Re: Women Knights in the Middle Ages

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Posted by Pauliina Liuski on January 07, 1999 at 09:07:52:

In Reply to: Women Knights in the Middle Ages posted by Sir Randal MacNiall Bundy on January 16, 1998 at 05:42:04:

: Women Knights in the Middle Ages

: Submitted by: Sir Randal MacNiall Bundy, (Chevelier d'Elstow)

: For the Knights of Ladonia and the Citizens of Ladonia

: Were there women knights in the Middle Ages? Initially I thought not, but further
: research yielded surprising answers. There were two ways anyone could be a
: knight: by holding land under a knight's fee, or by being made a knight or inducted
: into an order of knighthood. There are examples of both cases for women.

: Female Orders of Knighthood

: There is a case of a clearly military order of knighthood for women. It is the order
: of the Hatchet (orden de la Hacha) in Catalonia. It was founded in 1149 by Raymond
: Berenger, count of Barcelona, to honor the women who fought for the defense of the
: town of Tortosa against a Moor attack. The dames admitted to the order received many
: privileges, including exemption from all taxes, and took precedence over men in public
: assemblies. I presume the order died out with the original members.

: There is a famous figure in French history, nicknamed Jeanne Hachette, who fought to
: repel a Burgundian assault on the town of Beauvais in 1472. The King exempted her
: from taxes, and ordered that, in an annual procession to commemorate the event, women
: would have precedence over men. This story seems to be a carbon copy of the Order of
: the Hatchet story...

: In Italy, the Order of the glorious Saint Mary, founded by Loderigo d'Andalo, a
: nobleman of Bologna in 1233, and approved by pope Alexander IV in 1261, was the first
: religious order of knighthood to grant the rank of militissa to women. This order was
: suppressed by Sixtus V in 1558.

: In the Low Countries, at the initiative of Catherine Baw in 1441, and 10 years later
: of Elizabeth, Mary and Isabella of the house of Hornes, orders were founded which were
: open exclusively to women of noble birth, who received the French title of chevali╦re
: or the Latin title of equitissa. In his Glossarium (s.v. militissa), Du Cange notes
: that still in his day (17th c.), the female canons of the canonical monastery of
: St. Gertrude in Nivelles (Brabant), after a probation of 3 years, are made knights
: (militissae) at the altar, by a (male) knight called in for that purpose, who gives
: them the accolade with a sowrd and pronounces the usual words.

: In England, ladies were appointed to the Garter almost from the start. In all,
: 68 ladies were appointed between 1358 and 1488, including all consorts. Though many
: were women of royal blood, or wives of knights of the Garter, some women were neither.
: They wore the garter on the left arm, and some are shown on their tombstones with this
: arrangement. After 1488, no other appointments are known, although it is said that the
: Garter was granted to a Neapolitan poetess, Laura Bacio Terricina, by Edward VI. In
: 1638, a proposal was made to revive the use of robes for the wives of knights in
: ceremonies, but it came to nought. (See Edmund Fellowes, Knights of the Garter, 1939;
: and Beltz: Memorials of the Order of the Garter).

: Unless otherwise noted, all the above is from the book by H. E. Cardinale, Orders of
: Knighthood, Awards and the Holy See, 1983. The info on the order of the Hatchet is
: reproduced elsewhere as well, e.g., a Spanish encyclopedia. I have seen the order of
: glorious Saint Mary discussed elsewhere, but without mention of women. I have yet to
: identify the orders of the Hornes family.

: Women in the Military Orders

: Several established military orders had women who were associated with them, beyond the
: simple provision of aid. The Teutonic order accepted consorores who assumed the habit
: of the order and lived under its rule; they undertook menialand hospitaller functions.
: Later, in the late 12th century, one sees convents dependent on military orders are
: formed. In the case of the Order of Saint-John (later Malta), they were soeurs
: hospitali╦res, and they were the counterparts of the fr╦res pr═tres or priest brothers,
: a quite distinct class from the knights. In England, Buckland was the site of a house
: of Hospitaller sisters from Henry II's reign to 1540. In Aragon, there were Hospitaller
: convents in Sigena, San Salvador de Isot, Gris╚n, Alguaire, headed each by a
: commendatrix. In France they are found in Beaulieu (near Cahors), Martel and Fieux.
: The only other military order to have convents by 1300 was the order of Santiago, which
: had admitted married members since its foundation in 1175. and soon women were admitted
: and organized into convents of the order (late 12th, early 13th c.). The convents were
: headed by a commendatrix (in Spanish: commendadora) or prioress. There were a total of
: six in the late 13th century: Santa Eufenia de Cozuelos in northern Castile, San
: Spiritu de Salamanca, Santos-o-Vello in Portugal, Destriana near Astorga, San Pedro
: de la Piedra near L╚rida, San Vincente de Junqueres. The order of Calatrava also had
: a convent in San Felices de los Barrios.

: Source: Alain Forey, Women and the Military Orders in the twelvth and thirteenth
: centuries, Studia Monastica XXIX, Montserrat, Barcelona 1987.

: Women Knights

: Medieval French had two words, chevaleresse and chevali╦re, which were used in two
: ways: one was for the wife of a knight, and this usage goes back to the 14th c. The
: other was as female knight, or so it seems. Here is a quote from Menestrier, a 17th
: c. writer on chivalry: "It was not always necessary to be the wife of a knight in
: order to take this title. Sometimes, when some male fiefs were conceded by special
: privilege to women, they took the rank of chevaleresse, as one sees plainly in
: Hemricourt where women who were not wives of knights are called chevaleresses."

: I could find no trace of any title bestowed on Jeanne d'Arc. Her family was made noble,
: with nobility transmissible through women, which was quite unusual. She did ride a
: horse and dress up in armor, but she did not wield a sword and never killed anyone,
: but rather grasped her banner pretty tightly.

: See also the Nine Worthy Women (les neuf preuses).

: Modern Women Knights

: Modern French orders include women, of course, in particular the L╚gion d'Honneur
: (Legion of Honor) since the mid-19th c., but they are always called chevaliers. The
: first documented case is that of Marie-Ang╚lique Duchemin (1772-1859), who fought in
: the Revolutionary Wars, received a military disability pension in 1798, the rank of
: 2nd lieutenant in 1822, and the Legion of Honor in 1852.

: The first woman to be granted a knighthood in modern Britain seems to have been Queen
: Mary in 1917, when the Order of the British Empire was created (the first order open
: to women). The Royal Victorian Order was opened to women in 1936, the Order of Bath
: and Saint Michael and Saint George in 1965 and 1971 respectively. Queen consorts have
: been made Ladies of the Garter since 1901 (Queens Alexandra in 1901, Mary in 1910,
: Elizabeth in 1937). The first non-Royal woman to be made Lady Companion of the Garter
: was Lavinia, duchess of Norfolk in 1990 (▄1995), the second was Baroness Thatcher in
: 1995 (post-nominal: LG). On Nov. 30, 1996, Marion Ann Forbes, Lady Fraser was made Lady
: of the Thistle, the first non-Royal woman (post-nominal: LT).

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