Ingeborg of Denmark is rarely counted among the long line of famed French queens of the Middle Ages. Lacking the longevity and independent political authority of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the dense interpersonal and dynastic heritage of Adela of Champagne, or the geographic proximity of familial networks and long regency of Blanche of Castile, Ingeborg’s life was dominated by a nearly decade-long struggle in which her husband, Philip Augustus of France, sought to dissolve his marriage to her and reject her position as both wife and queen. Yet for all Philip’s efforts, Ingeborg endured and was ultimately restored, in principle, to her position as Queen of France, a privilege that she refused to deny herself through the long years of her marriage. Married at sixteen, rejected as wife the day after her wedding, and trapped in a kingdom whose language she barely spoke, Ingeborg’s resolute defence of her claim to the title of Queen of France, both in name and privilege, drew on a myriad of strategies from papal appeals over the question of marriage indissolubility to the definition of intercourse. Importantly, Ingeborg also tapped into the increasingly prevalent rhetoric and symbology of the crusading movement to define her queenly legitimacy in a manner which indelibly linked it with the Capetian dynasty, notwithstanding the efforts of Philip Augustus to excise her from it.
Crusading formed a vital framework for the legitimation of Christian nobility during the Central Middle Ages, and it is in this particular context that Ingeborg’s life and reign must be revisited, as exploration of the limited primary evidence associated with her rule shows a strong connection with both the wider crusading movement and recognition for the unique space crusading in the Central Middle Ages offered for the definition of elite female sovereignty. Financial support for crusading orders such as the Hospitallers and donation of funds to the maintenance of future crusading expeditions was a deliberate patronal choice that allowed Ingeborg to participate in a trans-Mediterranean network of Latin Christian cultural and political discourse that, during the thirteenth century, increasingly came to be associated with the monarchical and dynastic legitimacy of French royalty.