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Profiles of Queens and Princesses on pilgrimage to Compostela

Denise Péricard-Méa, LAMOP (CNRS-Paris I Sorbonne) 2001

Translated by Christiane Buuck, Fulbright Scholar in France, 2005-2006

"Few women were to be found on medieval pilgrimage paths. Nevertheless, some queens and princesses made their way to Compostela.

In the Middle Ages, it seems that the Way of Saint James was no place for a queen. Queen Blanche of Castille was discouraged from undertaking the pilgrimage, and only queen mother Marie d’Anjou accomplished it in 1463.

Princesses were allowed on pilgrimage under special circumstances: latent sainthood, war or diplomacy among them. When they went, they went in state, surrounded by impressive entourages, impossible to pass by unnoticed. More discrete princesses contented themselves by sending proxy pilgrims (either paid lay persons or reformed prisoners) to pray for them at sacred shrines, or they started foundations dedicated to Saint James locally.

In knightly literature pilgrim princesses occupy a meager place as characters who fulfill vows, atone for sins, or even take advantage of their relative freedom to commit adultery – characters who, nonetheless, may have caused their female readers, who would probably never go on pilgrimage themselves, dream of doing so.

Women in general are few on the major pilgrimage routes (less than ten percent of the pilgrimage population, if one were to advance a tentative figure), and women of royal blood are even fewer. Perhaps the scarcity of royal women on pilgrimage is due in part to Louis VII’s 1174 Crusade, undertaken in the company of his wife Aliénor..."

For the complete article go to: http://www.saint-jacques.info/anglais/queens.htm
 
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