Cartwright Charlotte, Matilda of Flanders in Normandy: a study of eleventh century female power

Cartwright Charlotte, Matilda of Flanders in Normandy: a study of eleventh century female power, Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2012, (dir. P. Stafford, University of Liverpool)

Résumé/abstract :

Matilda of Flanders was the wife of William II, count/duke of Normandy and, from 1066, king of the English. This thesis is a study of her, and specifically of her power and authority, with a focus on her activity in Normandy rather than in England. This work builds on the existing historiography to examine Matilda in Normandy as a countess, and in comparison as a queen after 1066. The focus throughout is on contemporary sources, especially the writings of Dudo of Saint Quentin, William of Jumièges, William of Poitiers, and the more than five hundred surviving Norman and Anglo-Norman charters from the period 996-1086. The issue of legitimate marriage, which made a woman a wife and gave her access to power and authority through her family role, was critical, and Matilda’s marriage can be established as legitimate and secure. The bulk of this thesis considers the activity of the comital/ducal women recorded within the Norman charters, focusing on the actions which reveal power, and the descriptions which suggest the way in which they, and their authority, were perceived. Throughout, Matilda is compared with her predecessors, but also with contemporary men, especially the male members of the family. Close study of the source material reveals a Norman court in the tenth and eleventh century where family women, especially the legitimate wives of the count/dukes, were important actors. Matilda, however, was distinct from her predecessors: her power and authority greater than theirs. During her lifetime, there are hints at the development of an office of countess, and she appears to have acted as both a regent and a deputy in Normandy after the Conquest of England. Her activity as a queen, and the comparison with her as a countess, sheds light on both roles, suggesting that countesses could exercise a quasi queenly power, but also that coronation and inauguration set queens apart. However, even after Matilda’s coronation, the role of ‘wife’ was still important, as was family power.

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