Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Renowned Queen Mother Mathilda:" Ideals and Realities of Ottonian Queenship in the Vitae Mathildis reginae (Mathilda of Saxony, 895?-968)

"Renowned Queen Mother Mathilda:" Ideals and Realities of Ottonian Queenship in the Vitae Mathildis reginae (Mathilda of Saxony, 895?-968). Essay on the ideals and realities of Ottonian queenship in the Vitae Mathildis Reginae. It was written by Anne C. Stinehart.

From the site:

In 919, the German dukes elected as king one of their number, Henry I, "the Fowler," of Saxony. A member of the powerful noble family the Liudolfings, Henry had been duke of Saxony for seven years when he succeeded Conrad I of Franconia as king. At Henry's side was his wife Mathilda, herself a woman of high rank, whom he had married in 909. From 919 through 936, Henry and Mathilda ruled their new kingdom, expanding and consolidating their territory as well as their power. Their first-born son, Otto, elected king after his father's death in 936, became emperor in 962, cementing his family's rule and giving it his name. The Ottonians dominated Europe during the tenth century, reviving the traditions of their Carolingian predecessors and establishing themselves as a dynasty in their own right.

Henry and Mathilda were the first royal rulers from Saxony. Mathilda herself was the object of much veneration, revered as the patron saint of the Ottonians and commemorated in numerous historiographical writings of the time, including two works about her life, the Vita Mathildis reginae antiquior (the earlier Life of Queen Mathilda), and the Vita Mathildis reginae posterior (the later Life of Queen Mathilda). The Vita antiquior, dedicated to Emperor Otto II, was written in 974, six years after Mathilda's death, and the Vita posterior, addressed to Henry II, in 1002/1003. 1 Although both were probably produced at the convent of Nordhausen in Saxony, neither work's author is known. Blending biography, hagiography, and dynastic history, these vitae reveal issues central to both tenth century Germany in general, and to the Ottonian family in particular, including control of land and wealth, issues of status, and gender roles for men and women. They also paint a portrait of the first queen of Germany, revealing how Mathilda's image was constructed by others and how she constructed her own image.

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