This chapter investigates the 1185 Rotuli de Dominabus et Pueris et Puellis de XII Comitatibus in order to consider the way that royal authority and the law shaped the experience of noblewomen, but also to provide a cautionary account of the degree to which such sources present an external view of the societies in which noblewomen exercised power. Rotuli de Dominabus is a rich resource for the history of noblewomen in the twelfth century and for the study of social history. It also presents an unusually large sample of information on the value of noblewomen's lands. It confirms that dower was the principal form of the female land tenure of widows in late twelfth-century England. It then affirms that noblewomen had significant and important roles to play in the two dominant power structures of the twelfth-century, kinship and lordship, and the document shows that royal government recognised this.
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