St. Bathilde was an Anglo-Saxon born around 626-7 along the eastern coast of England. As a teenager, she was kidnaped by marauding Danes and then sold into slavery in the household of Clovis II, king of the Franks. Given domestic chores in the palace, Bathilde approached her new station in life with patience and humility. She did her work well and was kind and cheerful to all around her. Her intelligence and beauty were soon noticed by Erchinoald, the chief steward of the palace, who was a widower. He wished to marry again and thought that this slave girl would make a good wife. Bathilde did not wish to marry him or to cause envy among the other slaves, so she dressed herself in old rags and tried to stay out of sight for a while. Thinking that the girl had probably run away, Erchinoald chose another wife instead.
Resuming her normal clothes and continuing her work among the other slaves of the household, Bathilde once again was admired by all for her good nature and her charitable acts toward others. Soon she was noticed by another official – the young king himself! This time, the slave girl did not hide herself, but slowly came to accept the love and attention the king offered. She agreed to marry him and, at the age of 19, she became Queen Bathilde of Neustria and Burgundy.
In her new position, Bathilde found herself with all the trappings of royalty: prestige and honour, wealth, fine clothes, and a very comfortable life. But she never forgot what it was like to be a slave – to be without possessions and freedom. So, she made certain that one of her main projects as queen was to buy and free slaves, especially children, whenever possible.
Bathilde and King Clovis had three sons: Clotaire, Childeric and Theuderic. Clovis died early, leaving Bathilde a widow with three young children, and when the five-year-old Clotaire succeeded his father as king, his mother became regent and managed royal affairs for her child. Her wisdom and fair judgements brought her respect from all the people. She continued her work against child slavery and gained an ally in this work in Bishop (St.) Eligius of Noyon and Tournai. He, too, had begun his life at court in humble circumstances as an apprentice goldsmith and was acutely aware of the need for advocates for slaves.
Another of Queen Bathilde’s projects was the founding and support of monastic houses. Through her generosity, the abbeys of Corbie and Chelles were founded and she also contributed to those at Jumieges, Jouarre and Luxeuil.
When her sons were grown and had become kings of different areas of the Frankish territories, Queen Bathilde retired to the Abbey of Chelles for the remainder of her life.
Bathilde died on January 30, 680. She was honoured for her saintly life immediately following her death and was officially named a saint before the year 900.
Other Saints of the Day
1. Saint Aldegunais
2. Saint Armentarius
3. Saint Felician
4. Saint Hippolytus
5. Saint Martina of Rome