Updated: Dec 4, 2020
How else can one try and recover the traces of the historical actions of medieval women? Apart from a few exceptions, writing was the preserve of men, often writing in monasteries, with a distant and at times distorted view of women as daughters of Eve. This is what makes the research on medieval women of power so interesting. Fate gave some of them access to power, but their tools were often blunt, as they did not write their own history. In the best cases, they managed to find a man to write it for them. Inevitably, that would have filtered out some of their femininity, some of their perspective.
This is why I loved Alison Creber's article 'Making an Impression.' It analyses the seals of two powerful mother and daughter medieval women. Through those seals, whose production they controlled, Beatrice and Matilda of Tuscany project an image of themselves which breaks the boundaries of femininity. The seal of Beatrice is modelled on the seals of the eleventh-century German emperors, rather than empresses. Her iconography of choice was not intended to identify her as a beloved wife, nor as a pious widows, but to make claims about her lineage and her political legitimacy.
Beatrice is one of the characters in my forthcoming novel Lotharingia, and Dr Creber's article confirms my fictional reading of this incredible and often overlooked medieval ruler. #medievalfiction #medievalwomeninpower