Some queens took vows as nuns, willingly or unwillingly. This didn’t mean they lived quietly though. Many of them became abbesses of their communities, continuing to lead even after their retirement. Many of these women remained active even in their “quiet” retirement as nuns, maintaining and defending the rights and properties of their monasteries. Bertha, daughter of Lothar I, for example, involved herself in property dispute with Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, with accusations being flung on both sides. Nor was she the only one. Many dowager queens, however, did not become nuns.
[Mosaic in the church of Mont Sainte Odile depicting St. Richardis (right), photographed 2010]
[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
[Aerial view of Fontevraud, photographed 2005, source: Wikimedia Commons]
*Some only did so after acting as regent for an underage son or fulfilling the duties of queenship (keeping his household running, acting as advisor or sometimes regent, patronizing monasteries, etc.) for an unmarried son. Some did so beforehand.
**Willingly or unwillingly. Dowager Empress Angelberga was forced into a two-year retirement in a monastery not of her choosing after the election of her husband’s successor because the man was so wary of her political power. It took a pleading letter from the Pope to the man’s wife for him to release her to go to a monastery of her choosing.
Stafford, Pauline. Queens, Concubines, and Dowagers: the King's Wife in the Early Middle Ages. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1983.
Turner, Ralph V. "Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Government of her sons Richard and John." In Eleanor of Aquitaine: Lord and Lady, edited by Bonnie Wheeler and John Carmi Parsons, 77-95. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
MacLean, Simon. "Queenship, Nunneries and Royal Widowhood in Carolingian Europe." Past and Present 178.1 (2003): 3-38.