Brunhilda (brənhĭldˈə) [key] or Brunehaut brünōˈ, d. 613, Frankish queen, wife of Sigebert I of the East Frankish kingdom of Austrasia; daughter of Athanagild, the Visigothic king of Spain. After the murder (567) of her sister Galswintha, who was the wife of Sigebert's brother Chilperic I of the West Frankish kingdom of Neustria, and Chilperic's marriage to his mistress Fredegunde, Brunhilda was the major instigator in the war against Neustria. The struggle continued between Brunhilda and Fredegunde after the death (575) of Sigebert and the murder (584) of Chilperic. Throughout the reigns of her son, Childebert II, and of two grandsons, Brunhilda was the actual ruler of Austrasia and of Burgundy, when by her design that country was united with Austrasia after the death (592) of King Guntram. She was endowed with the gifts of a great statesman, but her unscrupulousness in the execution of her plans earned her the fierce hatred of the nobles, whom she nonetheless controlled. She was finally betrayed by them to Fredegunde's son, Clotaire II of Neustria. He put her to a horrible death.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.