This is a tale which lends itself to further interpretation and
embellishment. It would be interesting to develop the angst that
Frideswide had felt at the prospect of a forced marriage. The reason
I include it is that legislation to prevent 'forced marriages' chiefly aimed
at the Asian communities is due to be introduced imminently. Another
source of inspiration with the use of a bit of empathy!
St Frideswide: Oxford's patron saint
Once upon a time in the fair city of Oxford, there lived Princess Frideswide who was as good as she was beautiful.
The King, her father, ruled the people of his realm with clemency and justice, and she learnt the ways of the Church.
The motherless child was tenderly looked after by gentle nuns who taught her to read and write and to play sweet music upon the harp and lyre.
As she grew up, princes from neighbouring kingdoms sought her hand in marriage.
The King her father turned them away saying that his daughter was still but a child and too young to wed.
In time however, there came a handsome prince on a fine horse, with his retinue all attired in splendid silks and velvets, and the King listened thoughtfully as he pleaded his suit.
Princess Frideswide herself was alone in her room high in the tower of the castle, but her ladies were listening at the door of the great council chamber, and when they heard the King announce that Frideswide should indeed become the Prince's bride, they hastened to tell her that she was soon to be married.
The Princess wept bitter tears, for her one wish was that she might become a nun and devote herself to God, and she vowed that even if she had to disobey her father, no mortal man should ever be her bridegroom.
Then she gathered up some food, her missal, and a few belongings, and wrapped in a warm cloak of fur, she slipped out with her ladies in the darkness of night through a small gate in the castle wall, and together they rowed up the river until they came to a tiny hamlet.
Hiding the boat among the reeds of the riverbank, they concealed themselves in a byre among the beasts stabled there, and thus they passed the hours until dawn.
They shook with fear as they heard the stamping of many feet and the barking of dogs as the King's soldiers searched for them in the woods by the river, but at last the clamour of pursuit grew fainter and they knew they were safe and could travel onwards.
For days and weeks they journeyed, until they happened upon a group of devout women, who asked no questions and gladly gave them shelter, and there it was that Frideswide began to care for the poor and heal the sick.
As time passed, word reached her that her father the King was pining away with sorrow for the loss of her, his only child, and she determined to return to Oxford, come what might.
Hardly had she entered the gates of the city than the bells pealed joyously from the spires and steeples, the King rose from his sickbed, and the people sang and danced in the streets.
The news of her return soon came to the ears of the Prince, and he rode swiftly to Oxford to claim the Princess once more for his bride.
When she saw him, Frideswide prayed to God for succour.
At once there was a terrible clap of thunder, and a bolt of lightning struck the Prince, blinding him.
Weeping from his sightless eyes, he pleaded for mercy and forgiveness.
Frideswide took pity on him and prayed again, beseeching God to restore his sight but to destroy his desire for her, and at once water gushed forth from a healing spring, and her prayers were answered.
The Prince, his sight restored, mounted his charger and wheeling round, galloped away from the city, never to return.
Princess Frideswide's wish to become a nun was fulfilled, and close to the southern wall of Oxford she founded a great priory, where monks and nuns praised God and cared for those stricken by misfortune, and where her name lived on for ever.