Adela of Champagne

Adela of Champagne (French: Adèle; c. 1140 – 4 June 1206), also known as Adelaide, Alix and Adela of Blois, was Queen of France as the third wife of Louis VII. She was the third child and first daughter of Theobald II, Count of Champagne and Matilda of Carinthia, and had nine brothers and sisters. She was named after her paternal grandmother Adela of Normandy. She was regent of France from 1190-1191 while her son Philip II participated in the Third Crusade.

Adela of Champagne
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Adela with Louis VII and Philip II
Queen consort of France
Bornc. 1140
Blois, France
Died4 June 1206 (aged 65–66)
Paris, France
Louis VII of France
(m. 1160; died 1180)
IssuePhilip II of France
Agnes, Byzantine Empress[1]
FatherTheobald II, Count of Champagne
MotherMatilda of Carinthia


When Louis VII’s second wife, Constance of Castile, died in childbirth in 1160, he was devastated and became convinced that he would die young as well, fearing that the country would fall into chaos as he had no male heir. As he was desperate for a son, King Louis married 20-year-old Adela of Champagne five weeks later, on November 13, 1160. Adela's coronation was held the same day. She went on to give birth to Louis VII’s only male heir, Philip II of France and to the Byzantine empress Agnes.


The marriage between Adela and Louis VII served as a peace treaty between one of King Louis’ most rebellious vassals, Theobald II of Champagne who was an incredibly powerful feudal lord of France. The marriage was a way to ensure peace between the crown and Theobald.[2] At the time of the marriage, the king was still mourning the death of his Spanish wife. This grief was very public on the part of the king, but Adela was praised greatly for conquering his heart "bit by bit". It took five years for Adela to give birth to Louis VII's only son, the future Philip Augustus, also called Philip “Dieu-Donne” or “God-given” because his birth was long awaited by a kingdom that had enjoyed a long unbroken lineage of undisputed male heirs to the throne. Philip’s birth meant the continuing rule of Capetian monarchs in France.[2]

Adela was active in the political life of the kingdom, along with her brothers Henry I, Theobald V, and William of the White Hands. Henry and Theobald were married to daughters of Louis VII and his first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine.[3] Adela and her brothers kept their political power base after the succession of her son to the throne in September 1180.


Adela was the third of ten children and many of her siblings were quite notable. Four of her sisters were married to powerful leaders across Europe. One of her sisters was a nun at Fontevrault. Adela's oldest brother, Henry I, took on the family holdings at his father's passing. This was surprising at the time because the family had other more prosperous holdings that were much more developed. But it was during Henry I's rule that Champagne earned a high place as one of the richest and strongest French principalities.[4]

Adela's older brother, Theobald V inherited the holding of Blois from his late father. He married Sybil of Chateaurenault and when she passed, by right of his wife, he was Lord of Chateaurenault. He then married Adela's stepdaughter. He was responsible for leading the first blood libel which resulted in 30-31 Jews being burned at the stake. Her younger brother, William of the White Hands, was a French cardinal. He was the Bishop of Chartres, Archbishop of Sens and Reims. He was also the first Peer of France to carry that title. He made Adela's son, Philip II of France as co-king in 1179 in Rheims The youngest brother of Adela's was Stephen I, Count of Sancerre, which of the holdings that befell the sons at their father's death was the smallest.

Queen dowagerEdit

Adela and her brothers felt their position threatened when the heiress of Artois, Isabella of Hainault, married Adela's son Philip in April 1180. Adela formed an alliance with Hugh III, Duke of Burgundy, and Philip of Flanders, and even tried to interest Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. War broke out in 1181, and relations became so bad that Philip attempted to divorce Isabella in 1184. He called a council at Sens for the purpose of repudiating her. According to Gislebert of Mons, Isabella then appeared barefooted and dressed as a penitent in the town's churches to gain public support, which convinced Philip to change his mind. He gradually developed genuine respect and love for Isabella and was devastated by her early death in March 1190.

Philip appointed Adela as regent of France several months later before he left the country on the Third Crusade. She returned to the shadows when he returned in 1191 but participated in the founding of many abbeys.

Queen Adela died on 4 June 1206 in Paris and was buried in the church of Pontigny Abbey near Auxerre. Upon learning of her death, Philip reportedly refused to speak to anyone for two days afterwards.

Family treeEdit


  1. ^ Garland, Lynda. Byzantine empresses: women and power in Byzantium, AD 527–1204. London, Routledge, 1999.
  2. ^ a b "Adele of Champagne (1145–1206)". Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  3. ^ Women's Biography: Alix/Adela of Champagne, queen of France
  4. ^ Abbot Hugh: An Overlooked Brother of Henry I, Count of Champagne, Ruth Harwood Cline, The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Jul., 2007), 501-502.
French royalty
Preceded by
Constance of Castile
Queen of France
Succeeded by
Isabella of Hainault