Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Radegund's brother

As I prepare course materials for my course on Gregory of Tours, I am blessed with a blog post that relates to him and 6th century Gaul (an earlier name for France).

Medieval History Geek asks -- did the famous 6th century queen and nun Radegund, wife of the Frankish king Clothar, actually have a brother?

Here's an excerpt:

As I've read accounts of Radegund, one item has begun to trouble me. Radegund left Clothar because he murdered her brother. 1 I’ve read a theory that he was a threat because he was last of a royal Thuringian line and that he may have been active in a revolt against Clothar.

Here’s my problem with the brother. He has no name. Gregory and Fortunatus both mention him, but he’s an anonymous figure. A substantial poem, "The Thuringian War," was written either by Radegund or by Fortunatus with Radegund's input. A large portion of this poem, written from Radegund's point of view, laments her dead brother, yet he remains nameless. 2 As I've read more books on the Merovingians, Radegund is consistently mentioned and each time I've read, "left Chlothar after he murdered her brother," I asked myself, "And who was this brother, exactly?" For some time I've been wondering; Did he really exist?

I have two reasons for questioning this. First and what really stands out for me is the simple fact of his namelessness. Gregory and Fortunatus wrote after Radegund’s death, roughly 40 years after she left Clothar. They were both well acquainted with Radegund. Gregory was bishop of Tours, just down the road from The Convent of the Holy Cross and conducted her funeral, even though he wasn't her bishop. Fortunatus corresponded with her regularly and wrote poems for her. In the decades the two of them knew her, with this being the trigger; the single key, life-altering incident by which she entered into a religious life, she never mentioned him by name to either of them? If her brother's murder bothered her enough to drive her from her husband, you'd think he would be important enough to be named.
It puzzles me that I’ve not run across this argument before. If someone knows of anyone discussing this, please let me know. 9 The historicity of Radegund's brother seems to be unquestioned by modern historians.
Image:  Radegund entering her convent, despite the pleas of many.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks very much for the link Steve. I'm hoping this post generates some discussion. I find the topic interesting anyway!