of these women did not cease with their retirement to the cloister. When one of them, by the choice of her companions, or the nomination of the bishops, became invested with the right of governing the community, she was also given the liberties and privileges of the highest rank. Abbesses often had the retinue and state of princesses. They were present at most great religious and national gatherings, and often affixed their signatures to the charters granted on these occasions.
I have already referred to one of the greatest of these abbesses, Hild of Whitby. She was the grandniece of Edwin, the first Christian King of Northumbria and had been baptised with her uncle at York in 627 by the Roman Missionary Paulinus. Bede says that, before consecrating her life to religion, "she had lived thirty-three years very nobly among her family." When she realised her vocation, she went into East Anglia where her brother-in-law was king, intending to cross over to the continent and take the veil at Chelles