|French literary history|
Marie de France ("Mary of France") was a poet evidently born in France and living in England during the late 12th century. Virtually nothing is known of her early life, though she wrote a form of continental French that was copied by Anglo-Norman scribes. Therefore, most of the manuscripts of her work bear Anglo-Norman traits. Although scholars do not know the identity of the woman we call today Marie de France, the name being derived from a line in one of her published works: "Marie ai nun, si sui de France," which translates as: "My name is Marie, I am from France," several historical women have been suggested as candidates. Among those that have been taken most seriously are Marie, Abbess of Shaftesbury and half-sister to Henry II, King of England; Marie, Abbess of Reading; Marie de Boulogne; and most compelling of all, Marie de Meulan, wife of Hugh Talbot .
Four works have been attributed to Marie de France, including 12 "Breton lais" (or lays), the "Ysopet" fables, the Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick, and, most recently, a saint's life called La Vie seinte Audree or The Life of Saint Audrey. Scholars have dated Marie's works between about 1160 at the earliest, and about 1215 at the latest, though it is probable that they were written between about 1170 and 1205. One of her works, the Lais, is dedicated to a "noble king," another to a "Count William"; it is thought that the king referred to is either Henry II of England or his eldest son, known as "Henry the Young King." The Count William in question is, most likely, either William of Mandeville or William Marshall. As the wife of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine was well known to be a patron of troubadours and other artists; it has been suggested by some that Marie de France was a member of their court. The English poet Matilda Betham-Edwards wrote a poem about Marie de France called 'The Lay of Marie'.