Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Christina

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CHRISTINA (fl. 1086), nun of Romsey, was the daughter, apparently the younger one, of the ætheling Eadward, son of Eadmund Ironside and his foreign wife Agatha, the niece of the Emperor Henry II or III. Like her sister Margaret, afterwards queen of the Scots, and her brother Eadgar ætheling, she was born in Hungary, and in 1057 accompanied her parents to England. Soon after their arrival Eadward's death made her an orphan. In 1067 she accompanied her brother and the rest of the family on his flight to Scotland, spent the winter there, and then seems to have shared Eadgar's perilous and adventurous life until, in 1070, William's complete conquest of the north and the retirement of the Danish fleet deprived him of all hope, and Malcolm's invading army offered an opportunity of shelter and final return to Scotland (Anglo-Sax. Chron, s. a. 1067 and 1068, Symeon of Durham, s. a. 1070). How long Christina remained in Scotland at her brother-in-law's court is unknown. It seems most likely that after the reconciliation of Eadgar and William she followed her brother's fortunes. Anyhow she obtained several estates in England, and in the Domesday book is mentioned as holding Bradwell in Oxfordshire in capite of the King (p. 160), eight hides at Ulverley in Warwickshire, once the property of Earl Eadwine, and twenty-four hides of Icenton in the same county, which latter is expressly said to have been a gift of King William's (p. 244). Other lands are also assigned to her on less good authority (Hoveden, ii. 236, Rolls Ser.) But the survey had hardly been completed when Christina, who may well have shared her sister Margaret's former wish 'to serve the mighty Lord this short life in pure continence' (Anglo-Sax. Chron, s. a. 1067), and also the discontent at the little honour he received which drove her brother at the same time to Apulia, retired to Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, where she soon afterwards took the veil (Anglo-Saxon Chron. s. a. 1086, Flor. Wig. s. a. 1086, Ordbricus Vitalis). An inference from Eadmer and William of Malmesbury connects her, with little probability, with Wilton nunnery. It is often said that Christina became abbess of Romsey, but no contemporary authority speaks of her otherwise than as a simple nun, and the list of abbesses in Dugdale (Monasticon, ii. 507, ed. 1819) does not include her name. This list, however, is imperfect and unauthenticated. Yet if no abbess, Christina was important enough to be well known by Anselm, and sufficiently trusted by her brother-in-law, Malcolm, to receive the custody of his two daughters, Eadgyth or Matilda, afterwards queen of Henry I, and Mary, afterwards countess of Boulogne, when they were still very young (Ordericus, 702 A; Will. Malm. lib. v. § 418). Christina seems to have given her nieces a better education than women then commonly obtained; but her strong desire to make Eadgyth a nun, which excited alike the anger of Malcolm and the strenuous opposition of the girl, made her treat Eadgyth with a harshness and even cruelty which her niece strongly resented (Eadmer, Hist. Novorum, p. 122, Rolls Ser.) She opposed Eadgyth's marriage with Henry I on the ground that she had already received the veil, but Anselm decided that the marriage was lawful.

The date of Christina's death is unknown. She is said to have built a church in Hertford (Chauncy, Hertfordshire, p. 256).

[The original authorities mentioned in the text, and worked up by Professor Freeman in Norman Conquest, vol. iv., and William Rufus, vol. ii., especially note EE, pp. 598-603, on Eadgyth-Matilda.]

T. F. T.