rwandachamber.org contents director David Musgrove chats to Dr Natasha Hodgson about the endure of women in the crusades


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Like the Norman Conquest, which i blogged around last week, the campaigns were not exclusively a woman affair. Dr Natasha Hodgson of Nottingham Trent University, that I interviewed before Covid-19 hit us, because that the rwandachamber.org podcast, has studied the women’s suffer of the crusades.

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“I’ve tried to think about this in regards to four different groups that women. First, those women who carry out actually go on crusade. We understand less around them 보다 we execute the men, but we deserve to trace at least 91 people who take the cross throughout this period of 1095–1291. And also on top of that, large numbers of females are also mentioned en masse through chroniclers, although few of those accounts might be a little questionable.


“Secondly, we have those women who are existing in the settler society in the Latin east. Therefore the ones that either come out through the crusaders, or who crusaders marry and develop family members relationships with and also settle through in the east. They have actually a role in offering continuity the end in the brand-new settler society. And also their resides are often impacted by brand-new crusades coming out, marrying into brand-new groups that crusaders, that sort of thing.

“And climate thirdly, we have the women back at home whose resides are likewise significantly impacted by this big portion that the male populace disappearing off on crusade. And also whether that requires supporting lock financially or even if it is that requires taking on more traditional male functions while men were away, those space all different ways in i beg your pardon women’s resides were affected. And, of course, there are the people who room victims the crusading task as well. Therefore there’s many different locations in i m sorry we have the right to think around women’s authorized in the crusades.”

Watch: Did ladies go top top crusades? | 60-second background with Natasha Hodgson

Undeniably, the crusades were generally a masculine affair, an especially when it involved the yes, really fighting. However what we do know of women’s ar in these affairs is it was crooked by the concerns and also intent the the sources we have. As Dr Hodgson notes in her book Women, Crusading and the divine Land in historic Narrative (Boydell, 2007), the chroniclers that the campaigns did not go out of their means to create women into the story.

 “Authors that crusade narratives had two main reasons for avoiding the subject of women. First, a crusade expedition was through nature a military undertaking. Females were eclipsed by the martial feats of men that writers celebrated in your histories, and also were customarily marginalised to the functions of onlooker or victim. Second, women were actively discouraged indigenous crusading by the Church. According to Robert of Rheims, Pope city II thought about female entrants without ideal guardianship to be ‘more hindrance than help, a burden rather than a benefit’, yet he consisted of the sick and also aged amongst this group, so gender was no the just grounds because that refusing permission.”


The mrs who complied with a goose ~ above crusade

Where women space recorded, it’s often in a an unfavorable perspective. Take the instance of a mrs who followed a goose ~ above crusade, since she believed it consisted of the holy Spirit. Dr Hodgson explains:

“This is a story that plants up in two of the sources for the very first crusade. The a story about a mrs of lower social status: you can’t really gain much lower down 보다 looking ~ the geese. That’s a quite menial task. Albert that Aachen tells united state that a team of people follow a woman who’s following a goose. And he calls lock stupid and also insanely irresponsible. So he’s being quite critical and look at this together a foolish endeavour.

“Guibert that Nogent, who additionally talks around this, gives us a bit more information. The tells us that the goose in reality is adhering to the woman – and they believed it to be imbued with the divine Spirit. That gets all the method to the altar the the church at Cambrai. Human being kind of law it v reverence and also then they gain to Lorraine and the goose dies. And also Guibert says, ‘well, it would certainly have acquired Jerusalem quicker if the woman had actually cooked and ate it.’ So ns think in both cases, it’s an instance of the kinds of people they don’t desire on crusade.”

So, the resources we need to rely on nothing necessarily placed the many positive light on women’s duty in the story, yet when women space doing male work, in other words fighting, they space allowed an ext of a ar in the story.

Dr Hodgson says: “Again, resources are a little bit untrustworthy when it comes to this. Certainly, the Western source do not really want to highlight females in fighting roles, since they’re coming from one ecclesiastical official perspective. These texts space being circulated come tell the story that crusading and inspire others in the West to take it up the cross. Therefore they don’t necessarily want lots of stories around women fighting. However what we do acquire is ladies fighting in extremis; women who are, for example, defending the camp in ~ the siege of Damietta throughout the 5th Crusade. Castle repulse one enemy strike because they room the only ones left defending the camp. In emergency circumstances, that okay.

