Women's Biography: Angelberga of Italy
There are letters written to and by Angelberga of Italy.
From the powerful Supponide clan of Parma, Angelberga married Louis II in or about 851. Louis was the son of Lothar I, who had been given Italy in the partition among the sons of Louis the Pious. He succeeded to the empire in 855. Angelberga was crowned empress by Nicholas I in 858. They had two daughters, one, Ermengard, married Boso of Vienne, who became king of Provence . Angelberga supported Louis’s brother, Lothar, in his attempts to divorce Theutberga; she negotiated on Lothar’s behalf with Charles the Bald and Louis the German. Angelberga was active in politics as early as 871, ruling north Italy for her husband whil he fought Saracens in the south, sometimes accompanied him on campaigns, convoked and presided over an imperial congress in his palace in Ravenna, administered large possessions, presided at a tribunal to try an imperial envoy. She was called “consors et adiutrix regni” the consort and helper/assistant of the kingdom. Louis divorced her briefly in 872, possibly because of rumors of adultery – a story about her attempt to seduce a count Hucbald is told in the Epitome Chronicorum Casinensium, but there is no real evidence for it. Her attempts to influence Italian politics made her enemies and may have contributed to a revolt against her husband, who married a woman from the rebellious area of central Italy while he was divorced from Angelberga. But she was not kept away for long. She was Louis’s regent at Capua in 872, finished Louis’s campaign and brought back southern Italian hostages and relics in 874. She was involved in charters and her name was on coins along with Louis’s.(1) Louis made twelve grants of land to her and she left more than twenty manors to San Sixtus of Piacenza.
After Louis’s death in 875, she called a council at Pavia to decide the succession, and was later at the center of the faction opposing Charles the Bald. Louis the German, Carloman, Charles the Fat, Berengar, and Arnulf all looked in turn for her support and confirmed her property. Since she had no son, she had no formal political role and retired to San Sixtus, the monastery in Piacenza which she had founded, but she continued to take a part in politics for many years, usually without success, but never ignored: she probably supported her son-in-law, Boso, then tried to have her grandson Louis the Blind designated the successor of Charles the Fat, and she backed Berengar of Friuli against Guy of Spoleto. None of these attempts was successful, but letters show that she was nonetheless called on by the pope, John VIII, and Louis the German, king of the East Franks, to negotiate for them although she had no official position. The letters from John about worldly affairs indicate that she remained a trusted and potentially useful ally.
Angelberga’s role as advisor and her connections in Italy made the emperor and his brothers nervous. Charles the Fat captured and imprisoned her in Zurzach in 880 and only released her when his claim on the imperial throne seemed secure. During her captivity, John wrote to Charles’s brothers and to his wife Richardis on her behalf, assuring them she would take no more part in political affairs. She was released in 882, but she was still trying to influence the succession as late as 887. By 888 she was no longer involved in politics.