Saturday, 27 August 2016

If you want something done properly

This King has troubles on his mind. The adoption of Christianity was far more problematic for medieval men than women. ‘Dark age’ kings struggled to reconKing of swordscile Christian ethics with Barbarian behavioural codes. How to meet the demands of a faith that expects them to give generous alms to the poor instead of booty to their followers? How to love one’s enemies? How to square the ideal of poverty with the dignity expected of high office?
These paradoxes don’t seem to worry women at all. They pragmatically embrace the challenges and often with great success. They become saints exercising power in life as abbesses and in death through their miraculous shrines.
This life is not for any old Thomasina, Richenda or Harriet. Royal blood is part of the job description for Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of any status couldn’t afford to do without these women saints. The special status of the nun benefited her family in a tangible way. Her holiness added to the honour of male kin and family lineage. Kingdoms acquired through treachery and bloodshed could be redeemed by her prayers. A female relation in convent gave legitimacy and even sanctity to lordships acquired through the most execrable means. Funny how it always falls to women to sort these things out…
Source for this post Leyser, H. (1995) Medieval Women: A Social History of Women 450-1500. 
So great was her [Hilda, Abbess of Whitby] prudence that not only ordinary folk, but kings and princes used to come and ask her advice in their difficulties, and take it…
Bede, 673-735.

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