Research into twelfth-century English women has largely focused on royal and comital society and through generalized conclusions lesser aristocratic women have often been marginalized. However, in twelfth-century England a local aristocracy emerged as a distinct social group differentiated from comital society by a more localized spread of lands, interests, and wealth. No detailed study of lesser aristocratic women in charters has been conducted and this article serves as a preliminary work to address two main themes within current scholarship on women; firstly the perceived and assumed lack of sources and secondly the predominance of widows in studies on medieval women. Making use of available charter material, this article shows that lesser aristocratic women can be uncovered and that women had significant agency through their families, religious patronage, and local landholding. Although widowhood was an important source of legally defined agency, a detailed look at marital years develops an enhanced understanding of continuities in women’s identities and roles over their lifecycles. Women’s identities were complex and based on natal and marital families and marital status. Identities were also flexible and shaped by landholding as well as social relationships. By discussing the importance of marriage and married women, my research shows that sources for lesser aristocratic women do exist and that these sources establish lesser aristocracy as distinct from comital aristocracy. This article demonstrates that lesser aristocratic women shaped tenurial and regional society through their presence and involvement in charter production during their marital years and into widowhood.
"Lesser Aristocratic Women in Twelfth-Century Charters: A Lincolnshire Case Study,"
Medieval Prosopography: Vol. 31
, Article 5.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol31/iss1/5