The History Girls: ‘Nuns Behaving Badly’ by Karen Maitland

Originally posted on The History Girls.

For centuries, many noble women in Europe were forced into nunneries by their families either to safeguard their virtue until they could be married off, or to protect family lands by preventing them from marrying and splitting estates. Some women made the best of it, wearing silk gowns under their habits, and spending their days hawking, hunting, dancing and generally enjoying themselves in convents where abbesses would turn a blind eye, and money could buy any kind of pleasure or indulgence. Others found freedom within convents to make serious studies of the arts and sciences, write books, or practise medicine, liberated from the tedious obligations of marriage. But there were some women who refused to settle down quietly behind the cloister walls.

This was the case with two of the nuns of the Sainte-Croix (Holy Cross) in Poitiers in 6th century. The Frankish Princess Clotild, was the child of King Charibert of the Merovingian dynasty and his concubine, a wool-carder’s daughter. Clotild’s cousin, Princess Basina, daughter of King Chilperic, had also been sent to the nunnery, arriving at the tender age of seven, after an assassination attempt on her family. But by then Basina had already been…

via The History Girls: ‘Nuns Behaving Badly’ by Karen Maitland.