Thursday, 23 July 2020, 5:00pm – 6:00 pm
In 955, King Eadwig came to the West Saxon throne in a time of internal strife between delegates for the crown. Only fifteen at the time, his short-lived reign became synonymous with lechery, debouchery and ill-council. This paper will examine one of the stories that made this reputation: at his coronation feast, Eadwig left the celebrations in order to cavort with his consort, Ælfgifu (and, in some texts, her mother.) The sexual elements of this story are to some degree typical of medieval defamation, and doubly so as as the tale partly survives in a selection of saints’ vitae. However, beyond the stereotype of a lecherous king, the narrative has particular meaning for elite buildings in the tenth century. Not only was this episode used to indicate a weak king, but the terms used to name particular rooms in this story were specifically chosen to condemn the political power of Eadwig and Ælfgifu. This paper will examine these accounts with comparatives of contemporary elite halls to demonstrate how a clever combination of place and text were were used to damn the king and his wife.
For the foreseeable future the SAHGB Seminars will be virtual events via Zoom. We will circulate joining instructions via email the morning of the scheduled event. Please complete the form to register.