Monday, 11 March 2013

An update on the new Novel and some Quick facts about women in Anglo Saxon England

Its been a long time since I updated this blog, I am currently working on the sequel to Sons of the Wolf which is called The Wolf Banner. I am going through the first re-write and the first edit with my new editor Michelle Gent of Gingernut Books and immensely enjoying this new partnership. Exciting times for Wulfhere and his family.

In the meantime, I will leave you with some interesting discoveries I have made in my research about women in this exciting era in history. If you would like to buy a copy of Sons of the Wolf, here are the links to it: Amazon UK Waterstones


Much has been said about women being mere pawns in medieval society and that they had little say in the affairs of men but in her very insightful look at Women in Anglo Saxon England  Christine Fell has presented evidence that shows that women were far more intelligent, educated and efficient than previously given credit for. We are talking about high status women here of course, the average peasant lady, though most likely just as efficient and intelligent, would not have played much more of an important role beyond her scope, however, she too had laws to protect her and could own her own property aside from her husband.

Edith, Queen of Edward the Confessor, was known to have controlled the Royal Treasury and saw to it that Edward was arrayed in the splendour that befitted his office as King of the English Kingdoms. She was a highly intellectual woman, having been educated by one of the most popular high achieving academic nunneries in England, Wilton Abbey. According to Pauline Stafford in Queen Emma and Queen Edith Edward's queen had 5 goldsmiths to help design and make these trappings for the Royal Couple. As she held the keys to the Treasury, Edith was in control of Winchester. Edith's remit appears to have been  the ceremonial organisation of the court and she was a great landowner in her own right as is shown in the Domesday Book.

In the Domesday Book, a Lady called 'Eddiva' by the Norman scribes, whom we may believe to be Edith Swanneck, Harold Godwinson's handfastened wife. Handfastened meant that their union was not sanctified by a Church ceremony. To the Secular community, this did not mean that she was a mistress or a concubine. She was just as legally recognised as a wife as any other. however, because the union was more danico, this meant that Harold could be free to make a more political marriage if he needed to. So her union to Harold, we can assume was a 'love match', although we can also conjecture that there may have been some other motive for the union because a great deal of her lands  fell within his first Earldom of East Anglia.  This other Edith was no pawn either. She held land in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordhire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk and perhaps Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  This is estimated to around 27,000 acres.  She also had many free men commended to her service and would have brought a great deal of support to Harold as his wife. Unfortunately after the invasion of the Normans, her lands were confiscated and we do not hear of her beyond this. She was said to have identified the body of her husband Harold after the slaughter of Hastings in 1066. It seems as Harold's lady, she may have kept a low profile as far as court was concerned as we do not see her name recorded in official duties as such, however her obvious wealth and landholdings made her a potentially powerful woman.

According to a statement in the Liber Eliensis, a chronicle written on the history of Ely Abbey and the lives of the saints, some women were able to maintain their independence by rejecting marriage and running their own household. It mentions Aelswith, who in the 11thc did just that and retired to her manor at Coveney with her women and spent her time embroidering and weaving such splendid vestments at her won expense, four of which were singled out for special comment, made of gold thread. These were gifted to the church of Ely. Aeslwith must have been a woman of strong character to have sustained herself and avoided marriage without having to become a nun.



The laws governing women's rights were improved upon as time went by. Aethelbert's original law codes  were improved on by Aelfred and then the laws of Aethelred improved upon them even more. Christine Fell believes that this may not have been due to a particular movement to create better conditions for women but more so that the tradtions of the Viking incursions and the influence the church was having on the law codes had changed by the time the 11thc came about. In any case, women were protected by these laws. There were laws to protect women from seduction, sexual assault and forced marriages. Aethelred's 1008 code states that a widow should remain unmarried for at least a year then she can choose as she wishes whether or not she can remarry. One wonders if a council of noble women were consulted on these laws or if they were wholly constructed by the men of the Witan.


Doris Stenton had access to primary sources as a medieval specialist. She also could, as Christine Fell states in her book Women in Anglo Saxon England also have access to all of her husband Frank Stenton's work on the Anglo Saxons so we can in truth, precisely rely on her summary.

To paraphrase  from Doris Stenton's The English Woman in History, published in 1956, one can believe that all the surviving evidence  points to the fact that women were in law the equal to their husbands and brothers in pre-conquest time. Furhtermore, she even goes on to state that she believed that this was more so in Anglo Saxon England than any other era up until the modern age.

These are just some of the things about women from this era. I hope you enjoyed reading!

Links to my other blogs Threads to the Past 
                                        Paula Peruses
                                                                            picture care of Rich Price

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