Desiderata , wife of Charlemagne
b.abt 755 Lombardy, Italy
Facts and Events
Desiderata or Ermengarda was one of four daughters of Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and his queen, Ansa. She was married to Charlemagne, king of the Franks, in 770, probably to form a bond between the otherwise enemy states of Francia and Lombardy. The marriage was annulled in 771 and this hurt relations with Lombardy, presaging the war of 774. She had no known children and her ultimate fate is unknown.
Although she is commonly referred to by the name Desiderata, it is now theorised that the name derives from an editorial error in a 19th-century copy of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica which capitalised the D in desideratam filiam (Latin for desired daughter). Even this error was sometimes compounded by a back formation to Desideria, a more probable first name (the feminine form of Desiderius, her father's name), or translated (as into French, Désirée).
The noted Carolingian historian, Janet Nelson, hypothesised in the 1998 work After Rome's Fall that Desiderius' daughter was in fact named Gerperga. The reasoning used by Nelson hinges on the confusion that many contemporaries apparently had between her and Gerberga, the Frankish wife of Carloman who was brother of Charlemagne and his co-ruler from 768 to 771. Even Pope Stephen III seems to confuse the two and the chroniclers and annalists seem to believe that Gerberga fled, when her husband died, to the court of her father (she fled to Desiderius, who was definitely not her father).
What is definite is that Desiderius and Ansa had three other daughters named Anselperga, Adelperga, and Liutperga. The commonality in the names of their daughters is the ending "-perga". Based on this, the author believes the confusion was caused because the two queens (wives of the two brothers Charles and Carloman) had the same name, namely Gerberga or Gerperga, which are respectively the Frankish and Lombard versions of the modern French name Gerberge.