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

This chapter discusses the difficulties of analysing images of noblewomen in contradictory sources at a time when the historical discourse was evolving, owing to broader societal cultural shifts. It is also concerned with the difficulty of measuring the power of noblewomen, given the complexities of the sources. Orderis Vitalis' view of women's power in the context of their political and warlike activity, like his view of men, is ambiguous, and by no means monolithic. Orderic's portrayal of Mabel of Bellême is reflective of both contemporary clerical distrust of women in power and the nature of contemporary politics in Normandy. William of Malmesbury shows the role of wives in supporting their husbands in 1141. The Countess Mabel of Gloucester, or Nichola de la Haye acted as powerful individuals at the heart of the power structures of the aristocratic and noble élite of the twelfth century.

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