[This is the time of day when blogging becomes extra important to keep me focused. Not that the papers aren’t fascinating! But I’m starting to get people overload.]
The Lady as Lord: The Exercise of Lordship by the Wives, Widows, and Heiresses of Territorial Lords of All Ranks and the Problems It Presented, ca. 1070–ca. 1500
Sponsor: Seigneurie: The International Society for the Study of the Nobility, Lordship, and Knighthood
Formal and Informal Expressions of Power in Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century Flanders: The Public Roles of Mathilda of Portugal, Wife of Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders (1183–1218)
Els de Paermentier, Univ. Gent
Part of a continuing challenge to the idea that women had little access to power in the middle ages. A new approach looks at less “institutional” forms of power, and a consideration of women as fulfilling multiple structural roles that involved access to and employment of other forms of power. Mathilda is a useful example to explore as she outlived her husband by nearly 20 years and continued to play an important role in Flemish politics. She also had a substantial extent of dower lands which brought her into conflict and negotiation with many contemporaries. Three sources of evidence: “static” formal power due to social position, “dynamic” power deployed by strategies and interactions, records of how her male contemporaries viewed her. A brief outline of her familial and political background. The charters from her period of regency and in her widowhood do not differ in substance from what one sees for a hereditary ruler. She was involved in many local conflicts, not as a participant necessarily but as an adjudicator in local feuds. She also had influence through her oversight of the daughters of Baldwin IX (her great-nieces) and she had significant input into their marriages. The witness lists for her charters reveal her efforts to strengthen the pro-France party in Flanders, as well as to balance the main factional rivalry among the Flemish nobility. Conclusions: beyond Mathilda’s official status as Countess of Flanders, she was able to act independently as regent and widow to have continuing political and social power and influence, especially due to the extent and importance of her dower lands. But she enhanced this by strategic social connections and personal alliances.
Isabella of Lennox after the 1425 Executions: Successes and Failures of Female Power in Late Medieval Scotland
Shayna Devlin, Univ. of Guelph
[This paper was not presented.]
The Lady as Lord in the Fifteenth-Century Duchy of Bourbon
Maureen B. M. Boulton, Univ. of Notre Dame/Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
We begin with a brief geographic and historic contextualization of Bourbon. The paper will focus on two women, from the beginning and end of the 15th century: Marie and Anne. Their influence was implemented, in part, through an extensive specialized household staff. Official power and financial resources might come through husbands and fathers, but women had control over how they were implemented. Further, women such as Marie might hold substantial de facto power when appointed as regent during their husband’s absence. Marie gained power through marriage but also as her father’s heir in Auvergne. (Her father was the famous Duc du Berry, he of the fabulous manuscripts.) She used this wealth and influence to support religious establishments, as well as for her own purposes, such as to bargain with the English for her third husband’s release (captured at Agincourt). She spent most of that marriage functionally in charge of her husband’s lands as well as her own. Reference to conduct books for noble women that recognized their power and responsibility in providing them with guidance for how to use them appropriately. She was part of an entire generation of French noblewomen who had to deal with the death or other loss of male relatives to the ongoing wars with England. Anne de France was married as a child to Pierre, duke of Bourbon, a marriage that evidently was a successful partnership. The two ruled France as regents for Anne’s brother Charles VIII, but although Pierre was the official regent, their contemporaries recognized Anne as the true power. Her position must be identified in unofficial sources, including complaints about her influence, including in military matters. After Pierre’s death, Anne continued to rule in Bourbon in the name of their daughter, rather than ceding power to the French crown. Anne herself wrote an advice manual for her daughter, in expectation that she too will hold significant power and responsibility. Summary of the types of power and influence held by these two women, illustrative of types of “unofficial” lordship prevalent underneath the official structures.