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A letter from abbot William of St. Thomas of the Paraclete (1195)

Translated letter: 

To the queen of the French, abbot William.
We are compelled by the debt of charity and the law of nature to put hand to pen and if we can not visit our lady the queen of the French in body, since it is sick, at least in the spirit which is ready, whether the devil wills it or not. Yet we would more happily if it were possible have an intimate conversation mouth to mouth, particularly since we are delighted by the sight of you and warmed by the sweet speech by which the mind wounded by the darts of charity/love bears the wound of divine love more strongly and glories in being completely burned up in the sacrifice of praise. He knows who is aware of secrets that we diligently embrace your honor and glory: we say honor because you trample the pressure of the world with the foot of virtues and in your tribulation your virtue grows by divine dispensation. Not like a woman but like a wise man you virilely endure hostile evil and you commit your cause and judgment to divine grace. For you know, and know well, as you have often read in the book of experience, that it is not virtue to be conquered by evil but to conquer evil with good. This will be to your glory and an example for imitation to all those suffering injury. It must be believed that you are divinely instructed so you may strongly rise to greater praise of virtues, having before your eyes what the Apostle, or rather Christ through the apostle says: “All who wish to live piously in Christ, suffer persecution” [2Tim.3:12]. What patience confers is not unknown to you, as Truth says: “In your endurance you will gain your souls” [Luke21:19]. Now therefore, dearest lady and glorious Queen, do not deviate from the path of rectitude you have undertaken for, as we truly hope and trust if he who troubles you does not recover his senses, he will switly be judged, and what was conferred on you in dowry by the Lord, with justice mediating, will in no way be voided. Give no attention to the threats of those who hate and afflict you or to the flattering promises since, though the severity of the king may frighten you somewhat, the censure of divine judgment strengthens and confirms you, which never abandons those who hope in it and disperses the bad counsels of princes and affirms its own unto eternity.

Original letter: 

Reginae Francorum abbas W. caritatis debito et naturae jure compellimur, quatenus ad calamum manum mittamus, et, si non corporali praesentia, quia infirma est, spiritu tamen qui promptus est, dominam nostram, velit nolitque diabolus, Francorum Reginam visitemus. Jucundius tamen, si fieri posse, ore ad os familiare vellemus inire colloquium, maxime cum praesentiae vestrae delectaremur aspectibus et dulcioribus foveremur alloquiis, quibus mens caritatis jaculis vulnerata validius vulnus divini gestat amoris, et totam se gloriatur concremari in sacrificium laudis. Novit qui secretorum est conscius, quod honorem vestrum et gloriam diligenter amplectimur: honorem autem dicimus, quod mundi pressuram virtutum pede calcatis, et in tribulatione vestra divina dispensatione virtus accrescit, dum, non ut foemina, sed ut vir cordatus, hostilem nequitiam viriliter sustinetis, et gratiae divinae causam vestram judiciumque committitis. Nostis enim et bene nostis, quia in libro experientiae saepe legistis, quod virtutis est non vinci a malo, sed in bono vincere malum. Erit hoc vobis ad gloriam, et omnibus injuriam patientibus ad imitationis exemplum. Credendum est quod divinitus estis instructa, ut ad majora virtutum praeconia valide consurgatis, illud habendo prae oculis quod dicit Apostolus, immo per apostolum Christus: Omnes qui pie volunt vivere in Christo, persecutionem patiuntur. Quid autem patientia conferat, a cognitione vestra nullatenus est alienum, cum Veritas dicat: In patientia vestra possidebitis animus vestras. Nunc igitur, carissima domina et gloriosa Regina, ne declinetis a rectitudinis tramite quem cepistis, quia cito, ut vere speramus atque confidimus, si non resipuerit qui vos conturbat, portabit judicium, et quod a Domino est vobis collatum in dotem, justitia mediante, nullatenus deducetur in irritum. Minas eorum qui vos oderunt et affligunt, sive blanditias promissionum, nullatenus attendatis, quia, etsi aliquando vos deterreat Regis severitas, corroboret vos et confirmet divini censura judicii, quae nunquam sperantes in se derelinquit, quae et mala consilia Principum dissipat, et suum in aeternum confirmat.

Historical context: 

William excuses himself for not coming in person but sends a letter of sympathy, consolation, and encouragement for Ingeborg in her just struggle. William was one of the two envoys king Knut of Denmark sent to the pope in his sister’s cause; the other was chancellor of Denmark. On the way back, carrying papal letters insisting on an examination of the divorce by papal representatives, the envoys were captured and imprisoned by Eudes III, duke of Burgundy, who took the letters. William was then 84. They were released at the intervention of the abbot of Cîteaux, imprisoned again by the duke and released again in 1196.

Printed source: 

HGF19, Epistolae Sancti Guillelmi Abbatis S. Thomae de Paracleto, 9 p.315

date

1195