Hersende of France (fl. 1250)

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Hersende of France (fl. 1250)

French doctor and royal surgeon to Louis IX and Margaret of Provence. Flourished in 1250 in Paris; married Jacques, apothecary to the king, around 1250.

Hersende of France was one of the most notable of medieval women doctors. Details of her youth and family connections are obscure, but it is clear that she rose to renown in northern France for her great healing abilities and thorough knowledge of medicine as well as midwifery. She was given the honor of being chosen royal surgeon by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) and his queen, Margaret of Provence (1221–1295). While serving in this position, Hersende met and married the king's apothecary, Jacques. When Louis and Margaret left France to lead the Eighth Crusade to Palestine in 1248, Hersende accompanied them.

She was Louis' principal physician and also acted as Margaret's midwife, attending the birth of a prince in 1250. The same year, still in Palestine, the royal doctor was granted a daily pension which she would collect for the rest of her life. Soon after, Hersende left the king and returned to France for unspecified reasons; perhaps she had tired of the dangerous lifestyle of crusading armies. She continued her work in medicine in Paris for some years.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Hersende of France (fl. 1250)

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