|Theophano or Theophanu Byzantine princess and later Holy Roman empress|
Married to Otto II on Easter 972, Theophanu (also Theophano) was crowned empress on the same occasion. The marriage was the result of an alliance between Otto I and the Byzantine Empire. Otto desired a princess of imperial descent (porphyrogenita) for his son to help legitimize Ottonian rule. Instead of a porphyrogenita,though, he received Theophanu, a noble kinswoman of the Byzantine usurper John Tzimiskes. Contemporary sources agree that she was not the “longed-for princess,” but her Greek sophistication and enormous treasure overcame most dissent to the marriage.
Theophanu, almost certainly born in 959, soon exerted a strong influence over Otto II, as can be seen in her sixtysix interventions among Otto II’s 317 extant documents. She traveled with him almost continually, even giving birth to her children at monasteries along the royal itinerary, so she could rejoin her husband quickly. She was blamed for Otto II’s ill-fated campaign to southern Italy, although it is unlikely she would have favored the Byzantine government after the Macedonian dynasty was restored in 976.
After Otto II’s death on December 7, 983, Theophanu at first made no effort to claim the regency for her infant son Otto III. After Duke Henry the Quarrelsome proved his unsuitability for the post by trying to make himself king, though, the twenty-three-year-old Theophanu stepped into the vacuum that had been created. She gained power especially thanks to the efforts of Archbishop Willigis of Mainz, who summoned her from Italy to help protect her son’s rights. She then acted as effective sole regent until her death. Although she did not lead troops herself, Theophanu supported the Saxon margraves’s campaigns against the Slavs. Even the frequently hostile Quedlinburg annalist gives her credit for restoring political stability after Otto II’s defeat at Cotrone, the Slav revolt of 983, and Otto’s untimely death. She reestablished alliances with the Danes, Boleslav II of Bohemia, and Mieszko I of Poland through diplomacy, and was also able to maintain loose German control over Italy. In the fall of 989 she was able to visit Rome for business with only a few followers, acting there as “emperor Theophanius,” using the masculine form to give her authority since she could not issue documents in the name of the absent Otto III. Much of her authority as regent came from her close alliance with churchmen who often acted as her agents, especially Gerbert of Aurillac and Bishop Notker of Liège.
Contemporaries accused Theophanu of excessive love of luxury and of talkativeness, perhaps a comment on the unusual role she played as a female ruler. Kinder commentators have called her “eloquent.” She appears to have been pious, acting as a typical royal widow of the time in her alms and prayers for her husband’s soul. She was about thirty years old when she died on June 15, 991, in Nijmegen, leaving a stable realm for her son. She is buried in the monastery of St. Pantaleon, Cologne.
For the arrival of Theophanu in Rome in 972 a show of Byzantine splendour was put on. In elaborate ceremonies, the princess was first married to Otto II and then crowned as Empress of Rome. AS part of the festivities, Theophanu was issued with a document outlining her rights and the donations of lands as part of her dowry. The document is one of the most beautiful parchment documents that has come down to us from the Middle Ages. It was produced on purple parchment and written in gold ink, a process reserved for Imperial decrees of the highest order.
|the document(or probably a copy of it)|
The document held at the State Archive of Wolfenbüttel in Germany is probably only a copy, though it might be Theophanu’s personal copy at that. The archive is the legal successor to the dissolved convent at Gandersheim where the Imperial family deposited their personal documents. The document lists the lands that passed to Theophanu by marriage and her rights as Empress and as a member of the Imperial Council. In fact, Theophanu received the same amount of power as her mother-in-law Empress Adelheid.
A copy of the document may be viewed in the Café Theophanu in Quendlinburg, in case you don’t want to go through the hassle of gaining access to the State Archive in Wolfenbüttel.