Early 929 Henry I., King of East Frankia, took the Hevelli chieftain Tugumir hostage. As far as is known, the sister of Tugumir went with him into captivity. In the same year she gave birth to Wilhelm, son of Otto (later Otto I. (the Great)), Henry's son and heir. The birth was out of wedlock and there seems to have been no intention for a marriage. Tugumir himself became a christian during this time and later served Otto as vassal.

What I find peculiar about this story is, that a hostage, i.e. someone who's home was just destroyed and who was deported to a foreign country, would freely be having intercourse with her captor's son. As far as my understanding goes, hostages were considered to be some kind of guarded guests, even if they were not treated too well. But this story has the stink of rape, as far as I understand it. But all biographies I have read seem to think nothing of it.

Maybe someone knows more about hostages and their treatment in the years between 900 and 1000 in the middle of Europe, and can explain to me, what I am missing here.

Thank you for reading.

  • 1
    Stockholm syndrome?
    – AllInOne
    Apr 12, 2017 at 15:45
  • 5
    Hostages were typically treated very well; especially if royalty as these two were. Although it is fiction, the case of Theon Greyjoy is a good example of how a Middle Ages, royal born, hostage was treated. Note that in the most common scenario, hostages were traded: my son for yours, and was mutually advantageous. The surrogate father-son relationship was quite strong, and bound two families together very well. It also was typically educationally advantageous for both hostages, by exposing them to additional teachers and library resources in an age when books were very expensive. Apr 12, 2017 at 23:56
  • @AllInOne: That would have been Stockholm Syndrome after about one month. Possible. Apr 13, 2017 at 17:23
  • @Pieter Geerkens: That is what I thought, although in this case it seems to not have been a hostage exchange, just a reassurance for the conquerers /attackers. But even when the families where bound together, sexual relationships should have been frowned upon. Thank you for your answer. Apr 13, 2017 at 17:32
  • @user1021794: You are applying current morals to another age - in the Middle Ages it would have been seen to be a bonus if a relationship developed. This was a time when it was still considered good form (in that part of the world) to kidnap one's wife from a neighbouring tribe or village. Apr 13, 2017 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


This is a complex area, and one should try to think in the mind-set of the times, rather than that of the 21st century. There were many kinds of "hostage" ranging from a highly protected type (wardship, used where a minor was vulnerable to undesirable influence/abuse/coercion such as in the case of Henry II K-of-E), mutual trust "equal exchange" types especially where a prince and princess were engaged to be married, types intended to ensure compliance with peace treaties, right down to concubinage (with sometimes noble motives). Very often, due to the absolute power of the monarch, this led to scurrilous rumour and gossip, but often too, downright scandal such as the case of King Henry II and Alais, daughter of Louis of France. This led to Richard I refusing to marry her, because Henry notoriously had difficulty keeping his sword in its scabbard.

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