St. Bathildes, Queen of France

Author: Rev. Alban Butler


Feast: January 30

St. Bathildes, or Baldechilde, in French Bauteur, was an English woman, who was carried over very young into France, and there sold for a slave, at a very low price, to Erkenwald, otherwise called Erchinoald, and Archimbald, mayor of the palace under King Clovis II. When she grew up he was so much taken with her prudence and virtue, that he committed to her the care of his household. She was no ways puffed up, but seemed the more modest, more submissive to her fellow-slaves, and always ready to serve the meanest of them in the lowest offices. King Clovis II in 649 took her for his royal consort, with the applause of his princes and whole kingdom: such was the renown of her extraordinary endowments. This unexpected elevation, which would have turned the strongest head of a person addicted to pride, produced no alteration in a heart perfectly grounded in humility and other virtues. She seemed even to become more humble than before, and more tender of the poor.

Her present station furnished her with the means of being truly their mother, which she was before in the inclination and disposition of her heart. All other virtues appeared more conspicuous in her, but above the rest an ardent zeal for religion. The king gave her the sanction of his royal authority for the protection of the church, the care of the poor, and the furtherance of all religious undertakings. She bore him three sons, who all successively wore the crown, Clotaire III., Childeric II., and Thierry I. He dying in 655, when the eldest was only five years old, left her regent of the kingdom. She seconded the zeal of St. Owen, St. Eligius, and other holy bishops, and with great pains banished simony out of France, forbade Christians to be made slaves, did all in her power to promote piety, and filled France with hospitals and pious foundations. She restored the monasteries of St. Martin, St. Denys, St. Medard, &c., founded the great abbey of Corbie for a seminary of virtue and sacred learning, and the truly royal nunnery of Chelles, on the Marne, which had been begun by St. Clotildis. As soon as her son Clotaire was of an age to govern, she with great joy shut herself up in this monastery of Chelles, in 665, a happiness which she had long earnestly desired, though it was with great difficulty that she obtained the consent of the princes. She had no sooner taken the veil but she seemed to have forgotten entirely her former dignity, and was only to be distinguished from the rest by her extreme humility, serving them in the lowest offices, and obeying the holy abbess St. Bertilla as the last among the sisters. She prolonged her devotions every day with many tears, and made it her greatest delight to visit and attend the sick, whom she comforted and served with wonderful charity. St. Owen, in his life of St. Eligius, mentions many instances of the great veneration which St. Bathildes bore that holy prelate, and relates that St. Eligius, after his death, in a vision by night, ordered a certain courtier to reprove the queen for wearing jewels and costly apparel in her widowhood, which she did not out of pride, but because she thought it due to her state while she was regent of the kingdom. Upon this admonition, she laid them aside, distributed a great part to the poor, and with the richest of her jewels made a most beautiful and sumptuous cross, which she placed at the head of the tomb of St. Eligius. She was afflicted with long and severe colics and other pains, which she suffered with an admirable resignation and joy. In her agony she recommended to her sisters charity, care of the poor, fervor, and perseverance, and gave up her soul in devout prayer, on the 30th of January, in 680, on which day she is honored in France, but is named on the 26th in the Roman Martyrology.

A Christian, who seriously considers that he is to live here but a moment, and will live eternally in the world to come, must confess that it is a part. of wisdom to refer all his actions and views to prepare himself for that everlasting dwelling, which is his true country. Our only and necessary affair is to live for God. to do his will, and to sanctify and save our souls. If we are employed in a multiplicity of exterior business, we must imitate St. Bathildes, when she bore the whole weight of the state. In all we do God and his holy will must be always before our eyes, and to please him must be our only aim and desire. Shunning the anxiety of Martha, and reducing all our desires to this one of doing what God requires of us, we must with her call in Mary to our assistance. In the midst of action, while our hands are at work, our mind and heart ought to be interiorly employed on God, at least virtually, that all our employments may be animated with the spirit of piety: and hours of repose must always be contrived to pass tat the feet of Jesus, where in the silence of all creatures we may listen to his sweet voice, refresh in him our wearied souls, and renew our fervor. While we converse with the world, we must tremble at the sight of its snares, and be upon our guard that we never be seduced so far as to be in love with it, or to learn its spirit. To love the world, is to follow its passions; to be proud, covetous, and sensual, as the world is. The height of its miseries and dangers, is that blindness by which none who are infected with its spirit, see their misfortune, or are sensible of their disease. Happy are they who can imitate this holy queen in entirely separating themselves from it!


1 Gull Malmesb de Antiq. Glast.

2 Scoti-chron. c. 22.

From her life written by a contemporary author, and a second life, which is the same with the former, except certain additions of a later date, in Bollandus and Mabillon, sec. 4, Ben. p. 447, and Act. Sanct Ben. t. 2. see also Dubois, Hist. Eccl. Paris, p. 198, and Chatelain. Notes on the Martyr. 30 Jan p. 462. see Historia St. Bathildis et Fundationem ejus, among the MS. lives of saints in the abbey of Jumieges t. 2. Also her MS. life at Bec, &c.

(Taken from Vol. I of "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company)