- England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Patronage, c. 1000–c. 1150 by Elizabeth M. Tyler
Despite its marginalized political status after 1066, Anglo-Saxon culture profoundly influenced innovations in writing history and literature across northern Europe well beyond the twelfth century through royal female patronage. Elizabeth M. Tyler traces the literary culture produced by English queens and royal women in the eleventh and twelfth centuries from the reigns of Æthelred II to Henry I. Tyler draws upon numerous studies of the transmission of classical texts by lay people to establish her unique focus on royal women as creative forces in the circulation of secular literature across northern Europe. Royal women in the late Anglo-Saxon court commissioned writing that integrated late antique Latin poetry to describe current political events. They prompted authors to emphasize the inner life of the female subject largely through Ovidian poetry in anticipation of the romance genre in French literature in the twelfth century.
The book is comprised of seven chapters. In the first chapter, Tyler analyses the vernacular foundations for the Encomium and the Vita Ædwardi. The popularity of the Old English secular works established in King Alfred's court familiarized the audience with the classical world through which they interpreted their own political circumstances. In the next four chapters, [End Page 184] Tyler examines the literary production of the queens through the Danish and Norman conquests. The works written for the queens are presented in two chapter pairs that focus on the Roman story world. The first in each pair provides literary analysis, and the second study presents historical interpretation. The remaining chapters focus upon the intellectual networks and literary production of women at the royal nunneries in Wilton and Le Ronceray in Angers.
Two histories are central to Tyler's study of royal female patronage: the Encomium Emmae reginae for Queen Emma and the Vita Ædwardi regis in verse and prose for Queen Edith, both works long overlooked in modern scholarship. Tyler examines strategies for sharing the text in the multilingual court. As patrons were educated using Latin heroic poetry, the queens required its integration into the works they commissioned. Through their movements in dynastic marriages, female patrons popularized Latin literature throughout England, Normandy, Northern France, Flanders, and the empire. Female patrons shaped the texts written about them so that their lives were narrated through Latin story elements that elevated the status of each queen and paired her with powerful and sympathetic female figures from the realm of heroic poetry. Both queens influenced writers to describe the inner life of the character. This move anticipated the emphasis upon individual identity that defined the literature of the twelfth-century renaissance.
The Vita Ædwardi was studied by royal women at Wilton and by the poets who wrote for them. The poets of the Loire School recaptured its Ovidian poetics that later flowered in secular French poetry. The Loire poets provided points of contact between the nunneries; they wrote for the royal women at Wilton and corresponded with the nuns at Le Ronceray. Tyler shows that literary evidence can reveal much about the continuous communication between social networks in this historical period, as detailed in her study of Eve, who moved from Wilton to Le Ronceray.
During and after the Norman conquest, women in the West Saxon, Godwine, and Norman dynasties contributed to widespread literary production in northern Europe. During her marriage to Henry I, Edith Matilda commissioned Turgot to write a life of Saint Margaret, which traced the queen's heritage through the female line rather than the male line. Written as a "mirror for princesses," the work emphasizes the growth of the individual, a marker for the literary movement in the twelfth century. Matilda, the daughter of Edith/Matilda, asked William of Malmesbury to write a portion of his Gesta regum Anglorum, where he further incorporated romance elements into the genre of historical writing to highlight the role of women.
Tyler's work opens up new avenues for study of the transmission of...