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Adela of Normandy, Countess of Blois

Daughter, Sister and Mother of Kings of England

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About Adela of Normandy, Countess of Blois

Known for: daughter of William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, and wife of a French count; her brother was Henry I, Duke of Normandy and King of England; her son was King Stephen of England, who seized the English crown from the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I; her other son William became the powerful Bishop of Winchester

Occupation: royalty; served as her husband's regent in his absence when on crusade in the Holy Land

Dates: about 1062-1067 - March 8, 1137 (dates are disputed)

Also known as: Adela of Blois, Adela of England

Background, Family:

  • Mother: Matilda of Flanders
  • Father: William I (William the Conqueror)
  • Siblings: Robert II, Duke of Normandy; Richard; William II of England; Cecilia of Normandy; Agatha of Normandy; Constance of Normandy; Henry I of England

Marriage, Children:

  • husband: Stephen Henry or Étienne-Henri (about 1045 - May 19, 1102; married 1080 to 1084; Stephen II, count of Blois as of 1089)
  • sons: William, Count of Sully; Odo and/or Humbert, died in childhood; Theobald II (Thibaud IV, Count of Champagne); Stephen of Blois, king of England; Philip, Bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne; Henry of Blois, child oblate
  • daughters (those other than Matilda are disputed): Matilda, or Lucia-Mauaut, married to Richard d'Avranches, Earl of Chester -- both drowned on the White Ship in November 1120; Lithuise of Blois (some claim this was Stephen Henry's sister), married; Eleonore, married; Alix, married; Agnes, married

More About Adela of Normandy, Countess of Blois:

Adela may have been born after her father won the British throne by conquest in 1066. She was especially close to her brother who became Henry I of England; she was probably born earlier than he was. Adela was likely educated by tutors; she was described as learned.

Some stories have Adela promised in marriage to Simon Crispin, count of Amiens, when Simon decided to take religious vows instead of marrying.

Sometime between 1080 and 1084, and after long negotiations, Adela married Stephen Henry, who controlled a large land area after inherited Bloois, Chartres and Meaux in 1089 or 1190. Stephen Henry was part of the first crusade in 1095, Adela serving as his regent in his absence, including controlling the family's treasury. Stephen Henry returned in 1100, bringing many riches home with him as spoils of war.

Adela was apparently quite upset that her husband returned before, in her opinion, completely fulfilling his crusader vows. She pressured him to return, and he did in 1102, dying in a seige in 1102 at the Second Battle of Ramla.

Adela's oldest son was originally the heir to his father's domains, but a younger brother, Theobald, was given that honor instead, with Adela actively working with him in ruling the estates.

Adela's brother Henry became king of England in 1100, supplanting their older brother Robert and his heirs. Adela supported Henry's claim to the throne.

Adela was well acquainted with and in regular communication with the exiled archbishop of Canterbury, Anselm, and with Pope Paschal II. She was a patron of other church leaders in France and England as well. With connections to the priory at Cluny, Adela supported the papal reform principles which were part of a trend towards humanism and freedom. She also supported poets, including Abbot Baudri of Bourgueil, later Bishop of Dol (perhsps with Adela's support). who wrote an extended poem that he dedicated to his patroness.

In 1113, Adela and her son Theobald joined Henry I of England in fighting against the Capetian forces of Philippe I and his son Louis. They fought again in 1118, Adela taking an active diplomatic role.

In 1120, Adela's daughter, Matilda, drowned with her husband Richard, the earl of Chester, on the White Ship, which also killed Henry I's son and expected heir.

In 1126, King Henry I of England had his nephew, Adela's son son Henry, made Abbott of Glastonbury Abbey. In 1129 he became the Bishop of Winchester, keeping also his position at Glastonbury.

Though Adela retired to a convent in 1130, she gave up her title of countess, though she remained active in her son's rule.

In 1135, Adela's son, Stephen, moved quickly on the death of his uncle, Henry I, to seize the crown of England. Henry had designated his daughter, the Empress Matilda, as his successor, and had his nobles declare loyalty to her. But with Stephen's action, a protracted civil war began in England.

Adela was not to see the end of that battle, nor the ultimate defeat of her son. She died on March 8, in either 1135 or 1137 (sources disagree).

Under Stephen's reign, his brother, Henry, Bisohp of Winchester, was the second most powerful man in England, and perhaps also the second wealthiest. Henry briefly changed his allegiance from Stephen to Matilda, and then switched his allegiance back again. He was responsible for many building projects including at Winchester Cathedral and Winchester Palace. In his later years, he presided over Thomas Becket's trial.

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