Traditional scholarship argues that the changes fostered by the growth of royal power and feudalism in Western Europe directly impacted women’s public power and authority in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Focusing on the inheriting countesses of Boulogne (1160–1260) and their neighbours in northern France, this monograph investigates the influence of the rise of centralized government on elite women’s power. This chronological and comparative analysis highlights successive countesses’ governance of inherited lands, the roles they played in their spouses’ lands and in political affairs outside their inherited lands, along with crucial assessments of the social identity and status of the family. It challenges the established interpretation and shows that the establishment of feudalism and the elaboration of bureaucracy did not curtail elite women’s access to or exercise of lordship to any significant degree.
Chapter 1: Mothers and Daughters: The Private Lives of the Countesses of Boulogne
Chapter 2: The Law, the Fief, and the Heiress
Chapter 3: By Order of the Countess: Lordship and Governance
Chapter 4: The Countesses’ Dynastic, Religious, and Spousal Powers
Chapter 5: Power and Persuasion: Politics and Diplomacy
Chapter 6: Patronage and Commemoration