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

This chapter addresses the importance of material, as distinct from spiritual, countergifts given to secular noblewomen as a guide to their power. The analysis puts into the context of an appraisal of the importance of gender, lordship and the way that family connections were indicated through countergifts. 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. Gender, social status and land tenure interacted to define the sorts of gift that noblewomen received. The presented examples show that countergifts could symbolise complex meanings and that noblewomen received countergifts in a variety of contexts. Evidence of female participation in twelfth-century affidation ceremonies are described as a guide to the power of noblewomen in the context of an analysis which considers the impact of gender, social status and lordship.

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