By Kristen Tibbs, Marshall University
Paper given at the Vagantes: Medieval Graduate Student Conference, held at the University of Pittsburgh (2011)
The Enconium Emmae Reginae was commissioned by the 11th century Anglo-Saxon queen Emma (c.985 -1052) and was probably written by a Flemish churchman. Historians have speculated on why this work was written and note that it serves as Emma’s personal narrative, exemplifying her queenliness and portraying in her a way that promotes her political role and that of her family.
The unknown author of this work begins by stating that the historian’s duty is to be completely true, but he seems to have made some mistakes in his text and included certain information that was political propaganda – Tibbs wonders how much this author was interested in preserving the truth, and how much was he just writing a work that pleased his patron?
The work is explicit in saying it is meant to honour Emma and portray in her a postive light – at no time does text criticize her. At times she is praised for beauty, wisdom, motherhood and commitment to charity and good deeds.
Tibbs also notes that Emma was undoubtedly involved in the making of this manuscript – her voice is clearly represented here, one of the very few times that we get to have a female view on important political events in the Middle Ages.
Tibbs then focuses on couple of important events, the first being Emma’s marriage to Cnut in 1017 – according to the Enconium Emmae Reginae, Emma only agreed to marry the Viking ruler once he promised to her that only their sons would become his heir, an not any other children of Cnut. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s version of this marriage had Cnut ordering that Emma be brought to him and then married her.
Another interesting episode in this work is the treatment of Harold Harefoot (1037-40) – the text claims that Harold was an illegitimate son of Cnut and a tyrannical king, which seems an obvious attempt to discredit this king, which would have further bolstered her family’s claims to the throne.
The paper concludes that the Enconium Emmae Reginae was designed to create a legacy for Emma and preserve the Anglo-Saxon queen’s version of history.