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.

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

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

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conclusion 10 Conclusion he place of noblewomen in the twelfth century was not marginalised by the increasing shift to patrilineal primogeniture and the bio-politics of lineage, two of the key broader changes in the way that society was organised. These were seismic shifts in societal organisation, rightly identified by Bloch, Duby, Goody and Holt as fundamental.1 Within these changes the sources show that, increasingly, the place and roles of noblewomen were articulated with greater clarity through the definition of appropriate gender roles. These wider

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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

noblewomen, because the above historians are, for example, interested in the meaning of gift exchange ceremonies, or of the consent of relatives, rather than the power of women. White’s suggestions that countergifts served to memorialise T 107 noblewomen and power social status, were an aid to memory and were always exchanged to secure a gift are a useful way to consider the significance of countergifts as a guide to women’s power.7 Thus countergifts may also have had an important role in the creation of social memory, in which women had a role in commemoration of the

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introduction 1 Introduction his book examines the place of noblewomen in twelfthcentury English and, to a lesser extent, Norman society. An initial justification for such a study is that the place of noblewomen in twelfth-century English society has not hitherto been systematically addressed as a subject in its own right. This is in contrast to AngloSaxon and late medieval women, on whom there is considerable historiographical debate. Some of the roles of women in twelfth-century English society have of course been studied, particularly women’s tenure of dower

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

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

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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

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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

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problematical. It seems to imply that Hawise witnessed because her claims to dower were a threat to the Gloucester patrimony, and that therefore her witnessing reflected consent to a grant. Indeed, Postles elsewhere argues that, where family members were involved, witnessing may have necessarily implied consent H 81 noblewomen and power or, at the very least, acceptance of a transaction, since it is possible that witnessing, in some cases, took the place of the consent of relatives, the laudatio parentum.8 The importance of witnessing as a measure of consent to a

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