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Wife of Clovis II, King of France, time and place of birth unknown; d. January; 680. According to some chronicles she came from England and was a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon kings, but this is a doubtful statement. It is certain that she was a slave in the service of the wife of Erchinoald, mayor of the palace of Neustria. Her unusual qualities of mind and her virtues inspired the confidence of her master who gave many of the affairs of the household into her charge and, after the death of his wife, wished to marry her. At this the young girl fled and did not return until Erchinoald had married again. About this time Clovis II met her at the house of the mayor of the palace, and was impressed by her beauty, grace, and the good report he had of her. He freed and married her, 649. This sudden elevation did not diminish the virtues of Bathilde but gave them a new lustre. Her humility, spirit of prayer, and large-hearted generosity to the poor were particularly noticeable.
Seven years after their marriage Clovis II died, 656, leaving Bathilde with three sons, Clothaire, Childeric, and Thierry. An assembly of the leading nobles proclaimed Clothaire III, aged five, king under the regency of his mother, Bathilde. Aided by the authority and advice of Erchinoald and the saintly bishops, Eloi (Eligius) of Noyon, Ouen of Rouen, Leéger of Autun, and Chrodebert of Paris, the queen was able to carry out useful reforms. She abolished the disgraceful trade in Christian slaves, and firmly repressed simony among the clergy. She also led the way in founding charitable and religious institutions, such as hospitals and monasteries. Through her generosity the Abbey of Corbey was founded for men, and the Abbey of Chelles near Paris for women. At about this date the famous Abbeys of Jumièges, Jouarre, and Luxeuil were established, most probably in large part through Bathilde's generosity. Berthilde, the first Abbess of Chelles, who is honoured as a saint, came from Jouarre. The queen wished to renounce her position and enter the religious life, but her duties kept her at court. Erchinoald died in 659 and was succeeded by Ebroin. Notwithstanding the ambition of the new mayor of the palace, the queen was able to maintain her authority and to use it for the benefit of the kingdom. After her children were well established in their respective territories, Childeric IV in Austrasia and Thierry in Burgundy, she returned to her wish for a secluded life and withdrew to her favourite Abbey of Chelles near Paris.
On entering the abbey she laid down the insignia of royalty and desired to be the lowest in rank among the inmates. It was her pleasure to take her position after the novices and to serve the poor and infirm with her own hands. Prayer and manual toil occupied her time, nor did she wish any allusion made to the grandeur of her past position. In this manner she passed fifteen years of retirement. At the beginning of the year 680 she had a presentiment of the approach of death and made religious preparation for it. Before her own end, that of Radegonde occurred, a child whom she had held at the baptismal font and had trained in Christian virtue. She was buried in the Abbey of Chelles and was canonized by Pope Nicholas I. The Roman martyrology places her feast on 26 January; in France it is celebrated 30 January.
Acta SS., II; DUBOIS, Histoire ecclésiastique de Paris, 198; BINET, La vie excellente de Sainte Bathilde (Paris, 1624); CORBLET, Hagiographie du diocèse d'Amiens (1874); DES ESSARTS, Sainte Bathilde in Correspondant (1873), XXXII, 227-246; DRIOUS, La reine Bathilde (Limoges, 1865); GREÉCY in Revue archéologique (1865), XII, 603-610.
|Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913|