Women on the Third Crusade
Nicholson, Helen (School of History and Archaelogy, University of Wales, Cardiff)
Journal of Medieval History, Vol. 23, No. 4, (1997)
Historians remain undecided over whether or not women actually took up arms during crusading expeditions. Opinions vary widely, from denying that women could ever be true crucesignati to concluding that they took an active role in the fighting, This study focuses on the Third Crusade, for which the chronicle evidence is particularly full. Some of the narrative accounts of the crusade never mention women or even deny that they took part, while others describe their assisting crusaders in constructing siege works or performing menial tasks. The Muslim sources for the Third Crusade, however, depict Christian women taking part in the fighting, armed as knights. The study discusses the reasons behind these divergent depictions of women in the Third Crusade. It examines the evidence for women taking an active part in military activity in Europe, and concludes that women could certainly have taken an active military role in the Third Crusade. Yet, as the European sources are silent on the subject, it is unlikely that women did play a significant military role, although it is possible that some fought in particularly desperate battles.