January 31, 2024|Reports

“Powers behind the Throne: The Women of the First Millennium” – Dr Imogen Cooper

Wickham History Society’s first talk of 2024 was a virtual one. Imogen Corrigan, joining us from Kent, making a welcomed return on January 23rd to talk to 55 members and guests about what is known of powerful women of the first millennium in western Europe.

Interestingly before the Norman conquest, Anglo Saxon women had much greater legal rights than at any time up to the 1930’s in England. They were ‘oath worthy’, wrote wills, could initiate divorce and inherited property.

The Church was one area where women could exercise considerable authority – for example St. Hilda was abbess of both a nunnery and a monastery. The Church also benefited from Queens, like Clotilde of the Franks and Bertha of Kent, who both married pagan kings and secured the conversion of their husbands and their kingdoms.

Although less common early queens did lead battles and direct warfare – one obvious example is Boudicca, but almost as well known is Ethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians, who expelled the Danes from much of Mercia. Imogen completed her talk with the other side of the coin – powerful women whose behaviour shocked their contemporaries.


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