Candide Chapter 11
"The Old Woman's Story"
The old woman tells Candide and Cunégonde that she was the daughter of the Princess of Palestrina and Pope Urban X. This is an amusing jab at the papacy, because for this to happen Pope Urban X must have violated his oath of celibacy.
In her youth, the old woman was very beautiful, and she reminds her audience of this repeatedly. Her naked beauty inspired ecstasy even among her waiting-maids. She was engaged to a prince, but he was poisoned just before they were married. Her mother then decided to sail to their estate in Gaeta, but their ship was boarded by pirates. The old woman comically observes that the Pope's soldiers were acting in character when they immediately surrendered to the pirates. All the men were stripped and searched, and the women given body cavity searches, a detail the old woman lingers over when she muses that searches such as these are given according to international law.
The pirates took the old woman and her mother to Morocco, where they were to be sold as slaves. The old woman reminds Cunégonde and Candide of her now lost ravishing beauty, and of how difficult it was for a princess of such high birth to be kidnapped by pirates. She tells them how she lost her virginity to a captain of the ship. As an afterthought, she notes that these dreadful events are commonplace.
She goes on to tell how she arrived in Morocco, where fifty civil wars were raging. Her mother and the ladies of honor were all cut to pieces. The captain protects her, but he dies along with everyone else in a gruesome blood bath. The old woman passes out on a pile of corpses. She wakes up with an Italian man lying on her, bemoaning his inability to have sex.