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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1701: What's in a Name?: Names and Naming in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia

Thursday 6 July 2023, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Alaric Hall, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki
Paper 1701-aEarly Medieval English 'Nicknames' and the Regulation of Morality
(Language: English)
Tristan K. Alphey, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Genealogy and Prosopography, Onomastics, Social History
Paper 1701-bGunnhild of Denmark's Names: Family Relationships, Social Connections, Political Allegiances
(Language: English)
Valeria DiClemente, Struttura Didattica Speciale di Lingue e letterature straniere, Università degli Studi di Catania
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Onomastics, Women's Studies
Paper 1701-cDisentangling the Legends of Edith Swanneck
(Language: English)
Joanna Louise Laynesmith, Independent Scholar, Reading
Index terms: Historiography - Medieval, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Politics and Diplomacy, Women's Studies

Paper -a:
The textual sources of early medieval England (c. 410 - c. 1100) contain an impressive number of descriptive 'nicknames' (more properly termed agnomina). Of these, an important sub-section highlights morality, praising positive personality traits and criticising negative ones. Compiling onomastic data allows for the adoption of a socio-onomastic approach, and the examination of what they might tell us about the social systems that generated these names. Specifically, building particularly on the work and theoretical framework of Postles, we might explore the complex contemporary network of public shame and praise, attempting to keep the peace by publicising wrongdoing.

Paper -b:
Gunnhild of Denmark (c. 1020 - July 18, 1038) was the youngest child of Cnut of Denmark and Emma of Normandy. In June 1036, she married Heinrich, son of Emperor Konrad II. In 1037 she went to Italy with the imperial family. She gave birth to her only child, daughter Beatrix, in 1037/1038. On their way back to Germany in the early summer of 1038, the imperial family and Konrad's army were hit by a pestilence whose casualties included Gunnhild and Hermann of Swabia.

Gunnhild's life is documented quite well. In particular, 11th- and 12-century German sources show us that her name was variously interpreted or changed during her two-year tenure as Heinrich's wife. Indeed, she was renamed Kunigunt at the moment of her marriage and consecration. However, she was also known by her Danish name (Adam of Bremen, Annales Hildesheimenses), whereas most German writers interpreted Gunnhild as C(h)unihilt, Conihilt, Cuonhilt, which shows an interesting phonological, folk etymological and politically/culturally motivated integration process into the German linguistic system. Wipo of Burgundy calls her Chunilindis, probably a poetic nomen parlans. The Chronicon Suevicum universale, Annales Mellicenses and Annales Admuntenses document two further names (El(i)ifdrud, Edildrudis), thus informing us that Gunnhild also had an English name which English, Norman, and Scandinavian sources do not mention, by which however she was known in Germany. These names and name forms may have represented a way of expliciting Gunnhild's family relationships, social connections and political allegiances.

Paper -c:
Most modern accounts of the English king Harold Godwineson identify Edith Swanneck as his 'common-law' or 'Danish' wife and mother of his children. They usually suggest that she was identical with the wealthy Domesday landholder Eadgifu the Fair. This paper argues that this depiction is derived from a Victorian desire to imagine Harold as a hero and relies on details that 12th-century chroniclers invented to make sense of seeming inconsistencies in their evidence. The paper explains those 'inconsistencies' and focuses on 11th-century evidence to re-evaluate Edith Swanneck's relationships both to Harold and Eadgifu the Fair.