Monday, May 7, 2012

Gertrude of Meran, Queen of Hungary

Queen Gertrude and King Andrew II
of Hungary.
Gertrude of Andechs-Meran was the mother of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. She was born in Andechs sometime in 1185, the second daughter of Berthold IV, Count of Andechs and Agnes of Wettin. Like her sisters, Gertrude was also a famous beauty. Her father wanted all her daughters to make important political marriages for the benefit of their small country. Thus, Gertrude's younger sister Agnes married the King of France, and Gertrude herself was married off to Andrew II, King of Hungary.

It was a politically significant marriage, and Gertrude relished her role as Queen. She exerted much political influence over her husband, and he trusted her explicitly, as evidence of him making her regent during his absence. She proved to be an effective regent. Dietrich of Apolda wrote that Gertrude, during the King's absence, conducted the affairs of the kingdom "like a man". She was reported to be quite popular with the Hungarian people, but this popularity never extended to the Hungarian nobles. Gertrude distributed lands as "gifts" for her relatives while her husband was away, and this earned her the anger and hatred of the nobles.

So while King Andrew was campaigning in Galicia, the nobles hatched a plot to murder the queen. While on a hunt with her brother Bethold and several guests in the Pilis Mountain, Gertrude was killed, her body said to be torn into pieces. Berthold and the other guests barely escaped with their lives. The brutal act left an indelible impression on Gertrude's eldest son, Bela, who had probably seen her mother's murder firsthand.

Bela wanted to see all the conspirators executed but his father only executed the group's leader. The other members of the group were pardoned and left unpunished, and this fueled Bela's growing antipathy towards his father. When he became King of Hungary in 1235, one of his first act after his accession was to avenge his mother's murder.

Gertrude's tomb is in Pilisszentkereszt Abbey in Hungary.


Best Candidate said...

Thank you for putting this story in your blog!

I was researching this story to re-tell it at a Society for Creative Anachronism event ( and also ran across the opera made from the story. It's called Bank ban (both 'a's are accented) and Bank was the leader of the nobles who killed Gertrude. Only, since it was an opera (and later a play and a film) she was stabbed in a dramatic scene instead of being torn apart.

Also, in it says that her remains were found in the Royal Cistercian Abbey of Pilis, pretty recently.

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