|NB This is NOT Petronella (fitting given the contents below) but just a suggestive image to brighten the blog!|
Nothing is ever simple when it comes to researching Eleanor of Aquitaine, her family and her affiliations. Having wrestled with the problem of her half brothers and having proven that Joscelin was actually the brother of Queen Adeliza of Louvain, I now find myself with several puzzles concerning Eleanor’s younger sister Petronella. Except sometimes she's not call Petronella, she is called Aelith. Already I'm beginning to suspect that I am going to wind up banging my head on the table in frustration.
There is no birth date for Petronella. We now know that Eleanor was born in 1124 not 1122. Petronella was a younger sibling. We know their mother died in 1130 and that Petronella was old enough to be involved in a sexual relationship by 1141, and that she bore a child circa 1143 or 1144. It is therefore likely that she was born fairly close to Eleanor, perhaps in 1125 or 1126. Having said that we have no birth date for the brother William Aigret, who died around the same time as their mother in 1130. Some biographers say he was first born, some that Eleanor was first born. No one seems to know, and William’s birth order may have affected the dating of Petronella's birth. In the great scheme of things, it’s really just a minor puzzle though.
With regard to Petronella's alternative name, I do wonder if she was baptised Aelith but known as Petronella, perhaps because her birth date was close to the feast of St. Petronella on the 31st of May, and perhaps because St. Petronella had associations with Charlemagne from whom she and Eleanor claimed descent. It may also be telling that the cathedral in Poitiers is dedicated to St Peter, who seems to have loomed large in the lives of the Dukes of Aquitaine, Petronella being the feminine form of Peter.
Or of course, she could have been baptised Petronella.and called Ailith. Or Eleanor may have had two sisters – perhaps Aelith was illegitimate. The mention of Ailith comes from existing documentation concerned with the Abbey of St Mary of Saintes. Perhaps Aelith was a nun? I don’t know. I feel probably not, but it is still there as a consideration when pondering all the possibilities.
Here is a letter from 1140 naming the sister known as Aelith. It’s also interesting to see ‘Eleanor’ rendered in Medieval Latin. I have bolded Aelith’s name in the text.
1140, December 28
Ego Helienordis, Francorum regina, et Willelmi ducis Aquitanici filia, hoc donum, sicut rex vir meus concessit Beate Marie Xancton[ensi] ecclesie, sic concessi et hujus [sign of cross] impressione confirmavi, et in perpetuo habendum Sancte Marie et Agneti amite mee ejusdem loci abbatisse, et omnibus ejus successoribus in eadem die, non in eodem loco, confirmavi; videntibus Aienrico de Niela, Aelith, sorore mea, Maengo de Bono Occulo, Arveo panetario, et pluribus aliis.
I Eleanor, queen of the Franks, and daughter of William duke of Aquitaine, have granted and confirmed by this stamp* the gift as the king my husband granted it to the church of Blessed Mary of Saintes, to be held in perpetuity by St. Mary and Agnes, my aunt, abbess of that place, and all her successors, I confirmed it on the same day not in the same place: with witnesses Aienric (Henry?) of Niela, Aelith my sister, Maengo of Bono Occulo, Arveo my steward, and many others.
We do know that in 1142, Petronella, then in her early or mid teens, began an affair with King Louis’ much older, war-scarred second cousin, Ralph of Vermandois. He had lost an eye in a siege, when struck by an arrow, but as well as being a warrior, he was a valued and experienced courtier. He also liked the ladies. Chronicler John of Salisbury tells us that even when ordered to abstain from intercourse by his doctors, he paid them no heed because he was ‘very uxorius’. He was married to Leonora – some say niece of Count Theobald of Blois (Ralph Turner, Douglas Boyd, Marion Meade, Desmond Seward, Marjorie Chibnall, Amy Kelly) some say sister of (Alison Weir, Wikipedia) and some say first cousin (Ivan Goubry). You see what I’m up against when researching?! Anyway, the couple were keen to wed and three bishops – including Ralph’s brother, Simon Bishop of Noyon, annulled Ralph’s first marriage. The Pope, on receiving a complaint from Theobald of Champagne on his disparaged sister’s/niece’s/cousin’s/take your pick behalf, immediately reversed the annulment and put Ralph and Petronella under interdict. Without going into masses of political detail at this stage, it caused tremendous political upheaval and was partly the cause of a war between France and Champagne.
Ralph and Petronella weathered the storm and Petronella bore Ralph either two or (here we go again) 3 children. Some time in the early 1150’s she died…. Or did she? Off I go to bang my head on the table.
