Women's Biography: Adela, countess of Blois, Chartres, and Meaux
There are letters written to and by Adela, countess of Blois, Chartres, and Meaux.
Adela was the daughter of William the Conqueror, sister of Henry I of England, wife of and regent for Stephen of Blois, and mother of Stephen, king of England. Born to the purple, after her father became king of England, Adela could claim royal blood on both sides — her mother Matilda of Flanders was descended from Robert the Pious through her mother and king Alfred through her father — which gave Adela particular prestige. She was co-ruler with her husband until he went on [the first] crusade in 1096, a venture she underwrote with her personal wealth; then she ruled for him for three years. When he came back without fulfilling his vow, indeed with the shame of a cowardly retreat, Adela urged him to return to the Holy Land, where he died in 1102.(!1) She continued to rule for her sons, and even for her childless brother-in-law Hugh, count of Troyes, while he was on crusade, keeping the family holdings intact, and she participated in meetings between her brother and her sons as late as 1118. She was involved in the secular and religious politics of England and northern France until her retirement. Kimberly LoPrete calls Adela “one of the most prestigious, influential, and effective power brokers in the turbulent secular and ecclesiastical politics of the late-eleventh and early-twelfth centuries.”(!2)
Adela had five sons, William, count of Chartres, Thibaud IV count of Blois (II of Champagne), Odo, Stephen (king of England), and Henry (abbot of Glastonbury, bishop of Winchester, papal legate in England), and at least one daughter, Matilda (married Richard of Chester, died on the White Ship), and perhaps Agnes.(!3) Thibaud’s sons Henry of Champagne and Thibaud V of Blois, married Marie and Alice, daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, his daughter Adela married Louis VII and was the mother of Philip Augustus, so Adela was mother of the king of England and greatgrandmother of the king of France. In 1120, Adela retired to Marcigny, where she died in 1137.
The letters addressed to Adela are arranged by correspondent rather than by simple chronology. Ivo, bishop of Chartres, wrote frequently to Adela about problems in their common jurisdiction. He often criticized her actions and warned against her tendency to anger, but he did his best to maintain a working relationship.(!4) Nine letters from him are extant. Ivo also mentions a letter from Adela to him which we do not have about the scandalous life of the nuns at Faremoutiers, c.1098 (see Ivo to Walter II, bishop of Meaux, ep.70). Adela issued various charters, grants of land, of jurisdiction, rights to and freedom from customs, vicarial rights, both during her regency and after she had retired to Marcigny. These are not included here, except for the preamble, 1) below, which is of interest because it relates to a dispute about which Ivo wrote to her, ep.187, 12) below.
There are also poems to and about Adela, two from Baudri of Bourgeuil and one or two from Hildebert of Lavardin addressed to her, one about her by Godfrey of Rheims in a verse epistle to Ingelran, and at least one anonymous poem.(!5)