Adeliza of Louvain

Adeliza of Louvain

Detail of a Shaftesbury manuscript, most likely depicting Adeliza
Queen consort of England
Tenure 24 January 1121 – 1 December 1135
Coronation 30 January 1121
Born c. 1103
Died 23 April 1151(1151-04-23) (aged 48)
Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Burial Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Spouse Henry I of England
William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel
William d'Aubigny, 2nd Earl of Arundel
House House of Louvain
Father Godfrey I, Count of Louvain
Mother Ida of Namur[1]

Adeliza of Louvain,[2] sometimes known in England as Adelicia of Louvain,[3] also called Adela and Aleidis; (c. 1103 – 23 April 1151) was Queen of England from 1121 to 1135, as the second wife of King Henry I.[4] She was the daughter of Godfrey I, Count of Louvain.

Henry was some 35 years older than his bride, who was about 18 when they married. He already had children, though no surviving son, from his first marriage to Matilda of Scotland, as well as several illegitimate ones. As his second marriage produced no children he was to leave his throne to his daughter the Empress Matilda. After his death Adeliza spent three years based in a convent, then married again and had seven children by William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel. But a year before her death at the age of 48 she left her husband to move to a monastery in Flanders, where at least one of her brothers also lived.

Adeliza's marriage seems to have been successful, apart from the failure to produce a new heir. The flow of Henry's illegitimate children seems already to have ceased by the time of the marriage, and they spent most of their marriage together, which was by no means inevitable in royal marriages of the period. She seems to have been influential in the promotion of French poetry and other arts in the court, but to have played little part in politics.

Early life and family

Adeliza of Louvain was born in 1105 in Leuven, present-day Belgium.[5] She was renowned for her beauty, reflected in the epithet ‘the fair maiden of Brabant'. The chronicler Henry of Huntingdon also mentions Adeliza’s beauty in an interlude in his Historia Anglorum, stating, “A jewel grows pale on you, a crown does not shine. Put adornment aside, for nature provides your adornment...” [6]

Her father was Godfrey I, Count of Louvain (1095–1139), Landgrave of Brabant, and Duke of Lower Lotharingia (1106–1128), an ally of Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor. After the death of Adeliza’s mother, Ida of Chiny, Godfrey married Clementia of Burgundy, the mother of Baldwin VII, Count of Flanders who had fought with the French against the Normans in 1118.[7] Adeliza's brother, Joscelin of Louvain, married the heiress to the Percy fortune. He is often referred to as an “opportunist”.[8]


Plans for Adeliza’s marriage to Henry I of England, may have begun when she was as young as sixteen, even before Henry’s only legitimate son, William Adelin, died on 25 November 1120 in the White Ship disaster. However, Henry’s need for a new male heir expedited the marriage plans and the couple wed on 24 January 1121. Apparently in addition to her beauty, Henry was also attracted to Adeliza as a wife because she was a descendant of Charlemagne.[7] It is thought that Henry’s only surviving legitimate child Empress Matilda, from his first wife Matilda of Scotland, may have been involved in arranging his second marriage, due to the fact that she was with him near the time that it was being negotiated.[7] Henry of Huntingdon mentions the royal couple in his Historia Anglorum, stating that the new queen accompanied Henry to London at Pentecost. Adeliza appears to have travelled extensively with Henry, probably to increase the chances of her conception.[9] Despite their close contact, however, Adeliza and Henry never produced a child.

Unlike Henry’s first wife Matilda, Adeliza appears to have played a very passive role in the administration of the kingdom. While Matilda issued some thirty-one charters and writs during her queenship, during Adeliza's fifteen-year marriage to Henry I she issued one, and she only attested 13 of Henry’s many charters, even though they were almost always together.[10]

Role as artistic patron

King Henry

Despite her limited involvement in politics, Adeliza seems to have played an active role as a patron of the arts and literature, and was influential in fostering the rise of French poetry in the English court. While English queens had been traditionally associated with artistic patronage for decades, and a number of them, including Edith of Wessex, Emma of Normandy and Matilda, had financed a number of works in different media, Adeliza primarily sponsored books written in French.[11] At the time, secular books in the French or Anglo-Norman vernacular were extremely popular, a trend given impetus by wealthy aristocratic women like Adeliza. Philippe de Thaon, an Anglo-Norman poet, dedicated his zoological treatise known as the Bestiary to the queen:

Philippe de Thaon Has distilled into a French treatise
The Bestiary, A book in Latin,
For the honour of a jewel Who is an outstandingly beautiful woman.
And she is courtly and wise, Of good customs and generous:
She is called ‘Aaliz’, Queen is she crowned,
She is the queen of England; May her soul never know trouble!
Listen to what we find About her name in Hebrew:''
‘Aaliz’ is her name; ‘Praise of God’ is
In Hebrew truly ‘Aaliz’, laus of God.
I do not dare give further praise, Lest envy take me,
But so that she may be remembered And praised forever more
I wish to compose this book; May God be present at its beginning![1]

  1. ^ O’Donnell, Townend, Tyler, 629–630

The Bestiary would have been amply illustrated, and was intended to be read page by page, not all at once, like a poem. Many other works that Adeliza commissioned were similar in structure to the Bestiary, including the now lost Life of King Henry by David.[12]

Widowhood and remarriage

When Henry died on 1 December 1135, Adeliza retired temporarily to the Benedictine convent of Wilton Abbey, near Salisbury. She was present at the dedication of Henry's tomb at Reading Abbey on the first anniversary of his death. At about that time, she founded a leper hospital dedicated to Saint Giles at Fugglestone St Peter, Wiltshire.

