Twelfth-century English queens: charters and authority

Twelfth-century English queens: charters and authority

By Lida Sophia Townsley

M.Phil Thesis, Trinity College, Dublin, 2010

Abstract: This thesis examines the authority of the first five English queens of the twelfth century, as seen through the English charters from this period. Surveying the charters issued by, witnessed by, and mentioning Matilda of Scotland, Adeliza of Louvain, Matilda of Boulogne, Empress Matilda, and Eleanor of Aquitaine provides a glimpse into the authority held and exercised by each. The definition for authority employed for this investigation includes a provision concerning not only actions but also means of action. Those means of action are seen here as preconditions for authority. Three preconditions are analyzed, namely alliances through dowries, land through dowers, and wealth through Queen’s Gold. Once this basis for authority has been established, the authority itself is appraised. The charters are divided into two main categories for this study: those the queens issued themselves, and those they witnessed. The charters for which a queen was ‘actor’ are examined first, numerically, chronologically, and contextually, with a clear emphasis on the beneficiaries. Then, the charters witnessed by each queen are examined, based on the same criteria. What this material together shows is that there was little of a defined role for the queens in the administration of the kingdom, and that they all exercised their authority, to varying extents and at diverse periods of their reign.

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