You are here

Adelaide of Turin and Susa

Title social-status: 
Countess of Turin and Savoy
Biography: 

Adelaide, heiress of the Ardoinid marquesses of Turin, was the daughter of Ulric-Manfred, marques of Turin, and Bertha, daughter of the Otbertine marques Otbert II. Bertha was ruling in the mark after her husband’s death, since she was able to capture envoys who wished to cross Alps to Champagne and met in Piedmont, in 1037 (1). Ulric-Manfred and Bertha had three known daughters, Adelaide, Irmingarde or Immula, and Bertha. If they had a son, he predeceased his father, so Adelaide was heir to the mark. Immula married a Franconian noble, Otto of Schweinfurt, later duke of Swabia, and after his death, Ekbert marquess of Meissen; Bertha married Teto, an Aleramid marquess.
Adelaide was married three times, carrying the mark of Turin with her to her husbands, but retaining control of it after their deaths. She was married by 1036 first to Herman, duke of Swabia, related by marriage to the emperor Conrad II, presumably to keep the mark of Turin allied to the crown and to counterbalance the power of the mark of Tuscany. Herman died in 1038. Adelaide’s second husband was Henry, marquess of Montferrat, who died c.1044. The third, c. 1045, was Oddo I, Count of Savoy. That marriage united a large territory on both sides of the Alps with important Alpine passes. The union of Savoy and Turin made it one of the most powerful houses of the empire.(2) After Oddo’s death (by May, 1060), Adelaide ruled from 1060 to 1091, with her sons and alone. This was a period of turmoil for the empire, weak central government, a period of church-reform, a push for clerical celibacy, and revolts in the cities. Adelaide furthered ecclesiastical reform cautiously, but kept a middle path between the papacy and the empire, maintaining the mark of Turin in the older traditions of government. Like Matilda of Tuscany, in the words of Previte-Orton, “she was the last of a race of marchional dynasts” (223). She refused to accept the autonomy of Asti, where there was a revolt at Asti against a bishop named by the emperor, presumably nominated by Adelaide, c.1061; in 1070 Adelaide captured and burnt the city with much slaughter and restored the bishop (Previte-Orton, 228). In March, 1091, again, she captured and almost wholly burnt Asti, nine months before her death in December.
Adelaide and Oddo had five children, Peter I, Count of Savoy (died 1078), Amadeus II, Count of Savoy (died 1080), Otto, bishop of Asti, Bertha of Savoy, and Adelaide. Peter married a neice of the dowager empress, Agnes of Aquitaine; Adelaide married Henry IV’s widowed brother-in-law, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, duke of Swabia, and Bertha married the emperor Henry IV in 1066. That marriage began badly and Henry tried to repudiate her, but was firmly dissuaded by Peter Damian as papal legate and the German princes who worried about incurring the anger of her family. Thereafter the marriage apparently worked well, until she died in 1088. German opponents of the emperor elected Rudolf of Swabia (the younger Adelaide’s husband) as anti-king, in March 1077, and the problem was only resolved when he died in 1080.
In a battle between Henry IV and pope Gregory VII over the archbishopric of Milan and other bishops whom Henry had invested according to imperial custom which Gregory was fighting, the pope excommunicated him, and Henry got his bishops to declare the pope deposed, at Worms in January 1076. But when German princes rebelled and Henry had to get to Lombardy, where he had support, he appealed to his mother-in-law. He came with his wife and child and met with Adelaide and her son Amadeus at Coise. She demanded five bishoprics but instead apparently got a rich piece of Burgundy (Previte-Orton, 237, drawing on the Annals of Lambert of Hersfeld). Then she arranged for him and his party to make the difficult winter passage at Mount Cenis so he could get to Pavia, where he was joined by Lombard vassals, marquesses and bishops. Gregory went to Canossa and Henry followed him with his forces, and there negotiated through Matilda of Tuscany, Adelaide, Hugh of Cluny, and others, stood in snow, and was taken back into the church. Adelaide was one of the guarantors of the conditions agreed upon. See Gregory’s letter to the German princes, 4.12, Jan.1077: “At last, overcome by his persistent show of penitence and the ugency of all present, we released him from the bonds of anathema and received him into the grace of Holy Mother Church, accepting from him the guarantees described below, confirmed by the signatures of the abbot of Cluny, of our daughters, the Countess Matilda, and the Countess Adelaide, and other princes, bishops and laymen who seemed to be of service to us.”(3) Later, in 1080, Adelaide was persuaded to join Henry’s party. She did not give him military support when he invaded Italy in 1081, though she did join forces with him in 1082, but she tried mainly to mediate between him and Countess Matilda.(4) When she accompanied him on one of his attacks on Rome, in 1084, she demanded and secured the release of abbot Benedict of Chiusa whom he had captured on his way to Monte Cassino (Previte-Orton, 249).
Adelaide’s paternal grandmother, Prangarda, was the daughter of Atto of Canossa; she brought a large dower of land in the counties of Parma and Reggio to the marriage. Her brother, Tedald, the first marquess of Tuscany of the Canossa line was a grandfather of countess Matilda. Adelaide was thus a second cousin of Matilda of Tuscany and together they ruled massive territories in northern Italy.

Biographical notes: 

(1) CW Previte Orton, The Early History of the House of Savoy, 1000-1233 (Cambridge: University Press, 1912), 207. Much of the material on Adelaide is based on this work. (2) It was through this marriage that the house of Savoy, which was to become the ruling house of a united Italy in the 19th century, acquired their first Italian lands. (3) The Correspondence of Pope Gregory VII, trans. Ephraim Emerton, New York: Columbia University, 1932. (4)See Benzo, Bishop of Alba, Ad Henricum IV, Imperatorem, book 6, folio 99, MGH SS, 11.663.