No can do

robert le pieux

Today, you are introduced to a unhappy couple. Oh, they are in love and never stopped loving each other. Sadly, they were cousins and the Church forbade connubial bliss. Being stubborn and the King, Robert carried on and got excommunicated. Finally, they had to submit, the marriage was dissolved and he remarried for a third time. Leaving his beloved Bertha of Burgundy (what a surprise, Burgundy again. Have a swill of this excellent Beaunes)

His third wife Constance of Arles is famed for being a shrew. One cannot blame the teenager to have coughed at the notion of sharing her husband, title and court with his ex-wife/on-going lover. 5 years later, he would try to get his third wife repudiated and marry again the love of his wife.

Anyhow, one day , the said frustrated king was writing a Church hymn and his unhappy third bride was complaining he never wrote her poems (because these were the days where you had to make yourself the Hallmark card with matching lyrics). Being cheeky, he brazenly told her this song : O Constancia Martyrorum was about her. Dear Constance was flattered.

Because being the object of a song called : O, Patience of Martyrs was not a give away. Or her Latin was very poor.

Poor Robert and Bertha. And poor Constance. These were the days where you got married because of your dowry, the influence of your father etc and certainly not because you cared for your bedfellow or he for you. Poor Constance: discovering your husband was moping for another woman must have dispelled a few illusions.

Sorry, guys. I cannot find a large picture. Here you have the unhappy couple, just told off by an array of bishops No can do.

You see:  the problem was not about two celibate consenting adults: they were cousins! Somewhere on the family tree… Ah the delightful hypocrisy of the days. Because if we start saying who is the cousin of whom, we are going to be looking at askance about each and every royal European family; including nowadays. And some persisted with the Church’s benediction. Without having to visit 2012, we have Oswiu of Northumbria son of Acha of Deira and Aethelfrith of Bernicia marrying his first cousin Eanflaed of Northumbria daughter of Edwin of Deira and Aethelburg of Kent somewhere in 644 AD.

These two could do. One must wonder what was the main topic of their conversations considering : Edwin had killed Aethelfrith, because Aethelfrith had killed Aelle, who was Edwin and Acha’s dad. If I add that it was Oswiu’s half brother Eanfrith with the help of Penda (remember the name: Penda will be one of the main characters of this blog), that Oswiu’s daughter will at one poinr marry Penda’s son and subsequently murder him (mercifully, not on the same day)… one may well be wonder why the Church blessed any of these weddings. Peace weaving was the aim. Seems to me some couples would have begged to differ.

So you have it: the ones who want to marry and cannot, the ones who are married and would like not to be married. Nothing new under the sun

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