Thuringian Princess and Frankish Queen
520 – 587 A.D.
Radegonde, or Ragegunda, daughter of Berthar, a prince of Thuringia, flourished in the early part of the sixth century. Having been carried as a prisoner to France in the twelfth year of her age by Clotaire V., at that time king of the district whose capital is now called Soissons, she as educated in the Christian religion, and when she reached a maturer age she was induced, very reluctantly, to become his wife. Her own wish have been to become a nun, her married life was in great measure given up to works of charity and religion, and Clotaire complained that he “had married a nun rather than a queen.”
Radegonde spent six years in this way, during all which time Clotaire obstinately refused to let her go into a convent. A brother of the young queen had been taken prisoner at the same time and as he grew up he showed so much of the pride and temper of his race that Clotaire had him put to death. This was too much for Radegonde to endure, and Clotaire, not wishing to be annoyed by her grief, allowed her to go to Medard, bishop of Noyon, whose reputation for sanctity had extended throughout all of France, for consolation. When she arrived at Noyon she found Medard in his cathedral, and immediately exclaimed: “Priest of God! I wish to leave the world, and consecrate myself to the Lord.” At these words the guard who accompanied her crowded around her, and protested against such an act. While Medard hesitated as to what course he should take, Radegonde fled to the sacristy, threw the dress of a nun over her royal apparel, and returning said to Medard, “If you refuse to receive me, if you fear man more than God, you will have to answer for it before the Shepherd of the flock.”
These words put an end the uncertainty of the bishop. He annulled, on his own authority, the forced marriage of the queen, consecrated her to God, and sent away the soldiers, who could offer no further opposition.
Radegonde went to Tours for greater safety, and when Clotaire, still ardently attached to her, sent to reclaim her, she fled to Poiters. Here the energetic remonstrance of Germain, bishop of Paris, obliged him to leave her, and he allowed her to found a convent there, which she did about 550 A.D. where she passed the rest of her life. She was at first abbess of this convent, but after it was firmly established she gave up her authority to a younger woman, whom she called Agnes, and lived for the remainder of her life as a simple nun. Her convent held a high reputation in that age for the devotion of its members to religion, and also for their cultivation of literature and the arts.
Radegonde died at Poitiers, August 13, 587. She was afterwards canonized.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.