Chuppa was a warrior and official of fairly high status in the lands of the Franks in the 6th century. He was known to have served King Chilperic (r. 561-584) and then was an agent of the king’s widow, Queen Fredegund (d. 597), but after an eventual falling-out with the queen, he seemingly started to roam the Frankish empire with a personal army of goons, seeking out opportunities for himself instead of doing the bidding of the nobility. Of the many goals that the now self-serving Chuppa wanted to accomplish for himself, a marriage was high on the list. He had a bride in mind—a daughter of the late Bishop Badegisel of Le Mans (r. 581-586). Although the bishop was dead, his wife was still alive. Her name was Dame Magnatrude, and she was a no-nonsense, tough individual, as Chuppa would soon find out.
After the death of Bishop Badegisel, the widowed Dame Magnatrude became embroiled in a bitter legal fight with Bertram, the next bishop of Le Mans. They quarreled over the bishopric’s lands, wealth and treasures. In the end, Bishop Bertram was the victor in the dispute, but Dame Magnatrude did not necessarily come out of the fight with a loss. Through steadfastly asserting her claims to what she convincingly identified as her rightful property, Magnatrude was able to maintain control of a sizable estate, ample wealth, and a large staff of workers. It was this unyielding fighter of a woman whose daughter Chuppa wanted to marry, and as far as Magnatrude was concerned, Chuppa’s proposal was unwelcome.
Intending to threaten or impress Magnatrude and her daughter, Chuppa appeared on their estate with his army of henchmen. Magnatrude, however, viewed this display of force with disgust. Instead of humoring Chuppa’s marriage proposal, Magnatrude instead barred the doors to her estate homes and mustered the local workers and servants into a fighting force of her own. Chuppa, in turn, did not take the rejection well. With the battle lines drawn, Chuppa decided to try to take his bride by force. Bishop Gregory of Tours (c. 539-594), a figure contemporaneous to that time, wrote of the peculiar scene that occurred that day:
“Chuppa assembled some of his men and tried to carry off as his bride the daughter of Badigisel, the late Bishop of Le Mans. With a band of followers he broke into a country house at Mareil to accomplish his design, but when the girl’s mother, Dame Magnatrude, came to hear of his plans, she assembled her servants and sallied forth against him. Several of Chuppa’s men were killed. He himself escaped, but it was a pretty discreditable affair” (Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, X.5).
After being driven away from the estate by Magnatrude and her mob of armed servants, Chuppa’s activity in the lands of the Franks dramatically decreased. Perhaps his reputation was tarnished enough by the incident that he became a pariah in Frankish society. Or maybe he was injured in the fight and later died of his wounds. Whatever the case, Chuppa slipped into obscurity after being defeated in battle by the formidable Dame Magnatrude.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Scene from the life of Jeanne d’Arc, printed in the 19th century, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Rijksmuseum).
- The History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, translated by Lewis Thorpe. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.