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

The importance of witnessing as a measure of consent to a transaction is particularly difficult to verify, since the references to consent in charters are inconsistent. The historiography of witnessing turns on two axes within broader debates about the nature of charter evidence. There is important evidence to suggest that when husbands and wives acted as joint witnesses they did so as conjoint lords. The presented examples of noblewomen who conjointly witnessed charters with their husbands show conjoint action of husband and wife in their capacity as superior lords for their tenants in their seigneurial court. The ranking of witnesses is an indication of the interaction of gender and status. Women participated as witnesses in land transfers as wives, widows and as part of family groups. By the end of the twelfth century, witnessing had spread through society so that women of all ranks of landholder participated as witnesses.

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