In the year of our Lord 1289, the Queen of Navarre and Queen Consort to the Kingdom of France with King Philip IV was dead. Joan I had married King Philip IV of France in 1284 at the age of 11 who was 16 at the time. She died in child birth, but a male child named Louis X survived. Despite the news of a male heir, the King was sorrowful and could not be consoled.
The King was given a few weeks to mourn the death of his wife before his advisers began to present plans to him on finding him a new wife. Although the King had an heir now, it was quite common for infants and children to die before reaching adulthood. If Louis X were to die before achieving an heir himself, the throne would potentially go to King Philip's brother Charles the Count of Valois.
The King met with his advisers on the subject of a new consort. The Kingdom of Navarre would remain in King Philip's hands as he would be King regent for his infant son. However, if his son were to die he would lose the kingdom entirely. Seeing as how Joan had no sister, Philip would have to rely completely on his son to keep the kingdom.
The King's advisers wrote up a list of potential consorts, but the King in his grief seemed disinterested in the process. Marriages in royal courts were more about titles and political alliances than love and affection. Similarly this was the case with Joan I, but she had died too young for the King to truly know her. For the time being, the King's son would be under the careful care of maidservants and guards. The young Louis X was vulnerable to assassination by someone wanting to elevate the King's brother Charles.
On one occasion, a King's adviser sent out a scout to the local villages to seek fair women who would be suitable to marry nobleman. It was not the King's adviser task at the time to find a wife for the King among the commoners. One of these scouts came upon the Montreuil Abbey in the Diocese of Laon in Paris, France. A nunnery wasn't generally a place to find a wife, but this scout had already search the surrounding areas and wanted to be thorough for his master. He came to the Abbey under the false pretense that the King wished to have it inspected. The Abbess complied with the inspection giving the scout free reign to inspect each and every nun as well as all the structures.
The nuns in the abbey wore hoods making it fairly difficult to determine the beauty of any of the women. The nuns all wore the same uniform making it difficult to determine what the status of each nun was. However, the scout had a sharp eye and had a particular liking for the eyes above all over features. He finally found among the nuns, one that interested him. She was in the chapel by herself at the time the scout interviewed her. The scout had seen her face and had followed her into the chapel. After a few moments, the scout decided to approach her and knelt in prayer next to her.
"I have a favor to ask you sister," the scout said.
"What is this favor?" the nun asked cautiously.
"I am employed by an adviser of the King. I have come to inspect this abbey, and I have questions concerning the state of things. I have heard reports that this abbey is very respected and that many novices have been turned away because there are so many here."
"I have heard this, but you should ask the Abbess these questions."
The scout paused for a moment and then considered more questions to ask. "Am I to assume that you have not made your solemn vows?"
"You are correct sir," she replied. "But how could you know this?"
"Your avoidance of my question concerning novices suggested to me that you are in fact one of them. Perhaps you feel that you may be turned away as well," the scout judged.
The nun sighed while continuing to focus on her prayers. "Whatever be God's will," she said softly.
"Are you open to the suggestion that it may not be God's will for you to be here?" the scout asked.
"What are you saying sir?" the nun asked facing him for the first time.
The scout looked into her eyes and saw her youthful face. Unlike many noblewomen, this nun had an attractive face and a slender body. A body that had not been abused by gluttony and a mind not abused by entitlement. "The King's wife has died. Are you aware of this?"
"I have heard of this," the nun answered.
"Then you know that the King must secure a new wife in case anything may happen to his infant son," the scout continued.
"I am not familiar with such matters."
The scout smiled. "Good."
"Why do you say good sir?" the nun asked curiously.
"You have not been corrupted by politics. You are as white as snow."
"And why should I be concerned with politics?"
"May I know your name?" the scout asked avoiding the question.
"It is Christine sir," she said.
"Christine, I am sorry to have disturbed you," the scout apologized and then left the chapel.
The scout returned to the King's adviser in Paris and handed him a list of names of women and where he had found them. When the King's adviser had read the list, he turned to the scout. "Why did you visit an abbey?"
"An abbey has many women," the scout said.
"True, but none of them are available for marriage," the King's adviser said frustrated.
"Not all of them have taken their vows."
"You expect a nun to not finish her vows so she can marry a nobleman?" the adviser asked incredulous.
"Good sir, when has a woman ever had a choice in the matter."
"What did you find?" the adviser asked now fully attentive.
"There is a fair looking woman in the abbey who has not yet taken her vows. Her future is uncertain if she is sent away. I asked the Abbess about her and discovered that she is an orphan. She is seventeen years of age," the scout reported.
"A good age. Perhaps there would be a nobleman or a baron who would be willing to propose to her," the King adviser's considered.
"Could we not be more ambitious?" the scout dared.
The King's adviser laughed. "You must be jesting. You think this woman could be a consort to our King?"
"There is no reason we can't be open to the idea."
"There are many reasons. As a nun she would be subject to the Pope before the King…"
"Not if she leaves the abbey and does not complete her vows," the scout interrupted.
