Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3324
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Schoff , Rebecca.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: A Legacy of Power and Learning: Historiography and the Women of Wessex
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 33, 3 (Spring 2000): Paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies, The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 2000, Session 83: "Anglo-Saxon History and Legend."
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians Anglo- Saxon Chronicle Edburga, Abbess of Nunnaminster and Daughter of Edward the Elder, King of Wessex Historiography Power Rulers
  • Award Note:
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century:
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  • Abstract: Conventionally, Alfred the Great is revered for two legacies: the consolidation of power in Wessex and the reinvigoration of historiographical writing in England. In the early tenth century, the women in Alfred’s family seem to have played important roles in the perpetuation of both legacies. Based on paleographical works published by Malcolm Parkes in Scribes, Scripts, and Readers, I hope to be able to show that several major historiographical texts, including the earliest extant version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, were produced in the scriptorium at Nunnaminster, where Alfred’s granddaughter, Edburga, was abbess. In Mercia, Alfred’s daughter Æthelflæd was responsible for the military fortifications and maneuvers that both protected Mercia from the Danes and aided Æthelflæd's younger brother, King Edward the Elder, in maintaining the dominance of Wessex. When Æthelflæd died, Edward seized Æthelflæd's daughter, Ælfwynn, and had her carried off to Wessex, while he assumed power in Mercia. However, this version of events, found in the Mercian Register, is not recorded in the Chronicle produced under Edburga's direction. In the Chronicle produced at Nunnaminster (the Parker Chronicle), Æthelflæd's military accomplishments are minimized, and Ælfwynn does not exist at all. Instead, the Mercians voluntarily pay homage to Edburga's father, King Edward the Elder, when they are left without a leader at Æthelflæd's death. What was perhaps Edburga's decision, to flatter her father's role at the expense of her aunt and her cousin, raises a number of intriguing questions about the intersection of gender (and familial ties) with Alfred the Great's dual legacy, of power and historiography. Through analysis of the later development of the Chronicle, I would like to suggest that the mode of historiographical writing that recorded Æthelflæd's accomplishments in the Mercian Register survived to provide a model for scripting the success of other women in power. [Reproduced by permission of the editor Robert L. Schichler and the editors of the Old English Newsletter.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Harvard University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973