UK Wikipedia says: “ However, Petronilla and Raoul divorced in 1151, as he remarried the next year. Petronilla remained a member of the French royal court and a constant companion to her sister Eleanor while she was imprisoned by her husband King Henry II in England and Wales. After Henry's death, Eleanor was freed, and Petronilla planned on returning to France. Yet, records of Petronilla after 1189 are scarce. It is believed that she came down with a fever on her voyage from England back to France and died in early 1190 before her arrival at port.
There are no sources given for this bit of information, although the entire article is quoted as sourced from a French work by Patrick van Kerrebrouck (2000). Les Capétiens 987–1328. Since I have no access to this work, I can’t check the veracity or whether Petronella’s death is mentioned in it. Records of Petronella before 1189 are hardly leaping out of the woodwork, and I suspect that here ‘scarce’ is a euphemism for ‘non existent.’
French Wikipedia says she died after 1151 and that Ralph was widowed. ‘devenu veuf’ In 1152 he married his 3rd wife Lauretta of Alsace.
Chronicler John of Salisbury writing circa 1164 says ‘She did not survive for long; and though she bore a son and two daughters before her death.’…’ ‘As for Count Ralph, he married his 3rd wife, a daughter of Thierry count of Flanders called Laura.’This being from primary source it’s more promising.Then I came across this url.http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/AQUITAINE.htm#AelisPetronilledied1153
ELIS [Petronille] d'Aquitaine (-after 24 Oct 1151, bur St Arnould in Crépy). The Chronicle of Alberic de Trois-Fontaines specifies that "Alienor Guilielmi filia comits Pictavorum et Aquitanie ducis" had two sisters one of whom married "Radulfus…comes Perone et Veromandie", although he does not name them. The Historiæ Tornacenses record the wife of "Radulfem comitem" as "germanam Alienore regine Francorum" but also do not name her. Robert of Torigny refers to the mother of the infant children of "Radulfus de Perrona comes Viromandorum" as "iuniore filia Willelmi ducis Aquitanorum" but he does not name her either. The Chronique de Guillaume de Nangis names "Eléonore et Pétronille" as the two daughters of "Guillaume comte de Poitou et prince d'Aquitaine", recording in 1142 that Pétronille married "Raoul comte de Vermandois" after he repudiated his first wife. m (1142) as his second wife, RAOUL I "le Vaillant" Comte de Vermandois, son of HUGUES "le Maisné" de France Comte de Vermandois & his wife Adelais Ctss de Vermandois, de Valois et de Crépy (-13 Oct 1152, bur Priory of Saint-Arnoul de Crépy).
The above source has Petronella buried at the Priory of Saint Arnould de Crepy. Note the mention of two sisters in the above source details. Which brings us back to Aelith and Petronella as separate individuals rather than the same person.
Now, to further muddy the waters, the English Pipe Rolls of 1155 to 1158 carry at least a strong suggestion that Petronella was still alive after Ralph’s remarriage to Laura of Flanders and hadn’t died as John of Salisbury says. There is a reference to a Petronille in close proximity to mention of the Queen with reference to payment of Danegeld in the Pipe Roll for Essex of l155, and chances are highly likely that it is her sister. In that of 1158, there is a reference to a payment for the passage of the Queen’s sister (it doesn’t name her and the wording just might possibly refer to the King’s sister – in which case it would be an illegitimate one).
|Look at the last word on the 3rd long line down and just above it the word 'Regine|
Alison Weir states: ‘During the period 1154-58, there are regular payments of generous sums for wine for Petronilla.’
Having trawled these same pipe rolls, I can find only one such entry and it involves bread as well as wine and does not name Petronella herself and is therefore ambiguous. There is only one mention of a Petronella ( see above full paragraph and photo). The other un-named mentions of a sister might or might not be Petronella. The entries could as easily refer to Henry II’s illegitimate sister Emma, later to marry Dafydd ap Owain Gwynedd, prince of North Wales. It’s not clear enough to say for certain, as ‘Reg’ or 'R' could be short for ‘Regis’ as well as ‘Regine.’
Current conclusion. Until more evidence turns up, my personal belief, based on the seriously muddled and contradictory evidence is that Eleanor definitely had a sister called Petronella and that she married Ralph of Vermandois. They divorced, and Petronella came to live with her sister Eleanor, and died some time after 1155 but before 1164. I am not entirely satisfied with this conclusion, but it’s the most I can go on at the moment. What I need to find out is where the UK Wikipedia got its statement from that Petronella was still alive in 1189. It may well be from a novel, but without references, I can go no further, and as everyone knows, while Wikipedia is a good starting point, it’s never to be trusted. My inner jury is also out on the Aelith business. Two sisters, or one with dual names? It’s in the balance…and there are dints in my table!