Listen: Natasha Hodgson explores women’s involvement in the medieval projects fought in the divine Land


“Usually once women are explained as act that, we space told the they are taking on woman roles, for this reason they’re described almost as gift like males when they do it. Yes one interesting example from a west perspective of females at the siege of Acre ~ above the 3rd Crusade. When an adversary ship is captured, we’re told that the women put them to death using knives instead of swords. And this is seen to it is in a shameful and painful death because women don’t have the toughness to execute this effectively.

“The just ones really that us have about women fighting in the crusader military come from an Islamic perspective. And again, a resource like, for example, Imad ad-Din for the third Crusade tells united state that there to be Frankish females wearing armor on the battlefield and they didn’t also know they were women till they stripped the dead. But that comes simply after a big, lengthy story about how whole ship the prostitutes come over to support the crusade v lots of very graphic descriptions about all the lascivious talents of claimed prostitutes. So even if it is we can trust that resource or whether it’s telling us an ext about what they thought of the Franks and also their morality, that the method in i beg your pardon they permitted women to behave, is also open to question.”


Although it’s i can not qualify that women acted as warriors ~ above crusades, over there is one famous example of a ladies fighting: Margaret that Beverley.

“She is just one of the more fascinating characters on crusade, ns think, and much more so because she’s not exactly a noble woman, though she have to have had actually independent means. She’s sometimes referred to as Margaret of Beverley, sometimes dubbed Margaret of Jerusalem. She was born in the divine Land while she parents to be on expedition there at some time in the mid-12th century. Climate they come back to Beverley in Yorkshire, simply north of Hull, and she grow up there. She has actually a younger brother, Thomas, who ends up in the one of thomas of Canterbury, cutting board Becket. And her brother goes into exile v Thomas Beckett in France and also ends increase in the monastery that Froidmont. It appears that as soon as he is out of the picture, she is freed up in later on life to go back to the soil of her birth. Therefore she goes ago to Jerusalem. She arrives simply in time for Saladin to besiege the city in 1187, and also she fights on the walls of Jerusalem,” note Dr Hodgson.

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“So here is one example of possibly a woman fighting. However what we’re told is the she dead water come the troops on the walls. She put on a food preparation pot on she head as a helmet and she throws tools at the enemy. For this reason she’s not in an main capacity. However again, in extremis, she’s trying to fight. She it s okay wounded by a millstone i beg your pardon is thrown onto the walls; she it s okay shrapnel in her leg native it. Then complying with Saladin’s catch of the city, she is just one of the lucky few who has sufficient money come buy her way out that captivity, yet soon afterwards, is climate taken into bondage again and spends 15 months together a servant doing tough labour. She manages to gain bought the end of slavery, continues during miscellaneous pilgrimages approximately the divine Land, and has one more brief period of slavery. Following all of those adventures, she travels residence with the 3rd crusaders after having actually been allowed to visit the holy places through Saladin. Then , she goes on yet much more pilgrimages.”

Listen: Rebecca Rist responds come listener queries and also popular find enquiries around the medieval Christian projects in the middle East


Margaret that Beverley’s life is absolutely one of the an ext colourful ones that we have recorded about women’s role in the crusades, yet it’s an outlier, because, together Dr Hodgson notes in the book I quote above, “As non-combatants, women, in addition to the old, the infirm and also children, were regularly criticised for leading to logistical problems, making use of up supplies and also slowing the pace of crusading armies, yet they also fulfilled valuable functions. They facilitated manual tasks such as clearing rubble and filling in ditches.”

As Dr Hodgson has actually pointed out, though, women’s involvement in the crusades stretched well past the fighting and campaigns, not only as settlers in the Crusader kingdoms, but also earlier in the Latin west, running estates and also keeping things going in the absence of the warriors and also their followers. You’ll need to listen to the podcast to find out more about them.