Queens, Consorts, Concubines: Gregory of Tours and Women of the Merovingian Elite


Gregory of Tours hoped to inspire the believers in sixth-century Gaul with examples of righteous and wicked deeds and their consequences. Critiquing his own society, Gregory contrasted vengeful queens, rebellious nuns, and conniving witches with pious widows, humble abbesses, and tearful saints. By examining his thematic treatment of topics including widowhood, marriage, sanctity, authority, and political agency, Queens, Consorts, Concubines reassesses the material shaped by such concerns, including e.g. Gregory’s accounts of Brunhild, Fredegund, Radegund, and other important elite women, Merovingian political policies (marital alliances, ecclesiastical intrigue, even assassinations), and seemingly unrelated topics such as Hermenegild’s rebellion and the career of Empress Sophia. The result: a new interpretation of an important witness to the transformations of Late Antiquity.
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Biographical Note

E.T. Dailey, Ph.D. (University of Leeds, 2011) has published studies on the transformations of the post-Roman world in several journals including Early Medieval Europe and the Journal of Late Antiquity.

Review Quotes

" For these and many other insights this little book is a pleasure to read, and it does add to our understanding of Gregory as an author." Paul Fouracre, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (2017), pp. 135-136.

"In this crisp monograph the subject of "Gregory's women" is given a thourogh critical treatment by means of careful examination of all Gregory's work but with a central focus on the Libri Historiarum X with its rich material for understanding Frankish society, its royal and saintly women and the cultivated churchman who knew them. It is nice that in a compact volume, Dailey elegantely surveys an enormous body of relevant literature, offering valuable guidance for the specialist. Moreover, the book will suggest itself as an ideal graduate reading assignment (...) This elegant account helps us to understand these women in all their fearsome quarrels, as in their asceting longing as central figures in Merovingian society" Michael Edward Moore, Speculum vol. 92 n. 2, April 2017, pp. 510-511.

Table of contents


Chart 1: The Merovingian Royal House I: The Family of Clovis
Chart 2: The Merovingian Royal House II: The Family of Chlothar I

1 Widowhood

2 Holiness, Femininity, and Authority

3 Scandal in Poitiers

4 Brides and Social Status

5 Merovingian Marital Practice

6 Brunhild and Fredegund, I: Moral Opposites or Kindred Spirits?

7 Brunhild and Fredegund, II: Queens, Politics, and the Writing of History




Those interested in Gregory of Tours and women in the 5th–7th centuries, or Late Antiquity / Early Middle Ages generally, specialist scholars, non-specialists, graduate students, third-year undergraduates, and educated laypersons.

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