Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Captive Nuns in Anglo-Saxon England

From Casting Light Upon the Shadow:
A noble and pious occupation. These were wealthy women, and no doubt lived comfortably. But safely? Not always. These women belonged to prestigious royal houses, and there are a few instances which prove that being an abbess, or nun, or merely a noblewoman living in an abbey, was to be vulnerable. Yes, such places were raided by invaders, but sometimes the perpetrators came from a little closer... 
I've been looking into this subject in preparation for my new book - details much later - so I'll save any analysis for that. But here, in case you don't know the stories, are three examples of high profile abduction of nuns: 
The first of these cases involved the family of Alfred the Great. When Alfred succeeded his elder brother to the throne, that brother had left a - presumably very young - son, Æthelwold. With hindsight, it was probably a good job that Alfred took the throne, and even though the 'Viking' wars were still raging when Alfred died, he left the kingdom of Wessex in the very safe hands of his son, Edward the Elder. 
By this stage, Æthelwold was a grown man, and decided to make his own bid for the throne, with the aid of the Northumbrian 'Vikings'. Initially, though, Æthelwold took his forces to Wimborne, and holed up there with a nun whom he had kidnapped, stating that he would live there or die. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the woman had been taken 'without the king's permission and contrary to the bishops' orders - for she had been consecrated a nun.' (Read more.)

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