Vita Balthildis

Balthild (d. 680) was Clovis II’s controversial queen – allegedly a low-born serving girl who rose to the top and achieved ill-fame as a bishop killer and ‘Second Jezebel’. The Vita Balthildis was a piece of defensive literature which celebrated her role as a peacemaker and as a monastic founder. The careful narration of her retirement from political life to the nunnery of Chelles, east of Paris, likely sidesteps criticising Mayor Ebroin, and so the text might have been written in the 680s. A reference to her son still ruling (c. 3) means that it could have been written as late as 690 (Balthild’s sons were King Clothar III, d. 673, Childeric II, d. 675, and Theuderic III, d. 690). Paul Fouracre called it ‘as contemporary a Merovingian source as has survived’ (Late Merovingian France, p. 114).

Latin text: ed. B. Krusch, MGH SRM, 2 (Hanover, 1888), pp. 482-508 [link]

English translation: Fouracre & Gerberding, pp. 118-132. An alternative is published in Murray, From Roman to Merovingian Gaul, ch. 14.

Manuscripts: listed by Krusch on pp. 479-80 of his edition but none earlier than the tenth century.

Secondary Reading:

J. L. Nelson, ‘Queens as Jezebels: Brunhild and Balthild in Merovingian History’, in her Politics and Ritual in Early Medieval Europe (London, 1986), pp. 1-48.

S. Tatum, ‘Auctoritas as sanctitas: Balthild’s Depiction as ‘Queen-Saint’ in the Vita Balthildis’, European Review of History, 16. 6 (2009), 809-34 [pw link]