Charlotte Flandrina of Nassau was born on 18 August 1579 as the fourth daughter of William of Orange and Charlotte of Bourbon in Antwerp. She was baptised on 18 October in the chapel of the Castle of Antwerp. She had troubles with her health from early on. Her mother died when she was just three years old, and her father was assassinated two years after that. It was decided to send the little Charlotte Flandrina to her French grandfather, Louis, Duke of Montpensier, who was a Catholic. It is not known why it was decided to send her there. Several of her sisters joined their stepmother, Louise de Coligny.
Charlotte Flandrina departed in September 1582 for France, but her grandfather died in December. She was then sent to join a convent, either Paraclay or Paracleet. This did not automatically mean she would become a nun as convents were also educational institutes. In addition, the abbess was secretly into the Reformed faith of Charlotte Flandrina’s father. In October 1587, Charlotte Flandrina was taken from her beloved abbess to join her aunt, Jeanne de Bourbon who was the abbess of Jouarre. Charlotte Flandrina was soon influenced by the Catholic faith and on 15 August 1588, she became a Catholic. On 21 November 1593, she took the veil and became a nun, and by 1605 she was the abbess of the convent of St. Croix. Her sister Charlotte Brabantia was present when she became abbess.
From now on Christ shall be my groom and my father
Although being named abbess was a great honour, it was one that Charlotte Flandrina did not want. Her aunt, whom she was succeeding, wrote to her, “My dear niece, I am about to do you a great displeasure, but I would not call it an insult. You are too good to think that of me, who thinks you worthy of carrying a greater cross, the breast cross of the abbess, that I sent to you now.”
Charlotte Flandrina was deeply touched by her aunt’s writing, and she decided to take up the job.
She was the abbess until her death in 1640, and she had devoted her life to her task. She probably saw very little of her sisters. They were not allowed to visit the convent. Her dying words were reported, “My daughters (her sister nuns), in everything you do, always keep God in mind.” 1
- J.C. van der Does, Prinsessen uit het huis van Oranje (Putten 1938) 97 – 106 ↩