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Ego Haduidis filia Nicolai de Baschelvilla, uxor Hugonis de Varhan filii Gripponis, do laude, consilio et consensu sponsi mei, manerium Waddune ecclesie Sancte Marie Villarensis monasterii pro salute anime mee et sponsi mei, amicorumque meorum, annuente magno rege Willelmo, coram baronibus suis, videlicet Odone Baiocensi episcope, et comite Rogerio de Montegomerico, Walterio Giffardo, Willemo de Warenna, et Gaurfrido Martello fratre supradicti Hugonis, et Gisleberto Chalvello, et Roberto de Novilla alisque cumpluribus.
(I Hawise, daughter of Nicholas of Bacqueville, wife of Hugh of Wareham son of Grip, on the advice and with the consent of my husband, give honourably the manor of Waddon to the church of Saint Mary (Notre Dame) of Montivilliers, for the sake of my soul and that of my husband and of my friends, with the assent of the great king William, before his barons, namely Odo bishop of Bayeux, Roger of Montgomery, Walter Giffard, William of Warenne, and Geoffrey Martel, brother of the above-named Hugh, and Gilbert Chavell and Robert of Neauville, with many others.)
Grants such as this by an aristocratic woman living in the mid- to late eleventh century help us to perceive elements of women's lives from an unaccustomed angle. Hawise of Bacqueville (fl. 1086) was a Norman immigrant to England, and with her Norman husband, a member of a new land-holding class. Her experiences may illuminate those of other Norman women, who, unlike English women, have been peripheral to academic studies.
Research on women in early Norman England has concentrated on the widows, sisters and daughters of the Old English land-holding class and the mixed marriages that many entered into. Among the most influential studies have been the essays by Pauline Stafford, whose pointed analyses of Domesday Book and the effect of the Norman Conquest on women have provoked considerable discussion. The issues of survival in the face of a massive societal trauma are fascinating, but so too are the ways in which such women adapted and exerted influence in their communities and counties.
After the deaths and exiles of their husbands and sons, and the appropriation of family lands, aristocratic women found their choices curtailed. It is difficult to detect their activities as political and economic figures. That such women were culture-brokers, transmitting to their children collective memories, stories and language has been recognized by Elisabeth van Houts and Cecily Clarke.
And the same Restold owes £239 and 15s and 2d for defaults on county payments; namely, for one year’s produce and demesne, for granges and mills, for fisheries, for villeins and borders, ploughs and ploughmen and hay. And in defaults for the land for which there was no grain.
This entry from the only Exchequer record to survive the first half of the twelfth century, along with thousands of others contained in the thirty-membrane manuscript, indicates that the complex and centralized administration of Henry I (1100–1135) was impaired by inefficiency and incompetence. It suggests as well that the obstacles facing the smooth assumption and maintenance of power by Anglo-Norman kings may have extended well beyond the pacification of a native populace and the competition from rival regimes to economic insolvency and noncompliance, for Restold, sheriff of Oxford from 1122–1127, was still in arrears three years later. This is not to disparage the achievements and precedents in record-keeping and law that pertain to Henry I’s reign, which have been recognized for over a century. But I will argue that an idealized view of well-managed Anglo-Norman government and a particularly indomitable king is a flawed one. This paper, based on my own audit of the Pipe Roll of 1130, questions received opinion epitomized in the long-awaited biography of Henry I by the late C.Warren Hollister:
The reign of Henry I stands as the most creative in the Anglo-Norman era. With its long peace and stability, Henry’s regime contributed to the development of English medieval institutions: the centralizing, ever-tightening control of the curia regis over the administration of kingdom and duchy, the emergence of the exchequer with its sophisticated accounting procedures, the proliferation of royal justices, and the concentration of authority over exchequer, judicature, and English and Norman vice-regencies in the hands of an elite group of skillful and loyal servants. Subsequent kings, despite the machine’s steady growth, had less success with the system than Henry I.
This book is a meticulous reconstruction of a little over a decade in English Medieval History. Its author, Graeme White, holds the chair of the faculty of History at University College, Chester. Yet rather than fitting comfortably within the traditional niche of interpretation of the accomplishments of kings Stephen and Henry II, as his position might suggest, he shares the perceptions of the late W. L. Warren and of Emilie Amt that Stephen was no nincompoop, and that his successor was not the ingenious monarch once imagined. White, like Warren, does not merely make connections between reigns, he follows the processes that flow through and beyond them.