Marie, Countess of Boulogne, was born the youngest daughter of Stephen, King of England and Matilda I, Countess of Boulogne. Her father had usurped the crown from her cousin Matilda. Matilda’s son Henry would eventually succeed her father as king of England. Marie was born during her father’s reign in 1136. She had three brothers and a sister. She also had three half-siblings.
Marie became a novice at the priory of Lillechurch and later moved to Romsey Abbey, which had been rebuilt by her uncle Henry of Blois. She became a nun there sometime between 1148 and 1155. She was elected abbess of Romsey in 1155. This was also the year of the accession of Matilda’s son Henry II.
In 1159, her brother William died childless, and as his only surviving sibling by then, Marie became the suo jure Countess of Boulogne. Suddenly she was an attractive heiress, but as a nun, she wouldn’t be expected to marry because of her religious vows. One man didn’t agree with this, however. Matthew of Alsace abducted Marie from the Abbey the following year and forced her to marry him. He became jure uxoris Count of Boulogne and Marie’s co-ruler.
I don’t know how Marie felt about this marriage, but I imagine she wasn’t very happy as she probably intended to stay a nun. However, despite this forced marriage, Matthew and Marie had two daughters. Ida was born in 1160 or 1161, and Mathilda in 1170. I find the ten-year gap between the births quite interesting, especially since 1170 was also the year Marie’s and Matthew’s marriage was annulled.
After the annulment, Marie again chose the religious life as a Benedictine nun. She died on 25 July 1182. After the annulment, Matthew continued to rule as Count of Boulogne. He died in 1173, and he was succeeded by their eldest daughter Ida. Eventually, the county would pass to Marie’s granddaughter through Mathilda, Adelaide of Brabant.
The county of Boulogne eventually merged with the French crown in 1501.
Marie certainly wasn’t the only woman who was abducted and forced into marriage back then. Eleanor of Aquitaine almost suffered the same fate before marrying Henry II. I’m glad Marie eventually found her way back to the religious life.