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Holy Queens as Agents of Christianization in Bede's Ecclesiastical History: a Reconsideration

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The Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People contains numerous accounts of what has been termed by some scholars "conversion by marriage," episodes in which a royal bride acts as the first agent of Christianity in a heathen land. Yct, a close examination of the accounts of the Northumbrian, Kentish, Middle Angle and South Saxon conversions reveals a manipulation of the historical accounts which serves to de-emphasize the power and participation of these queens in the subsequent Christianization of the nation. This article argues that the "conversion by marriage" model in the Ecclesiastical History is, in fact, not a viable model at all. This article will further argue that analysis of these particular conversion narratives reveals less about the power and influence of royal women (or Bede's own attitudes and concerns regarding the matter) and more about the larger agenda of the text. An analysis of the intersection of gender and faith within Bede's work points to the subtlety of purpose and design behind the massive undertaking which was the Ecclesiastical History.


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