In the mid-ninth century, Francia was rocked by the first royal divorce scandal of the Middle Ages: the attempt by King Lothar II of Lotharingia to rid himself of his queen, Theutberga and remarry. Even ‘women in their weaving sheds’ were allegedly gossiping about the lurid accusations made. Kings and bishops from neighbouring kingdoms, and several popes, were gradually drawn into a crisis affecting the fate of an entire kingdom.
This is the first professionally published translation of a key source for this extraordinary episode: Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims’s De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae. This text offers eye-opening insight both on the political wrangling of the time and on early medieval attitudes towards magic, penance, gender, the ordeal, marriage, sodomy, the role of bishops, and kingship.The translation includes a substantial introduction and annotations, putting the case into its early medieval context and explaining Hincmar’s sometimes-dubious methods of argument.
Theutberga was born at an unknown date as the daughter of Boso the Elder and Engeltrude. She made a political match to Lothair II (King of Lotharingia), who was the second son of Emperor Lothair I. At the time of their marriage he was probably already involved with his mistress, Waldrada. It soon became clear that Teutberga and Lothair would not have children. Lothair would spend much of his reign trying to obtain an annulment of his marriage, so he could marry Waldrada, with whom he had several children. Teutberga imprisoned in 857 after being accused of incest with her brother Hucbert. After surviving a trial by ordeal (supposedly by boiling water), Lothair was forced to restore her to her rightful position. However, Lothair won the support of his brother Emperor Louis II, and he obtained the consent of some local clergy for the annulment, and he finally married Waldrada in 862. Teutberga managed to escape to the court of Charles the Bald, where she appealed to the Pope. He voided the annulment and Lothair’s subsequent remarriage. He was again forced to take Theutberga back. Perhaps worn out by many years of fighting, or perhaps by being forced, Theutberga consented to an annulment. Lothair visited the new pope to obtain it but died of a fever on his way back in 869. Theutberga survived him for six years. She retired to the abbey of St. Glossinde of Metz, where she died on 11 November 875.
“The divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga” or rather, “De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae regina” is a surviving manuscript by Hincmar of Rheims dealing with this royal divorce scandal, defending Theutberga. It is translated into English and is accompanied by an introduction by the editors. The text itself is rather hard to read, but the introduction explains it all rather well. It is an excellent read by itself, and I learned a lot about such an unknown Queen.