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Women and the Legitimization of Succession at the Norman Conquest

Searle, Eleanor (1980) Women and the Legitimization of Succession at the Norman Conquest. Social Science Working Paper, 328. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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Marriage in the European military classes of the eleventh century entailed a transfer of property and the commencement of a new family that had claims to inheritance. This being so, it is argued that the arrangement of women's marriages within vassal-groups would have been subject to the same 'public' scrutiny as was male inheritance. Evidence is presented that suggests that this was the case, and that at the arrangement of a woman's marriage the inheritance of her family might be channeled through her to her husband, if he were preferable to lord and vassal-group to the males in the family. This model of marriage and inheritance is then applied to the evidence of the Norman conquest of England. Two marriage-patterns emerge. First, lesser lords and knights legitimized their occupation of Anglo-Saxon manors assigned them by their lords, through the means of marriage to Anglo-Saxon women, declared to be heiresses. Secondly, among the magnates, legitimization of membership in their group remained the point, and pattern, of marriage. Norman magnates who employed the first pattern of legitimization did not marry the daughters of the Anglo-Saxon magnates, but lived with them, in unions accepted by the natives, but not presented to their own group for approval. The few Anglo-Saxon magnates who survived were denied marriage with Norman women, for, it is argued, such marriages would have involved acceptance in the magnate-group of Normans. William the Conqueror attempted to secure such legitimization for the English, but failed to convince his vassals. The interests of the king/duke and his great Norman vassals are thus shown to have been in opposition: he appears to have wished the English earls to remain in possession, while his vassals wished to dis place them. His acquiescence suggests that the power of a vassal-group over its lord—the 'constitutional' power to advise, consent and deny consent—was highly developed at an earlier time than is usually assigned it.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Alternate Title:Women and the Legitimisation of Succession at the Norman Conquest
Additional Information:This Working Paper is an expanded version of my contribution to the Third Annual Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies, which has been published in the 1980 Proceedings of that conference. It is a draft of chapter of a book on Marriage and Women's Property in Medieval England.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:328
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171010-143807633
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:82263
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:11 Oct 2017 18:47
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:52

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