Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens by Alison Weir


  Yet Maud has gone down in history much as her old opponents saw her, as a harsh virago with little judgment but great tenacity—and as a failure: the woman who should have been England’s first queen regnant but who scuppered her chances because of her “intolerable feminine arrogance.”27 She is infamous, rather than famous—the woman whose example so put the English off being ruled by a queen that it was centuries before they accepted one. It has been said that she established a model for female political power,28 but it did not survive her; nor is there any evidence that the Tudor queens regnant used her as their model. Rather her reputation—which rested largely on her behavior during those short weeks she spent in London in 1141—had ensured that hers was not an example of queenship to be followed.

  Not for another four hundred years would the English accept a female monarch, and it was left to Elizabeth I to prove that a queen could be as successful as a king in governing the realm.

  Appendix I

  A Guide to the Principal Chronicle Sources

  AELRED OF RIEVAULX (1110–67)

  Educated at the court of Scotland, he served there as master of the household, but hated life at court. In 1134, he became a Cistercian monk at Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, and in 1147 he was elected its abbot. He became one of the most influential Cistercians of the age. His works include Eulogium Davidis Regis Scotorum, a life of David I, King of Scots (1153); Genealogia regum Anglorum, a genealogy of the kings of England (1153–54), dedicated to the future Henry II; and Relatio de Standardo, an account of the Battle of the Standard (1153–54). The most famous is The Mirror of Charity, written at the request of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. His writings made him famous and respected throughout England. He was popularly reputed a saint, but never canonized.

  ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE

  This English chronicle was begun around 890 at the behest of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, and recounted events in England, year by year, from the beginning of the Christian era until 1154. Its authors remain unknown. Despite its occasional inaccuracies and bias, it is one of the most important English sources for the Saxon and Norman periods. It exists today in nine related versions, compiled at Winchester, Abingdon, Worcester, Peterborough and Canterbury. Much of it is written in a dry, concise style, but it is of huge value for studying the history of the period from an English viewpoint.

  ARNULF OF LISIEUX (D.1184)

  Bishop of Lisieux, Normandy, from 1141, he had studied canon law in Rome. He supported Henry FitzEmpress’s claim to the throne of England, and later sided with Henry in his quarrel with Archbishop Thomas Becket.

  BAUDRI DE BOURGEUIL (C.1046–1130)

  A Benedictine monk at the abbey of Bourgeuil in the Loire Valley, he became its abbot in 1079. He was elected bishop of Dol, Brittany, in 1107. As abbot, he wrote a number of Latin poems. One, in praise of Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, runs to 1,368 lines. He also wrote an epitaph for William the Conqueror.

  EADMER (C.1064–1123/6)

  A monk of Christchurch Priory, Canterbury, and Archbishop of St. Andrews in Scotland from 1120, Eadmer was the close friend and spiritual director of Archbishop Anselm from 1093 to the latter’s death in 1109. Later he wrote a hagiographic life of Anselm. He also wrote Historia Novorum in Anglia, a Latin history of England from 1066 to 1122. The great chronicler William of Malmesbury admired his work, which is refreshingly free of the sensationalist and credulous style of some chronicles of the period.

  GERVASE OF CANTERBURY (C.1141–C.1210)

  Gervase was a monk of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. Around 1180, he chronicled the reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I, and wrote a history of the archbishops of Canterbury in the twelfth century. He is most famous for his account of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket.

  GESTA STEPHANI

  Chronicle dating from the middle of the twelfth century, recounting the deeds of King Stephen, probably written by Robert of Lewes, Bishop of Bath. Accurate and detailed, it is the most important source for Stephen’s reign, but heavily biased in his favor and hostile to the Empress Maud.

  HENRY OF HUNTINGDON (C.1084/8–1155/7)

  Archdeacon of Huntingdon from 1109, his history of England, Historia Anglorum, written at the request of Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, covers the period up to 1154, and was the most extensive work composed in King Stephen’s reign. Henry modeled his works on those of the Venerable Bede and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It was popular and widely used as a source for the next two centuries. He had an accomplished narrative style, and gave colorful accounts of battles and other events, while striving scrupulously for accuracy. A partisan of King Stephen, he was hostile to the Empress Maud.

  HERMAN OF TOURNAI (1095–1147)

  He was the Abbot of Saint-Martin, Tournai, but was expelled for laxness in 1136, when he went to Laon, France, and thence to Spain. Around 1140, he wrote a chronicle, The Restoration of the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tournai. He was a great storyteller with an eye for detail, and his work encompasses far more than the history of his abbey.

  HISTOIRE DE GUILLAUME LE MARÉCHALE

  A Norman-French history in verse form of William the Marshal, written around 1220–29 by “John the Troubadour” for the Marshal’s son, William, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. It runs to 19,214 lines, and was written to laud and glorify the great Marshal as “the flower of chivalry.”

  JOHN OF HEXHAM (FL. C.1160–1209)

  Prior of Hexham, Northumberland, from c.1160, he wrote a continuation of the chronicle of Simeon of Durham, covering events from 1130 to 1154, focusing largely on the ecclesiastical history of the north. He relied on other sources, and his dating is faulty, usually a year out.

