Some sources say that Dhuoda/Duoda is of unknown parentage, but the History of Normandy and England (By Francis Palgrave, Francis Turner Published 1851) says that she was the half sister of Louis I, The Debonaire of France. This would maker her father Charlemagne. She was probably born about 803.
She married at Aachen, 29 June 824 to Bernard, Duke of Septimania. He was the son of St. William of Gellone, who was a cousin of Charlemagne (patron saint of knights) and supports the likelihood of an inter-familial marriage. The fact that Louis I was Bernard's god-father also supports a family relationship.
She gave birth to their first son, William, on 29 November, 826. After William's birth she probably did not see her husband often because he spent much of his time away in Aachen at court. Bernard was sent to defend the Spanish March by Louis the Pious. It served as the border between Islamic Spain and Christian Europe. Prior to William's birth, Duoda had traveled with Bernard. He then sent her to Uzes to live.
In addition to missing her sons, she would have had to deal with the rumors from court that Bernard was having an affair with the Queen, Judith. And she would have worried that he might not survive in all of the civil wars between Louis and his sons.
Louis I, the Pious died in 840 and Bernard went to Uzes. Sometime while he was there, their second son Bernard was conceived. Bernard took part in the Battle of Fontenay, 25 June 841 and was on the losing side. This is the cause of William being sent away as a hostage, to the court of Charles the Bald, shortly before their son, Bernard was born. Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to their second son, Bernard, 22 March, 841. He was sent away to the Aquitaine soon after.
Soon after losing her sons, Dhuoda began writing her handbook to William. He would have been about 16 when she wrote to him. At some time afterwards, William began to travel with his father and fight in battles with him.
She may not have lived for very long after she wrote the Manuals, and refers to her bad health in her writing. She gave William instructions for her epitaph.
There are 73 chapters in the Liber Manualis, including an introduction invocation and a prologue. Her book is mostly moral advice for how her sons should live their lives. They contain some interesting social history, about the education of noble women during her time. Some historians indicate that women were uneducated as a whole, but if that is true, she was an exception. She makes reference to the Bible and obviously had read the works of the writers of her time. She uses Latin as well. Ther is a manuscript of her writing in th Bibliotheque National, Paris and fragments of one in the anguage of the Carolingians is in a library at Nimes.
In her writing she tells William that above all else he should read and meditate upon the Psalms, because they contain wisdom and all things forseen. She stressed the importance of loyalty to the king and especially to his father. and told him that the proper behavior of a man should be based on devotion to God. She uses literary devices, numerology, puzzles, word plays, acrostics and poetry to teach the lessons in her writing.
She may have given him slightly different advice if she had been able to foresee the future. She completed her manual 2 February 843. Her husband Bernard revolted against the king, Charles the Bald and William stayed with his father. As a result, they both were killed. Bernard was executed in 844, by Charles the Bald and William joined the Aquitanians to avenge his death. He was killed in 848. She was probably living at the time Bernard was executed but most likely died before her son was killed.
She told William to “Love, venerate, welcome, and honor everyone, so that you may deserve the enjoyment of reciprocal benefit.”
“Surely, if sky and meadows were unfurled through the air like a scroll of parchment and if all the gulfs of the sea were transformed, tinged like inks of many colors, and if all earth's inhabitants born in the world from the beginning until now were writers (by some increase of human genius, an impossibility contrary to nature!), they would not be able to seize upon the grandeur, the breadth the loftiness, and be able to tell the depth, of the sublimity, and divinity and wisdom, and goodness, and mercy of him who is called God.”
“Furthermore,Trust that God is above and beneath, within and without, for he is higher, lower, deeper withing and farther without. He is above, because he presides over us and rules us; he sis sublime and as the Psalmist says, “his glory is over all the heavens.” He is beneath because he supports us all....In him we remain always. He is deeper within, because he fills us all and satisfies us with good things...He is farther without, because with his unassailable rampart he surrounds and defends and protects us all.”
You can see some of her work here http://pagesperso-orange.fr/bckg/english/dhuoda.htm and here http://home.infionline.net/%7Eddisse/dhuoda.html
Here is the prayer at the beginning of her work.
Divine Lord, high Maker of light, and Creator
of heaven's stars, Eternal King, Holy--
Deign to empower me, I entreat you,
raising me high to be at your hand,
You center that enclose the whirling firmament,
folding ocean and fields within your hand,
To you I commend William, my son—at your command
may well-being be lavished on him in all ways.
May he deserve to climb to highest peak,
swift-footed, happy, with those who are yours/
May his perceptions always be alert,
open, to you; may he live blissfully for ever;
When he's hurt, let him never burst into anger
or wander away, severed from your friends;
May your generous grace penetrate him,
with peace and security of body and mind,
In which he may flourish in the world, and have children,
holding what's here so as not to lose what's there
I...am asking you with all my strength:have mercy
I descend from her younger son called Bernard Plantapilosa.
The Frankish Church -
by John Michael Wallace-Hadrill – 1983
A history of the Middle Ages, 300-1500 - Page 198
by John M. Riddle- 2008
Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion ... - Page 248
by Rita Nakashima Brock, Rebecca Ann Parker - 2008
Encyclopedia of barbarian Europe: society in transformation - Page 143
by Michael Frassetto - 2003