© 2017

Empress Adelheid and Countess Matilda

Medieval Female Rulership and the Foundations of European Society


  • Provides one of the first detailed comparisons between Adelaide of Italy and Matilda of Tuscany

  • Appeals to scholars of medieval European history, social history and gender studies

  • Critically examines the societal changes in the eleventh century that allowed these two women to retain their positions of power


Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxxi
  2. Back Matter
    Pages 223-292

About this book


This book compares two successful, elite women, Empress Adelheid (931-999) and Countess Matilda (1046-1115), for their relative ability to retain their wealth and power in the midst of the profound social changes of the eleventh century. The careers of the Ottonian queen and empress Adelheid and Countess Matilda of Tuscany reveal a growth of opportunities for women to access wealth and power. These two women are analyzed under three categories: their relationships with family and friends, how they managed their property (particularly land), and how they ruled. This analysis encourages a better understanding of gender relations in both the past and the present.



building Europe foundation gender history Medieval Literature Middle Ages model social history social science society sociology spirituality transformation

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Honorary Associate Medieval and Early Modern CentreThe University of SydneyAustralia

About the authors

Penelope Nash is an Honorary Affiliate and Research Assistant at the University of Sydney. She specializes in the changes in Western Europe, especially for women, between the tenth and early twelfth centuries. She is author of Women and Power, Reality and Ritual in the Medieval King’s Emotions and Empress Adelheid’s Vulnerabilities.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Empress Adelheid and Countess Matilda
  • Book Subtitle Medieval Female Rulership and the Foundations of European Society
  • Authors Penelope Nash
  • Series Title Queenship and Power
  • Series Abbreviated Title Queenship and Power
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, New York
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-59088-6
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-95869-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-58514-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XXXI, 292
  • Number of Illustrations 7 b/w illustrations, 1 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Medieval Europe
    Social History
    European History
    Gender Studies
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Energetic, thorough, and thoughtful examination of sources old and new to the study of Adelheid and Matilda. The book is concluded by a brief epilogue, and enriched by a number of useful charts, chronologies, maps, and images.” (Miriam Shadis, Speculum, Vol. 94 (3), July, 2019)

“The comparison between Matilda and Adelheid is organized thematically, focusing on family and friends, land and rulership. … Her book will serve as a valuable introduction to those interested in the lives of these two important female rulers.” (Sarah Greer, Early Medieval Europe, Vol. 27 (2), 2019)

“This book provides a considerable amount of useful information, including a detailed discussion of the sources of information that are available for the lives and careers of Matilda and Adelheid. These include more than 100 surviving charters for the countess … a considerable body of narrative works, including a biography of Matilda by the monk Donizo, and material sources of information including coins and works of art. The volume also includes a number of helpful chronologies, genealogies, and maps.” (David Bachrach, The Medieval Review,, September, 2018)

“This is a wonderful book to have on your shelf, if for no other reason than the carefully outlined family trees that connect the stories of two famous women, the detailed chronologies for each… . This last can be a lifesaver when attempting to write about Quedlinburg or Gandersheim or any other Ottonian topic. What a clever thing to provide right at the outset! I wish I’d had it several months ago when I was writing about Ottonian nuns … .” (Constance H. Berman, Medieval Feminist Forum, Vol. 53 (02), 2018)