  JOHN OF WORCESTER (D. C.1140)

  A monk and scribe at Worcester Cathedral, who was instructed by Bishop Wulfstan to write a Latin chronicle. It covers the period from the Creation to 1140. A fellow monk, Florence of Worcester, assisted with the work, and his skill and industry are acknowledged under the year 1118; the account of the period prior to that used to be attributed to Florence, but there is no change in style after 1118, and Orderic Vitalis records that John was writing the chronicle when he visited Worcester in 1124. Other scholars may have collaborated, but John was the primary author.

  MARBODIUS (OR MARBOD), BISHOP OF RENNES (C.1035–1123)

  A native of Anjou, he was educated at its capital, Angers, and had family connections at the court of the counts of Anjou. Around 1068, after a youth of excess, he became a canon of the cathedral of Saint-Maurice at Angers. In 1096, Pope Urban II consecrated him bishop of Tours. He was celebrated for his Latin poetry and prose works, which covered sacred and secular subjects.

  MATTHEW PARIS (C.1200–59)

  A Benedictine monk at St. Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, from 1217, he succeeded Roger of Wendover as the abbey’s chronicler in 1236. He wrote several works, including the substantial Chronica Majora, and is recognized as the greatest chronicler of the thirteenth century.

  ORDERIC VITALIS (C.1075–C.1143)

  Born at Atcham, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, Orderic was the son of a French priest and an Englishwoman. He was sent to the abbey of Saint-Evroul in Normandy to be educated, and remained there as a monk. He visited England while he was researching his Historia Ecclesiastica, which he wrote between 1114 and 1141. It runs to thirteen books, and his original holograph version survives in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. The Historia recounts the history of Normandy and England from the dawn of Christianity to 1141, and is one of the chief authorities for the Norman period. In his accounts of the Conquest of 1066 and other events, Orderic betrays a lively sympathy with his countrymen, the English, yet he was fair: he saw the English Church as degenerate and welcomed the Conquest because it brought ecclesiastical reform. He wrote from a moral, Christian point of view, hoping that men might benefit from the example of history. He used extensive oral and written sources, and was careful to establish their provenance; some of his evidence came at first hand, as in the case of wh
at happened to the White Ship, which was recounted to Orderic by someone who had been on board.

  RICHARD OF HEXHAM (D.1155/67)

  An Augustinian canon, and, later, Prior of Hexham, Northumberland, from about 1141, he wrote careful histories of the church in Hexham from 674 to 1138, and of the deeds of King Stephen and the Battle of the Standard, which is useful for northern history in the period 1135–39.

  ROBERT OF GLOUCESTER (FL. C.1260–1300)

  Reputed to be the author of a metrical, or rhyming, chronicle in Middle English, recounting events from the legendary founding of England by Brutus to 1135.

  ROBERT OF TORIGNI (C.1110–86)

  Norman chronicler and bibliophile whose work is important for the study of Anglo-Norman history in the twelfth century. Of noble family, he became a deacon at Bec-Hellouin, Normandy, in 1131, and prior in 1149. In 1154, he was elected abbot of Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy. He visited England in 1157 and 1175, played host to Henry II of England and Louis VII of France at Mont Saint-Michel in 1158, and had an international perspective on affairs. He knew the Empress Maud personally, and admired her. Her son, Henry II, chose him as godfather for his daughter Eleanor. Robert’s chronicle was held in high esteem by his contemporaries for its erudition and literary style; however, his chronology is unreliable and there are errors in his work.

  ROBERT WACE (C.1115–C.1183)

  An Anglo-Norman poet and chronicler, born in Jersey and educated in Paris, he was appointed a canon at Bayeux Cathedral, Normandy, by Henry II, and served there from 1160 to 1170. He wrote several lives of the saints, but his chief work was the Roman de Brut (1155), a Norman-French version, in fifteen thousand couplets, of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. It was finished in 1155 and dedicated to Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of Henry II. Wace also wrote the Roman de Rou (Rollo), a history of the dukes of Normandy. His works are well written and logical.

  SIMEON OF DURHAM (D. AFTER 1141)

  He was a Benedictine monk at Jarrow, County Durham, from c.1181, becoming precentor at Durham Cathedral. He wrote a history of the church at Durham, as well as Historia Regum Anglorum (History of the Kings of England), which covers the period from the seventh century to 1129. It is a compilation of annals, myths and material from other sources, some of them now lost.

  STEPHEN OF ROUEN (D. C.1170)

  A monk of Bec-Hellouin, Normandy, Stephen was a poet who wrote an unfinished Latin metrical chronicle, “Draco Normannicus” (“The Standard of the Normans,” named after the dragon-shaped banners of Normandy) (1169–70), which covers the period from the mythical origins of the duchy to 1169, and was composed in memory of the Empress Maud, whom he much admired and accounted his friend, and who was the focal point of his work.

  TURGOT, PRIOR OF DURHAM (C.1050–1115)

  He was a Saxon monk at Durham, where he became archdeacon and helped to found the cathedral. He became confessor to St. Margaret, Queen of Scots, and wrote a biography of her at the request of her daughter, Matilda of Scotland, Queen of England. From 1109, he was Archbishop of St. Andrews.

