The Middle Ages knew great women and female rulers.
One of these was Theophanu, Empress and Regent of the Ottonian Empire in the tenth century. For reasons of politics and prestige, Otto I, Emperor between 962 and 973, had sought a tighter relationship with Byzantium, which regarded itself as the heir of the Roman Caesars.
Marriage policy offered itself as a solution. The heir to the throne, the later Otto II, was of a marriageable age. Thus, the court sent a delegation to Byzantium to seek a purple-born bride – that is, the daughter of Emperor Basil II.
The choice fell on Theophanu, not the daughter but the niece of Basil. The disappointment at the Ottonian court was great, despite the precious dowry. Scholars have determined that parts of the bridal gift were incorporated in the pulpit of Henry II at Aachen Cathedral.
Ambo in Aix-la-Chapelle Cathedral
The court considered to send the girl back to Byzantium. Yet, either Otto I possessed good people skills or he feared a scandal, and Theophanu staid and married her 17-year-old groom. After his death in 983, Theophanu resolutely defended the crown and throne for her three-year-old son against a Bavarian relative who (not undeservedly) was called "The Brawler", and became regent for the later Otto III.
Sarcophagus in St. Pantaleon, Cologne
The Empress died in 991, at the age of 36 or 31, four years before the coronation of her son.
She is interred in a white marble sarcophagus in the Church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne.
The likewise well-respected Adelheid, widow of Otto I, took over the regency.
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)