This study of two inheriting countesses explores the impact of the institutionalization of government and law in the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries on the ability of elite women to exercise lordship in their inherited lands and their husbands’ lands. The presumption has been that noblewomen were gradually excluded from routine and direct rule beginning in the later twelfth century, as they were subsumed under their husbands’ legal guardianship, and had more limited access to land through increasingly restrictive inheritance practices. The rule of Elisabeth (d. 1182) and Eleanor (d. 1213), the successive heirs and countesses of Vermandois, Valois and Amiens, indicates that elite women governed their inherited lands initially with their husbands, especially when younger, and more exclusively as they aged. When it came to their husbands’ inherited lands, however, these women played a much more modest role in direct governance. The surviving acta produced by comital governance and gift-making reveal that contemporaries considered legal claims to lordship significant (through the use of titles and descriptions of legal right) and that women were not subsumed into their husbands’ legal persona during marriage.
"Elisabeth and Eleanor of Vermandois: Succession and Governance in the Counties of vermandois, valois, and Amiens,"
Medieval People: Vol. 34
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol34/iss1/4