Ingeborg of Denmark
Queen of France, 1213-1223
"Queen without a crown"
A marriage not of her wishing, a husband who repudiated her, a divorce she did not ask for and a lifelong determination to take her position as true wife and queen: such was the tortured tale of Ingeborg of Denmark.
Why did King Philip Augustus of France reject his beautiful Danish bride in 1193 after only one night of marriage? Why did he shut her up in a monastery? One chronicler said Philip was the victim of a diabolical sorcerer who turned him against his princess. Another deduced that he found her so unattractive that he refused to share his bed with her ever again. Others guessed that he found she was not a virgin. A modern theory ascribes his behavior to a fever he contracted while on Crusade that made him impotent. Some suggest Philip was angry because the Danes had not provided the promised military aid against King Richard of England, Philip's sworn enemy.
Whatever the reason, Ingeborg's reaction to the insult is an object lesson in persistence. She fought to keep Philip from annulling the marriage. She enlisted two Popes on her side, and won a battle when Philip was excommunicated and all France was placed under an interdict. But she was helpless when Philip took Agnès of Méran as his wife and declared their children to be heirs to the throne.
Still Ingeborg fought on. To almost everybody's surprise, in 1213 Philip took her back—Agnès had died some years before—but in name only. They never lived together.
After Philip died in 1223 his successor, Louis VIII, treated her far more kindly than his father had done. She emerged from the shadows and until her death comported herself like the queen she had always known herself to be.
Like another medieval queen who refused to be ignored (Berengaria, queen of Richard the Lionheart), Ingeborg drew on her strength and resolve to maintain her station. But just why she lost it in the first place remains one of history's intriguing mysteries.
Learn more about Queen Ingeborg:
Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, by Amy Kelly, pp 366-368. Harvard University Press, 1950.
"Ingeborg of Denmark, Queen of France, 1193-1223," by George Conklin, in Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe Anne Duggan, ed. Boydell Press, 1997.