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Susan M. Johns

power and portrayal 2 Power and portrayal lthough the twelfth century is often presented as a ‘Golden Age’ of English historical writing, few historians have discussed the portrayal of twelfth-century women. An important exception, Marjorie Chibnall’s study of women in Orderic Vitalis, is valuable for the way it explores Orderic’s presentation of noblewomen according to their marital status, class and wealth.1 Essentially, Chibnall agreed with Eileen Power that the image of women in literature was complex and reflected the place of women in society generally.2

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Open Access (free)
Susan M. Johns

literary sources 3 Patronage and power welfth-century noblewomen exerted power and influence through cultural patronage, and scholars have begun to clarify ways that noblewomen were important. Janet Nelson has stressed that, although women were excluded from the formal religious and political authority most often associated with literacy, they still participated in the culture of literacy.1 June McCash has similarly argued that noblewomen overcame socio-cultural obstacles to participate in cultural patronage in the various literary, religious, artistic and

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
The Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis de XII Comitatibus of 1185
Susan M. Johns

royal inquests and the power of noblewomen 9 Royal inquests and the power of noblewomen: the Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis de XII Comitatibus of 1185 Introduction and historiography he Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis de XII Comitatibus of 1185 are a record of a royal inquiry into widows and wards who were in the king’s gift.1 It is an important insight into the position of noblewomen in the later twelfth century, and in particular the way that they were seen by local juries under the direction of the agents of central government – and the

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Author: Susan M. Johns

This is a study of noblewomen in twelfth-century England and Normandy, and of the ways in which they exercised power. It draws on a mix of evidence to offer a reconceptualization of women's role in aristocratic society, and in doing so suggests new ways of looking at lordship and the ruling elite in the high Middle Ages. The book considers a wide range of literary sources—such as chronicles, charters, seals and governmental records—to draw out a detailed picture of noblewomen in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm. It asserts the importance of the life-cycle in determining the power of these aristocratic women, thereby demonstrating that the influence of gender on lordship was profound, complex and varied.

Open Access (free)
Susan M. Johns

, maritagium, and female inheritance. However, much that has been written about twelfth-century women has been done to the dictates of an oscillating male-centred historiography about the creation of institutions, or otherwise of male lordship or ‘feudalism’. The dominant historiographical discourse which considers dynamics of power in twelfth-century society is that of the study of the multi-faceted construct that is conventionally called lordship. This book will analyse the roles of noblewomen within lordship and in so doing will clarify important aspects of noblewomen

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Open Access (free)
Susan M. Johns

noblewomen and power 7 Seals Representation, image and identity here are over 145 extant secular women’s seals from the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.1 They present the historian with unique opportunities to study the portrayal of female identity in twelfth-century England. Seals were visual representations of power, and they conveyed notions of authority and legitimacy. They publicly presented a view of both men and women which visibly crystallised ideas about gender, class and lordship. The modern historian of seals owes a considerable debt to

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Susan M. Johns

place of individuals within kin groups.5 Further White stresses that as land transfers became more like sales by the early thirteenth century, and with the introduction of warranty clauses, the need for laudatio parentum declined because an effective method of cutting off family claims had been achieved.6 This discourse on the meaning of countergifts rightly debates the juridical implications and their symbolisms within social contexts. Little has specifically been written which directly addresses the problem of interpreting countergifts as a guide to the power of

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Susan M. Johns

noblewomen and power 8 Women of the lesser nobility n 1180 bertram, the chamberlain of Earl Hugh II of Chester, married Mabel, the heiress of William Flamenc, and by grant of charter received her inheritance. Little is known of the origins of Bertram, and likewise the descent of Mabel’s inheritance, from the time of Robert of Rhuddlan, who held the manor of Great Meols in 1066, is also obscure.1 What is clear, however, is that Bertram’s service in his lord’s household as chamberlain was rewarded with marriage to an heiress. Earl Hugh was here evidently

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Open Access (free)
Susan M. Johns

cultural shifts, far from disempowering noblewomen, confirmed their importance within society: as progenitors of the lineage, for example, as Duby would suggest, and as transmitters of property rights, as Holt would maintain.2 Yet the avenues for the dispersal of power through society followed demarcated gender lines: for women, power was channelled through property rights linked with changes in status which followed the female life cycle. Within the female roles of wife, widow and mother, social status was pre-eminent in determining the range of power and influence that

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
Open Access (free)
Susan M. Johns

witnessing 5 Witnessing awise countess of Gloucester (d. 1197) attested 75 per cent of the charters of her husband, Earl William.1 Her title is comitissa, sometimes elaborated as comitissa Glouc(estrie). On one charter she is Haw(is)ia uxore mea. She is the first witness in all but four acta.2 The charter witness lists place Hawise at the apex of the internal hierarchy of the Gloucester power structure on her husband’s charters. Hawise was also involved in transactions where she was the recipient of countergifts. One is a charter confirming the grant by a

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm