Queen Emma of Normandy was the daughter of Richard I, Duke of Normandy, the fourth son of William the Conqueror, and she married Cnut the Great to become Queen Consort of England and Denmark, succeeding his first wife Aelfthryth. She was one of six children born to her parents, but her younger brother died in infancy; she also had two half-siblings from her father’s relationship with an unnamed mistress. After her marriage to Cnut, Emma became one of the most powerful women in England and Denmark. 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Queen Emma of Normandy
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1) Where’s Emma From?
Queen Emma was born in Normandy, France in 1002 AD. She arrived in England with her husband in 1013 to seek asylum after her father, Richard II’s death. She and her husband were under investigation for involvement in a plot to take over Normandy. During his imprisonment they stayed at the royal manor granted by King Æthelred The Unready (Unraed) so that he could collect evidence on them, but none was found.
2) What did she look like?
If you want to paint a picture in your mind’s eye, here are some facts. The stories about her say she was described as a beautiful young woman with flowing locks and brown hair, like those around her that have Scandinavian blood. It wasn’t unusual for an Anglo-Saxon princess to have beautiful features, so it’s possible that it was embellished over time or simply untrue. We will never know, but there is no doubt she must have been pretty. She was only 15 when she married Aethelred, which makes her age hard to pin down. What we do know is that they had four children together: Edward (the future king), Alfred, Athelstan and Edmund Ironside. She would have been 19 when Edward was born in 963 CE.
3) Who Was Her Husband?
The Duke of Normandy, who was later called William The Conqueror, was not King Harald’s biological son. His mother had him out of wedlock with a Norwegian nobleman. This meant that he could not succeed Harald as King until after his death. When he died unexpectedly in 1087, William claimed his throne and was crowned king a few weeks later.
4) How Many Children Did She Have?
Emma and Ragnar had four children together: two sons, Magnus and Erik, and two daughters, Gyda and Thora. After her husband’s death in Paris in 865, Emma moved back to Wessex with her children. She converted to Christianity on her deathbed and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.
5) Why Is She Famous?
Emma’s story starts in France where she was born to Louis IV, Duke of Upper and Lower Lorraine, and his second wife Agnes de Poitou. She was married as a teenager to Ethelred II, King of England. The two were an unlikely pair; they were both teenagers at their wedding (Ethelred was only fifteen) but his father Alfred already had many sons by then.
6) Where Does Her Story Fit Into History?
When Charles IV (also known as Charles III) died in 987, he divided his kingdom into three parts for his sons: Louis V received Reims, Robert received Normandy and Flanders, and Lothair received everything else. What followed was one of history’s best examples of sibling rivalry. Taking advantage of an uprising by Norman vassals against their duke, Lothair invaded Normandy in a move to claim his brother’s territory.
7) What Happened After Her Death?
The last days of her life are shrouded in mystery. According to one account, she was buried at Normansfield Abbey outside Portsmouth. Other sources say that she was laid to rest in Rouen Cathedral. She may also have been buried at Winchester Cathedral next to her father, or even in Bayeux Cathedral next to her husband. Another story says that she died on a pilgrimage and was buried at Christ Church Canterbury, but there is no historical evidence for this.
8) What Else Should I Know About Her?
When she was young, King Æthelred sent his daughter to be raised by his sister in Norway. She married Cnut, who went on to become one of England’s greatest rulers, but she never forgot her roots. Despite never taking on a formal role as queen consort, Emma wielded an extraordinary amount of power as Cnut’s wife and in later years ran an effective campaign for her son Harthacnut to succeed his father on England’s throne.