The Writings of Agnes of Harcourt

The Life of Isabelle of France and the Letter on Louis IX and Longchamp

Edited, translated, and with an introduction by Sean L. Field

Notre Dame Texts in Medieval Culture

Agnes of Harcourt is an important though little known thirteenth-century author. Born into a leading Norman noble family, she became an abbess at the new royal Franciscan abbey of Longchamp, founded just outside of Paris by Isabelle of France, sister of Louis IX. In the 1280s Agnes wrote a substantial biography of Isabelle of France, as well as a brief letter detailing Louis IX’s involvement with the abbey. These texts were based on Agnes’s first-hand observations and contained many lively stories about their royal subjects.

Agnes’s writings provide a fascinating window on religious life at the court of St. Louis and on the lives of some of the most interesting and powerful men and women of the day. More significantly, they preserve one of the very few female perspectives we have for this period, and, in The Life of Isabelle, offer what is probably the first biography of one woman by another in French.

Based on new research into the surviving archives of Longchamp, The Writing of Agnes of Harcourt presents the first English translation of her texts, and the first substantial introduction to her life and work. This critical edition includes both the old French and English versions of the text.


“Field’s excellent and accessible editions of these two texts will be welcomed by all those with a specific interest in works written by women in the Middle Ages, in the position of women in medieval society, and in hagiography. They will also be valued greatly by those with a more general interest in thirteenth-century French culture and society. Field is to be commended for drawing to prominence two sources which have been much neglected but which offer an important window onto a complex period.” — Comitatus

“The edition and facing translation are well presented, accurate, and accessible. The book should prove an excellent resource for upper-level undergraduate courses covering women, religion, medieval Paris, and the French language and literature. With Field’s contribution, the University of Notre Dame Press has added a valuable volume to its series ‘Texts in Medieval Culture.’ “ — H-France Reviews

“ . . . brings to light two texts written in the last quarter of the 13th c. by Agnès d’Harcourt, third abbess of Longchamp, in honour of its foundress, Isabelle, and one of its benefactors, and Isabelle’s brother, King Louis IX. The introduction includes a thorough analysis of every aspect of the texts and their contexts.” — This Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies