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We don’t know how Bertrada of Laon felt about marrying Pepin, mayor of the palace. Was she overjoyed to join a Frankish family more powerful than the royal Merovingians? Or did she see herself fulfilling her duty to her kin as a partner in building an alliance? What did she think of Pepin as a man?

Whatever her sentiments during the nuptials in 744, she was not about to give up on her relationship with her husband when he sought to end the childless union two years later. At least, I think that’s what Pepin tried when he asked the pope about illicit marriages – he and Bertrada shared a set of great-grandparents.

Had Bertrada been willing to go quietly, she could have taken the veil, perhaps even held out for her own abbey to rule. But she didn’t. And the pope told Pepin canon law prohibited remarriage after a divorce.

So Pepin and Bertrada stayed together, and the story has a surprisingly happy ending, the reason I’ve chosen to write about them as an unlikely romance at Unusual Historicals.

Bertrada's and Pepin's tombs

Bertrada’s and Pepin’s tombs at Saint-Denis, France (photo by Roi Boshi (CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons)