Charlotte of Bourbon’s grave at the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp

antwerp cathedral
Photo by Moniek Bloks

Charlotte of Bourbon was born in 1546 or 1547 as the daughter of Louis, Duke of Montpensier and Jacqueline de Longwy, Countess of Bar-Sur-Seine. Her father supposedly intended for her to enter the church as well as some of her sisters, as he did not wish to pay a dowry for all of them. She was taken into the care of her aunt, the abbess of the Jouarre Convent. She was professed at the age of 13, but she wrote a protest. In 1565 – she was still only 18 years old – she became the abbess of the Jouarre convent. She reportedly received a secret Calvinistic education while at the convent, and her family was shocked when she escaped the convent in 1572 on the advice of Jeanne d’Albret, the Queen Regnant of Navarre, and she converted to Calvinism. She fled to the court of the Elector Palatine in Germany.

It was at this court that she met her future husband in 1572. It was supposedly loved at first sight, but it wasn’t until 1575 that William officially asked for her hand in marriage. Charlotte wasn’t the greatest match, and there were hardly any upsides to marrying her, despite her connections to the Palatine court. She could not offer him any kind of dowry as she had broken with her family. William was also still officially married to Anna of Saxony. The dubious annulment of this marriage made even Charlotte question the validity of her marriage. Despite this, William and Charlotte were married on 12 June 1575 in Brielle. Charlotte was 28, and William was 43. She became stepmother to his children from his other marriages, and they would have six daughters together. After six years of marriage, Charlotte finally reconciled with her father.

Tragedy struck on 18 March 1582 when an attempt was made on William’s life. He was seriously injured, and Charlotte devoted herself to nursing him back to health. Legend has it she plugged the wound with her finger for several days to stop the bleeding. William survived the assassination attempt, but the nursing had drained Charlotte to the point of exhaustion, and she died on 5 May 1582 of pneumonia in Antwerp. The public widely mourned her. She was buried in the Church of Our Lady in Antwerp.

Charlotte’s original tombstone was destroyed during the contra-reformation in 1585 and it wasn’t until 2015 that the tombstone was restored to its former glory with the original words. It can be found on the left-hand side of the cathedral. The cathedral charges six euro for entry.

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About Moniek Bloks 2701 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

1 Comment

  1. There are times when words absolutely fail me. What genealogy/historical research brings forward is startling. May Charlotte rest in peace.

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