A doting mother-in-law kills her daughter’s husband but is protected by the Virgin Mary

Pocket Bard’s notes: This one’s so all-over-the-place that I’m not sure how I’d tell it. I think I’d have to make a point of playing up how silly and fickle the mother-in-law is, given how often she changes her mind about things, and I’d definitely need to rework the ending. (“She was martyred! Yay!”) But I think the core of the story, about a doting mother-in-law who decides to kill her son-in-law because people think she wants to sleep with him, is a solid one. Even if it is a bit odd.

A doting mother-in-law kills her daughter’s husband but is protected by the Virgin Mary
The Golden Legend, Volume II, trans. William Granger Ryan, p.157-158

A man and his wife had an only daughter whom they gave in marriage to a young man, and, for love of their daughter, brought the son-in-law into their house along with his wife. The girl’s mother, for love of her daughter, cared for the young man so kindly that the bride’s love for her husband was no greater than the mother-in-law’s for her son-in-law. That being the situation, evil-minded people began to say that the woman was not doing this for her daughter’s sake but was trying to take her daughter’s place in the young man’s affections. This false rumor unsettled the woman’s mind, and, fearing it would turn into a public scandal, she parleyed with two countrymen, promising to pay each of them twenty sols if they would secretly strangle the son-in-law.

One day, therefore, she hid the two in the cellar of her house, sent her husband out on some business or other, and dispatched her daughter on some other errand. Then she asked the young man to go to the cellar and bring up some wine, and he was strangled by the two malefactors. The mother-in-law laid him out in her daughter’s bed and covered him up as if he were sleeping. The husband and the daughter came home and were seated at the dinner table, and the mother told her daughter to awaken her husband and call him to dinner. When the young wife found the dead body, she raised an outcry, the whole family fell to lamenting, and the murderess feigned to lament with the others. But in time she grieved over the crime she had committed and confessed the whole story to a priest. Sometime later a dispute arose between the woman and the priest, and he accused her of the murder of her son-in-law. When the young man’s parents learned of this, they had her brought to justice, and the judge condemned her to die by fire. The woman, considering the fact that her end was near, had recourse to the mother of Christ, went to the Virgin’s church, and prostrated herself in tears and prayer. In a short time she was forced to come out and was thrown into a blazing fire, and all saw her standing in the middle of the flames unhurt and unharmed. The dead man’s kinsmen thought the fire was not big enough and fetched wood to throw on it, but, seeing that the woman was still unscathed, attacked her with lances and spears. The judge was stupefied at what was going on and checked their assaults, but, examining her carefully, he found no sign of the fire on the woman, or other mark except the wounds from the lances. Her own people then carried her back to her house and revived her with salves and baths. But it was not God’s will that she should suffer suspicion and disgrace any longer, and after she had persevered for three days in praising the Virgin, God called her forth from this time.


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