Women of the lesser nobility
in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm

This chapter explores the female patronage of St. Mary's, Clerkenwell by the Munteni family in the second half of the twelfth century, and reveals how land tenure and kin connections could underpin active female patronage over two generations. It also examines the interactions of the female life cycle and social status upon the participation of wives and widows in land transfers. A discussion on female lesser nobility is presented, including the examples of noblewomen who exerted power more formally, perhaps as public office holders. The evidence shows how the roles of lesser noblewomen could resemble those of women of higher status. Women's power to grant land in the context of religious patronage gave them a public role which was considerably magnified if the woman was an heiress or a widow. There is evidence that women could hold public office if they had a claim through patrilineal hereditary right.


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