English Catholic women who established and joined expatriate convents in the southern Netherlands and France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were subject to both exile and strict monastic enclosure. Separation and suffering were therefore common tropes in convent narrative, iconography and ritual. This article argues that exile was an intrinsic feature of individual and corporate religious identity in the English cloisters. By articulating grief in convent writings and appropriating anguish within personal and communal piety, the expatriate nuns were both consoled and inspired to actively pursue their goal of returning their cloisters to England.