Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Dissolving Royal and Noble Marriages in Eleventh-Century Germany

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Around 1069 four elite German men—Henry IV of Germany, Rudolf of Rheinfelden, Eckbert of Brunswick, and Welf IV of Bavaria—tried to dissolve their marriages to their respective wives: Bertha of Savoy, Adelaide of Savoy, Immilla of Turin, and Ethelinde of Northeim. This paper argues that these men reinforced each other’s decision to do so; it further argues that a key, but previously overlooked, aspect of these cases is that three of these women (Bertha, Adelaide and Immilla) were closely related to one another. The first section focuses narrowly on Henry IV’s attempt to repudiate his wife, Bertha, and the rich documentation this produced. Then Henry’s actions are compared and contrasted with the contemporaneous attempts of Rudolf, Eckbert, and Welf to end their own marriages. Given the kinship between Bertha, Adelaide and Immilla, this paper argues that Henry, Rudolf and Eckbert wished not only to dissolve their marriages, but also to sever their ties with their wives’ natal dynasty, and specifically with Adelaide of Turin, sister of Immilla, mother of Bertha and Adelaide, and ruler of the mark of Turin. Yet, partly due to the actions of Adelaide of Turin, it was hard for these men to ‘break up’ with their wives. In contrast with Ethelinde’s kin, who failed to stop her repudiation, Adelaide mobilised diplomatic and military support to ensure that her daughters’ marriages were not dissolved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGerman History
Issue number2
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2018


  • marriage
  • divorce
  • adultery
  • vendetta
  • Henry IV of Germany
  • Adelaide of Turin
  • Lampert of Hersfeld
  • Medieval History


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