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Braose, Loretta de (d. 1266)

Braose, Loretta de (d. 1266)

English religious activist. Name variations: Loretta de Briouze; Loretta of Leicester. Born before 1186; died in 1266 in Hackington, England; daughter of William de Braose and Maud de Braose (d. 1211); sister of Annora de Braose (d. 1241); married Robert Beaumont, earl of Leicester, around 1196 (died 1204); children: none.

Loretta was an English recluse who also became an important religious activist. She was the sister of Annora de Braose , also a well-known recluse. Loretta was the child of William and Maud de Braose , English nobles who were caught up in King John's political persecutions in 1204, although they reportedly had been strong supporters of the king. The family was broken up and their lands seized; William fled to France, but Maud was unable to escape, and died in prison. Young Loretta had married Robert Beaumont, earl of Leicester around 1196, but he died eight years later, leaving Loretta with her dower estates as well as a portion of the earl's lands. These were also seized by the king and Loretta fled to France after her father.

Ten years later, Loretta returned to England and was granted her properties again. It is unclear what transpired during the decade she lived on the Continent, but the childless widow, probably about 30 years old now, immediately began preparing to enclose herself for the rest of her life. Perhaps it was the violence and cruelty she had experienced through the persecution of her family that made her desire a life separate from others, isolated from the outside world. Yet even after she finally received all the necessary permissions and entered a cell in the village of Hackington in 1221, Loretta did not simply disappear from sight and spend her days in silent prayer and meditation, as recluses were supposed to do.

She instead became an activist, helping establish the Franciscan order in England and writing to the king himself asking for favors for her ecclesiastical friends. She did not actually leave her cell, but she spent much time counseling those who came to speak with her, and discussing secular matters of politics and the rights of kingship with her relatives and friends. Loretta was highly respected by the local people, and was granted money and other gifts by the king and local nobles. She was in her early eighties when she died.


LaBarge, Margaret. A Small Sound of the Trumpet: Women in Medieval Life. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1986.

Laura York , Anza, California

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