Dionisie de Munchensi

Dionisie de Munchensi (born Dionisie de Anesty in the early 13th century; died between 1293 and 1304) was the second wife of the wealthy landowner Warin de Munchensi, stepmother to the great heiress Joan de Munchensi (King Henry III's sister-in-law), and addressee of Walter de Bibbesworth's Anglo-Norman language-learning poem The Treatise.

Dionisie de Anesty (her forename is sometimes modernized to Denise) was the daughter and only child of Nicholas de Anesty, a farmer living at Anstey Castle in Hertfordshire. She inherited land from her mother, a descendant of Hamon Peche, sheriff of Cambridgeshire 1155-1165. Dionisie first married Walter Langton. (This is thought to have been the Walter who was brother of the archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, and fought in the Albigensian Crusade: he would have been about 70 by the time of the marriage.)[1] There were no children of the marriage, and Walter was dead by 1234. In that year Dionisie married Warin de Munchensi, lord of Swanscombe, Painswick and other estates. Warin's first wife, Joan, daughter of William Marshal, had just died leaving two small children, John and Joan. Dionisie was stepmother to these; in 1236 she bore Warin a son, William.

Warin died in 1255. Dionisie married thirdly Robert Butyller: there were no children of that marriage. She outlived her son William, a turbulent politician who died in 1287. She acted as his executrix and as guardian of her granddaughter, named Dionisie after her, who was still a child when William died.

In 1293 Dionisie endowed a nunnery in the order of Poor Clares at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire; it was active until 1347 and then merged with the nearby Denny Abbey, newly founded by Joan de Munchensi's daughter-in-law Mary, countess of Pembroke.[2]

Walter de Bibbesworth's Treatise, addressed to Madame Dyonise de Mountechensi, is preceded in some manuscripts by a letter of dedication in which he explains: "You have asked me to put in writing for your children a phrase book to teach them French."[3] Since Dionisie bore only one child, the "children" are assumed to include her two stepchildren, John and Joan.[4]


  1. This identity is accepted by F. M. Powicke, "Bibliographical Note on Recent Work upon Stephen Langton" in English Historical Review vol. 48 (1933) pp. 554-557, and in the Victoria County History, Cambridge vol. 2 (1948) p. 292 and footnote 4
  2. Victoria County History, Cambridge vol. 2 (1948) pp. 292-295; Dalby (2012) p. 14
  3. Dalby (2012) p. 39
  4. Kathleen Kennedy, "Le Tretiz of Walter of Bibbesworth" in Daniel T. Kline, ed., Medieval Literature for Children (London: Routledge, 2003) p. 131; Dalby (2012) pp. 11-12
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