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Adelaide of Turin (c.1014/24-1091): Imperial Politics and Regional Power in Eleventh-Century Northern Italy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Recent scholarship emphasises that the exercise of political power by royal and aristocratic medieval women was commonplace. Building upon this work, my thesis examines the life of Adelaide of Turin (c.1014/24-1091), who inherited, and ruled, the mark of Turin. Her importance has often been overlooked however, particularly in Anglophone historiography. Older scholarship tends to focus on Adelaide in terms of her connection with the Savoyard dynasty (who later became kings of Italy), or on the rise of regional states. These traditional histories do not take account of the central issues with which I am concerned: gender and cultures of power. In focusing on Adelaide – and gender – my thesis illuminates wider issues, relating to the exercise of power in the eleventh century, as well as to imperial politics, and religious change.
Part I of the thesis considers Adelaide’s role in dynastic and imperial politics. Particular attention is paid to Adelaide’s acquisition and maintenance of power, and to the marital alliances forged between Adelaide’s dynasty and the imperial family. Through focusing on Adelaide key political events are reassessed, including two crises in the reign of her son-in-law, Henry IV of Germany (his attempt to repudiate his wife in 1069, and the events at Canossa in 1077). Revising the commonly held view that Adelaide and her dynasty had close ties with Savoy, Part II focuses on Adelaide’s power in Turin. Adelaide’s religious patronage and support of monastic reform are examined, as are her dealings with her officers and administration, her relationship with local elites, and her role in the administration of justice. Adelaide dominated the political landscape of Turin, and played key roles in imperial and papal politics. She was such an important non-royal ruler that (in preference to the more usual term, ‘lordly woman’) she is best described as a ‘princely woman’.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Oct 2017


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