Women's Bodies, Women's Property German Customary Law Books Illustrated in the Fourteenth Century

Group VIII: Widow loses husband's weapons and military equipment

Landrecht I, 22, 4

Oldenburg 18r
Dresden 10v
Wolfenbuttel 16v

see below for detailed page sections

After a widow has distributed half of all supplies of food, the musteil, to the heirs, she must dispossess herself of all her husband's fighting equipment: first the sword and the best charger or horse with saddle, all tackle, the best armor that her husband ever wore during his lifetime still in his possession at his death. Also a field bed, a pillow, a linen towel, a tablecloth, two wash bowls, and a hand towel. She is not required to turn over anything she doesn't have, providing she swear an oath for each individual item she can't give the heirs. There are reasons why his horse and weapons should be given to male relatives, chief among them being their considerable cost, and then to enable others to fulfill the obligations of the new fief holder. But from another perspective, it also becomes an exercise in gender construction for men and women. Her business is exclusively the domestic sphere. But some very prominent women did fight, two of them in Eike's own back yard and during his lifetime. Sophie, widow of Berthold of Zähringen, at the end of the 12th century, led her knights alongside her brother, Henry the Proud, in the siege of a rival's castle, remaining in charge when he had to leave. And Gertrude, "Saxony's Almighty Widow" personally led her vassals in a conspiracy against the son-in-law of the Emperor, Henry V. So much for the Sachsenspiegel as a "mirror" of/for Saxon women. Wolfenbüttel and Dresden register 2, show the wife standing, while Oldenburg register 2 shows her seated, judge-like, and in command; she is also swearing, indicating that she does not have all the standard items from the list. Here again, Oldenburg's treatment of the wife is less harsh than Dresden and Wolfenbüttel.