Medieval politics, unfortunately, offered little patience, protection or mercy to child kings. One such ill-fated youthful ruler was King Liutpert of the Lombards, who ascended to the throne in the year 700. He was too young to rule on his own, so the realm was governed by a regency council headed by Liutpert’s guardian and tutor, Ansprand. Not all of the Lombard realm, however, was in alignment with the regency administration. While there was one network of nobles supporting young Liutpert, there was another cabal of nobles—based around Duke Raginpert of Turin and his son Aripert—that was plotting to depose the vulnerable boy-king. Regrettably, justice does not always triumph over injustice, and good does not always defeat evil. It was a lesson that young Liutpert would realize all too well.
After Liutpert had been king for only eight months, Duke Raginpert of Turin made his bid for the Lombard throne. In announcing his uprising, Duke Raginpert made himself an enemy of the lead regent, Ansprand, and his many allies, including noblemen named Ato, Tatzo, Farao, and most notably, Duke Rotharit of Bergamo. Yet, Ansprand and his network of loyalist friends proved unable to best the rebel duke in war. Raginpert defeated the regency forces in battle and besieged the capital city of Pavia (also called Ticinum at this time). Yet, in a twist of fate, Duke Raginpert died suddenly just as he was reaching the precipice of his regal ambitions. Misfortune for the old duke, however, came as a great boon for his equally ambitious son. Raginpert’s heir, Aripert, quickly seized leadership over the uprising and continued his father’s war against Ansprand and Liutpert. With a renewed push against the capital city of Pavia, Aripert did what his father had not been able to do—he captured young King Liutpert and forced the Regency alliance to split up and flee. Not long after Liutpert came under Aripert’s control, the young monarch was executed and the usurper ascended to the throne as King Aripert II.
Although Liutpert was cruelly killed, his tutor and guardian, Ansprand, managed to escape from Aripert’s clutches. He first fled to the island of Comacina in Lake Como, near Milan. The island fortress was not far enough away, however, so Ansprand embraced exile and sought sanctuary in the realm of Duke Theodbert of Bavaria. His life and limb, however, came at a steep price, and it was not just young King Liutpert that Ansprand had abandoned during his retreat to Bavaria. As it happened, Ansprand had a wife and children living in Pavia at the time when the city fell to Aripert. Only a single child, a son named Liutprand, managed to reach his father in the safety of Bavaria. Ansprand’s remaining family was trapped in Pavia and ultimately fell into the hands of Aripert. These captured family members included, Ansprand’s wife (Theodorada), a son (Sigiprand), and a daughter (Aurona).
King Aripert II evidently had a deep and personal dislike of Ansprand. Perhaps, the usurper king recognized signs of regal ambitions in Ansprand and his family. Possibly hoping to curtail these perceived ambitions, Aripert made the grisly decision to have Ansprand’s eldest son, Sigiprand, subjected to the mutilation of blinding. As the Lombard historian, Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), graphically phrased it, Aripert “tore out the eyes of Sigiprand…” (Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 6.22). This was bad enough, but King Aripert II did not stop there in his alleged cruelty toward the imprisoned family of Ansprand; the king’s torturers and butchers were even unleashed against the exile’s wife and daughter. Paul the Deacon wrote, “king Aripert caused the wife of Ansprand, Theodorada by name, to be seized…she was disfigured in the beauty of her face, her nose and ears being cut off. Also the sister of Liutprand, Aurona by name, was mutilated in like manner” (History of the Lombards, 6.22). Such was the grim price of Ansprand’s failures as regent.
Mistakes of the past aside, Ansprand would have his revenge. He was not idle while he lived the life of an exile in the realm of Duke Theodbert of Bavaria. After more than a decade of making friends and obtaining owed favors from potential allies, Ansprand finally launched a Bavarian-backed invasion of Lombard Italy in 711 or 712. It was an odd campaign, to say the least. On one side, Ansprand was falling deathly ill as the battles were waged. Yet, on the other side, King Aripert’s decisions were becoming careless and erratic. As the story goes, the war reached a peculiar end when King Aripert II drowned while attempting a secretive river crossing. Following the drowning, Ansprand seized the throne in 712, but he reportedly died of his lingering illness after only three months of rule. Ansprand was succeeded by his unmutilated son, Liutprand, who ruled from 712 until his death in 744.
Written by C. Keth Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Punishment from BL Royal 16 G VI, f. 420v, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and The British Library).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.