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A St Æthelthryth’s Day Special on Mighty Women of Early England

Icon of St Æthelthryth by Marchela Dimitrova (Alde Valley Festival 2011)

with Dr Sam Newton

in The Old Court, Sutton Hoo (map)
on Saturday, 23rd June, 2012.

The power of pre-Christian English women is revealed by references provided by Procopius, Bede, and Old English poetry. We shall see how this power was realised in early Christian England by the impressive numbers of canonised royal women. Among the Wuffings of East Anglia we have the daughters of Rædwald’s nephew, King Anna, St Æthelthryth (Audry), founding abbess of Ely, St Seaxburh, queen of Kent and founding abbess of Minster on Sheppey, and St Wihtburh, Abbess of Dereham.
The marriage of Anna’a daughter Seaxburh provides the genealogical link between the Wuffings and the Æscing dynasty of Kent and the formidable ladies there, such as St Mildred, founding abbess of Minster on Thanet. Related to the Wuffings as well was the famous Northumbrian Abbess St Hilda.
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 Anglo-Saxon England, such as Gunnhilda, the redoubtable wife of Eric Bloodaxe, or the West Saxon queen Ælfthryth, the second wife of King Edgar, who appears to have been one of the models for Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth.

Provisional Programme
  10.00 Coffee on arrival  
  10.15 Female Power in Early England  
  11.15 Coffee  
  11.45 The Daughters of King Anna [1]  
  12.45 Lunch break (bring picnic or eat in NT restaurant)  
  14:00 The Daughters of King Anna [2]  
  15:00 Tea break  
  15:15 Other Formidable Women of Early England  
  c.16:20 Close  

About Dr Sam Newton

Sam Newton was awarded his Ph.D at UEA in 1991 and is the author of The Origins of Beowulf and the pre-Viking Kingdom of East Anglia (1993) and The Reckoning of King Rædwald: The Story of the King linked to the Sutton Hoo Ship-Burial , (2003). He has lectured widely around the country as an independent scholar and has contributed to many radio and television programmes. He is also a Director of Wuffing Education, NADFAS lecturer, and part-time 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, Seamus (tr.) Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition, ed. J.Niles (Norton 2007)
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)
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. Study Days are 38 per person, which includes a full day of lectures, access to the NT site, parking, coffee and tea throughout the day, and access to the NT exhibition. Once you have reserved your place please send a cheque to confirm the booking. For your first booking please complete the application form to ensure that we have recorded your contact details correctly.

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

Email cliff AT wuffingeducation.co.uk
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Website www.wuffingeducation.co.uk

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We have learnt of the fame of the Wuffing folk-lords of long ago, of how those wolf-kings held the ancestral land of East Anglia....
Updated 13 December, 2012
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