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.

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Susan M. Johns

that Anselm was involved here, since it appears that a certain Brendan left the abbey of Bec with Gilbert Crispin in the service of Anselm. He may well have been introduced to Anglo-Norman courtly circles c. 1085. ‘The Voyage of St Brendan’ is a description of the life of St Brendan. Although it is not a hagiographic piece it was immensely popular, and over 120 versions survive.60 It is the earliest surviving example of a poem in octosyllabic form, and prefigured romance literature.61 It is a Celtic version of the classical odyssey poem, a well worn literary theme

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

(Paris, 1991), pp. 150–63; eadem, ‘Women and the word in the earlier Middle Ages’, in W. J. Sheils and D. Wood (eds), Women in the Church (Studies in Church History, 27, Oxford, 1990), pp. 53–8. Stafford, ‘Women and the Norman Conquest’; eadem, ‘Women in Domesday’, in Keith Bate and others (eds), Medieval Women in Southern England (Reading Medieval Studies, 15, 1989), pp. 75– 94; Stafford, ‘Emma’, pp. 12, 22–3. 6 I. Short, ‘Tam Angli quam Franci: self-definition in Anglo-Norman England’, ANS, 18 (1996 for 1995), 154–5. 7 For an application of Weberian closure theory to

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

families. Historians have attached significance to naming patterns as expressions of both cohesion and shifts in cultural identity.42 Thus, for example, Holt thought that the adoption of patronymics in the twelfth century was linked with the general shift to primogeniture.43 Forenaming patterns have been used by historians to illustrate the impact of the Norman Conquest on the English peasantry as well as the Anglo-Norman nobility, with a view to illustrating both change and continuity in the immediate post-Conquest period and during the twelfth century. Cecily Clark

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

. Jacob (eds), The Legacy of the Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), pp. 410–33; cf. E. Power, Medieval Women, ed. M. Postan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975). 4 L. Huneycutt, ‘Female succession and the language of power in the writings of twelfth-century churchmen’, in Parsons (ed.), Medieval Queenship, pp. 189–201. Cf. J. Weiss, ‘The power and weakness of women in Anglo-Norman romance’, in C. M. Meale (ed.), Women and Literature in Britain, 1150–1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 7–23, who asserts an outdated belief in decline

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

a countergift did not necessarily indicate consent to a transaction, and that charters which mention countergifts were in the minority: ibid., pp. 115, 118. 2 J. G. H. Hudson, Land, Law and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 165–6. For the symbolic meaning of objects attached to charters to secure conveyances see M. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England, 1066–1307 (London: Edward Arnold, 1979; 2nd edn, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 37–43, 254–60. H. B. Teunis similarly argues that countergifts were voluntary, but

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

survives.26 The custom of queenly sealing may have originated earlier in England than in France. Whatever the case, the Anglo-Norman court was at the forefront of innovation as part of the cultural renaissance of northern Europe. It is possible that Henry I’s second wife, Adeliza of Louvain, used the same seal matrix.27 Queen Matilda, the wife of King Stephen, appended a charter in favour of Holy Trinity, London, with her seal in 1147–52. She is depicted standing but crowned, wearing a mantle and gown; she holds a fleur-de-lys in her right hand and a hunting bird in her

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
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), 336. 7 F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, A History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (Cambridge, 1895, 2nd edn 1898, repr. London: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 1. 484–5. 8 Postles, ‘Choosing a witness’, p. 335. 9 J. Hudson, ‘Anglo-Norman land law and the origins of property’, in G. S. Garnett and J. G. H. Hudson (eds), Law and Government in Medieval England and Normandy: Essays in Honour of Sir James Holt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 198–222, at p. 210. 98 witnessing 10 J. G. H. Hudson, Land, Law and Lordship in Anglo-Norman

in Noblewomen, aristocracy and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm
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, quam erga mei petiisti, locutus sum cum uxore mea et cum baronibus, et inveni in meo consilio quod concedam eam Deo. She also gained spiritual benefits, since Earl Hugh stipulated that he should be treated as a brother of the house, and that he, his wife and his parents should be entered into the abbey’s book of commemorations. Chester Charters, no. 28. M. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England, 1066–1307 (2nd edn, Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), p. 156; J. G. H. Hudson, Land, Law and Lordship in Anglo-Norman England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 163. EYC. 2

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

This chapter reveals that the interaction between gender and social status defined the place and role of noblewomen in society. The role of women as witnesses, as givers and receivers of countergifts and in the affidation ceremony showed the complexity of noblewomen's involvement in land transfers. The texts of women's seals reveal the significance of land tenure and the female life cycle in defining the legitimate place of noblewomen as landholders in society. The Rotuli de Dominabus et de Pueris et de Puellis de XII Comitatibus make it clear that noblewomen's tenure of land underpinned their status, dower was the principle form of land tenure by which widows were supported and the practice of endowing daughters with maritagium was restricted. The status of women is fundamentally linked with land tenure and with socio-economic and political factors as much as marital and family status.

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