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Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England (ePub)

P&S History > British History > Anglo-Saxons & Vikings Women of History

By Annie Whitehead
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 25.0 MB (.epub)
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526748126
Published: 8th June 2020


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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.

As featured in

Cumbria Guide

Review by Jason Hubbard

... it did provide some fascinating background regarding some of the personalities of the period which I found very interesting to read. This book will appeal to the armchair historian or student of history, as it’s a valuable piece of research into this period of history and some of the personalities who helped shape the world around them.

Irregular magazine, issue 14 Volume 2/Winter 2020

What makes this such a compelling read is this richness of sources that Whitehead has drawn on. Many medieval sources have different versions and the placing of these together enables us to infer more of the role of these women. Furthermore, the constant interrogation of each source, why one has been mentioned and them omitted does not allow Whitehead to get carried away; It could be tempting to overstate the record for many of these women and the power they did exert but the balanced view is one that prevails. It is clear however as you venture throughout the book that these medieval women did leave their mark! I think it is a good book to refer back to, with each section detailing a different geographical area or set of circumstances, making it easy to dip into. It is a broad book with quite an ambitious scope, but Whitehead has delivered a succinct and genuinely interesting read! Personally, as a 21st century feminist interested in medieval history, it was a refreshing read to just place women back where they belong.

Read the full review here

Laura the History Explorer

Annie Whitehead’s new book brings Anglo-Saxon women to life in a vivid and readable story, simultaneously challenging certain preconceptions about Medieval women as powerless pawns and placing them in the context of their times.

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The History Lady

Author guest post on Kristie Dean Blog

Kristie Dean Blog

Author guest post on Carol McGrath Writer

Carol McGrath Writer

Whitehead’s enthusiasm and passion for the period shine through at every opportunity and the book is a wonderful account of the lives of women in the Dark Ages. Overall, Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England is a must read for history enthusiasts and those who are looking at a well-rounded examination of women of the eleventh century.

Read the full review here


Annie Whitehead is an exemplary historian and writer of history who is not afraid to delve into the past head first to bring us such a jewel in this enchanting and immersing panoramic vision of historical women. It is every bit as fascinating, if not more so, as any other historical tome about the female figure of any particular time zone. The language is not laborious and it flows from one subject to the next seamlessly and what I can conclude from this is that the noble Anglo-Saxon woman was fierce and independent when she wanted to be, gentle and pious when society dictated, steadfast and loyal when needed, and as ambitious as any man of any era.

Highly recommended.

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The Road to Hastings and other Stories

Researching her life, and others like her, was fascinating for me, and being able to visit associated sites such as this one is a spine-tingling experience.

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Natalie is a History Buff

She has somehow managed to turn these scribbles, odd mentions in charters and patchy likenesses etched into metal - into real, living and breathing women. We can identify with their struggles. It's like over a thousand years melts away and we see these women, through the evidence, for the first time.

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Love British History

Author guest post on History Lair

History Lair

That said it was really interesting reading about the parts that these women played and how much string pulling they had and the involvement from behind the scenes, and the throne in many cases.

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Donnas Book Blog

I think this book is intriguing as it explores women who have stood in the shadows for centuries. Whitehead’s passion and her elegant writing style bring these Anglo-Saxon women to life. I would say that if you are familiar with this time period, you might understand the significant figures and events a bit better than someone who is a novice in this era. If you want to learn more about Anglo-Saxon women, I would suggest you read, “Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England” by Annie Whitehead.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

And Annie Whitehead's superb book about the Dark Ages queens and women of power is equally superb [as Ladies of Magna Carta], and contains references to Aethelflaed, with whom those of us who follow Bernard Cornwell's Uhtred of Bebbanburg will be already familiar. The Dark Ages was never so interesting as in Annie's book (non-fiction wise, of course!)

Books Monthly

A well researched and written overview of the most powerful women in early Britain. Full of information and facts I recommend for any history lover.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

All in all, this is an essential work for those interested, professionally or not, in this period. Highly recommended as an essential for any reader or writer's bookshelf who interested in Anglo Saxon English history.

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Discovering Diamonds

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My area of study is the Norman and Plantagenet queens but the power they wielded stemmed from their predecessors in Anglo-Saxon England. This is an insightful look into the power women were able to wield in early medieval England.

NetGalley, Melisa Safchinsky

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.

Read the full review here


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

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For me, this was a very interesting reading.
History, in general, is a subject I love to read about and I love finding fiction that portraits female leaders because, through history, the names of the courageous women have been forgotten, easily destructed people being forgetful while writing them down.
This book is a secret page in the book of history. It shows that women are not so easily forgotten, that even though they didn't make our history textbooks it doesn't mean they weren't there.
This book is a piece of actual truth..

NetGalley, Teodora Maria

About Annie Whitehead

Annie Whitehead is a History Graduate & Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has penned three award-winning novels set in Anglo-Saxon Mercia: one, about the life of Æthelflæd, was long-listed for HNS Indie Book of the Year, & IAN Finalist. She was a contributor to: 1066 Turned Upside Down, with Helen Hollick, and Sexuality & Its Impact on British History (Pen & Sword 2018).
She has won both fiction and non-fiction awards for her writing (Dorothy Dunnett Soc & New Writer Magazine), regularly contributes articles to several historical magazines and is an editor for EHFA (English Historical Fiction Authors). Her first non-fiction book, Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom, was published in September 2018.

Death of Emma of Normandy

6th March 1052

Emma of Normandy, wife of Æthelred the Unready, died on 6 March 1052.

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