In 1138, three years after Henry I's death, Adeliza married William d'Aubigny, 1st Earl of Arundel, one of Henry I's advisors, and son of Guillaume d’Aubigny and Maud le Bigod.[1] Together, they lived at her castle of Arundel on the Sussex coast and had seven children.[13] Their names were (by order of birth), Alice, William, Olivia, Reynor, Geoffrey, Henry, and Agatha.[1][14]

Relationship with Matilda

Although not a great deal is known about Adeliza’s relationship with her stepdaughter, it is known she was present at the ceremony when Henry officially named Matilda as his heir presumptive, since the chronicler John of Worcester states that the Queen "swore [an oath] for the king's daughter." [15] After her second marriage, Adeliza received Matilda at her home in Arundel, along with Matilda’s half-brother Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, in defiance of the wishes of her second husband who was a staunch supporter of King Stephen.[13] She later betrayed them and handed them over when King Stephen besieged the castle.[16] Trying to explain Adeliza's actions, John of Worcester suggests that "she feared the king’s majesty and worried that she might lose the great estate she held throughout England". He also mentions Adeliza's excuse to King Stephen: "She swore on oath that his enemies had not come to England on her account but that she had simply given them hospitality as persons of high dignity once close to her." [16]


Arundel Castle

Because of Henry I’s generosity, Adeliza was given the revenues of Rutland, Shropshire and a large district of London, with possession of the city of Chichester.[17] Henry also gave the manor of Aston to Adeliza "as his queen and wife". Landholdings that were part of Adeliza of Louvain’s dower include Waltham Abbey in Essex, an estate in south-east England, with areas in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Middlesex. She had property in Devon. As a gift from Henry I, she was given a property in Ashleworth, a component of the royal estate of Berkeley. In 1126 the whole county of Shropshire was given to her, even though it is not listed in the Pipe Roll.

Adeliza gave her brother Joscelin a large estate in Sussex called Petworth that was dependent on her castle of Arundel.[18] Henry also gave Adeliza lands that had previously been Matilda’s including Waltham and Queenhithe. She had estates in Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Middlesex, Gloucestershire, and Devon. Her husband then granted her exemption from tax for those lands. In additions to those gifts, she was given a portion of the royal estate at Berkeley, and the county of Shropshire.[19] After Matilda died, Adeliza continued to exercise jurisdiction over her lands, retaining some of her property until 1150. In 1136, she endowed Reading Abbey with one hundred shillings a year from the revenues of Queenhithe.[20] On the first anniversary of Henry I’s death, Adeliza gave the manor of Aston to the Abbey of Reading, and endowed them with lands “to provide for the convent and other religious pweaona [sic] coming to the abbey on the occasion of the anniversary of my lord King Henry.” She added the gift of a church a few years later.[21]

Later years

In the last years of her life, Adeliza appears to have faded into obscurity. In 1150, Adeliza left William to enter the monastery of Afflighem in Flanders. At least one of her brothers was also living at this monastery. The annals at the monastery are the only source to mention her death in 1151, and her burial site is unknown. Some traditions imply she was buried at the monastery, but a donation made by her brother Joscelin to Reading Abbey seems to suggest she was buried there with Henry I.[20]


  1. 1 2 3 "Adeliza de Louvain". The Peerage. 10 May 2012.
  2. 'Adeliza of Louvain (c.1103–1151), queen of England, second consort of Henry I' in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (OUP, 2004)
  3. Agnes Strickland, 'Adelicia of Louvaine' in The Lives of the Queens of England online at "Mr Howard of Corby castle... calls her Adelicia, for the best of reasons – her name is so written in an original charter of the 31st of Henry I..."
  4. History Timelines
  6. Huntingdon, 469
  7. 1 2 3 Hilton, 61
  8. Bartlett, 543
  9. Huneycutt, 36
  10. Huneycutt, 37
  11. O’Donnell, Townend, Tyler, 627
  12. O’Donnell, Townend, Tyler, 631
  13. 1 2 Hilton, 66
  15. Worcester, 177
  16. 1 2 Bartlett, 41
  18. Bartlett, 44
  19. Hilton, 64
  20. 1 2 Huneycutt, 38
  21. Barlett, 596


Adeliza of Louvain
Born: 1103 Died: 23 April 1151
English royalty
Title last held by
Matilda of Scotland
Queen consort of the English
24 January 1121 – 1 December 1135
Title next held by
Matilda I of Boulogne
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