What did it mean to be faithful to a late Anglo-Saxon king? How was it encouraged, ideologically and materially? How was it demonstrated? When did it go wrong, and why? How and why did the understanding of this concept change over time? These are the questions I am seeking to answer during my time as a DPhil student at Oxford.
We know that the concept of ‘faithfulness’ was central in the interactions and relationships of kings and their nobility. Efforts to encourage it, or prescribe it, are seen in laws, in charters and in clerical admonishing; its idealised forms are communicated in abstract works of translation and in poetic works such as Beowulf and the Battle of Maldon; its absence is lamented post-factum by chroniclers, and identified as a cause for national defeat to the Danes. This relationship surfaces in the sources belonging to the two centuries before the Conquest in many guises, and is referred to often by historians as a crucial element and consideration of many socio-political interactions in this period. Yet it is always discussed in the vaguest of terms, as if the definitions of loyalty have not changed from the 9th to the 21st century. Concepts such as ‘literacy’, ‘justice’ and ‘friendship’ have all received varying levels of attention over several decades or longer – correspondingly I aim now to explore the meaning and representative value of faithfulness in the final centuries of Anglo-Saxon England.
Bachelor of Arts, History, Durham University (2015)
Master of Philosophy, Medieval History, University of Cambridge (2016)
Clarendon Scholarship recipient for DPhil study, University of Oxford (2017)