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Marie de Bourbon (fl. 1350s)

Marie de Bourbon (fl. 1350s)

French noblewoman and prioress of Poissy . Flourished in the 1350s at convent of Poissy, France; daughter of Isabelle of Savoy (d. 1383) and Pierre or Peter I (1311–1356), duke of Bourbon (r. 1342–1356); sister of Jeanne de Bourbon (1338–1378), queen of France; never married; no children.

Marie de Bourbon, the daughter of Isabelle of Savoy and Peter I, duke of Bourbon, became a highly respected prioress. She was closely connected to the royal house of France through her sister Jeanne de Bourbon who married Charles V, king of France (1337–1380). Marie seems to have been a younger daughter whom her parents did not need for a marriage alliance, for she was given to the Dominican convent of Poissy (near Paris) when she was only four years old. She took the vows of a nun at age 17 and remained at Poissy the rest of her life. Marie grew up extremely well educated among over 200 other noble daughters who had not married for one reason or another, for Poissy was at the time a fashionable convent. Admission was restricted to noble girls whose parents gained permission from the king for their daughter's entrance. The convent was atypical for this very reason, for most often convents were the shelter of poor women or women who felt a strong calling to a religious life. The noblewomen at Poissy also brought substantial wealth with them in the form of lands granted or cash "dowries."

Marie de Bourbon was elected prioress of Poissy in her early 30s, and distinguished herself in that position for 20 years. Although she was a pious administrator, she ran the house almost as if it were a rich noble's castle; the prioress entertained noble guests, maintained a large garden with a fountain and pond complete with white swans, and dined with her nuns on gold and silver plates. Among the nuns at Poissy under Marie's rule was the daughter (name unknown) of the renowned poet and author Christine de Pizan . In a poem Christine composed after a visit to Poissy, she describes Marie as a gracious and awe-inspiring spiritual leader.

sources:

Gies, Frances, and Joseph Gies. Women in the Middle Ages. NY: Harper and Row, 1978.

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

Laura York , Riverside, California

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