Queen-making and Queenship in early medieval England and Francia
By Julie Ann Smith
PhD thesis, University of York, 1993
Abstract: This thesis compares the functions of queen-making and the concepts of queenship in Anglo-Saxon England and West Francia in the early medieval period. The urge to inaugurate the king’s wife ritually to her position, in particular to anoint her as part of a rite of passage, seems to have arisen among the two peoples at more or less the same time. The present work assesses the significance of queen-making for both peoples, the possible exchange of coronation orders [ordines], and any cross-Channel influence which may have created conditions in which developments occurred. It addresses such questions as whether a concept of queenship existed, whether queenship was regarded as an office, and if there was any interdependence between queen-making rites and concepts of queenship. The work follows the chronological development of queen-making rites, surveying the entire early medieval period, from the conversions of both peoples to the late eleventh centuiy. It takes as its starting point the period when a woman became a queen simply by virtue of the fact of her marriage with a king. We know of one queen’s consecration in the mid-eighth century, that of Bertrada, though the more regular consecrations of queens, including an element of unction, began in the mid- to late ninth century. The earliest queen-making rites were developed in Francia and were quickly adopted by the Anglo-Saxons who continued to use and develop them until the Conquest. The West Franks were more conservative in developing their kingand queen-making rites and from the early tenth to the early twelfth centuries appear to have left their royal inauguration rites unchanged. The thesis analyses the ordines used in order to assess the purposes, and the political and religious significance, of queen-making. It surveys the surviving manuscripts containing the ordines, and the printed texts of those ordines for which no manuscripts survive. The texts of the ordines are provided in an Appendix.
Introduction: From the late ninth and early tenth centuries it became customary in England and Francia for a queen to be ritually inaugurated to her position. The rite of passage of consecration endowed her with a new persona, and with the attributes and virtues of queenship. Of course, the sources reveal that kings’ wives had been queens and significant members of the royal households from the sixth century at the latest. The nature of queenship changed gradually over the period: initially a queen was made by marriage with a king and her office carried strong religious significance, while, later, queenship came to require ritual inauguration. The present work is not simply a discussion of early medieval queen-making rites, for this would only have necessitated a study of the ninth to the eleventh centuries, but queen-making reciprocated with ideas of queenship just as king-making was inextricably bound up with ideas of kingship. During the early medieval period queen-making became a religious ritual, incorporating elements of anointing, imposition of insignia and, eventually, recognition. She was not a ruler and hence ruler theology and ideology could not be applied to her inauguration rites. Her installation had different purposes and ideology and different symbolism was required to underpin her new life and her new significance. The ritual actions of queenmaking resembled some of those used in king-making, but they held different symbolism when applied to the king’s wife. Janet Nelson has written that the anointing of the king mirrored ‘not simply an actual situation but an ideal’ and was a means of asserting a society’s identity. She goes on to comment that the anointing of a queen provided ‘divinely blessed fertility which helped assure the continuance of society itself: in this she is only allowing for a part of the ‘situation’ and does allow that it represented any ‘ideal’. Thus far, any study of the early medieval queen-making rites has concentrated on the dynastic and poltical elements, and on these only superficially. This discussion explores not only these elements in greater depth but also the ideas which informed the development of the rites.