Sunday, January 06, 2013

Today's research snippet. Abducted nuns and processional cross


King Stephen's son William of Boulogne has a small role to play in THE WINTER CROWN. While researching him, I came upon his sister Marie who was the surviving heir to Boulogne after William died in 1159. She was the Abbess of Romsey Abbey and had been a nun for more than 10 years. Her brother's death made her a great heiress and the wolves gathered. One Matthew of Alsace, son of Thierry Count of Flanders Sybilla of Anjou (and therefore Henry II's cousin), abducted her out of the convent in 1160 and forced her into marriage. The couple had 2 daughters, Ida and Mathilde. In the year that Mathilde was born, 1170, the marriage was annulled and Marie re-entered the church, becoming a nun at St Austrebert in Montreuil. Her husband was killed by a crossbow bolt while fighting on the Young King's side during the rebellion of 1173. I suspect she didn't mourn him very much! You come across women being snatched out of monasteries to fulfil the dynastic requirements of medieval men on an occasional but steady basis. There was a dispute as to whether Henry I's own wife had taken vows or was just resident in a nunnery (definitely the latter, but the matter was raised). Then there was Gunhild, daughter of Harold Godwinson, whom Count Alain of Richmond - Alain the Red, swiped out of the nunnery at Wilton.

Today's research photo from my archive. a processional cross circa 1250. Gilded copper with enamel and gemstones.  Made in Limoges.
click to enlarge

2 comments:

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Actually, Henry II, not Matthew himself, played a major role in hauling Mary out of Romsey Abbey. In 1159, when William count of Mortain and Bolougne died without issue Henry kept Mortain for himself, but decided to grant the honour of Bolougne together with Mary's hand to Count of Flanders's younger son. In this way he strengthen the important Flemish connexion.
At the time of the Great Revolt, after Matthew and Mary's marriage was annuled, he was already married to Henry the Young King's first cousin, Eleanor of Vermandois, Petronilla and Raoul's younger daughter. The Flemish-Vermadois family connections are quite fascinating albeit a little bit complicated :-)

Great idea to share with us all these precious little nuggets of information.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Kasia,
Yes, I was reading up further on the subject after I posted this and found out more about Henry II's involvement. Thank you for the extra material!