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ODNB - Adelida or Adeliza

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Adelida [Adeliza] (d. before 1113), princess, was probably the eldest of the daughters of William I, the Conqueror (1027/8–1087), and Matilda of Flanders (d. 1083). As Adelida she heads most lists of the names of the Conqueror's daughters, including the one in the mortuary roll of Abbess Matilda of Ste Trinité at Caen, which is authoritative, since it was compiled under the guidance of Adelida's sister Cecily, who became Abbess Matilda's successor. She had either four or five sisters: Cecily, Constance, Matilda, Adela, and perhaps Agatha; and four brothers: Robert Curthose, William Rufus [see William II], Richard, and Henry I.

There are two traditions about Adelida's career: one claims that she was betrothed to Harold Godwineson [see Harold II], and the other that she became a nun. Orderic Vitalis in his interpolations of the Gesta Normannorum ducum says that Adeliza (sic) had been contracted to Earl Harold before the Norman conquest of England. For this information he relied on the work of William of Poitiers, the contemporary biographer of William the Conqueror. Unfortunately, William of Poitiers does not name the girl involved, nor does he say whether she was the same as the daughter(s) involved in the two other marriage alliances which he describes, respectively with Herbert II, count of Maine, and with two rivalling kings in Spain. Robert de Torigni repeats Orderic's assumption that Adeliza was Harold's betrothed, but calls her Adelida, while other Anglo-Norman historians like William of Malmesbury and Eadmer refer to the betrothal without naming the daughter. In his later ecclesiastical history Orderic Vitalis, however, introduces the name of another daughter, Agatha (who is not otherwise known), to whom he attributes the betrothal to Earl Harold and King ‘Amfurcius’ of Spain, and adds that she died as a virgin at Bayeux. Moreover, in the same passage, Orderic explains that Adeliza was a virgin under the protection of Roger de Beaumont. This presumably means that she was a nun of St Léger at Préaux. If so, she may tentatively be identified with either Prioress Adelina or the nun Adeliza of that nunnery mentioned in the St Léger section of Abbess Matilda's mortuary roll. She almost certainly is the dedicatee of the prayers and meditations of Anselm of Canterbury, who addresses her as Adelida ‘venerable lady of royal nobility’. The two traditions about Adelida (or Adeliza) are not mutually exclusive. She may have been betrothed several times to different suitors and since none of the schemes resulted in marriage, she probably took the veil. Whether as a nun or as a lay princess, her appearance in Abbess Matilda's mortuary roll means that she died before 1113.

Elisabeth van Houts Sources F. Barlow, William Rufus (1983), 441–5 · L. Delisle, ed., Rouleaux des morts du IXe au XVe siècle (1866), 182, 207, 285, 289 · The Gesta Normannorum ducum of William of Jumièges, Orderic Vitalis, and Robert of Torigni, ed. and trans. E. M. C. van Houts, 2, OMT (1995), 160–61, 262–3 · Ordericus Vitalis, Eccl. hist., 3.113–14 · Guillaume de Poitiers [Gulielmus Pictaviensis], Histoire de Guillaume le Conquérant / Gesta Gulielmus ducis Normannorum et regis Anglorum, ed. R. Foreville (Paris, 1952), 88–9, 142–3, 230–31 · S. Anselmi Cantuariensis archiepiscopi opera omnia, ed. F. S. Schmitt, 6 vols. (1938–61), vol. 3, pp. 113–14 · R. W. Southern, Saint Anselm: a portrait in a landscape (1990), 91–3, 103–5 © Oxford University Press 2004–16 All rights reserved: see legal notice Oxford University Press

Elisabeth van Houts, ‘Adelida (d. before 1113)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 2 May 2017

Adelida (d. before 1113): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/164

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