Charlemagne’s annus horribilis

In November of 1992 Queen Elizabeth II gave a speech in which she lamented the “annus horribilis” she had endured over the last eleven months. Recently a fire had devastated Windsor Castle, and prior to that her children and near relatives had been the subject of much tabloid gossip and exposure.

One person from whom she would have received no sympathy would be Charlemagne. Elizabeth had been forced to see pictures of Duchess Fergie’s toes being nuzzled by a bald American millionaire while her estranged husband Andrew was away performing his princely duties. Truly enough to make any monarch go weak. But twelve centuries before Elizabeth’s travails King Charlemagne had frantically wielded the strings of power over the span of just a few months while his kingdom almost broke apart. It is possible that he felt God Himself had abandoned him.

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Leoba, celebrity saint

Many of the women who corresponded with Boniface were women of power and influence as abbesses. In that they were already exceptional. But there was another woman who was a step above the extraordinary.

Boniface’s most ‘famous’ correspondent was Saint Leoba. She was English, although her exact place and date of birth are unknown. She and Boniface were related through her mother, and her father and Boniface were good friends. She was also a disciple of Abbess Eadburga of Thanet, whom I mentioned in last week’s post. In a letter dated around 732 Leoba writes to Boniface and asks for his friendship and his prayers, “for there is no other man in my kinship in whom I have such confidence as in you… I eagerly pray, my dear brother, that I may be protected by the shield of your prayers from the poisoned darts of the hidden enemy.” She also offered Boniface some beginner’s lines of poetry. As justification she adds that “I have studied this art under the guidance of Eadburga.”1.Letters, XXI, p37.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Letters, XXI, p37.