Saint Balthild of Ascania
(also known as Bathild, Baldechilde, Baldhild, Bauteur)
Feast day: January 30
626 - 680
Queen and foundress. She was born in England, where she was enslaved and taken to Neustria, which was part of the Frankish kingdom. In time, Bathildis became a trusted member of King Clovis Il's court and married him in 649. She bore him three sons: Clotaire Ill, Childeric II, and Thierry Ill, all of whom became kings. When Clovis died in 657, Bathildis served as regent for Clotaire III. She had founded a Benedictine convent at Chelles, as well as St. Denis Monastery and Corbie. When Clotaire III assumed the throne, Bathildis retired to Chelles, where she died on January 30.
canonized by Pope Nicholas I; Roman Martyrology sets her feast as
Bathild, like Saint Patrick, had been a slave. An Anglo-Saxon by birth, in 641 she was
captured by Danish raiders and sold to Erchinoald, the chief officer (mayor) of the palace
of Clovis II, King of the Franks. She quickly gained favor, for she had charm, beauty, and a
graceful and gentle nature. She also won the affection of her fellow-servants, for she would
do them many kindnesses such as cleaning their shoes and mending their clothes, and her
bright and attractive disposition endeared her to them all. The officer, impressed by her fine qualities, wished to make her his wife, but Bathild,alarmed at the prospect, both by reason of her modesty and of her humble status, disguisedherself in old and ragged clothes, and hid herself away among the lower servants of the
palace; and he, not finding her in her usual place, and thinking she had fled, marriedanother woman.
Her next suitor, however, was none other than the king himself, for when she had discarded her old clothes and appeared again in her place, he noticed her grace and beauty, anddeclared his love for her. Thus in 649, the 19-year-old slave girl Bathild became Queen of France, amidst the applause of the court and the kingdom. She bore Clovis three sons:Clotaire III, Childeric II, and Thierry III--all of whom became kings. On the death ofClovis (c. 655- 657), she was appointed regent in the name of her eldest son, who was only
five, and ruled capably for eight years with Saint Eligius as her adviser.She made a good queen and ruled wisely. Unlike many who rise suddenly to high place and fortune, she never forgot that she had been a slave, and did all within her power to relieve those in captivity. We are told that "Queen Bathild was the holiest and most devout ofwomen; her pious munificence knew no bounds; remembering her own bondage, she set apart vast sums for the redemption of captives." Bathild helped promote Christianity by seconding the
zeal of Saint Ouen, Saint Leodegardius, and many other bishops.At that time the poorer inhabitants of France were often obliged to sell their children as slaves to meet the crushing taxes imposed upon them. Bathild reduced this taxation, forbade the purchase of Christian slaves and the sale of French subjects, and declared that any slave who set foot in France would from that moment be free. Thus, this enlightened women earned the love of her people and was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery.
She also founded many abbeys, such as Corbie, Saint-Denis, and Chelles, which became civilized settlements in wild and remote areas inhabited only by prowling wolves and other wild beasts. Under her guidance forests and waste land were reclaimed, cornland and pasture took their place, and agriculture flourished. She built hospitals and sold her jewelry to supply the needy. Finally, when Clotaire came of age, she retired to her own royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, where she served the other nuns with humility and obeyed the abbess ike the least of the sisters.
She died at Chelles before she had reached her 50th birthday. Death touched her with a gentle hand; as she died, she said she saw a ladder reaching from the altar to heaven, and up this she climbed in the company of angels.
She is the patroness of children