Dhouda of Gascony
804-843
Medieval Virtue Ethics 



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Dhouda of Gascony Countess of Agen and Septimania has been called the first woman writer of Europe. There are conflicting, alternative accounts of the identities of her parents, spouse and children, so it is likely that there was more than one woman known as "Dhouda." Here we follow what appears to be the most authoritative academic sources about Dhouda. Our interest is in the author of "Manuel pour mon fils," (Manual for my son). 

She was a French noblewoman who lived during the Carolingian times when men's work was warring. She has come down to us through a letter with an educational code and practical ethics for the conduct of life that she wrote for her son, William.

Chronology:

  • 804 CE She is born and is the second child ; her brother Sancho I Sanchez having been born in 803CE. Her mother appears to have been a daughter of the Count of Aragon. Her father, Sancho Loupez was Duke/Prince of Gasgogny. To see more about her family, go to the roots web site for Dhouda of Gascony Little is know of her early life though it appears that she studied Latin, Greek, theology and the arts.
  • 814 - Death of Charlemagne, who was a relative.
  • 816 CE Her father dies.
  • 824 CE On June 24th. Dhouda of Gascony Countess of Agen and Septimania marries Bernard I Mgv of Septamania, son of William I Duke of Toulouse and Kunigunde (Auberge) in Achen, Germany. Bernard is a godson of the Emperor Luis the Pious. It appears to have been a marriage for gain, as were most noble marriages of the time. It was a court wedding. Bernard was a chamberlain of the King. Because Bernard is often away, she is alone much of the time and, unlike married women who live their lives around their husbands, she establishes her own routines for daily life.
  • 826 CE On November 29th she gives birth to a son who is named William. He is in line for the royal throne. Sometime after this she is sent to Uzes where she lives pretty much alone since her husband is away in the military most of the time. some refer to her as establishing a life much as a widow might.
  • 840 CE She gives birth to a second son, Barnard.
  • c.841- 843 CE She writes the work, A Letter to William , which is a Liber Manualis or guide to living and code of conduct for her son William who was probably at the court of Charles the Bald as a page. He receives the work in 843.
  • 843 CE ff. Dhouda dies sometime in 843, the date is unclear though some claim that she died in February of that year.
  • 844 CE Her husband Bernard is executed.
  • 845 or 850 CE Her son, William, was executed.


Sources: Edouard Salin. La civilization merovignienne, 4 vols. Paris: Picard (1952), Vol 2, p 67.

Ronald Malan, "The Ancestry of Dhouda, Dutchess of Septimania," The Geneologist:11 (1997), 116.

Discussions of her work:

1. Is she dominated by Carolingian patriarchy, in tension with it or subversive of it? This question is raised by Paul Maruice Clogan in his, Medievalia Et Humanistica, He claims it is the last alternative: that she is subversive of Carolingian Patriarchy. [the chapter is available in pdf format on line and can be found through a Google search.]

2. Further discussion of her recommendations for prayer are contained in Cult and Controversy: the Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass by Nathan D. Mitchell. 


This page was updated 3 November 2014.


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