derekwadsworth.com content director David Musgrove chats come Dr Natasha Hodgson around the endure of females in the crusades


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Like the Norman Conquest, which i blogged around last week, the crusades were not specifically a woman affair. Dr Natasha Hodgson that Nottingham Trent University, that I interviewed prior to Covid-19 struggle us, for the derekwadsworth.com podcast, has studied the women’s experience of the crusades.

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“I’ve tried come think about this in terms of four various groups the women. First, those women who do actually go on crusade. We know less around them than we perform the men, however we have the right to trace at least 91 individuals who take it the cross during this duration of 1095–1291. And on peak of that, huge numbers of women are additionally mentioned en masse by chroniclers, although several of those accounts could be a little bit questionable.


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

“And climate thirdly, we have the women ago at house whose lives are likewise significantly impacted by this large portion of the male populace disappearing off on crusade. And whether that entails supporting castle financially or whether that requires taking on much more traditional male duties while males were away, those room all different ways in i beg your pardon women’s stays were affected. And, that course, there room the ones who are victims of crusading activity as well. For this reason there’s several different locations in i beg your pardon we deserve to think about women’s authorized in the crusades.”

Watch: Did women go ~ above crusades? | 60-second background with Natasha Hodgson

Undeniably, the crusades were broadly a male affair, an especially when it involved the actual fighting. But what us do recognize of women’s place in this affairs is it was crooked by the concerns and also intent that the sources we have. Together Dr Hodgson notes in her book Women, Crusading and the divine Land in historic Narrative (Boydell, 2007), the chroniclers of the crusades did not go the end of their means to write women into the story.

 “Authors of crusade narratives had actually two main reasons for preventing the topic of women. First, a crusade expedition was by nature a military undertaking. Women were overshadowed by the martial feats of men that writers commemorated in their histories, and were customarily marginalised to the duties of onlooker or victim. Second, females were proactively discouraged indigenous crusading by the Church. Follow to Robert that Rheims, Pope urban II considered female attendees without suitable guardianship to it is in ‘more hindrance than help, a burden rather than a benefit’, but he had the sick and aged amongst this group, so gender was not the just grounds for refusing permission.”


The mrs who complied with a goose ~ above crusade

Where women are recorded, it’s often in a an unfavorable perspective. Take the example of a woman who complied with a goose on crusade, because she thought it included the holy Spirit. Dr Hodgson explains:

“This is a story that plants up in two of the resources for the very first crusade. That a story around a mrs of lower social status: you can’t really gain much reduced down 보다 looking after ~ the geese. That’s a nice menial task. Albert that Aachen tells united state that a group of world follow a mrs who’s adhering to a goose. And also he calls lock stupid and insanely irresponsible. So he is being quite vital and watch this as a foolish endeavour.

“Guibert of Nogent, who likewise talks about this, provides us a bit an ext information. The tells us that the goose in reality is following the woman – and also they assumed it to be imbued through the holy Spirit. That gets every the method to the altar the the church in ~ Cambrai. People kind of treat it with reverence and then they get to Lorraine and also the goose dies. And also Guibert says, ‘well, it would have acquired Jerusalem much faster if the woman had actually cooked and ate it.’ So i think in both cases, it’s an example of the kinds of world they don’t desire on crusade.”

So, the sources we need to rely on don’t necessarily placed the many positive light on women’s duty in the story, however when women space doing male work, in various other words fighting, they space allowed more of a place in the story.

Dr Hodgson says: “Again, resources are a little bit untrustworthy once it comes to this. Certainly, the Western resource do not really want to highlight females in fighting roles, because they’re coming from an ecclesiastical official perspective. This texts room being circulated to tell the story of crusading and also inspire others in the West to take it up the cross. So they nothing necessarily want many stories about women fighting. Yet what we do acquire is women fighting in extremis; women who are, for example, defending the camp in ~ the siege the Damietta during the fifth Crusade. Castle repulse an enemy strike because they space the only ones left defending the camp. In emergency circumstances, that okay.

Listen: Natasha Hodgson explores women’s joining in the medieval campaigns fought in the divine Land


“Usually once women are defined as law that, we room told the they space taking on masculine roles, so they’re described nearly as gift like males when they execute it. Yes one interesting instance from a western perspective of ladies at the siege of Acre on the 3rd Crusade. When an foe ship is captured, we’re told that the women placed them to fatality using knives rather of swords. And this is watched to it is in a shameful and painful death due to the fact that women don’t have the stamin to execute this effectively.

“The just ones yes, really that we have around women fighting in the crusader army come from an Islamic perspective. And again, a source like, because that example, Imad ad-Din for the third Crusade tells united state that there were Frankish females wearing armor on the battlefield and they didn’t also know they were women until they stripped the dead. Yet that comes just after a big, long story about how an entire ship that prostitutes came over to support the crusade v lots of really graphic descriptions about all the lascivious talent of said prostitutes. So even if it is we can trust that source or whether it’s telling us much more about what they assumed of the Franks and their morality, the the method in i m sorry they enabled women to behave, is likewise open to question.”


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

“She is one of the more fascinating personalities on crusade, i think, and more so since she’s not precisely a noble woman, though she have to have had independent means. She’s sometimes dubbed Margaret the Beverley, sometimes referred to as Margaret of Jerusalem. She was born in the holy Land while she parents to be on pilgrimage there at some point in the mid-12th century. Then they come ago to Beverley in Yorkshire, just north that Hull, and she grows up there. She has a younger brother, Thomas, who ends up in the circle of cutting board of Canterbury, thomas Becket. And also her brothers goes into exile v Thomas Beckett in France and also ends increase in the monastery that Froidmont. It seems that when he is out of the picture, she is freed increase in later life to go back to the land of she birth. So she goes ago to Jerusalem. She arrives simply in time because that Saladin come besiege the city in 1187, and also she fights top top the walls of Jerusalem,” notes Dr Hodgson.

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“So here is one example of potentially a woman fighting. However what we’re told is that she carries water to the troops ~ above the walls. She wears a food preparation pot on her head as a helmet and she throws tools at the enemy. For this reason she’s not in an official capacity. But again, in extremis, she trying to fight. She gets wounded by a millstone i m sorry is thrown ~ above the walls; she gets shrapnel in her leg indigenous it. Then adhering to Saladin’s record of the city, she is just one of the lucky couple of who has sufficient money to buy her means out of captivity, yet soon afterwards, is climate taken into bondage again and spends 15 months as a slave doing difficult labour. She manages to obtain bought out of slavery, proceeds during assorted pilgrimages about the holy Land, and also has another brief duration of slavery. Following all of those adventures, she travels home with the third crusaders after having actually been allowed to visit the divine places by Saladin. Then , she goes on yet much more pilgrimages.”

Listen: Rebecca Rist responds to listener queries and popular search enquiries about the medieval Christian projects in the middle East


Margaret that Beverley’s life is absolutely one of the an ext colourful ones the we have actually recorded around women’s role in the crusades, but it’s an outlier, because, together Dr Hodgson note in the book I cited above, “As non-combatants, women, together with the old, the infirm and also children, were frequently criticised for leading to logistical problems, utilizing up supplies and slowing the speed of crusading armies, yet they additionally fulfilled helpful functions. They assisted in manual tasks such as clearing rubble and filling in ditches.”

As Dr Hodgson has pointed out, though, women’s involvement in the campaigns stretched well beyond the fighting and campaigns, not only as inhabitants in the Crusader kingdoms, yet also back in the Latin west, running estates and also keeping points going in the lack of the warriors and also their followers. You’ll have to listen come the podcast to find out much more about them.