Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3523
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Kelly , Susan.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Ubi unus clericus et Aelfgyva: Aelfgyva and the Bayeux Tapestry [Thirtieth International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, May 4-7, 1995. Thirtieth Symposium on the Sources of Anglo- Saxon Culture, co- sponsered by the Institute and CEMERS, Binghamton University. Sessio
  • Source: Old English Newsletter 28, 3 (Spring 1995):
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Ælfgyva (Figure in the Bayeux Tapestry) Art History- Decorative Arts Bayeux Tapestry Emma, Wife of Æthelred, King of England, and Cnut the Great, King of Denmark and England Queens
  • Geographic Area: British Isles
  • Century: 11
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  • Abstract: Despite centuries of examination, there are still some elements of the Bayeux Tapestry that have escaped f1rJn identification by historians. Perhaps the most enigmatic of these is the scene of a cleric touching the face of the lady Œlfgyva bearing the inscription "ubi unus clericus et Œlfgyva." The difficulty of identification arises not from a dearth of possible candidates, but rather from a wealth, ranging from Wil- liam's infant daughters to the Abbess of Barking. J. Bard McNulty, in his article "The Lady Aelfgyva in the Bayeux Tapestry" (Speculum 55 [1980]: 659-68) suggests that the solution to the pume lies in the iconography of the sccoc. His examination of Œlfgyva and the tapestry results in a list of criteria that the true Œlfgyva must meet. His conclusion is that Œlfgyva of Northampton is the only woman who fits all of the conditions. I suggest, however, that by using McNulty's iconographical method there is a second, more plausible woman: Emma of Normandy, the wife of two English Kings, Œthelred and Canute, and the mother of two more, Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor. Œlfgyva's name and the proportions in which she is drawn imply that she is an adult woman of Anglo-Saxon customs. The border-figures reveal that the relationship between Œlfgyva and the cleric is one of sexual improprieties. I suggest that the archway that frames her, ignored in McNulty's analysis, signifies that Œfgyva is an ally to William's claims to the English throne. Finally, although I agree with McNulty as to the importance of the placement of the scene within the tapestry, I believe that it represents William's claims rather than the claimants of a third party. Emma of Normandy, who took the name of Œlfgyva upon her arrival in England, was quite significant to William and his claims to the English throne. She was at the very base of over sixty years of Norman connections with the English crown. From her arrival in England in 1002 until her death in 1053, Emma was directly involved with the English court by marriage or motherhood for all but three years. Although on the surface the reference to a sexual scandal as an iconographical representation for Emma may seem to hurt William's claims, this scandal is not only benign to William's cause, but in fact, beneficial [Reproduced by permission of Robert Schicler, the “Abstracts of Papers in Anglo-Saxon Studies” editor, and the editors of the “Old English Newsletter.”].
  • Author's Affiliation: Indiana University
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1995.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00301973
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