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Wuffing Education

Rædwald’s Queen and Other Formidable Women of Early England

Silver penny

with Dr Sam Newton

at Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday 23rd May 2009

A reassessment of Old English female power from pre-Christian times through to the tenth century.

We begin with a consideration of Bede’s picture of Rædwald’s formidable but un-named queen, which seems to reveal the power of women in pre-Christian England. We shall look at other evidence for pre-Christian female power. We shall then see how this power was realised in early Christian England by the impressive numbers of canonised royal abbesses, such as Wuffing princesses St Æthelthryth (Audry), Northumbrian queen and founding abbess of Ely, St Seaxburh, queen of Kent and founding abbess of Minster on Sheppey, and St Wihtburh, Abbess of Dereham.
We must also mention the extraordinary story of St Balthild, a lady of English, possibly East Anglian, origin, enslaved by the Franks, but who later became a princess, queen, king-mother, regent, nun and saint.
Finally we shall note other examples of powerful women in England and Scandinavia, such as the West Saxon queen Ælfthryth, second wife of King Edgar, who appears to have been one of the models for Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, and Gunnhilda, wife of Eric Bloodaxe.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Rædwald’s Queen and Female Power in Early England  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 The Daughters of King Anna [1]  
  12.45 Lunch break  
  14:00 The Daughters of King Anna [2]  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Other Formidable Women of Early England  
  16:15 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at the University of East Anglia in 1991 and published his first book, The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia, in 1993. He has lectured widely around the country as a free-lance scholar and has also contributed to many television and radio programmes. His latest book, The Reckoning of King Rædwald, was published in 2003. He is currently a Director of Wuffing Education, NADFAS lecturer, and Time Team historian.

Some suggestions for further reading
(useful but not essential)

Alexander, M., The First Poems in English (Penguin Classics 2008)
Ellis Davidson, H., Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (Penguin 1964)
Fairweather, J. [tr.] Liber Eliensis – A History of the Isle of Ely from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century (Boydell 2005)
Farmer, D.H., The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (Oxford 1978)
Gallyon, M., The Early Church in Eastern England (Lavenham 1973)
Heaney, S., Beowulf: A New Translation (London 1999)
James, E.,The Franks (Oxford 1988)
Newton, S., The Reckoning of King Rædwald (Redbird 2003)
Rollason, D., Northumbria 500-1100 (Cambridge 2003)
Scarfe, Norman, Suffolk in the Middle Ages (Boydell 1986)
Sherley-Price, L., Bede: A History of the English Church and People (Penguin Classics 1955, 1968)
Stafford, P., Queen Emma and Queen Edith: queenship and women's power in eleventh-century England (Blackwells 1997)
Stafford, P., “Political women in Mercia, eighth to early tenth centuries”, in eds M.P.Brown & C.A.Farr, Mercia, an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe (Leicester University Press 2001)


Please phone or email to check the availability of places and then send the application form and a cheque for £38, payable to Wuffing Education to:

Wuffing Education,
4 Hilly Fields,
Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 4DX
(tel : 01394 386498)

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