Down through the twelfth century, politics were as much, if not more, the affairs of personalities and families as the affairs of state. One corollary of this premise is that certain women, as creators of family ties and managers of households, can be shown to have exercised more effective real power than traditional legal and institutional approaches to the medieval period have brought to light. As an instrument of long-term policy, marriage politics were fraught with uncertainties, but when dominant and powerful personages were able to capitalize on opportunities, the resultant alliances could prove effective in the realization of precise political aims. A re-examination of the available evidence for the career of Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror and countess of Blois, Chartres, and Meaux, from the perspective of family politics reveals that the Anglo-Norman – Thibaudian alliance, confirmed in her marriage to the eldest son of count Thibaud of Blois-Chartres, was actualized by Adela as an effective determinant of political action in the nearly twenty years she acted as the acknowledged head of the Thibaudian family.
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