Bertha of Savoy

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Bertha of Savoy
Bertha of Savoy, Holy Roman Empress.jpg
Bertha of Savoy
Spouse(s) Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Father Otto of Savoy
Mother Adelaide of Susa
Born (1051-09-21)21 September 1051
Died 27 December 1087(1087-12-27) (aged 36)
Buried Speyer Cathedral

Bertha of Savoy (21 September 1051 – 27 December 1087), also called Bertha of Turin, was the first wife of Emperor Henry IV, and was Queen of Germany and Holy Roman Empress.



Bertha of Savoy was a daughter of Otto of Savoy (also called Eudes and Odo) and Adelaide of Susa. Her maternal grandparents were Ulric Manfred II of Turin and Bertha of Milan.


During the lifetime of Emperor Henry III, Bertha (aged four) was betrothed to Henry III's son, Henry IV (aged five) on 25 December 1055 in Zürich.[1] When Bertha was fifteen, she was crowned at Würzburg in June 1066 and married Henry on 13 July 1066 in Trebur.[2] Although she was apparently a pretty young woman, the Saxon chronicler Bruno of Merseburg, an avowed opponent of Henry IV, reported on Henry's continual unfaithfulness: "He had two or three concubines at the same time, in addition [to his wife], yet he was not content. If he heard that someone had a young and pretty daughter or wife, he instructed that she be supplied to him by force. (...) His beautiful and noble wife Bertha (...) was in such a manner hated by him that he never saw her after the wedding any more than necessary, since he had not celebrated the wedding out of free will."[3]

Attempted repudiation[edit]

In 1069, Henry attempted to repudiate Bertha. At an assembly at Worms, Henry "explained publicly (before the princes), that his relationship with his wife was not good; for a long time he had deceived others, but now he did not want to do so any longer. He could not accuse her of anything that justified a divorce, but he was not capable of carrying out conjugal relations with her any longer. He asked them for the sake of God to remove him from the bonds of a marriage closed under bad signs ... so that the way to a luckier marriage might be opened. And nobody knowing any objection to raise, and his wife being an obstacle to a second marriage ceremony, he then swore that she was as he received her, unstained and her virginity intact."[4] The German episcopacy dared not submit to the King's demands, and no conclusion was reached at the assembly at Worms. Instead, the German bishops called on Pope Alexander II for assistance. A synod was convened at Frankfurt for later in the year. During this time, Bertha retired to the abbey of Lorsch. The papal legate Peter Damian presided at the synod of Frankfurt. Peter Damian opposed Henry's repudiation of Bertha on the grounds of canon law, but many of the German princes were more concerned about the response of Bertha's mother Adelaide.[5] Henry IV reluctantly reconciled with Bertha. His first daughter with Bertha was born in the following year (1070).


At the Lenten synod in Rome in 1076, Bertha's husband Henry IV was excommunicated by Pope Gregory VII. In October 1076, the German princes swore an oath at Oppenheim that they would no longer recognise Henry as king unless this excommunication was lifted. Henry thus had to travel to Italy to meet with Gregory during the winter of 1076/7. To do so, Henry needed to cross the Alps. Bertha and their young son, Conrad, accompanied Henry on his dangerous journey. Henry hoped to travel through one of the Alpine passes controlled by his mother-in-law, but Adelaide extracted a high price before allowing him to do this.[6] Adelaide then accompanied Henry and Bertha on the Walk to Canossa, where in January 1077, Henry underwent penance and begged Gregory VII's forgiveness. Adelaide was among those who acted an oath-helper to secure Henry’s absolution from excommunication.[7]

Imperial coronation[edit]

On 31 March 1084 Henry IV and Bertha were crowned emperor and empress in Rome by Antipope Clement III.[8]


Bertha was thirty-six years old when she died in Mainz on 27 December 1087. She was buried in Speyer Cathedral.[9]


From her marriage with Henry, Bertha eventually had five children, two of whom died while still young:[10]

  • Adelheid (1070 – 4 June 1079)
  • Henry (1071 – 2 August 1071)
  • Agnes of Germany (1072/73 – 24 September 1143)
  • Conrad (12 February 1074 – 27 July 1101), later Roman-German King and King of Italy
  • Henry V (8 January 1086 – 23 May 1125), later Roman-German King and Holy Roman Emperor


  • Bruno of Merseburg, Brunonis Saxonicum bellum in Brunos Buch vom Saxonkrieg, ed. H-E. Lohmann, MGH Dt. MA 2 (Leipzig, 1937), accessible online at: Monumenta Germaniae Historica (in Latin)
  • Bruno of Merseburg, Brunonis Saxonicum bellum. Brunos Sachsenkrieg, in Quellen zur Geschichte Kaiser Heinrichs IV., ed. and trans. F-J. Schmale (Darmstadt, 1968), pp. 191–405. (in German)
  • Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, in Lamperti monachi Herfeldensis Opera, ed. O Holder-Egger, MGH SS rer Germ 38 (Hannover and Leipzig, 1894), accessible online at: Moumenta Germaniae Historica (in Latin)
  • I.S. Robinson, Henry IV of Germany, 1056-1106 (Cambridge, 2003).
  • Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America Before 1700 by Frederick Lewis Weis, Lines 45-23, 274-22, 274-23.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, p. 25
  2. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, pp. 60f.
  3. ^ 'Bruno of Merseburg, Brunonis Saxonicum bellum, p. 16
  4. ^ Lampert of Hersfeld, Annales, p. 106
  5. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, pp. 110f.
  6. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, pp. 159ff.
  7. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, pp. 161ff.
  8. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, pp. 229ff.
  9. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, p. 266
  10. ^ Robinson, Henry IV, p. 266
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
Bertha of Savoy
Born: 21 September 1051 Died: 27 December 1087
Preceded by
Agnes de Poitou
Empress consort of
the Holy Roman Empire

Succeeded by
Eupraxia of Kiev
Queen consort of Germany
Succeeded by
Constance of Sicily