Bertrada of Laon – Not Mother of the Year

Bertrada of Laon is one of the very few women of the century about whom we can know anything more than just a name and a marital disposition. But from what we can see of her, particularly one series of events late in her life, she must have been a formidable lady.

She was born sometime between 710 and 727, in Laon, France, of noble parents. After that, we get nothing until she reappears as the wife of Pepin about 741, and the details immediately get fuzzy. No one is sure if she was Pepin’s first or second wife. In fact, it is hard to be sure just what a wife was back then, as the line between wife and concubine was not well defined. Also fuzzy were the rules on who could marry whom, based on how closely they were related. Always a problem when the 1% keep marrying each other.

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Aquitaine, the Heart of France

Aquitaine occupied the central region of modern France. The Atlantic to the west, the Loire river to the north and east, while to the southwest the Garonne river is the border between Aquitaine and Gascony. The region of Septimania bordered Aquitaine to the southeast. The area is mostly flat, with hills and mountains in the southeast. It was one of the richest regions of Europe at the time. Patrick Geary describes it thusly: “The riches of Aquitaine, not only its agricultural produce but also its salt, wood, furs, marble, lead, iron, and silver mines had long made it a valued Frankish possession.”1.Geary, Before France and Germany, p.202. He and Fouracre, below, outline the political social situation in more detail.

The major towns and cities included Poitiers, Bordeaux, Nantes, Cahors, and Liguge. The town and mines of Melle produced much of the silver for the Carolingian coinage.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Geary, Before France and Germany, p.202. He and Fouracre, below, outline the political social situation in more detail.