In This Article Marie de France

  • Introduction
  • Editions, Translations, and Concordance of Marie’s Complete Works
  • Books Treating Marie’s Complete Works

Medieval Studies Marie de France
by
Glyn Burgess
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0217

Introduction

One of the first recorded female authors in European literature, Marie owes her name to a statement in the Epilogue to her Fables: “Marie ai nun, si sui de France” (line 4). The name Marie de France was coined in 1581 by Claude Fauchet in his Recueil de l’origine de la langue et poesie françoise (Book II, item LXXXIIII). Marie was known to Fauchet only for her Fables, but in modern times her most prominent work is the Lais, a collection of twelve narrative lays composed perhaps as early as the 1160s, but certainly before the death of Henry II in 1189. When B. de Roquefort published in 1819–1820 what he considered to be Marie’s complete works, he added a third work, the Espurgatoire seint Patriz, which, in spite of a few misgivings expressed by scholars from time to time, has generally been accepted as her work. In recent times, a fourth work, the Vie seinte Audree, has been attributed to Marie; see McCash and Barban’s The Life of Saint Audrey: A Text by Marie de France (2006). Discussion of the authenticity of this work is ongoing. Before moving into related content, the author would like to express his gratitude to David Raybin for his assistance in bringing this entry to its conclusion.

Identity of Marie de France

Though there has been no widely accepted identification of Marie de France, several identifications have been proposed: (1) the abbess of Shaftesbury in Dorset, the illegitimate daughter of Geoffrey Plantagenet and half-sister of Henry II, suggested in Fox 1910; (2) the eighth child of Waleran de Meulan (also known as Waleran de Beaumont), suggested in Holmes 1932 and Pontfarcy 1995; (3) the countess of Boulogne, daughter of Stephen of Blois and Matilda of Boulogne; she became abbess of Romsey, then in 1154 inherited Boulogne, suggested by Knapton 1978–1979; (4) the abbess of Barking between 1173 and 1175 and sister of Thomas Becket (made abbess as reparation for her brother’s murder), suggested in Rossi 2009.

  • Fox, John C. “Marie de France.” English Historical Review 25 (1910): 303–306.

    DOI: 10.1093/ehr/XXV.XCVIII.303E-mail Citation »

    Fox proposes that Marie was the abbess of Shaftesbury, Henry II’s half-sister.

  • Holmes, Urban T., Jr. “New Thoughts on Marie de France.” Studies in Philology 29 (1932): 1–10.

    E-mail Citation »

    Holmes advances that Marie was the eighth child of Waleran de Meulan (b. 1118–d. 1166).

  • Knapton, Antoinette. “A la recherche de Marie de France.” Romance Notes 19 (1978–1979): 248–253.

    E-mail Citation »

    Knapton suggests that Marie was the countess of Boulogne, daughter of Stephen of Blois and Matilda of Boulogne.

  • Pontfarcy, Yolande de. “Si Marie de France était Marie de Meulan . . . .” Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale 38 (1995): 353–361.

    DOI: 10.3406/ccmed.1995.2630E-mail Citation »

    Pontfarcy supports the identification by Holmes 1932 of Marie as the eighth child of Waleran de Meulan.

  • Rossi, Carla. Marie de France et les érudits de Cantorbéry. Paris: Garnier, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Rossi identifies Marie as Thomas Becket’s sister, who was named abbess of Barking after his murder.

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