Re: Women Knights in the Middle Ages

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Posted by Vicky Loehr on January 14, 1999 at 18:43:42:

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).

*WOW!New data! I thought I had been digging around for a while ! When I first started portraying a lady fighting in the Middle Ages (in the Society for Crative Anachronism) I found it odd that so few ladies of the Middle Ages aver "did this sort of thing", other than Joan of Arc ! So I began digging, and after two years of research, ran across more than 25 women who at some point in time had worn armor to defend cities or homes. I found women on crusade, and I'm NOT talking about Eleanor of Aquaitaine and her faux Amazons, women defending castles, women conquering other countries at the head of armies, women keeping borders secure. I was truely amazed by the abundance. It seems that the French also used terms like "dames" and "baronesses" for fighting ladies, as they were more common than the exception to the rule. Among the more noteable were Matilda of Tuscany, an 11th century Italian heiress, Sichelgaita of Lombardy, Contess Ermenguarde of Narbonne, the Countess of Montfort, Queen Margaret of Denmar, Queen Phillipa of Hainault of England, the Countess of Salisbury, Black Agnes of Dunbar of Scotland, the ladies who held Vienna with 3 regiments of women in the 16th century, a squadron of Dutch fredom fighters against the Spaniards in Holland in the 16th century, Catariina de Earauso (or Eranso), the lieutenant-nun of Spain, Isabella la Catolica of Ferdinand and Isabella, Queen Jadwiga of Poland, and a number of lady crusaders in armor that the moslem historian Imad-ad-Din was horrified to find among the slain . The complete article on these ladies was published for an SCA newsletter for fighting ladies called "Flowers of Souvenance". More intersting ladies can be found in the book
"Women's Roots" and the book "Uppity Women of the Middle Ages".
Thanks for the wonderful article to add to my sources !
Vicky Loehr (Duchess Elspeth MacNaughton)

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