The Christian saint and the Muslim princess

An interesting tale which highlights the differences in tolerance between the eighth century and today concerns my 34th great-grandfather St. William of Gellone (also known as William of Orange) and a woman widely considered to be his wife.
St. William was, as his sainthood implies, a devout Catholic. Yet his very background was interfaith; his mother, Aude de France, and paternal grandmother, Rolinde de Aquitaine, were Christian; his paternal grandfather, Habibai ben Nehemiah ben Natronai David, was born a Jew in Babylonia. Through his mother, he was a grandson of Charles Martel, and served his cousin Charlemagne in the battle against the Umayyad caliphate. But it is his relationship with Guitburgi which interests historians, especially in the multicultural 21st century.

His wife's birth name is recorded as Orable; however, this is likely to be a translation of a Muslim name with a similar meaning, perhaps Dua ("prayer"). She was the daughter of Thibaud, who is referred to as a "Saracen king". The Umayyads, however, did not use the title of king, the closest being emir. Thibaud is a Franco-Germanic name meaning "bold people", which does not correspond with the names of any emir of Cordoba, but if we are to believe that her father was an emir, the most likely candidate based on date would be Abd al-Rahman I, who was born near Damascus and was of Meccan and Berber descent. However, he has no recorded daughters.
Regardless of who her parents were, Orable was undoubtedly raised Muslim. She had been married once before, to a wali (governor) of Orange, but William's forces killed him and he took her as either his wife or concubine (although he refers to her as his wife in his will, this has been doubted by modern historians). She converted to Christianity, although whether this was by choice or not is under debate. Her baptismal name was Guitburgi (also rendered as Guibourc), and she bore him at least one of his children- my 33rd great-grandfather Bernard, Count of Barcelona.

At a time when Christian-Islamic relationships were at a major low, it is astonishing to think that such a committed Christian (and fighter against the caliphate to boot!) would take an Arab Muslim woman as a partner. Yet, it reflects attitudes of the day. No matter if you were black or white, Arab or Frank, Cordoban or French, differences in culture were usually mitigated by religious conversion. As Habibai David more than likely converted to Christianity upon marrying Rolinde, so Guitburgi left Islam to become a Christian. Nobody really cared about colour in those days. While not unheard of, it was rare for a true interfaith marriage to take place without conversion on the part of one of the partners. Religion was not as tied up with ethnicity as it has become in recent times- even Jews like Habibai David were considered to be ex-Jews by Christians and Muslims if they converted out of the religion (although not by Judaism, but that's another story for another time!).