Looking to text a good Norman female

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Chronicles such as the History of the Normans by Dudo of Saint-Quentin, and works by Orderic Vitalis, Amatus of Montecassino and Anna Comnena, furnish us with glimpses into how these women were regarded by their contemporaries. She was a member of another Danish kin group and helped strengthen connections between the competing groups of Scandinavian settlers.

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This was an alliance deed to secure peace at a time of renewed Viking attacks on the English coast; a treaty reveals that raiders had been finding shelter in Norman harbours. The fact that their sons were able to inherit is testament to their political acumen. She also had a very good memory, exploited by Dudo when writing during her widowhood. This paints a picture of a duchess who boasted much the same qualities as any male adviser in the ducal court.

Her epitaph emphasises her double royalty, through descent and by marriage.

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She was a daughter of the Salernitan royal house, so in marrying Robert formed an alliance between her brother and her husband in a region where competing factions fought for power. However, it was when Robert ousted her brother that his marriage to Sichelgaita really proved its worth. He had no claim to Salerno other than right of conquest, but his wife, with her birth connections, provided necessary legitimacy and continuity to help smooth the transfer of power.

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Following his assumption of the English throne in he sent for the dowager queen and married her. Though Norman rather than English, Emma provided continuity with the regime following a bloody conquest. One of the most ificant was through patronage, particularly of the church. One of the ificant powers in the area was the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, traditionally under the protection of the dukes of Brittany. Gunnor made many gifts to the abbey, recorded in its 12th-century cartulary collection of deeds or charters along with a line drawing of the duchess handing over her charter to the monks.

This monastery lay in a contested area towards the southern border of the duchy, so grants from the ducal house acted as a marker of protection from potentially predatory local lords. Such gifts of land, books, vestments and other liturgical paraphernalia went some way not only to restoring the glory of the church but also establishing the royal Looking to text a good Norman female in traditions of Christian rulership.

She notably acquired the bodies of Saint Bartholemew and Saint Ouen, keeping parts for herself and donating the rest to Canterbury. This might seem rather grisly to modern sensibilities, but such relics were highly venerated and sought after. They could be the focus for private devotion or establish a centre of pilgrimage, increasing the revenue and prestige of a particular church while gilding the memory of the patron. She and Cnut are shown presenting a cross to the altar, while above them Christ is enthroned in majesty, flanked by the Virgin Mary on his right and Saint Peter on his left.

We do know, however, that these women all acted as witnesses or grantors at various stages during their careers. The Bayeux Tapestry shows this ship also carrying the papal banner granted by Alexander II, though the child is shown as being on the stern.

She thus played a ificant role in the planning and success of the conquest. She accompanied him during the campaigns led by his brother Roger in Sicily against the Byzantine empire. Here I will focus on four of them: Gunnor c—Emma of Normandy c—Matilda of Flanders c— and Sichelgaita — We are fortunate that enough evidence survives from the 11th and 12th centuries to provide insights into the lives, activities and roles expected of the women who married Normansor who were themselves Norman and married into other ruling houses.

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In addition, charters, epitaphs and the remarkable Encomium Emmae Reginae — a lavishly illustrated document recounting events involving Cnut and his queen, Emma of Normandy — reveal how the women themselves might have wished to be remembered. History records these women primarily because they married powerful men, forming politically ificant unions. Gunnor, Emma and Sichelgaita all married men who had had wives and, in some cases, children.

Surviving evidence provides details of the qualities valued in noble women. It was almost certainly for this same reason that Cnut married Emma. During their marriages, and subsequently as widows with the exception of Matilda who predeceased her husbandthese women exercised power in various ways.

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Gunnor held lands in the west of Normandy, particularly the Cotentin peninsula, an area that largely fell outside ducal control. Matilda of Flanders also exercised patronage as a way of bolstering authority.

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Winchester, the royal capital of Wessex, also enjoyed her patronage, as did Canterbury, the mother church of the realm, founded by Saint Augustine. Evidence also survives demonstrating how these women acted in government and helped to administer justice. The survival of charters and writs — encompassing many of the decisions relating to law, gifts or transfers of land, or other matters — is patchy for this period.

Sometimes these documents also cast light on the lives of other women not otherwise recorded. A remarkable poem by Warner of Rouen from the early 11th century shows Gunnor in her widowhood as active at court and making decisions — specifically, to free the wife of the wandering enslaved poet Morihut. Other figures in the list included leading nobles who did not take part in the battle for various reasons, not least because they held lands in sensitive regions of Normandy, such as the borders, that needed protecting.

It does not matter whether or not she actually wore armour — though evidence from other chronicles suggests that women might well protect themselves in this way — but rather that she was demonstrating her position next to her husband in a very visible way: she identified wholly with his cause. On another occasion she supposedly shamed the fleeing Normans into standing and fighting the Byzantine army by charging them with a spear. Finally, these women all left behind indications of how they wanted to be remembered.

Emma commissioned the Encomium to push her version of the events of the turbulent early to midth century; it painted her as good company, generous to the poor, a supporter of widows and loved by her people.

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Through the pen of Amatus, monk of Montecassino under Abbot Desiderius, so beloved of Sichelgaita, we get a sense of a woman who managed the conflicting expectations of her natal and marital families. More on: William the Conqueror.

Looking to text a good Norman female

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Norman women: the power behind the thrones