What Was The Role Of Women In Feudal Society – Our understanding of medieval women is often overshadowed by their male counterparts. This article will explore the lives of some fascinating medieval women.
Isabella of France with Roger Mortimer, from The Chronicle of John Waverin, 15th c. (on the left); with Queen Eleanor, Anthony Frederick Sandys, 1858 (centre); and Hildegard of Bingen by Divine Inspiration, from Scivas, Rupertsburg Manuscript, C.1151 (right)
What Was The Role Of Women In Feudal Society
Middle-aged women are often overlooked because they have little influence over their menstrual periods. However, upon closer inspection, this is not the case. Here are 5 medieval women from across Europe and beyond who show just how influential those in power can be.
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1295 Born in Paris to Philip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre, Isabella was documented as intelligent, beautiful, but also manipulative and deceitful. At the time, France was one of the most powerful powers in Western Europe, as her father, Philip, centralized royal power and authority and sought international alliances, such as with England. Isabella was betrothed to Edward II and married in 1308 at the age of 12 or 13.
Isabella’s queen contemporaries noted her intelligence and diplomatic skills. Edward II faced many challenges in Scotland and his baronial house, all of which Isabella sought to resolve politically, even negotiating an alliance with Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s confidant and potential lover. Unfortunately, she failed to develop a similar relationship with another of Edward’s favorites, Hugh Despenser, the younger, who appears to have actively tried to undermine Isabella. He took her children from her custody and took over much of her land in England, affecting relations between France and England.
Dismissed by her husband and her allies, Isabella sought alliances elsewhere. In her search for Hugh’s enemies, she found Roger of Mortimer, who helped her in 1326. in the expedition to England which resulted in Hugh’s death and the abdication of Edward II. She arranged Edward III’s marriage and had some influence until Edward III asserted his independence from both Isabella and Mortimer.
Isabella had been in retirement since 1330. after Roger’s execution, dismissed as an innocent bystander. She was detained under house arrest, but until her death in 1358. she still lived in luxury. Isabella managed not only to lead a coup, an invasion and to seek popular support from the nobility. She also lived up to the title of She-Wolf of France and deservedly earned a place on this list of medieval women.
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Eleanor of Aquitaine with her riding companion, 12th century, Sainte-Radegonde Chapel, Chinon, France, via Archives of Medieval European History
Eleanor, Queen of France and England, is well known among medieval women for her fierce attitude and loyalty to her family. Born in the early 12th century, probably in Poitiers, to William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and Henor de Chateller. Her father made sure she had the best possible education, learning arithmetic, history, hawking, household skills and Latin. After becoming Duchess of Aquitaine at a young age, Eleanor became one of the most sought-after heiresses in Europe.
Eleanor’s first marriage was to Louis VII of France, which extended his lands to the Pyrenees. This union gave him great wealth and power. However, Eleanor was not popular among the church elders and the nobility. Fortunately, Louis was very much in love with his wife, who granted her a favor.
Eleonora’s achievements were not limited to domestic ones. She formally took the cross for the Second Crusade, encouraging her royal ladies-in-waiting and Aquitanian subjects to join her. During this time, she earned titles and comparisons to ancient Amazonian queens. But Louis was not so lucky. He benefited little from the crusade, and their relationship began to deteriorate. This, combined with her inability to produce an heir, led to their marriage in 1152.
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Eleanor spent little time looking for a new husband, marrying Henry of Anjou, later Henry II of England. This is where Eleonora really came into her own. She helped Henry II rule many kingdoms stretching from England to Normandy, often ruling in his stead while he waged war or quelled rebellion in his territories.
Unfortunately, this would not last, and she herself became involved in her son’s rebellion against their father. Young Henry was inspired by Louis VII to rebel against his father to gain more independence from Henry II. Eleanor is suspected of helping him financially and was therefore imprisoned by Henry II. She also supported the rebellion of her other son Richard, later the Lionheart, financially and allegedly with advice. Henry II was mortally wounded in this conflict against his son and died. Richard rewarded Eleanor by releasing her and bringing her into power.