"She would be a commoner. The King doesn't marry commoners," the adviser objected.
"Does His Majesty really need more titles? What the king needs is the support of the clergy and the people he rules. And this may be seen as a good will gesture to Rome."
"The King would be a laughingstock."
"Haven't you always wanted a righteous King who was more interested in his people then warfare and conquest. This King has taxed his people to death and so has his fathers and their fathers," the scout said.
"Hold your tongue," the adviser warned.
"The infant prince Louis X should be raised by a spiritual mother so that when he grows up, he will be a wise and compassionate King to his people. What better mother than a nun."
"We both know that Queen-Consorts do not directly raise their children. Louis X will be weaned by maidservants and taught by royal tutors."
"That is because Queen-Consorts in the past have been negligent in their motherly duties," the scout argued.
"It is what it is," the King's adviser sighed.
"It does not have to be. We can change the Monarchy for the better. You're an old man, what do you have to lose?"
The adviser smiled. "You are fortunate I am a kind master. You would not be able to talk like this to any other member of the King's Court. I will place this nun at the top of my list, but I will not tell the King her status. She is a peasant outside the city of Paris. Is that clear?"
The scout bowed before his master. "As you wish."
The King's adviser came before the King with a list of names. The King's other advisers did the same creating a stack for the King to consider. The King decided to have a private meeting with each of his advisers so that they would not argue amongst themselves in his presence.
"Who among this list would you suggest?" King Philip asked.
"My favorite is Christine, Your Majesty."
"And why do you say Christine?"
"Your Majesty, she is a humble woman among the people of Paris. She is an orphan and has no reputation to speak of. Unlike other women proposed, you will not be further entangled with foreign crowns and lands. You are already the King of France and Navarre. What your majesty needs is a mother for his son. So, that when you are gone you will have a son who will continue your greatness."
"A commoner?" King Philip wondered.
"Your Majesty, the people of France would appreciate your rule even more if one of their own were to be elevated to a position that has no real power."
"Is she fair?" King Philip asked.
"My scout who has seen her face to face believes her so."
"Does she know that she is auditioning for the role of Queen-Consort?" King Philip asked.
"No, Your Majesty."
"While the people of France may appreciate one of their own becoming Queen, my foreign rivals will ridicule me for it. Bring her before me and if I am pleased with her I shall elevate her rank to that of a Countess."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
The King's Adviser employed his scout to find the nun at the abbey and bring her before the King. "What should I tell her?" the scout asked.
"Tell her the King wishes to know more about the abbey."
"She knows very little about the abbey's operations. The Abbess would be more qualified."
"The Abbess is a person of authority and does not know the individual experiences of the nuns. Besides, when has a person needed a reason to be summoned by the King?"
"She may be fearful and show signs of apprehension."
"Bring her before me and I will present her to His Majesty. I will not be embarrassed if you have discovered one who is not fair."
The scout set off and visited the abbey and requested for Christine from the Abbess. The Abbess and the Scout discovered Christine out in the fields. Her clothes and her hands were dirty from her labor. The scout considered her appearance and remained convinced of her beauty even through the dirt.
"Christine. I have something important to say to you."
"You're the man who visited me at the chapel," she recalled.
"Yes, I am the same. My master would like to see you."
"What is this about?" the Abbess asked suspiciously.
"My master is an adviser to the King. His Majesty has summoned Christine to his Court," the scout told her.
"For what purpose?" the Abbess asked.
"The King is curious about the lives of nuns within his kingdom," the scout lied.
"Then why Christine who is only a novice?" the Abbess questioned.
"Please woman, I am merely a servant and do not have the answers you seek. I only need her for a brief while and will gladly work in the fields in her place."
"That won't be necessary," the Abbess relented. The Abbess then turned to Christine. "Do as this man says," she ordered.
The scout took Christine on a walk toward the city of Paris and brought her to his master. The King's adviser looked at Christine with uncertainty. "Have her take a bath and then we shall see," he ordered.
When Christine had taken a bath and was fitted in richer clothes, she was presented again before the King's adviser. This time she didn't wear a hood allowing both the adviser and the scout a full view of her long brown hair. The adviser stared at Christine and examined her face and hair much to her bewilderment.
"Very good. You have excellent tastes," the adviser said to his scout.
"Sir, what is my purpose for being here?" Christine asked.
"You are to address His Majesty the King," the adviser told her.
"And what am I to speak to the King about?"
"He may ask you questions and you shall answer every one of them to the best of your knowledge. I have a number of questions I believe the King may ask. You will answer my questions as if you were answering the King. Do you understand?"
"Yes sir," she replied.
After several hours of interrogation, the adviser released Christine to his scout who gave her lodging in the city. The scout declined to answer any of her questions so she remained silent. During the night, Christine was filled with nervousness and had trouble sleeping. The highest ranking figure she had ever encountered was the Abbess and now she would be meeting the King with no knowledge as to why.