Charles West Cope, Griselda First Trial 1849 Detail

Detail from the 1849 painting Griselda's First Trial by the British artist Charles West Cope.

"Griselada" (French:"La Marquise de Salusses ou la Patience de Griseldis") is one of the eleven fairy tales by the French author Charles Perrault that are included in the 1697 anthology Histoires ou Contes du temps passé (Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales). Perrault originally wrote his version of "Griselda" in verse. It was first published on September 22, 1691 in an anthology of poems that had been read in front of the Académie française.

The story concerns a prince who mistrusts all women and who thinks that all wives want to dominate their husbands. He falls in love with a beautiful and virtuous young shepherdess named Griselda. He marries her but makes her promise never to oppose his will first. After Griselda and the prince have been married for a year, they have a baby daughter. The prince decides to test whether or not Griselda will always obey him by ordering her to give away her daughter. Griselda reluctantly does as her husband commands. Fifteen years later, the prince tests Griselda's character again when he announces that he is going to leave her and marry a younger woman.

The tale of Griselda (a character also known in English as Grizel) originated in European folklore. The earliest known written version of the story can be found in The Decameron, an Italian anthology of novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio that was completed in 1352. The Italian author Petrarch (1304-1374) wrote a version of the story in Latin. Geoffrey Chaucer adapted Petrarch's version as "The Clerk's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales.

Many modern readers are likely to find Perrault's "Griselda" to be uncomfortable reading because it describes what would undoubtedly be identified today as an abusive relationship.



1912 depiction of Griselda and the prince by the British artist Warwick Goble.

In northwestern Italy lives a prince who is handsome. brave and loved by his people because he treats them kindly. The prince, however, has one serious fault. He distrusts all women. He believes that all wives are unfaithful to their husbands. He also believes that all wives seek to dominate their husbands. One day, a group of the prince's subjects go to see him. They implore the prince to marry so that he can have an heir who will continue to rule over them wisely. The prince flatly refuses.

Later that day, the prince goes hunting. He gets separated from his huntsmen and becomes lost. He sees a beautiful young shepherdess and falls in love with her at first sight. The shepherdess fetches a cup from her hut so that the prince can drink water from a stream. She then leads the prince back to the town. The prince goes back to see the shepherdess many times. He finds out that her name is Griselda and that her only living relative is her father. Griselda and her father rarely go to town. They live off their ewes' milk and make their own clothes. The prince receives permission to marry Griselda from her father. He does not, however, tell Griselda herself that he plans to marry her.

The prince announces that he is going to marry. He adds, however, that he will not reveal the name of the woman that he is going to marry until his wedding day. On the day when his wedding is due to take place, the prince rides to Griselda's home. Griselda is dressed in her best clothes and preparing to go to town for the prince's wedding. The prince tells Griselda that she is to be his bride. Before the wedding is to take place, however, the prince makes Griselda promise that she will never oppose his will. Griselda agrees. She is dressed in new clothes, given jewelry and taken to the palace in a carriage of ivory and gold.


Early 20th century depiction of Griselda, the prince and their child by the British artist William Heath Robinson.

Griselda has no difficulty adapting to her new life as a princess. She shows herself to be intelligent and witty as well as beautiful and kind. After she has been married to the prince for a year, Griselda gives birth to a daughter. It is at this time that the prince begins to suspect that Griselda is not really as good as she appears to be. In order to see if she will truly bend to his will as she had promised to do, the prince orders Griselda to give back all the jewels that he gave her. Realizing that her husband is simply testing her love for him, Griselda willingly gives up the jewels. Believing that Griselda loves their daughter more than him, the prince declares that the baby girl will have to be sent away. Griselda does not want to part with her daughter. Nevertheless, she bows to her husband's will. A few days later, the prince tells Griselda that their daughter has died. Unknown to Griselda, the girl is still alive. She has been taken to a convent and is brought up by the nuns. The young princess does not know who her parents are.

The prince and Griselda remain happily married for the next fifteen years. The prince occasionally tests Griselda's character, although not to the same cruel extent as he did when he made her give up her daughter.

One day, a young nobleman sees the daughter of the prince and Griselda at a window of the convent. He falls in love with her and she loves him in return. The prince finds out about this love and approves of it. He wants the young nobleman to marry his daughter. He decides, however, that the young lovers will have to suffer some hardship before they are allowed to live happily ever after. Although he no longer doubts Griselda's love for him, the prince also wants to show the world how good his wife is.

The prince declares that, since he has no heir because his only child died fifteen years earlier, he is going to take a younger wife. He orders Griselda to leave the palace. She takes nothing with her apart from her old shepherdess's clothes. Griselda reluctantly returns to her former life as a shepherdess. Much to the distress of the young princess and the young nobleman who loves her, the prince declares that she will be his new bride.

The prince goes to see Griselda. He tells her that he wants her to speak to his new bride so that she can tell her how to please him. When Griselda sees the young princess, she suddenly feels maternal love towards her. She cannot help thinking that the girl is the same age that her daughter would have been if she had lived. Griselda begs the prince not to test his new wife as cruelly as he had tested her. Griselda says that, as a poor shepherdess, she was used to hardship. She is certain, however, that the young princess has never known suffering and would not be able to cope with it. The prince replies that he is not going to take orders from a shepherdess.

Griselda is invited to the prince's wedding. The prince announces to his assembled guests that he is not going to marry the young princess because she is really his daughter. He adds that he wants the young princess to marry the young nobleman whom she loves. He also announces that he will be returning to his faithful and patient wife Griselda and that he will never mistreat her again. The young princess is delighted to have found her parents. Griselda is overjoyed to be reunited with her daughter. Griselda's daughter and the young nobleman are married.

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