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Æbbe [St Æbbe, Ebba] (d. 683?), abbess of Coldingham, was the daughter of Acha, queen of Northumbria, and uterine sister of kings Oswald and Oswiu. According to late and unverifiable traditions preserved mainly in a life ascribed to the twelfth-century hagiographer Reginald of Durham...

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Ælfflæd [St Ælfflæd, Elfleda] (654–714), abbess of Strensall–Whitby, was the daughter of Oswiu, king of Northumbria (d. 670), and his wife, Eanflæd. She was dedicated to religion when scarcely a year old, in fulfilment of a vow made by her father before his victory at the battle of the ...

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Bailleul, Matilda de (d. 1212), abbess of Wherwell, was the daughter of Baldwin (I), lord of the Flemish town of Bailleul, north-west of Lille. Her brother, Baldwin (II), and successive members of the family became castellans of Bailleul, Ypres, and Oudenburg. Obits of many of them are recorded in the calendar of a surviving psalter which eventually came to ...

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Bega [St Bega] (supp. fl. late 7th cent.), abbess of Hartlepool, was a legendary Irish saint, supposedly active in northern England in the seventh century. Her life and miracles are described in an anonymous account, probably written at the priory of St Bees...

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Bentley, Catharine [name in religion Magdalen Augustine] (1591–1659), abbess and translator, may have been the younger sister of Ann Bentley who entered the same convent on 3 May 1611, aged twenty-two; nothing further is known of her family. She took vows at the English convent of the Poor Clares at ...

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Berkeley, Joanne [name in religion Joanna] (1555/6–1616), abbess of the Convent of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, Brussels, was born at Beverston Castle, Gloucestershire, the daughter of Sir John Berkeley (d. 1581), of Beverston Castle, Gloucestershire, and his wife, Frances Poyntz (...

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Berners [Bernes, Barnes], Juliana (fl. 1460), supposed author and prioress of Sopwell, cannot be authoritatively identified. The biography of Dame Juliana Berners has grown from a brief note on sig. f3jr of The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms (also known as the ...

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Bolebec, Isabel de, countess of Oxford (c. 1164–1245), magnate and monastic patron, was the eldest daughter of Hugh de Bolebec (d. c.1165), lord of Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire, and a patron of the order of Friars Preacher in England. She appears first in the records as the widow of ...

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Browne, Mary [name in religion Bonaventure] (d. in or before 1694), Poor Clare abbess and chronicler, was born in Galway city, the daughter of Andrew Browne, a merchant. Her mother's identity is uncertain; O'Brien notes that the identification of Catherine Bodkin, of ...

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Bugga [Hæaburh] (d. 759x65), abbess, had the full name Hæaburh and was related to the Kentish royal house. She is first known from a letter she sent to Boniface, early in his career in Germany, with her mother, Eangyth, who was abbess of a Kentish monastery, to which ...

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Burton, Catharine [name in religion Mary Xaviera of the Angels] (1668–1714), Carmelite visionary and prioress of the English Carmel, Hopland, was born on 4 November 1668 at Beyton, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, the daughter of the devout recusant yeoman Thomas Burton...

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Butler, Mary Joseph (1641–1723), abbess of Ypres, was born in Callan, co. Kilkenny, the daughter of Theobald (Toby) Butler (d. 1649) of Callan and his wife, Anne (née Audley), of Attebridge, Norfolk. She was a descendant on her father's side of ...

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Cary, Anne [name in religion Clementia] (bap. 1614, d. 1671), Benedictine nun and a founder of Our Lady of Good Hope Convent, Paris, was the fourth child of Henry Cary, first Viscount Falkland (c. 1575–1633), and his wife, Elizabeth Cary, Viscountess Falkland...

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Margaret Clement (1539–1612) by unknown artist © The English Convent, Monastery of Nazareth-Bruges

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Clement, Margaret (1539–1612), prioress of St Ursula's, Louvain, was the youngest of the eleven children of John Clement (d. 1572), physician, and his wife, Margaret, née Giggs (1508–1570) [see Clement, Margaret]. The Clements were prominent humanist Roman Catholics who had met in the household of ...

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Cowper, Christabel (b. c. 1495, d. 1562?), prioress of Marrick, is of uncertain origins. She may have been related to the Margaret Cowper recorded in 1533 as a tenant of the house in which Christabel became a nun. She was the sister of ...

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Cressener, Elizabeth (d. 1536/7), prioress of Dartford, came from a well-connected gentry family in East Anglia. Her parentage and date of birth are not known, but since she became prioress in 1489 it is likely that she was born in the late 1450s and grew up during the reign of ...

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Margaret Anne Cusack (1829–1899) by unknown photographer, pubd 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cusack, Margaret Anne [name in religion Mary Francis Clare; called the Nun of Kenmare] (1829–1899), founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace and writer, was born on 6 May 1829 in York Street, Dublin, the elder of two children of ...

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Cuthburh [St Cuthburh, Cuthburga] (fl. c. 700–718), supposed abbess of Wimborne, was the daughter of Coenred (d. c.694), a minor king of Wessex, and sister of the powerful King Ine. She married King Aldfrith of Northumbria (d. 704/5), a godson of ...