The Historical Cruelty Of Heloise And Abelard’s Marriage
Love hurts. This is a concept that Héloïse and Abelard were acutely aware of. Their romance, although the stuff of legends and renowned throughout the ages, is one that does not have a happy ending. It’s a classic story of boy meets girl, except the boy was a much-older teacher and the girl was his student.
Peter Abelard, born in 1079, was a French philosopher (via Thought Co.). Although doused in controversy, his work was widely acclaimed (via the Christian History Institute). Héloïse, on the other hand, was a well-educated beauty who was the pride and joy of her uncle, Canon Fulbert. For one reason or another, Abelard convinced Fulbert to allow him to teach and tutor Héloïse. Soon, he moved into their home, and Héloïse and Abelard became lovers.
Fulbert discovered the affair happening under his own roof, and then Héloïse realized she was pregnant. After the birth of their son, Astrolabe, Abelard asked for Fulbert’s forgiveness and for Héloïse’s hand in marriage. The catch? Abelard wanted to keep the marriage a secret to protect his well-established career. Fulbert agreed, but it was Héloïse he struggled to convince. In the end, Héloïse and Abelard secretly married; what came next was a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings.
The relationship ended badly for both of them
Once married, the couple left Astrolabe with Abelard’s sister and, for reasons unclear, Héloïse was sent to live at a convent (via Thought Co.). Believing she had been tricked by Abelard and forced to become a nun, Fulbert ordered his men to castrate Abelard. Humiliated and punished, Abelard became a monk and persuaded Héloïse to actually become a nun, something she did not want to do (via the Christian History Institute). Although forever separated, the pair continued to write each other letters (via Ranker).
Their love story has been celebrated through the centuries, but the truth is, the relationship was a complicated one. For one, Abelard was, after all, her teacher, and some might say he took advantage of Héloïse. Moreover, Héloïse’s dislike of marriage is well known and she even referred to it as prostitution. Nonetheless, the legend of the star-crossed lovers perseveres and Héloïse and Abelard are buried together in Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (via Britannica)
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