Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


Article of the Month

Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.

February 2018 [Posted January 2019]

Coronation of Henry the Lion and Matilda
Penthesilea as one of the Nine Female Worthies, Petit armorial équestre de la Toison d'or Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscrits occidentaux, Clairambault 1312, fol. 248. 1460-70. (Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Harwood, Sophie. "Swans and Amazons: Penthesilea and the Case for Women's Heraldry in Medieval Culture." Mediaeval Journal 7, 1 (2017): 61-87.

Abstract: "Despite a growing interest in female warriors, details of their exploits still remain on the periphery of investigation into medieval military culture, particularly with regard to heraldry. This article uses Penthesilea, the Queen of the Amazons, to demonstrate why research into women’s heraldry is needed and how it can benefit medieval scholarship on both military culture and literary and artistic culture. Although Penthesilea is a mythological figure, she would not have been viewed as such by medieval audiences, many of whom saw the Trojans as their ancestors: her heraldry can therefore be seen as "realistic" heraldry as befitting a historical figure. By following examples of her heraldry from the twelfth to the fifteenth century in texts, manuscript illustrations, and tapestries, this study explores the significance of the devices with which she is associated. It shows that although a pagan woman, her heraldry was deployed positively for numerous powerful patrons." [Reproduced from the journal page on the Brepols Online website.]