Encomium Emmae Reginae

 Queen Emma, wife of Ethelred II and Cnut, receives the book from its author, watched by her sons Harthacnut and Edward (King Edward the Confessor) © British Library Board. 

One of these days we’ll get back to politics and other general gloom, and yes, you may take that as a threat. Many of you seem to like it when I wander off into the weeds of history or Christianity, and you know, I do too. So we’ll keep on until I drive all the readers away, and maybe after that, as well.

So much of history writing seems to connect to that paragraph, either eulogizing Hillary, worshiping Obama, or bashing Trump (in other words politics by another name) but now and again we get a gem. And often that gem is from Eleanor Parker. Her subject today could I suppose, fit into the woman worshiping mode, but somehow it seems different with Emma, Queen to two Kings of England and mother to two more, and the daughter of the Duke of Normandy. Here’s Eleanor.

A marriage took place 1,000 years ago this summer, which began one of the most intriguing partnerships in medieval history. In 1017 the young Danish king Cnut, who had conquered England just a few months earlier, summoned Emma, widow of his former enemy, King Æthelred, and married her. Emma, daughter of the Duke of Normandy, had been married to Æthelred from 1002 until his death in 1016. By the time of her second marriage she had considerable experience of English politics: much more than her new husband, an untested king who was probably at least a decade younger than Emma. Their union was mutually beneficial: Emma secured a powerful position for herself, while Cnut gained a useful alliance with Normandy.

Emma played an influential role during Cnut’s reign, survived him and remained a formidable force in English politics until her own death in 1052. This alone makes her a fascinating figure, unique in being the queen of two very different kings of England and mother of two more. Just as remarkable is that she also commissioned her own history of the events she had lived through, making her perhaps the first woman in England to participate so actively in the writing of history. This text, the Encomium Emmae Reginae, was written in 1041-2 during the brief reign of Harthacnut, Emma’s son by Cnut. The anonymous author seems to have worked from information provided by Emma and others at court. The Encomium is an extraordinary text: part history, part memorial, part justification for Emma’s actions. It is a precious source for 11th-century English and Scandinavian history, as well as for Emma’s long and turbulent life.

Do keep reading her article, I don’t have a lot to add to this, Encomium Emmae Reginae is available from Amazon, and after the review Eleanor gives it, I think it might well be fascinating.

Not less because it is the story of still another medieval woman, supposedly so downtrodden and put upon who managed to stay in good measure, in control of a nation under four kings of two nationalities, for half a century. Not many feminists around to equal that record.


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2 Responses to Encomium Emmae Reginae

  1. the unit says:

    Maybe you can do a blog post on history, politics, and Christianity all in one. Like has there ever been a U.S. president one would say…yep, he’s a Christian alright.
    I’ve heard it said Romney lost because Christians stayed home and didn’t vote. The Economist says of Obama “…more than any recent president, he was able to speak of his own spiritual development as a Christian with conviction and passion.” Yeah, I just read that about O. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Interesting thought, there.

      Wow, the Economist has really gone round the bend haven’t they. 🙂 Well they’ve been tending that way a while. Sad they would a good source when I was young.


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