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)

, 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

analysis will be put into the context of an appraisal of the importance of gender, lordship and the way that family connections were indicated through countergifts. This will be achieved through a consideration of the importance of the type(s) of countergift that women received, and, where appropriate, this will be put into a comparative framework with those received by men. Thus it is argued that an analysis of countergifts should properly be studied in sociocultural contexts but with an awareness of the impact of gender and the demands of tenurial lordship. Lordship is

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

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
The Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis de XII Comitatibus of 1185

facilitate analysis of the broader contexts of noblewomen’s lives. Traditional and empirical historians have generally studied the Rotuli de Dominabus in the context of debates about the nature of royal lordship in the late twelfth century, examining, for example, the character of Angevin government and reform. This has led to an emphasis on the effectiveness or otherwise of Henry II’s government, which has been analysed either narrowly in England or in the wider context of the nature of the Angevin empire. Similarly the roots of Magna Carta have been traced to the reign

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

women could exert. Thus, paradoxically, the position of women within the nobility was secured by their tenurial patterns, despite the cultural shift to primogeniture. The history of the twelfth century need not be understood only in terms of the dynamics of male tenurial lordship, which was itself in the process of development. As Paul Dalton has shown, even in the first half of the twelfth century there was a gulf between ideal society and the social and tenurial reality.3 Indeed, this book has shown that although historians such as Duby, Pollock and Maitland and

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

from constructed narratives. It does little to address the difficulties of measuring the power of women, for example as witnesses. The debate about ‘la mutuation documentaire’ has shown the significance of documentary provenance, but nevertheless charters offer the historian superb opportunities to study the dynamics of power, and facilitate a reading of female power which challenges assumptions about the interactions of gender and lordship on women’s power. Despite the relatively barren nature of postmodernist debates about documents, they nevertheless, in varying

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

husband, emphasising his power and authority as head of the family, as superior lord, and this emphasises his control over the ceremony. This also indelibly associated her with his authority. Hence there is another dimension to the foundation of the abbey – it could be argued that in fact the foundation is a joint act which demanded the loyalty of Earl Hugh’s followers to both him and his wife, who then as countess enacted the donation. Therefore the foundation is a focal point of loyalty to the family acting together in lordship. The familial nature of this endowment

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

the Latin preamble, by the oath of named freeholders, is actually a listing in Welsh of tenements according to ‘beds’ (gwelyau) or agnatic holdings which had descended to tenants from common ancestors, and presumably reflected oral tradition and its expression in current place names. We do not know the language of its predecessor survey, but its early seventeenth-century successor two generations later was in Latin.16 The variety of language in record keeping reflected in part the amalgam of custom and practices in the courts of the Marcher lordships. Variability of

in The spoken word

both the genre and the placement of the New Atlantis are carefully explained: This fable my Lord devised, to the end that he might exhibit therein a model or description of a college instituted for the interpreting of nature and the producing of great and marvellous works for the benefit of men, under the name of Salomon’s House, or the College of the Six Days’ Works. And even so far his Lordship hath proceeded as to finish that part. Certainly the model is more vast and high than can possibly be imitated in all things; notwithstanding most things therein are within

in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis