Who were the Nuns?

A Prosopographical study of the English Convents in exile 1600-1800

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Barbara Fitzroy, in religion Benedicta.
Born: 1673.
Died: 6 May 1737 in Royal Priory, Pontoise.

father: King Charles II Stuart
mother: Lady Barbara Villiers duchess of Cleveland

Benedictines, Pontoise choir nun.
She was clothed 22 Nov 1689.
She left 1720 .
Named prioress of royal priory of St Nicolas Pontoise

She professed 2 Apr 1691, aged 18.

She was the sister of Cecilia Fitzroy.
She was the cousin of Arabella FitzJames.

Sources: Register Pontoise: 311-12.



In the ODNB article on Barbara Palmer, duchess of Cleveland, Susan Wynne writes that the father of Barbara Fitzroy was probably John Churchill - she was never acknowledged by the king as his daughter. The duchess' children took the surname Fitzroy in 1672 and were granted royal arms in February 1673. She left England to go abroad in order to economise in March 1676 taking her daughters with her. They were educated by the Conceptionists (Blue Nuns)in Paris, to which the duchess donated £1000 for new buildings. The compiler of the notes for the Diary of the Conceptionists (q.v) confirms Barbara Fitzroy's presence with the nuns from 1675 and gives the total gifts by the duchess as 15,630 livres: see 338-339.

Barbara Fitzroy is said to have been the mother of Charles Hamilton by James Douglas, earl of Arran after which she was sent abroad to join the Benedictines at Pontoise: see notes in Diary of the Conceptionists, p355. ODNB entry on Charles Hamilton gives Barbara Fitzroy as his mother, explaining that when the earl of Arran discovered the affair, he insisted that she be sent abroad and she joined the English Benedictines the same year. There is no mention of any child in her reported obituary notice.