Sunday, 28 May 2017

Emma and her Encomium

My latest column for History Today, on the Encomium Emmae Reginae, is now online - here's a taste:

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 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.

Read the rest here. The manuscript of the Encomium which contains the frontispiece of Emma and her sons, and the gorgeous dragon initial above, can be viewed online in its entirety on the British Library website.

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