Sunday, February 28, 2010

Women in the Crusades

Perhaps the most notable of crusading women was that formidable queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1120-1204), who took the cross with her first husband, Louis VII. Along with 300 of her women and hundreds of her knights, she took part in the Second Crusade, insisting the women were only there to tend to the wounded. Chroniclers, however, wrote that she took an active part in decision-making, and insisted on being included in strategy sessions.
In later crusades, women from all levels of society joined the crusade. The Church, however, took a dim view of this, and from pulpits throughout France, discouraged women from taking vows to crusade. An exception was made for washerwomen, deemed a necessary element so that clothes could be kept clean, a precaution to eliminate lice. Besides, washerwomen were sometimes older, widows and the unmarried, who were thought to be less tempting to men who had left their families behind.
Muslim chroniclers specifically mention Christian women’s involvement in the crusades, not only as camp followers and supportive wives and mothers, but also as participants for purely religious reasons.
Constance Rousseau, in Gendering the Crusades, stated that by the thirteenth century, liturgical, penitential and financial support which involved both sexes had become an established feature in the crusading movement.


corrinalaw said...

I first read about women in the Crusades in Thomas Costain's The Plantagenet Chronicles, where he talks at length about Eleanor's involvement in her then-husband's crusade.

I think Eleanor is my very first girl crush. I wish she were in more fictional stories.

I'm amused at the church approval of the washerwoman. "Yes, yes, you can go. But only if you clean up after us." :)

Mary Ricksen said...

Women can do amazing thing! No matter the time.

Skhye said...

Oooooo, I must read GENDERING THE CRUSADES. :) Thanks for sharing. ~Skhye

Joyce Moore said...

corrina: Wow! I see you have a book coming out same day as your essay in Chicken Soup. Busy, busy... I laughed at your comment, and yes, that's probably about what they said--and made them walk at that!

Joyce Moore said...

Mary: Glad you came by. Heck, I think there always was a woman behind every good man. But the writers were all men, so I always multiply the women's involvement by tenfold and figure that's a good estimate :-)

Joyce Moore said...

Skhye: Thanks for stopping. I saw where you enjoyed Gregorian chant. I do too, and have some CDs. I think that goes along with liking history. Michelle Moran, who writes historicals, is an archaeologist. I sorta link that career with anthropolgy but I suppose it's two totally different studies. I know they both explore in dirt, don't they? (grin)