vegreybanner.jpg (1983 bytes)

madonna.jpg (11986 bytes)

Outline of Dissertation

Eads, Valerie. Mighty in War: The Campaigns of Matilda of Tuscany. Ph.D. Dissertation: City University of New York, 2000.

The only detailed study in any language of Matilda of Tuscany as a military leader. Concentrates on the campaign of 1080-84 with only passing references to the rest of Matilda’s life. Like all doctoral dissertations, it is dense! Those who want a more substantial bibliography will find it here. 


Mighty in War: The Role of Matilda of Tuscany in the War Between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV

A Bit of Background

Matilda of Tuscany in one of three women entombed in St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican. The countess earned her place in the basilica and in history by defending the papal cause when a dispute between Pope Gregory VII and King Henry IV of Germany escalated into open war in 1080. The war was part of a larger series of events that came to be known as the Investiture Controversy, one of the most-studied subjects in medieval European history. The war itself was, however, last studied more than a century ago. There is no study devoted to the military career of Matilda of Tuscany either in the war between Gregory VII and Henry IV or during the remaining 30 years of her life.


In the Introduction to the dissertation I discuss the reasons for this situation. Since the 19th century, military historians have treated the history of war largely as the history of battle. This approach was especially unsuited to medieval warfare which in the past twenty-five years has been increasingly analyzed as a warfare of position and attrition. Because women are generally smaller than men and the sources do not report their training in arms, historians using the battle-centered approach equated medieval reports of women's participation in warfare with those describing the appearance of saints and angels on the battlefield. The recognition of the centrality of sieges and the importance of logistics makes possible an understanding of the role of women in such warfare. During the same time, study of family history has clarified the military burdens that fell to all landholders including women and the religious. My dissertation studies the role of Matilda of Tuscany in the war between Gregory VII and Henry IV by approaching it simply as an 11th-century campaign.


The study of any campaign properly begins with the terrain, the theatre of operations. As marquis of Tuscany and count of Mantua, Ferrara, Modena, Reggio and Brescia, Matilda of Tuscany controlled the trans-Apennine routes. Protecting these roads was the reason for the creation of the March of Tuscany in Carolingian times. In Chapter 1, "The Military Geography," examination of the known movements of Henry IV shows that during his campaign against the pope the king made almost no use of the trans-Apennine routes. Examples are drawn from earlier German expeditions to Italy.


In Chapter 2, "The Order of Battle," a study of the participants on all sides of the conflict makes clear that there was no order of battle in the usual sense. Because of conflict in Germany, Henry IV had to leave his most loyal supporters behind as he went into Italy. It was this turmoil that made settling matters with the pope vital. Only the pope could perform the imperial coronation, and until he had the imperial title Henry's position in Germany was vulnerable. He had, therefore, to rely on his supporters in Italy for the Italian campaign.

The prosopography of the leading families in Tuscany and the Po valley, especially those who would gain the most by replacing Matilda, gives some indication of who these supporters were. Identifications made in the 18th century are called into question. Similar investigation allows some conclusions about the identity of Matilda of Tuscany's supporters. Pope Gregory's alliance with the Normans in southern Italy and the consequent involvement of the Byzantine emperor is examined. The extent of the preparations for the war, on all sides, is shown. The prominence of paid troops, noted by Waitz in the 19th century, is confirmed.


In Chapter 3, "The Campaign of 1081-84," all of the known actions of the campaign are presented in roughly chronological order, and explanations of the military purpose of each is attempted. Special attention is paid to the (in)famous looting of the monasteries in 1082, an action which allowed Matilda of Tuscany to send a large amount of precious metal to Pope Gregory. The failed efforts to capture the episcopal castle of Moriana, near Lucca, and Henry IV's precautions against a campaign by the anti-king Hermann of Salm are discussed.


Just as the preparations for the war revealed a great deal about the conduct of the campaign, the actions that took place afterward say a lot about Matilda of Tuscany's military capacity and methods. Chapter 4, "The Inter-Bellum" discusses the battle at Sorbara (2 July 1084) and the march to Rome in support of Gregory VII's successor, Victor III. Sorbara is the best-documented of any of the actions of the war. Shortly after Henry IV left Italy, Matilda inflicted a bloody defeat on his supporters in northern Italy and showed herself well able to protect her position. The campaign of 1090-97 is briefly commented on, but this subject deserves a separate and detailed study of its own. The chapter ends when Matilda returns to Tuscany accompanying Pope Urban II as he returns from the triumphant preaching of the first Crusade.


The Conclusions discuss Matilda's campaign in terms of the prevailing paradigm of medieval warfare, Vegetian theory, and show that she waged a campaign that conforms to the expectations of this model. That she was active in the campaign is shown from numerous excerpts from contemporary writers who knew her. Particular attention is paid to the Treatise on the Song of Songs of John of Mantua which is little-studied. Matilda of Tuscany did not defeat Henry IV. His inability to force her to battle and to enforce his judicial sentence against her made him look weak and ineffective. No king can survive that.


Sample pages from recent dissertations are available online; follow the links from:


imgPr.jpg (32712 bytes)