How Well Does Madame Eglantine Really Speak French?

Updated 30 September, 2023
In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer spots the fact that Madame Eglantine, the Prioress, could speak French but he concluded from her accent that she had never been to France or mixed with French people. It would appear there her ‘French’ dialect was a mixture of French and cockney.
Detailed answer:

The Prioress, also called the Nun, is the first character of the clergy that Chaucer discusses in The Canterbury Tales. She is called Madame Eglantine. This name itself is an oxymoron, because it means a wild rose, which is very different than the “simple and gracious” woman she is described as. Chaucer chose this name purposefully, however; his goal is to imply that the Prioress is not as prim and proper as she portrays herself.
The author spots the fact that the Prioress could speak French but he notices that her French accent is terrible. He concluds from her accent that she has never been to France or mixed with French people. It would appear there her ‘French’ dialect was a mixture of French and cockney. She had learned French grammar well enough to converse in French but she had a terrible accent. In The Canterbury Tales it states that Madame Eglantine speaks French "after the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, / For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe". From this the readers learn that she either came from or had spent time at the Priory of St Leonard which was at Bromley-by-Bow. In Chaucer’s time, the village of Bromley-by-Bow was close to Stratford and known as ‘Stratford at Bow’.

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