Countess Hodierna of Tripoli: From Crusader Politician to ‘Princesse Lointaine’

Kevin James Lewis
In Volume 3, Issue 1
Special Issue: Medieval Women

Abstract

This case study of Hodierna (c. 1115 to c. 1161), princess of Jerusalem and countess of Jerusalem, highlights how any given woman’s historical reputation is subject to unpredictable forces, often beyond her control and rarely reflective of her actions in life. Hodierna has been ignored or dismissed by most historians of the crusades, except insofar as they define her by her male relatives and her more famous sisters, Melisende of Jerusalem and Alice of Antioch. Hodierna is perhaps best known today as one possible model for the ‘Distant Princess’, with whom the troubadour Jaufré Rudel supposedly fell in love without ever seeing. This article aims to outline earlier historians’ attitudes towards Hodierna and to explain how these have been shaped by the various exigencies of poor source survival, a singularly unfortunate scribal error and the arguably misogynist legend of the ‘Distant Princess’. In doing so, the article hopes to demonstrate how such obstacles – familiar to all historians of medieval women – can be overcome, allowing a reassessment of Hodierna’s agency and contemporary significance. Like her sisters, she was able to use her social status as derived from kinship bonds to transcend the gendered norms and constraints of the Latin East. A devoted mother and sister, but also an active politician in the two ‘crusaders states’ of the kingdom of Jerusalem and the county of Tripoli, she ought not to be neglected as has hitherto been the case. This article thus encourages a closer investigation of other obscure figures of crusading history, especially women.

Read the article

Download Pdf