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CROSSING CONQUESTS : POLYGLOT ROYAL  WOMEN AND LITERARY  CULTURE IN ELEVENTH – CENTURY  ENGLAND

Elizabeth Tyler

in Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, c.800-c.1250

In the early 1080s, the Flemish monk, long-term resident of England, and pro-lific hagiographer of Anglo-Saxon saints Goscelin wrote to encourage Eve, a young nun who had recently left England for a hermitage in Angers. Medi-tating on earthly transience, he offered her a sympathetic, gendered, and specificimage of exile, as he wrote:

Filie regum et principum in deliciis a lacte nutrite, nichil scientes preter gloriam etfelicitatem natalitie terre, nubunt in exteras nationes, et aliena regna, barbaros mores etignotas linguas disciture, seuisque dominis ac repugnantibus a naturali usu legibus seruiture,sicut nuper filia marchisi Flandrensium nupsit Cunuto regi Danorum.

Goscelin chose not to focus on his own life as an exile, but rather to develop an image consonant with Eve’s multilingualism and expectations of queenship. Even before her departure for France, this Latinate daughter of a Danish father and a Lotharingian mother, whom Goseclin identified as English, had experienced considerable linguistic diversity. Moreover, as a girl, who entered the royal nunnery of Wilton by 1065, Eve weathered the upheavals of the Norman Conquest along-side women from the Anglo-Saxon royal families of Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson. She was thus in a position to know about the lives of royal women, including Queen Edith, Harold’s daughter Gunnhild, and perhaps also princess Margaret, the Hungarian-born sister of Edgar Ætheling; indeed she may have known these women personally.