The following description appeared in a 1997 calendar, entitled Medieval Women. The calendar was published by the Workman Group and the title described the women as the following: “The Strong, The Resilient, The Accomplished.” One of the writings from this calendar told the story of those Medieval women who went to war in full armor, bearing swords and pole arms just like their masculine brothers.
“During the 9th and 10th centuries, noblewomen were often directly involved in war. Emma, granddaughter of the Capetian king Robert the Strong, headed the defenses of Laon in 927, and led a siege against Chateau Thierry in 933 that resulted in its surrender: Aethelflaed of Mercia ruled part of England from 911 to 918 and defended it from the Vikings. The medieval custom of siege warfare, in which an attacking army tried to invade or starve out a walled fortress, frequently meant that noblewomen had to be left in charge while their warrior husbands were outside the walls, conducting the battles.
For later medieval queens, especially those married to kings of distant countries, survival could mean a great deal of military strife. Margaret of Anjou, married to the simpleminded Henry VI of England in 1445 educated her young son in “nothing else but cutting off heads and making war.” After the young prince was killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, Margaret was put in the Tower of London for five years; she died in penury in 1482.
Average women might also expect to experience war; but they were often victims instead of warriors. Joan of Arc, a peasant girl from a small town in France, broke the mold in the early 15th century by becoming a military leader. She led the French army in several successful battles against the English army in the last stages of the Hundred Years’ War. When the English captured her in 1431, she was tried and burned for heresy. Thomas Basin mourned her death his History of Charles VII:
“Joan was sent by God to save the kingdom and the people of France.”
Although wearable armor weighs from 35 to 60 lbs., the modern woman would look stunning in the ultimate Medieval costume.