Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm

Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm

Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm

Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm


The first major work on noblewomen in the twelfth century and Normandy, and of the ways in which they exercised power. Offers an important reconceptualisation of women's role in aristocratic society and suggests new ways of looking at lordship and the ruling elite in the high middle ages. Considers a wide range of literary sources such as chronicles, charters, seals and governmental records to draw out a detailed picture of noblewomen in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm. Asserts the importance of the life-cycle in determining the power of aristocratic women. Demonstrates that the influence of gender on lordship was profound, complex and varied.


This book began life as a Ph.D. thesis, supervised by Professor David Bates during his time at Cardiff. I had been won over to medieval history, in spite of the excitements of more modern history so ably taught by such as Professor Dai Smith and Professor Harry Hearder, through the willingness of Professor Bates to incorporate a modern approach to the study of medieval history. In particular, the challenge offered by the history of noblewomen in the twelfth century was one that was hard to turn down. The debates surrounding women's history, and the new approaches to the history of the high Middle Ages in the British Isles which Professor Bates and others were developing offered tempting prospects–as too did the frequent affirmations from many to whom I spoke that my particular subject was impossible as material for a Ph.D. One who did not, and who was fortuitously the external examiner for medieval history at the time, Professor Janet Nelson, was particularly supportive (and has remained so over the whole course of the project). Also, Professor David Crouch was kind enough to allow me access to his Comital Acta project.

I was especially fortunate to get a job teaching at the University of Huddersfield when I was only two and a half years into my research, an appointment to replace Professor Pauline Stafford during her British Academy Research Readership. This period of research leave produced Queen Emma and Queen Edith, and for me it allowed a very fruitful collaboration with one of the most important scholars of medieval women anywhere in the world. Working there also brought into sharp focus the need for historians to be aware of the need for their work to excite and stimulate the next generation of scholars.

Shortly before leaving Cardiff for Huddersfield, I was able to take up a research fellowship at the Central European University, owing to the kindness of Professor Bak. This allowed further reflection, especially on the way that scholarship on medieval women and power was developing across Europe.

I have, therefore, been fortunate in being inspired and supported in this project by a particularly distinguished group of scholars. It could not have been written without their direct and indirect contributions; I am only too conscious, on the other hand, that its shortcomings remain my own. Trish Skinner has been a very supportive series editor.

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