Adelaide del Vasto

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Adelaide del Vasto
Countess of Sicily
Queen consort of Jerusalem
Repudiation d'Adelaide de Montferrat.png
Bornc. 1075
Died(1118-04-16)16 April 1118 (aged 43)
Noble family Aleramici
Spouse(s) Roger I of Sicily
m. 1089 w.1101
Baldwin I of Jerusalem
m. 1112 an. 1117
Issue Simon of Sicily
Roger II of Sicily
Father Manfred del Vasto

Adelaide del Vasto (Adelasia, Azalaïs) (c.1075 16 April 1118) was countess of Sicily as the third spouse of Roger I of Sicily, and Queen consort of Jerusalem by marriage to Baldwin I of Jerusalem. She served as regent of Sicily during the minority of her son Roger II of Sicily from 1101 until 1112.



She was the daughter of Manfred del Vasto (brother of Boniface del Vasto, marquess of Western Liguria, and Anselm del Vasto). Her uncle held much political clout in the region of Liguria–a document relating the deeds of Roger I described him as “that most renowned marquis of Italy.” [1] Her father's family was of Frankish descent of a branch of the Aleramici, sharing a common descent from Aleramo of Montferrat with the marquesses of Montferrat. Her brothers founded the lines of the marquesses of Saluzzo, of Busca, of Lancia, of Ceva, and of Savona.

Her paternal grandparents were Teto II del Vasto, and his wife Bertha of Turin, daughter of margrave Ulric Manfred II of Turin.

Countess consort of Sicily

In 1089, Adelaide married Roger I while her sister married Roger's illegitimate son Jordan. Roger I died in 1101, and Adelaide ruled as regent of Sicily for her young sons Simon and Roger II. Adelaide herself was quite young when she became regent; she was only about 26 years old at the time. [2] During her tenure, the emir Christodulus rose to preeminence at the court and Palermo was settled as the capital of the realm.

Almost immediately after Adelaide assumed the position of regent, rebellions broke out in parts of Calabria and Sicily. [3] The writings of the Norman monk Orderic Vitalis recount that Adelaide put an end to these episodes of insurgency with severity. [4] The use of great force in suppressing such rebellions, however, did not tarnish her reputation as a ruler. In fact, Abbot Alexander of Telese's history of Roger I describes Adelaide as

“a most prudent woman, [she] exercised the cares of the government and ruled over the county.” [5]

A Greek and Arab charter from 1109 describes Adelaide as “the great female ruler, the malikah of Sicily and Calabria, the protector of the Christian faith.” [6]

Adelaide's older son, Simon, was enthroned when he reached the appropriate age (around 8 or 9 years old) but died in 1105, leaving Adelaide regent again until Roger II reached his majority in 1112. [7] Adelaide's second son, Roger II, took control over control of the kingdom in 1112, but there is evidence that Adelaide continued to play a central role in the governing of the island as her signature can still be seen on official documents even after 1112. [8]

Adelaide, and Roger II after her, chose to rule with the help of local officials, rather than importing a retinue of foreign advisors recognizing the great advantage in their familiarity with the island, its people and its cultures. [9] Similarly, she was careful to donate generously to the local Greek monasteries on Sicily as a way of currying favor with the pre-existing religious authorities. [10]

Either through her influence or under her regency, her brother Henry del Vasto was granted Paternò and Butera. Henry (Enrico) was married to Flandina daughter of Count Roger I. of Calabria and Sicily.

Queen consort of Jerusalem

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, after the death of Baldwin's first wife Godehilde during the First Crusade, Baldwin married an Armenian noblewoman traditionally known as Arda. Arda was useful in an alliance with the Armenians while Baldwin was Count of Edessa, but when he became King of Jerusalem in 1100 he seemed to have little use for an Armenian wife, and Arda was forced into a convent around 1105.

In 1112 a new marriage was sought for the king. Arnulf of Chocques, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, suggested that Baldwin marry Adelaide, as Roger II was now old enough to rule Sicily alone. Baldwin sent ambassadors to Sicily, and somewhat hastily agreed to any terms which Adelaide might have; Adelaide demanded that their son, should they have one, inherit Jerusalem, and if they had no children, the kingdom would pass to her own son Roger II. Adelaide brought with her an enormous amount of badly needed money, as well as some Muslim archers and a thousand other Sicilian soldiers.

Adelaide was already well into middle age and no new heir was immediately forthcoming. The king was blamed for a bigamous marriage (as Arda was still alive) and the Patriarch Arnulf was deposed. Pope Paschal II agreed to reinstate him in 1116, provided that he annul the marriage between Baldwin and Adelaide. Baldwin agreed, after falling ill and assuming that renouncing his sin of bigamy would cure him. In 1117 the annulment was performed at Acre, and Adelaide sailed back to Sicily.

Adelaide died on 16 April 1118 and was buried in Patti. Roger II was outraged at the treatment of his mother and never forgave the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Almost thirty years later, Roger still refused to give assistance to the Crusader states during the Second Crusade. William of Tyre wrote of the impact of the incident:

“Adelaide's son was angered beyond measure, because she had been sent back. He conceived a mortal hatred against the kingdom and its people. Other Christian princes in various parts of the world, either by coming in person or by giving liberal gifts, have amplified our infant realm. But he and his heirs at the present time have never become reconciled to us to the extent of a single friend word. Although they could have relieved our necessities by council and aid far more easily than other prince, yet they have always remembered their wrongs and have unjustly avenged upon the whole people the fault of a single individual.” [11]


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  1. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, The Deeds of Count Roger of Calabria and of His Brother Duke Robert Guiscard (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 189.
  2. Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 24.
  3. Graham A. Loud, Roger II and the Making of the Kingdom of Sicily (Manchester: Manchester University Press), 10
  4. Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 24.
  5. Graham A. Loud, Roger II and the Making of the Kingdom of Sicily (Manchester: Manchester University Press),
  6. Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002),
  7. Hiroshi Takayama, The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993), 40.
  8. Hiroshi Takayama, The Administration of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993), 47.
  9. Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 150.
  10. Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 26.
  11. William of Tyre as quoted in Hubert Houben, Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 28.
Adelaide del Vasto
Born:c. 1075 Died: 16 April 1118
Royal titles
Title last held by
Arda of Armenia
Queen consort of Jerusalem
Succeeded by