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Exploring the Limits of Female Largesse: The Power of Female Patrons in Thirteenth-Century Flanders and Hainaut

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Abstract

In his Chronique Rimée, first circulated in northern France in the late thirteenth century, Philippe Mouskes described the spending habits of Jeanne, the countess of Flanders and Hainaut, during her husband’s twelve-year incarceration in Paris following the battle of Bouvines in 1214. According to Mouskes, Jeanne was so generous in her donations to religious communities that, upon his return in 1226, Ferrand found the county teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. As a result, Ferrand was forced to rescind many of the donations made by his imprudent and overly pious wife. Mouskes stated “tous les dons que la comtesse avait dounes fist resaisir, a son oes et a son plaisir.” [all of the gifts that the countess had given were taken back, for his use and for his pleasure.]1

Keywords

Religious Community Thirteenth Century Religious Foundation Annual Rent Medieval Society 
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  1. 2.
    Penelope Johnson, “Agnes of Burgundy: An Eleventh-Century Woman as Monastic Patron,” Journal of Medieval History 15 (1989): 93–104. According to Johnson, Agnes turned to religious patronage because more mainstream avenues of exercising power were denied her due to her sex.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    Miriam Shadis discusses the permeability of the boundary between sacred and secular as well as the political significance of religious patronage in “Piety, Politics, and Power: The Patronage of Leonor of England and Her Daughters Berenguela of Léon and Blanche of Castile,” in The Cultural Patronage of Medieval Women (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), pp. 202–27, especially pp. 202–3.Google Scholar
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    Ronald N. Walpole, Philip é and the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947), p. 392. Until recently, many scholars believed that the author of the Chronique Rimeé was Philip of Ghent, bishop of Tournai until 1283. However, more recent investigation has debunked that assumption.Google Scholar
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    Walpole, Philip é, p. 410. Fiona Tolhurst cautions against the tendency to view medieval chronicles generally as objective historical records, particularly in regards to texts produced in the high Middle Ages. See Fiona Tolhurst, “The Great Divide?: History and Literary History as Partners in Medieval Mythography,” Historical Reflections/Réflexions historique 30 (2004): 7–27, here p. 27.Google Scholar
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  33. Scott L. Waugh, The Lordship of England: Royal Wardships and Marriages in English Society and Politics. 1211–1231 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 16. Jennifer Ward notes the regional differences that existed in medieval inheritance practices, and the ability of women to hold land as heiresses or as widows in a variety of places, including the Low Countries. See Ward, Women in Medieval Europe, p. 5. Scholars have begun to question the extent to which such changes actually occurred, revisiting in particular assumptions regarding the impact of such practices on women.Google Scholar
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  37. Such views are succinctly outlined by Kimberly A. LoPrete, “Gendering Viragos: Medieval Perceptions of Powerful Women,” in Victims or Viragos?, ed. Christine Meek and Catherine Lawless (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005), pp. 17–38.Google Scholar
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    According to Jean Richard, there was a considerable element of truth to the rumors of Jeanne’s betrothal. Richard argues that negotiations between Jeanne and the count of Brittany had progressed to the point of securing a papal dispensation from the Pope. Louis sent his papal legate, Romanus Frangipani, to secure the revocation of the annulment, and confirmation of Jeanne’s marriage to Ferrand. See Jean Richard, Saint Louis: Crusader King of France, trans. Jean Birrell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 15.Google Scholar
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