of Znojmo, also of the Bohemian royal family. Other daughters include Elisabeth, who married Margrave Ottokar II of Styria and Sophie, who married Henry, Duke of Carinthia. There possibly could have been three more daughters: Euphemia, Countess of Peilstein, Adelaide, Countess of Formbach, and Judith.
The Crusade of 1101
Leopold II of Austria died in 1095. In 1101, a new crusade was called due to the success of the First Crusade (1095-1099). Many of the participants in this crusade were those who had vowed to go on the earlier one but never made it.
The procession for this crusade started in France. The armies were led by William IX, Duke of Aquitaine, and Hugh, Count of Vermandois. On the way to their planned destination of Jerusalem, they passed through southern Germany, where they were joined by Welf I, Duke of Bavaria, and Ida herself. Welf and Ida added their own armies to the procession. Once the army reached Constantinople, it split in two, one half travelled to Palestine by sea, and the other half, including Ida and the leading men, continued to travel by land.
After a long journey, the hungry and thirsty army arrived in Heraclea, Anatolia in early September 1101. Like some of the towns they passed through on the way, the Crusaders found Heraclea deserted. Most of the army would make it no further than this point. Here, they were ambushed by the Turks. This caused quite a panic in the unsuspecting and ill-prepared army, which would end disastrously.
Much of the army was killed in the carnage. William of Aquitaine and Welf of Bavaria managed to escape and eventually reached Antioch. Hugh of Vermandois also escaped but was mortally wounded and died in Tarsus in October. Ida was most likely killed in the panic.
Still, there were those that believed that Ida survived. There were some chroniclers later in the twelfth century that wrote that Ida survived the carnage, and was carried off to a harem, where she spent the rest of her life. There were also legends about her being the mother of the Muslim prince, Zengi, but this is impossible, as Zengi seems to have been born long before 1101. However, Ekkehard of Aura, states that Ida was killed in the 1101 ambush. Ekkehard of Aura is the most reliable source, for he also participated in the Crusade of 1101, and met with the survivors of the battle of Heraclea a few weeks later.
Whatever her fate, Ida is an interesting character for being a female leader of this early crusade. Unfortunately, not much is know about her beyond her participation in the Crusade of 1101.