Many Anglo-Saxon kings are familiar. Æthelred the Unready is one, yet less is written of his wife, who was consort of two kings and championed one of her sons over the others, or his mother who was an anointed queen and powerful regent, but was also accused of witchcraft and regicide. A royal abbess educated five bishops and was instrumental in deciding the date of Easter; another took on the might of Canterbury and Rome and was accused by the monks of fratricide. Anglo-Saxon women were prized for their bloodlines - one had such rich blood that it sparked a war - and one was appointed regent of a foreign country. Royal mothers wielded power; Eadgifu, wife of Edward the Elder, maintained a position of authority during the reigns of both her sons. Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, was a queen in all but name, while few have heard of Queen Seaxburh, who ruled Wessex, or Queen Cynethryth, who issued her own coinage. She, too, was accused of murder, but was also, like many of the royal women, literate and highly-educated. From seventh-century Northumbria to eleventh-century Wessex and making extensive use of primary sources, Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England examines the lives of individual women in a way that has often been done for the Anglo-Saxon men but not for their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. It tells their stories: those who ruled and schemed, the peace-weavers and the warrior women, the saints and the sinners. It explores, and restores, their reputations.
"I am in awe of the author's ability to hold the narrative together and to produce something that I hope will encourage people to further research these wonderful characters who should be just as well known as their male counterparts."
NetGalley, M J Porter
"If there's anyone who is perfect to write this book, it's Annie Whitehead. Already known for her work on the history of Meercia and on Aethelflaed's life, she tackles a range of women - not just queens - who held, and used, power in the Anglo-Saxon period. And there were many.
Annie Whitehead opens up the era to show how much agency and influence women could have, perhaps surprisingly to anyone who, like me, was brought up to think of the period as male-dominated. And it was, of course, but this book shows how, by birth or determination, women left their mark on the kingdoms of England.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in the Anglo-Saxon period."
NetGalley, Frances Owen
"Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England brings to life the women of the Anglo-Saxon period with vivid clarity. It is a remarkable study of the lives of women of the period - known and unknown - and their impact on history. Saints, princesses and queens; wives, daughters and mothers, Annie Whitehead demonstrates the strengths, weaknesses and challenges these incredible women faced in order to exert their influence on their corner of the world. The author's meticulous research, beautiful writing and natural storytelling ability make this book a pleasure to read from beginning to end."
Sharon Bennett Connolly, author of Heroines of the Medieval World
"Women’s roles in Anglo-Saxon England have routinely been overlooked or minimised. But they were much more than daughters, wives and mothers – many of them wielded power in their own right. In this detailed and meticulously researched study, Annie Whitehead unearths their stories, telling us of queens and regents, abbesses and saints (and a few notable sinners!) who exercised authority and female agency in a multitude of ways. It’s pre-Conquest history with the women put back in."
Catherine Hanley, author of Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior
"Absolutely fascinating - Annie Whitehead pieces together the evidence with meticulous care, then tells the stories of an exciting variety of remarkable women in fluid, crystal-clear prose. It is a pleasure to read her thoughtful and nuanced portraits of peace-weavers, queens and saints and have my eyes opened to the complex histories of these forgotten Anglo-Saxon leaders."
Imogen Robertson, author and chair of Historical Writers' Association