  WILLIAM OF JUMIÈGES (C.1025–C.1090)

  Norman Benedictine monk of the royal abbey of Jumièges, who compiled a history (in eight books) of the dukes of Normandy (Gesta Normannorum Ducum) from 851 to 1137, which gives a valuable account of the Norman Conquest. The work was based on earlier histories and William’s own research and observations, and its main thrust was to justify Duke William’s conquest of England in 1066. William of Jumièges sent a copy to the Conqueror. It is one of the foremost authorities for the history of Normandy in this period.

  WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY (C.1090/5–C.1143)

  Born near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, he became a monk there and was appointed librarian and precentor. He was one of the most distinguished of English chroniclers. His history of the Norman kings (Gesta Regum Anglorum) is a vivid account covering the period 1066–1126. Its sequel, the Historia Novella, covers the period to 1142. He also wrote the Gesta Pontificum, an ecclesiastical history of the bishops and chief monasteries of England until 1123; accounts of the church of Glastonbury; and lives of St. Dunstan and St. Wulfstan. He was the first full-scale English chronicler since the Venerable Bede (d.735), and a polymath who wrote vividly and enlivened his work with topographical descriptions, reminiscences, anecdotes and personal observations. His work is not always objective, and it displays a bias to the Empress Maud and to his patron, her half brother Robert, Earl of Gloucester, to whom two of his works were dedicated.

  WILLIAM OF NEWBURGH (C.1135–C.1198)

  Perhaps from Bridlington, Yorkshire, he became a canon at Newburgh Priory, near Coxwold, Yorkshire. His Historia rerum Anglicarum, begun in 1196, is one of the chief historical sources for the period 1066–1198, but suddenly ceases in 1198, when William perhaps died. It is well written, critical and objective, and its author strove to achieve historical accuracy.

  WILLIAM OF POITIERS (C.1020–90)

  Born at Préaux, Normandy, he became one of the knights of Duke William of Normandy before studying at Poitiers. When he returned to Normandy, he became chaplain to the Duke and archdeacon of Lisieux, Normandy. He wrote his life of William the Conqueror, Gesta Willelmi Ducis Normannorum et Regis Anglorum, between 1071 and 1077, in the King’s lifetime. It is a panegyric, but an extremely important source for the Conqueror’s life, written by one who knew him well.

  Appendix II

  Letters

  1. ANSELM, ABBOT OF BEC-HELLOUIN, TO ADELIZA, DAUGHTER OF WILLIAM I

  To the venerable Adelaide [sic], a lady of royal nobility, but nobler in the character of a virtuous life: brother Anselm, wishing that your earthly nobility may be so adorned with the ornament of virtues that it may deserve to be united with the King of Kings in eternal felicity.

  As to the Flowers of the Psalms that your Highness, dear to me in God, has deigned to require of me, our faithful humility could not carry it out for you more speedily or any better. For our obedience followed your command devotedly, to the degree that the command itself proceeded from holy devotion. I wish and I pray that Almighty God may so preserve and nourish this devotion in you that He may fill your mind with His sweetest affection on earth and in heaven with His blessed sight. I beg your wealthy nobility not to despise the small and worthless gift which our poor paltriness sends you. For although it is not encrusted with gold and gems, it is certainly made entirely of charitable fidelity and given with faithful charity.

  I have added seven prayers, of which the first is less a prayer than a meditation. In it, the soul of the sinner briefly examines itself; despises what it finds, is humbled by what it despises; in humiliation is smitten with terror of the Last Judgement, and breaks into tears and lamentations. Among the prayers there are two to St. Stephen and St. Mary Magdalene, which, if received into the heart, will tend to an increase of love. There are seven in all, and I exhort you, as your servant and friend of your soul, to offer them as a sacrifice of humility, fear and love.

  Farewell in God both now and in eternity; farewell, and take the little book sent as a pledge of our loyalty in God and of our prayers, for what they are worth. At the end of the letter, I utter what I wanted to instill throughout the letter: despise with an elevated mind everything that must be given up even while you have it. Strive with a humble mind towards that which alone can blessedly be kept for ever as long as you do not have it. This is what I want to convince you of and I pray the Holy Spirit may convince you of. With this in mind, I say for the third time, farewell.1

  2. POPE GREGORY VII TO MATILDA OF FLANDERS

  Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to Matilda, Queen of the English, greetings and apostolic blessing. Having heard the letters from your nobility, beloved daughter, we understood that your generosity is intent on love and humility, which we receive joyfully as indication and certain hope of your salvation. For we believe that her salvation is indeed not to be doubted, who is known to serve from the heart with humility and love, in which t
he law is completely contained. We expect, we deeply desire with all our mind to receive these and similar gifts from you, that, as you are noble by blood, you may live more nobly in the honourable custom of the saints. Urge your husband, do not cease to suggest useful things to his soul. For it is certain that, if the infidel husband is saved by a believing wife, as the Apostle says, a believing husband can be made better by a believing wife.2

 
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