Adelaide del Vasto
Countess Consort of Sicily and Queen Consort of Jerusalem
Born c. 1075 – Died 1118
Claim to fame: became regent of Sicily in her mid-20’s and later entered into a bigamous marriage with Baldwin I of Jerusalem
From an illustrious family, Adelaide (also known as Adelasia or Azalaïs) became the third wife of Roger I of Sicily when she was in her early teens, and bore him two children. After Roger’s death in 1101, Adelaide became regent at the age of 26. She received much praise for her leadership by suppressing rebellions, employing local officials, respecting the ethnic diversity of Sicily and donating generously to local Greek monasteries. A Greek and Arab charter from 1109 describes Adelaide as “the great female ruler… protector of the Christian faith.” Though she continued to play a role in governance, Adelaide’s regency ended when her son Roger II reached his majority in 1112.
In 1113 Adelaide agreed to become the third wife of King Baldwin I of Jerusalem on the condition that the kingdom would pass to her son if the new union produced no children. Unbeknownst to Adelaide, Baldwin was still considered married to his previous wife whom he had abandoned, leading to his condemnation by Pope Paschal II and the annulment of his marriage to Adelaide in 1117.
Adelaide returned to Sicily and died the following year. Roger II was so outraged by his mother’s treatment that he never forgave the Kingdom of Jerusalem and refused to assist the Crusader states.