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Genoveva Of Brabant

GENOVEVA OF BRABANT, also Genevieve or Genovefa of Brabant, heroine of medieval legend. Her story is a typical example of the widespread tale of the chaste wife falsely accused and repudiated, generally on the word of a rejected suitor. Genovefa of Brabant was said to be the wife of the palatine Siegfried of Treves, and was falsely accused by the majordomo Golo. Sentenced to death she was spared by the executioner, and lived for six years with her son in a cave in the Ardennes nourished by a roe. Siegfried, who had meanwhile found out Golo's treachery, was chasing the roe when he discovered her hiding-place, and reinstated her in her former honour. Her story is said to rest on the history of Marie of Brabant, wife of Louis II., duke of Bavaria, and count-palatine of the Rhine, who was tried by her husband and beheaded on the 18th of January 1256, for supposed infidelity, a crime for which Louis afterwards had to do penance. The change in name may have been due to the cult of St Geneviève, patroness of Paris. The tale first obtained wide popularity in L'Innocence reconnue, ou vie de Sainte Geneviève de Brabant (pr. 1638) by the Jesuit René de Cérisier (1603-1662), and was a frequent subject for dramatic representation in Germany. With Genovefa's history may be compared the Scandinavian ballads of Ravengaard og Memering, which exist in many recensions. These deal with the history of Gunild, who married Henry, duke of Brunswick and Schleswig. When Duke Henry went to the wars he left his wife in charge of Ravengaard, who accused her of infidelity. Gunild is cleared by the victory of her champion Memering, the "smallest of Christian men." The Scottish ballad of Sir Aldingar is a version of the same story. The heroine Gunhilda is said to have been the daughter of Canute the Great and Emma. She married in 1036 King Henry, afterwards the emperor Henry III., and there was nothing in her domestic history to warrant the legend, which is given as authentic history by William of Malmesbury (De gestis regum Anglorum, lib. ii. § 188). She was called Cunigund after her marriage, and perhaps was confused with St Cunigund, the wife of the emperor Henry II. In the Karlamagnus-saga the innocent wife is Oliva, sister of Charlemagne and wife of King Hugo, and in the French Carolingian cycle the emperor's wife Sibille (La Reine Sibille) or Blanchefleur (Macaire). Other forms of the legend are to be found in the story of Doolin's mother in Doon de Mayence, the English romance of Sir Triamour, in the story of the mother of Octavian in Octavian the Emperor, in the German folk book Historie von der geduldigen Königin Crescentia, based on a 12th-century poem to be found in the Kaiserchronik; and the English Erl of Toulouse (c.1400). In the last-named romance it has been suggested that the story gives the relations between Bernard I. count of Toulouse, son of the Guillaume d'Orange of the Carolingian romances, and the empress Judith, second wife of Louis the Pious.

See F.J. Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads, vol. ii. (1886), art. "Sir Aldingar"; S. Grundtvig, Danske Kaempeviser (Copenhagen, 1867); "Sir Triamore," in Bishop Percy's Folio MS., ed. Hales and Furnivall, vol. ii. (London, 1868); The Romance of Octavian, ed. E.M. Goldsmid (Aungervyle Soc., Edinburgh, 1882); The Erl of Toulous and the Emperes of Almayn, ed. G. Lüdtke (Berlin, 1881); B. Seuffert, Die Legende von der Pfalzgräfin Genovefa (Würzburg, 1877); B. Golz, Pfalzgräfin Genovefa in der deutschen Dichtung (Leipzig, 1897); R. Köhler, "Die deutschen Volksbücher von der Pfalzgräfin Genovefa," in Zeitschr. für deutsche Philologie (1874).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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