The Legend of Hildegard, Charlemagne’s wife

This is a legend about Charlemagne and his half-brother Taland, who falls in love with Hildegard, Charlemagne’s wife. When the emperor Charlemagne returned from Spain, he had to leave immediately to fight the Saxons, who had invaded his kingdom and burned churches and villages. He ordered Taland, his half-brother, to stay at the imperial palace at Ingelheim to protect the empress, Hildegard. Taland begged his emperor to take him to fight the Saxons, but Charlemagne had made up his mind and left the same day.

Imperial Palace Ingelheim
Imperial Palace Ingelheim – Braveheart09, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Taland had fallen in love with Hildegard and seeing her every day increased his desire for her. Again and again he approached her, but she was not interested and her heart belonged only to her husband. After a while, she grew tired of his advances and invited him into a cottage in the forest. Taland agreed joyfully, expecting that Hildegard had changed her mind, but as soon as he stepped into the house, the door was shut and he was locked inside. 

Every day a servant would bring him food and drink whilst Taland raged. After several weeks, however, he decided to use guile and calmed himself. He stopped eating and drinking and told the servant that he was not going to ask for forgiveness, but had decided to die in the cottage. The servant confirmed to the empress that Taland had lost weight and was surely going to die. Hildegard, being merciful of nature, allowed the prison to be opened and Taland emerged. 

At the same time, Charlemagne returned from his successful campaign against the Saxons.  Taland immediately rode towards him and told his emperor that Hildegard had been unfaithful. He himself had seen her with a foreign knight and she had imprisoned him to keep the deed secret. Without seeking further explanation, Charlemagne ordered Hildegard to be drowned in the Rhine for her lack of loyalty. She was dragged to the river instantly, but two mysterious riders approached the henchmen and saved Hildegard from drowning. Charlemagne was informed, however, that his wife was dead.

Ingelheim um 1550
Ingelheim um 1550 – gescannt von: Michael Schmalenstroer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After some time, Charlemagne grew lonely and started to consider the tale. Slowly, doubts grew and he was not sure anymore that he had acted correctly. Most importantly, he missed Hildegard terribly. Unbeknownst to him, she had found her way to her brother’s castle, where she she decided to join a monastery and become a nun, calling herself sister Arabella and dedication her life to healing. Her skills grew and she was even asked to come to Rome to perform her miracles. 

Charlemagne went on several campaigns and Taland was always at his side. Slowly but surely though, the men grew older and Taland became ill and struggled to see. The two had heard of the wondrous healing powers of Sister Arabella and they decided to seek her advice. On seeing Taland, Arabella proclaimed that only if he confessed his sins he would heal. Taland refused but he grew weaker by the day. Eventually he gave in and confessed his dark deeds to Arabella and his emperor. Arabella lifted her veil and revealed herself to be Hildegard, the empress. Charlemagne could not believe his eyes and gladly took her in his arms. Taland, she gave a healing potion and he recovered quickly. Charlemagne wanted to execute him, but Hildegard convinced him to banish Taland from the realm but let him live. Together, the emperor and empress returned to the Imperial Palace at Ingelheim, where they lived happily for the rest of their lives. 

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