Merode: more than 840 years of history

Origin

Illustrious Rhineland family of ministries of the Holy Roman Empire. Based in Kerpen on Erft (near Cologne), the first known representative is a Werner Carpania (Kerpen) mentioned between 1065 and 1071 in several acts of ownership. The Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1152 – 1190), during one of his stays at Aix-la-Chapelle and later during his stay from early 1174, wanted to strengthen his imperial authority in the region and control more effectively the road connecting Aix-la-Chapelle with Frankfurt and entrusted the management of his estate in Echtz to his Minister Werner Carpania probably a descendant of the former. At this time it was usual to call someone by his place of residence and Werner Carpania ought to be called “Echtz”. But between 1174 and 1180, this Werner (I) appears in his quality of minister as witness in several acts under the name “Wernerus of Rode”. Some historians believe the name Merode comes from the deforestation activity (Roden in German) that Werner started to install the castle at the foot of the Eifel, a few kilometers from Echtz. In 1218 there is again a written trace from a Werner (II) also Minister of the Emperor and probably son of the above (all known acts confirm this hypothesis). His alleged son, Werner (III), is the first proven ancestor of the House of Merode. Minister of the Emperor in 1275, he was appointed the official representative (Schultheiß) of Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg in Aix-la-Chapelle and he negotiated in June of the same year, with the approval of the Emperor, an alliance between him and the Archbishop of Cologne, Siegfried von Westerburg. He died in battle, with two of his sons, during the attack of Aix-la-Chapelle by Count William of Jülich in the famous night of 16 to 17 March 1278 called “Gertrudisnacht” named after the liturgical calendar of the saints.

Legend

Several legends, more or less serious, would place the origin of the family before 1065.

One of them, without any historical basis, would relate to Merovius, founder and first king of the Merovingian dynasty. In 451, under the banner of the Roman patrician Aetius, he defeated Attila near Chalons in Champagne and obliged the Huns to retreat beyond the Rhine.

Another one, more widely spread, traces the family to Raymond Berenger, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona and his wife Petronilla. Their 3rd son, Pierre Beranger, on his return from the Holy Land, retired in Germany and married in the second half of the 12th century Adelaide de Rode, daughter of Hugh, Baron of Rode, and Constance of La Mark. They had one son Werner Rode (see above Werner III).

If the genealogical and historical evidence starved for linking Merode to the House of Aragon, some clues could explain why the oral tradition has perpetuated this several centuries old legend:
- 14th century correspondence between Werner de Merode and the King of Aragon, where he is called “A great and mighty men Wernero de Merode, our dear parent”.
- The similarity of arms between the Royal House of Aragon and the House of Merode Carpania could also suggest a relationship.

However, we can imagine that when the emperors had established their capital at Aix-la-Chapelle, they have brought citizens from all corners of their empire. An origin of Navarre or Aragon cannot totally be excluded.

Illustration: Photo archive

Text and composition ©: Prince Charles-Louis de Merode

Bibliography:

DOMSTA, H.J.: Geschichte der Fürsten von Merode im Mittelalter, 1974

MARTIN, G.: Histoire et Généalogie de la Maison de Merode, 1999