Emma was born the only child of Lothair and Adelaide of Italy. Her father died within a few years of her birth, leaving her mother to face her great rival Berengar of Ivrea. He imprisoned Adelaide and seized power, but she escaped soon afterwards and married Otto the Great. With Otto’s help, she ousted Berengar and brought northern Italy under Otto’s control. Emma’s half-brother, the future Otto II, was born in 955.
Otto’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor in 962 made Emma a desirable marriage candidate. She wed Lothair of France in 965, becoming Queen of the Franks. She soon found herself in an uncomfortable position: her husband and her half-brother, now Emperor, were military rivals, frequently invading each other’s lands. They eventually made peace in the last years of Otto’s reign. Meanwhile, Emma made a political rival of her brother-in-law, Charles of Lower Lorraine.
In 977, when her son Louis was ten, Charles accused her of adultery with Adalbero, Bishop of Laon. Though she was found innocent and Charles was forced to flee, the accusation would come back to haunt her. It came up again after Lothair’s death in 986, with the support of Emma and Lothair’s son, Louis. This time it was Charles who emerged victorious. She found herself once more accused of adultery, ousted from her position as regent, and imprisoned. She was eventually released, but did not return to Court, dying in obscurity.
Emma found not allies but rivals in her husband’s family. Her own mother refused to answer her pleas for help, possibly because of her husband’s rivalry with her half-brother, and while her sister-in-law, the Empress Theophanu, tried to free her from her imprisonment, her attempts came to nothing. The very familial connections that had made her mother Adelaide so powerful had betrayed her daughter Emma.
*Considered the last Carolingian king.