The Background of Dhuoda, Author of the Liber Manualis

by Don C. Stone

Note: This was published in the Electronic Journal of Genealogy in 2000. This journal is no longer online.

The “new cloisters,” ca. 1200, from the Benedictine monastery of Gellone, founded by Bernard’s father, St. William of Gellone, and later renamed Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert after him. The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
This brief note is a review of the status of the parentage of Dhuoda (d. 844), wife of Bernard of Septimania, Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious.   She wrote the famous Liber Manualis (hand-book), giving moral instruction to her teenage son William, who was then living at the court of the young Charles the Bald.   Her husband Bernard (executed 844) was Count of Autun and Marquis of Septimania.   As chamberlain, he worked closely with the empress Judith and was a protector of her son Charles (later the emperor Charles the Bald).   See Taylor (1997) for a discussion of the descendants of Dhuoda.

Attempts to ascertain the parents of Dhuoda are tangled up with the issue of the parentage of her mother-in-law, Guibour, because of a contemporary statement with two basic interpretations.   One interpretation supplies information on the parentage of Guibour, while the other supplies information on the parentage of Dhuoda.   The statement, made by the Astronomer in his Vita Hludovici imperatoris, is that Eudes, Count of Orléans and father-in-law of Charles the Bald, was consobrinus, i.e., cousin on the mother's side, of Heribert, who is named as frater of Guibour's son Bernard of Septimania.   Jackman (1997, p. 135) supplies a relatively convincing argument that in this case frater should be interpreted as brother-in-law: in her Manual Dhouda refers to Heribert as the avunculus (maternal uncle) of Bernard's sons, and frater extends more readily to brother-in-law than avunculus extends to paternal uncle.   Thus Jackman is claiming that the Astronomer's statement gives us information on the background of Dhuoda rather than Guibour, as had generally been assumed.   (David Greene called attention to this argument of Jackman in a posting to the Usenet newsgroup soc.genealogy.medieval dated 5 Mar. 1999.)   Taylor (1997, pp. 219, 200) gives Heribert as brother of Bernard, but he says (personal communication, 18 and 19 May 2000) that he was following the traditional placement of Heribert as given in the first part of La préhistoire des Capetiens 481-987 by Settipani and Van Kerrebrouck (1993, p. 213 and n. 163), who promise more information on this family in the forthcoming second part (L'aristocratie mérovingienne et carolingienne).   Taylor says that the use of avunculus for paternal uncle in late 8th-century Frankish sources is attested in Niermeyer's Mediae latitinatis lexicon minus, the standard medieval Latin dictionary, though it's obvious that frater is a more flexible word.   Concerning the placement of Heribert, he says, “I'm not invested in proving him as brother of Bernard or brother of Dhuoda, so, modifying the placement in the stemma in my article, I would leave him in a jury-out position.”

See Moriarty (1985, pp. 74, 216, and 233) for a discussion of earlier theories about Guibour's ancestry, based on the assumption that Heribert was a brother of Bernard.   Moriarty cites a 1928 article by Joseph Calmette in Annales du Midi in which Eudes of Orléans was identified as a son, perhaps, of Eudes, Count of Worms, and an unknown woman who was presumed to be Guibour's sister; Moriarty at first said that the genealogy drawn up by Calmette was “well founded” but then crossed that out and replaced it with “possible.”   Moriarty apparently came to give greater credence to later articles (1937/8) in Annales du Midi by L. Levillain, according to which Eudes of Orléans was probably the son of Hadrian and Waldrat, the latter probably the daughter of Lambert, Lord of Hornbach (and assumed to be the sister of Guibour).   On the other hand, Aurell (1995, p. 36) gives Witburg/Guibour as sister of Count Eudes.

Wollasch (1957) proposed that Dhuoda was a daughter of the last two people in the commemorative list of relatives in her Manual, namely, Wernher (Guarnarius) and Rotlint (Rothlindis).   The people earlier in this list are relatives of Bernard's father, St. William, and are mentioned in the Gellone foundation charter.   (Heribert is not included in this list, providing further support for placing him as brother of Dhuoda rather than Bernard.)   Jackman (1997, p. 136) supports Wollasch's hypothesis and says that Dhuoda's parents “might easily be first cousins of her father-in-law” and would thus belong in a list of St. William's relatives.   If we combine Wollasch's hypothesis with Jackman's assertion that the Astronomer's frater means brother-in-law, one of the parents of Dhuoda (and Heribert) was a sibling of Waldrada (Waldrat), mother of Eudes of Orléans.   It is tempting to identify this sibling with Werner, Lord of Hornbach, Count in the Lobdengau, slain at Aachen in 814, son of Lambert, Lord of Hornbach (Moriarty 1985, pp. 74, 93); this Werner, however, is known to have been married to a Friderun and is not known to have been married to a Rotlint.

