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

This chapter concentrates on charter evidence relating to those aristocratic women who were explicitly accorded the title comitissa, or else were married to men of comital rank, or were born into such families. Ermentrude's role assumed a new prominence in the affairs of the honor when as widow she had an important role to play as guardian of the heir. There is a continuity in the role of Lucy of Chester in religious patronage. The coexistence of two dowager countesses, Matilda and Bertrada, posed a potential threat to the Chester patrimony. The charter evidence has shown how in the twelfth century the countesses of Chester performed various functions at both the honor and royal courts, and reveals that there was continuity in an active public role from marriage to widowhood. The public roles of countesses of Chester were explicitly linked with their position as wife, mother and widow.

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