Adela of Normandy

Adela of Normandy, of Blois, or of England (c. 1067 – 8 March 1137),[1] also known as Saint Adela in Roman Catholicism,[2] was a daughter of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders who later became the countess of Blois, Chartres, and Meaux by marriage to Stephen II of Blois. Her husband greatly benefited from the increased social status and prestige that came with such a marriage. She brought with her not only her bloodline but a dowry of money and other movable goods from the prodigious store of Anglo-Norman wealth. She was regent of Blois during the absence of her spouse in 1096–1100 and 1101–02, and during the minority of her son from 1102 until 1120.[3] Adela was the mother of King Stephen of England and Bishop Henry of Winchester.

Adela was born after her father became the English King. It is generally believed she was born in 1067.  She was the favorite sister of King Henry I of England. They were probably the youngest of the Conqueror’s children. Adela was a high-spirited and educated woman,  She had a knowledge of Latin.  She had three older brothers and one younger.  She knew she would not inherit the leadership of England, but having children with her would be a valuable asset to any suitor

Adela married Stephen Henry, son, and heir to the count of Blois, between 1080 and 1083. She was 15.  Stephen was twenty years older than she was.  Stephen inherited Blois, Chartres, and Meaux upon his father’s death in 1089, including land in Berry and Burgundy. This became the county of Champagne.
Adela and her husband had a relationship based on trust, respect, and affection.  She made decisions along with Stephen. She promised with her husband to protect the bishop of Chartres, then in a dispute with the king of France.

Stephen-Henry joined the First Crusade in 1096, along with his brother-in-law Robert Curthose. Stephen’s letters to Adela give insight into the experiences of the Crusade’s leaders.  They show he trusted Adela to rule as regent while he was on crusade and during his second expedition in 1101. This included granting monks the right to build new churches and other charters. Adela also worked with Ivo of Chartres, exchanging letters throughout her regency to discuss the control of misbehaving nuns and disputes about sworn oaths. While her husband was away, Adela would continue to tour their lands, settling disputes, promoting economic growth, and commanding knights to go to battle with the king. 

When her husband returned to France in 1100, he brought several cartloads of maps, jewels, and other treasures, He abandoned the First Crusade returning to France in embarrassment.   Adela berated him, urging him to return to the Holy Land. He made a promise to the pope.  He returned to Antioch to participate in the crusade of 1101. He was ultimately killed in a last stand after the Battle of Ramla in 1102.
Adela continued to act as regent after her husband’s death for her son.  Thibaud’s early rule until her retirement in 1120. Even after Thibaud came of age and no longer needed a regent, Adela continued to issue charters and act as co-ruler of many parts of their land. Adela did not secure a marriage alliance for Thibaud, who did not get married until after Adela’s retirement, which helped to maintain her power and influence over both her son and her lands.

Adela was a devout Benedictine sympathizer.  She hired several Benedictine tutors to educate her children. When Henry was two, he was pledged to the Church at Cluny Abbey. He was dedicated to the service of God.  Henry went on to be appointed Abbot of Glastonbury and Bishop of Winchester. He sponsored hundreds of constructions including bridges, canals, palaces, forts, castles, and whole villages. Bishop Henry built dozens of abbeys and chapels and sponsored books.

Adela retired to Marcigny Convent in 1120. She continued to interact and communicate with her children and church leaders of lands that she had once ruled

Later that same year, her daughter Lucia-Mahaut drowned in the wreck of the White Ship alongside her husband. Adela lived long enough to see her son Stephen as the King of England.  She died on March 8, 1137.