In this chapter the old woman begins to narrate her own life story. First, she explains how she was born as the bastard child of Pope Urban XX. Next, the woman proceeds to boast about her past beauty, as well as about her handsome fiancé who suddenly dies just before their wedding.
At another time, traveling on a papal ship of sorts, she is attacked by invading pirates who strip everyone aboard, fondling the women in the process. It's interesting to see how Voltaire even uses this woman in his ongoing indictment of the Church. Though the ship is supposedly defended by papal bodyguards, the old woman doesn't seem to have too high of a regard for them, as she explains the incident: "Our soldiers defended themselves as papal troops usually do; falling on their knees and throwing down their arms.."
Used as a personal slave by the African captain, who takes her virginity, the woman, along with her mother and chambermaids, is taken to Morocco to be sold. When they arrive, they find themselves in the middle of a bloody civil war, which soon claims the lives of everyone except the woman. With much effort, she manages to drag herself to a nearby stream, where she is approached by an Italian man who sees her beauty and groans about having lost his testicles.
Voltaire, besides indicting the Roman Catholic Church, also criticizes Islam in this chapter. The woman subtlety notes how the disciples of Muhammad scrupulously took time out of killing each other to say their five daily prayers mandated by their religion. Other themes seen in this chapter center around war and man's cruelty to his fellow man. Voltaire is strongly anti-war, obviously, showing it to be a needless slaughter of human life.
The old woman continues her story, as she explains how the kind man cares for her. Soon, however, the man, who at one time worked as a court singer to the Princess of Palestrina-the woman's mother-shows he cannot be trusted. For instead of bringing her back to Italy as he promised, he instead sells her in Algiers. Through this ordeal, she comes down with the plague. Though she survives, she's sold and resold as a slave to countless merchants and traders. At one point her captors, facing starvation, even remove one of her buttocks for food. Finally she ends up as a servant to Don Issachar, the Jew who also buys Cunégonde at a later date. Finishing her story, she concludes with the thesis with which she began: she is the most miserable of human beings.