February 4: The tale of St. Jane, the Misbegotten Misfit

Jane (sometimes called Joan, sometimes Joanna, but we’ll go with Jane here). Not just a Plain Jane. But a short, deformed daughter of a French King. Ugly Jane. Unwanted Jane. Pawn of her father,  who could not stand to be around her and so sent her to marry a first cousin as a means to cement allegiances. Her brother ascended to the throne and threatened to kill her husband (a rival) and Jane begged for her cousin-husband to be saved. Her brother relented, and saved her husband–only to be usurped by Jane’s husband, who took over the French throne himself.

So her husband? As soon as he was king, he decided to have Jane annulled, wanting instead a more illustrious and beautiful wife (pretty Anne, not Ugly Jane). So the church hierarchy examined the matter and agreed that the marriage that saved this king’s life and brought him to the throne never truly existed, and cut Jane loose. Poor ugly Jane.

But never stupid Jane. She accepted her fate meekly… in fact with such tactful meekness that she was given a number of properties and money because she was willing to go away so quietly, without causing any scandal or unpleasantness. Not stupid at all.

Now no longer dependent on a father who hated her, a husband who used her, or a pope who agreed that she did not, in fact, exist as a wife, Jane was free of male domination! She used her freedom and money to turn around and help others. She assisted the poor from her estate in Bourges and she co-founded the “Order of the nuns of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin”! What is so touching is that her being annulled returned Jane to putative virginity, and, as with Mary, Jane too took in the Annunciation: fear not, what is in you is HOLY. And, with Jane, so it was and so was she. Saint Jane.

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