Power and portrayal

Susan M. Johns

in Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print July 2003 | ISBN: 9780719063046
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700280 | DOI:
Power and portrayal

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter discusses the difficulties of analysing images of noblewomen in contradictory sources at a time when the historical discourse was evolving, owing to broader societal cultural shifts. It is also concerned with the difficulty of measuring the power of noblewomen, given the complexities of the sources. Orderis Vitalis' view of women's power in the context of their political and warlike activity, like his view of men, is ambiguous, and by no means monolithic. Orderic's portrayal of Mabel of Bellême is reflective of both contemporary clerical distrust of women in power and the nature of contemporary politics in Normandy. William of Malmesbury shows the role of wives in supporting their husbands in 1141. The Countess Mabel of Gloucester, or Nichola de la Haye acted as powerful individuals at the heart of the power structures of the aristocratic and noble élite of the twelfth century.

Keywords: noblewomen; Orderis Vitalis; Mabel of Bellême; power; William of Malmesbury; Countess Mabel of Gloucester; Nichola de la Haye

Chapter.  8127 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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