Ermentrude of Orléans was born this day in 823, she was the daughter of Odo, Count of Orléans and his wife Engeltrude. She was married around 19, to Charles the Bald, he was King of Italy, King of West Francia and Holy Roman Emperor, and grandson of Emperor Charlemagne. They had a number of children, perhaps best known to us would be the eldest child Judith. She met with Aethelwulf, King of Wessex when he passed through West Francia, returning from a pilgrimage to Rome. She married him, and on his death, his son and successor Aethelbald. Her son, Louis the Stammerer succeeded Charles as King of West Francia on his death in 877.
She was keen on embroidery and also religious matters and was gifted the Abbey at Chelles by her husband. This became slightly fortuitous, when the marriage broke up after around twenty-four years after Charles executed her young brother. Ermentrude retreated to the Abbey, in 866 having been Abbess from 855.
In those days, those appointed abbess were frequently not someone who had a religious calling but frequently were the female relatives of Emperors and Kings. Although this did little to the discipline within the nunneries there was an advantage for us in our ability to look back at the history of the period. Several nunneries had a scriptorium where nuns worked as scribes providing several books of the history of the period from what was a contemporaneous perspective rather than a reflective look back by a conqueror.
Chelles was one of the important centres of learning, especially useful as it was located close to Paris. According to records, it was a leading centre around the time of Ermentrude to the extent that the nunnery was joined by a monastery as well. Whereas most scriptoria had around nine nuns, it is believed at times up to fourteen were working at Chelles. There is no indication that Ermentrude was one of those, though no doubt her love of embroidery was something that was also used to advantage with the ecclesiastical vestments which always tend to be highly decorated.
Ermentrude only lived three years after she went to live permanently in the nunnery, and her body is buried in the Basilica of St Denis in Paris. Her daughter Judith, after her marriages to the Kings of Wessex married Baldwin I of Flanders. Their son Baldwin II married Aelfthryth, daughter of Alfred the Great, further down that family tree came a certain William, Duke of Normandy and we all know what happened in 1066 at Hastings!