Eleanor was regent in 1190 when Richard went on crusade and was active in arranging his release when he was captured in Germany. By then she was in her late 60’s/early 70’s and despite this she still respected her sons and the nobility. After Richard’s death, John took the crown as the last and youngest son of Eleanor and Henry. As a passionate administrator, John felt that Eleanor was unnecessary. She retired to Aquitaine, where she died in 1204.
Eleanor faced many challenges throughout her life, surviving conflict throughout the Western world from England to Syria. Dealing with many powerful nobles, Eleanor was a truly fierce queen and part of an impressive group of medieval women.
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Fresco from the Temple of Isis at Pompeii, depicting Isis (seated right) welcoming Io (left) on her arrival at Canopus, c. 62-79 CE, via the National Archaeological Museum, Naples
Considered the world’s first female historian, Anna Komnena is an important source for the reign of her father, Alexios I, and the life of the Crusaders. She was born in 1083. in the Byzantine Empire. Throughout her life she interacted with the Crusader leaders, witnessed the turbulent reign of her family and wrote a biography of their reign, dying in 1153. Theotokos Kecharitomen Monastery in Constantinople.
Anna wrote her own Alexiad, describing her father’s 37 years on the Byzantine throne in the style of heroic Greek epics. It is unique not only in the female authorship and the influence of the classical genre, but also in the theme of military history. She was able to use her royal influence to break through barriers of education and power not normally allowed to her gender.
Aleksida itself is a 15-book account in which Anna’s father is often portrayed as an unblemished hero against the odds. In the preface, Anna discusses her desire to preserve her father’s story and feels qualified to do so because of her qualifications and understanding of Greek literature, rhetorical skills, and history.
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Modern historians criticize Anne’s writing for its clear bias and partiality against her father and his efforts. Nevertheless, her account is invaluable to our understanding of the First Crusade as a source. Although most of the story takes place before she was born or when she was a child, Anna had the opportunity to speak with the Byzantine nobility and the inhabitants of her lands and capture their possible attitudes. Her husband Nicephorus Bryennios was active in the Crusader movement in 1097. together with Godfrey of Bouillon. Her uncle, George Palaeologus, attended the meeting between the Crusaders and Alexius in 1097. in June. We see this in the pages of Aleksiados, how Ana conveys the atmosphere and feelings of these meetings.
Although “Aleksida” was Anna’s lasting legacy, she also led a fascinating life. Her father put her in charge of a hospital and orphanage in Constantinople, beyond her experienced and well-earned vocation of learning. She even taught medicine at this hospital and orphanage.
When her father fell ill in the second half of his reign, Anna fought with her brother over the succession. Her brother John II in 1118. was proclaimed emperor, and despite this, Anna became involved in unsuccessful plots to overthrow him. After her husband’s death, Ana was sent into exile with her mother to the Theotokos Kecharitomen Monastery. There she wrote the Alexiad, pushing her claim to the throne.
Without her, we would certainly have a much less clear understanding of this period and how the Crusades were responded to in the Middle East, a unique perspective from a different type of medieval woman.
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The daughter of John II of Castile and his second wife Isabella of Portugal, Isabella of Castile oversaw the unification of Spain through her marriage, financed Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, and completed the Reconquista, which expelled Muslim and Jewish communities from Iberia. Strengthening the Spanish Inquisition in the peninsula.
Although Isabella was not the heir to the throne at first, in 1474 she became ruler of Castile on his cousin Henry IV’s death following the earlier agreement of Toros de Guisando in 1468. Henry nearly started a civil war because he supported his daughter through Isabella the Elder. brother Alphonsus. However, he died in 1468, giving Isabella a chance to succeed. Isabella was active in politics and cooperated under Henry IV until the decision of her marriage, when she decided to marry Ferdinand
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