Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-nr4z6 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-26T00:37:01.067Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Communications and Power: Ottonian Women

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 December 2023

Stephen D. Church
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
Get access

Summary

The Ottonians, the tenth-century dynasty that ruled East Francia, had strong women supporting their kings and emperors, their dukes and bishops. These women commanded the support of the great lords of the realm, governed abbeys, ruled as regents, and were largely responsible for dynastic continuity, often outliving their husbands, brothers, and sons by decades. This article will explore some of the dynamics of communications and power with respect to Ottonian women – both the means of political communication that Ottonian women had at their disposal and were able to exploit for their own goals and purposes, and the elements of their culture that communicated to others that they had been vested with power and authority. Some means were part of the official personae and functions of the royal women, such as diplomata that were produced by the royal chancery and might include transactions such as the conferral of immunities, foundations, and benefices. However there were also other ways by which they influenced events in their tumultuous political world. These women demonstrated the ability to intelligently use the resources at their disposal to exert pressure on specific people, to accomplish political goals, and to manipulate events to their advantage. It is the ability to engage in this kind of manoeuvring that is perhaps implied when contemporary writers such as Widukind of Corvey describe ‘the strength of the singularly prudent queen’ Adelheid, wife of Otto I, and speak of Henry of Bavaria's wife Judith as ‘a woman distinguished by her beauty, and exceptional for her intelligence’. Adalbert of Magdeburg credits Adelheid with escaping captivity ‘by her own cleverness’. Thietmar of Merseburg qualifies his observation that Theophanu, wife of Otto II, was ‘of the fragile sex’ by clarifying that she ‘terrified and conquered rebels’ during her regency of Otto III, which she oversaw with ‘manly watchfulness’. These words of admiration about women in the Ottonian orbit reflect the respect that they commanded, and hint at their capabilities and talents in engaging in the complex political landscape they inhabited. The title of this piece, ‘Communications and Power’, is borrowed from the title of a two-volume collection of essays by Karl Leyser, one of which deals with the Carolingians and Ottonians.

Type
Chapter
Information
Anglo-Norman Studies XLV
Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2022
, pp. 121 - 140
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2023

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×