Women and the Crusades
By Helen Nicholson
Paper given at the Hereford Historical Association on February 22, 2008
Introduction: Did women support crusades? Did women go on crusades? If they did, did they fight? Did women on the ‘other side’ fight? Cultural norms in western European Christian and Muslim society in the middle ages did not expect women to take part in fighting. Yet some of the contemporary sources indicate that they did take an active part in crusade warfare. Is there any truth in these reports, or were they simply slander or propaganda?
Before going any further with this question, I would like to lay down a few basic foundations. The first question is was what was a crusade? Then, when were the crusades? Scholars don’t agree on the answers to these questions. They all agree that the crusades involved a journey, and involved religion and fighting, but disagree on almost everything else.
Top Image: Florine of Burgundy (1083–1097) by Gustave Doré in the 19th century