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Inaudito exemplo

The Abduction of Romsey’s Abbess

Linda D. Brown

Keywords: cultural history; England; marital legal theory; medieval nuns; monastic vows; noblewomen; twelfth-century England

The abduction in 1160 of Romsey’s abbess Marie, daughter of King Stephen and Queen Matilda of England, attracted considerable attention in England and Northern Europe. Medieval chroniclers theorized about those who had arranged the raptus, emphasizing that they had targeted a holy bride of Christ. At the scandal’s crux was the altered status of the abbess who had unexpectedly become sole heir to her family’s lands, wealth, and titles. This transformation occurred for Marie when the last of her family died in the waning months of 1159. With astonishing speed, Marie transitioned from her role as a high-status abbess to one of heiress-countess. This article examines the evidence concerning the abduction’s backstory, the resulting marriage, and the aftermath of Marie’s nine years as a married countess. It presents Marie in light of her ability to adapt to and exploit the changing political, social, and cultural landscapes that she inhabited.

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