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Cambridge University Library


Medieval English noble women founded many of Cambridge’s oldest Colleges, building on a legacy of aristocratic female learning stretching back to the thirteenth-century. This talk from Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee will examine the daughters of Edward I, their lives and legacy of learning.

Raised by their bibliophile mother, Eleanor of Castile, the five daughters of Edward I were women of exceptional learning in a society better known for the limits it placed on female independence. Eleanora, Joanna, Margaret, Mary and Elizabeth lived at the peak of chivalric culture, a society which prized noble women for obedience and chastity. But as ‘daughters of the king’, these women wielded uncommon influence and unexpected independence in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century England.

Between them, the five daughters grew into countesses of England, duchesses of the Low Countries and senior nuns. All were expert at the art of intercession – using their unique status and relationships to achieve advantage in arguments of law, culture and economy. This talk will examine what we can reconstruct of their lives, from childhood into maturity, examining the hidden archival sources for uncovering female perspectives and personalities. It will also consider the legacy of female learning they bequeathed to their own daughters – leading to the founding of one of Cambridge’s oldest Colleges.

The event is free, and open to all. Suitable for ages 14+. Booking required. BOOK HERE.

This event is part of The Rising Tide: Women at Cambridge programme hosted by Cambridge University Libraries, and generously supported by Cambridge Assessment, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation, and the Friends of Cambridge University Library.

Access: The University Library has step-free access and disabled toilet facilities.

Image: Life of St Edward the Confessor (MS Ee.3.59) , Cambridge University Library.