Malan (1997) offers a conflicting theory of Dhuoda's parentage.   It is based on the work of Dr. Renée Mussot-Goulard (1982), who claims that the county of Agen was used as dowry in an unusual manner in the ninth century, being conferred from brother to sister: William of Perigord gave it to his sister Amuna or Amiana upon her marriage to Garsia of Gascony ; their mother had received it (when marrying Wulgrin/Vulgrin) from her brother William of Toulouse; in the generation before that, Dhuoda received it (upon her marriage to Bernard) from Sancho-Sanchez of Gascony, her brother (Malan 1997, p. 119, though he mistakenly refers to this brother as Sancho-Lupus).   Dhuoda and Sancho-Sanchez are identified as children of Sancho-Lupus, duke or “prince” of Gascony, and his wife, a daughter of Aznar Galindo, count of Aragon.   Dr. Mussot-Goulard found support for assigning Dhuoda as a sister of Sancho-Sanchez in a manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale referring to “Tota soror principis Sancii ...” (“Doda sister of prince Sancho”).   Somewhat surprisingly, Malan doesn't mention that Bernard's father William of Toulouse (St. William of Gellone) was the other counselor, besides Dhuoda's proposed father Sancho-Lupus, consulted in Toulouse in 800 by Louis the Pious concerning military action in Spain (Mussot-Goulard 1982, p. 77).   These two provided somewhat conflicting recommendations in a rather acrimonious exchange.   Thiébaux (1998, p. 12, note 27) says, “The ‘Roland/ Ganelon' style of the confrontation may have fused with a similar squabble at the Roncevaux disaster of 778 and helped shape the fatal altercation that would drive La Chanson de Roland three centuries later.”   Incidentally, Sancho-Lupus's father, the Gascon duke Lupus, likely encouraged and supported the 778 ambush (Mussot-Goulard 1982, p. 75).

However, Taylor (1997, pp. 221-2, note 7) points out a lack of evidential support for Mussot-Goulard's dowry argument.   Furthermore, assuming that the Astronomer's frater means brother-in-law, it does not appear possible in this proposed Gascon/Aragonese context to account for the claimed consobrinus relationship between Eudes of Orléans and the siblings Heribert and Dhuoda.

Thiébaux (1998, p. 8, including notes 15 and 16) discusses Dhuoda's background.   She says that if Dhuoda's origins were northern Frankish, she was perhaps the daughter of the Guarnarius and Rothlindis who appear in the list of deceased kin in the Manual as well as in a charter of 751 for an abbey in Luxembourg.   On the other hand, Thiébaux says that “Dhuoda's being entrusted with protecting the Spanish frontier could argue for someone familiar with the region, rather than a newcomer from the north.”   She also points out, as others have, that internal evidence in Dhuoda's Manual “may also point to her having grown up in southern France or northern Spain.”

In conclusion, it appears at present that the relation with Eudes of Orléans is somewhat more likely to be through Dhuoda than through Guibour and that Dhuoda's parents are somewhat more likely to be Wernher and Rotlint than Sancho-Lupus and his wife.   However, the case is far from closed, and we should be alert for further evidence and further discussion of this issue.


Aurell, Martin.   1995.   Les Noces du Comte: Mariage et Pouvoir en Catalogne (785-1213).   Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.

Jackman, Donald C.   1997.   Criticism and Critique: Sidelights on the Konradiner.   Oxford: Unit for Prosopographical Research.   (Occasional Publications, vol. 1.)

Malan, Ronald F.   1997.   “The Ancestry of Dhuoda, Duchess of Septimania.”   The Genealogist 11: 116-126.

Moriarty, George Andrews.   1985.   The Plantagenet Ancestry of King Edward III and Queen Philippa.   Salt Lake City: Mormon Pioneer Genealogical Society.     The original manuscript is in Boston at the New England Historic Genealogical Society, with copies at Salt Lake City and Philadelphia (at the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania).

Mussot-Goulard, Renée.   1982.   Les Princes de Gascogne, 768-1070.   Paris: CTR Editeur.

Settipani, Christian, and Patrick Van Kerrebrouck.   1993.   La préhistoire des Capetiens 481-987.   Première partie : Mérovingiens, Carolingiens et Robertiens.   Villeneuve d'Ascq (France): P. Van Kerrebrouck.

Taylor, Nathaniel L.   1997.   “Saint William, King David, and Makhir: A Controversial Medieval Descent.”   The American Genealogist 72 (July/October): 205-223.

Thiébaux, Marcelle.   1998.   Dhuoda, Handbook for her Warrior Son: Liber Manualis.   Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wollasch, Joachim.   1957.   “Eine adlige Familie des frühen Mittelalters.   Ihr Selbstverständnis und ihre Wirklichkeit.”   Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 39: 181-5.