Anna was a princess and daughter of the emperor Alexius. She wrote Alexiad, which was about her father’s reign as an emperor and the events that took place in the first crusade (Comnena, 2009). She wrote this story after the death of her husband, which was 40 years after the first crusade and thus gives a loophole on the credibility of the accounts during the time narrated therein. Although she was young, she is one among the few eyewitnesses who wrote about the accounts of the first crusade and could have easily obtained information from the people who were around and of substantial age to fill in the gaps of her memory. Thus, Alexiad has been used to teach medieval history about the first crusade; for her account is known to be among the best because she was present in those times (Reilly, 2004).
Anna was the first born in a family of six siblings, and she was destined to get married and take over the throne after the death of Alexius. However, this did not happen as her brother John took over the crown; she believed she was cheated. She tried to kill her brother, although these conspiracies were advanced by writers who wrote in the late nineties like Barbara Hill (Comnena, 2009).
Anna was a woman who was very knowledgeable and in her accounts in the Alexiad, she writes of her parents who helped her to pursue the quest for knowledge. However, it does contradict with her eulogy, which was said that her parents were against her reading some form of poetry. The accounts given in the book Alexiad about Alexius seem to be exonerating the emperor and blaming all the misfortunes of his predecessor John, her brother. She says that Alexius was caught by surprise by the first crusade protests; while in early recollections Alexius is said to have had meetings with the crusade leaders in an attempt to come to an agreement with them.
The time in which Anna wrote this book must have made her compelled to muddle the events that happened in the first crusade. The love for her father is evident, and her viewing herself as the victim is the other reason for her version of accounts during the first crusade (Comnena, 2009). She believed that the throne was supposed to be her, and she was sure that her father had not given the throne to John. Thus, when she wrote the encounters she was marred by believing she was a victim. All the accounts of her father depicted him as the hero and the one who was betrayed; though, we know for sure that he had made mistakes that must have led to the first crusade (Comnena, 2009).
She was the rightful heir to the throne by birth and by the hard work she had put into to ensure she would be a good empress. However, it is said that on Alexius death bed, he had called John who pretended to moan, and John took the emperor’s ring off Alexius and thus said he had been told to be the successor. The society does not object to this and thus the crowning of John as the predecessor. Anna, being a woman, was not given a chance to lead the people with the help of her husband, and she ended up being detained in a monastery where she lived till her last days. Anna lost her father whom, from her encounters, she loved very much, lost her husband and the crown. She had married not for love but for a political union, so that she could position herself to the crown. Still, the society did not recognize all her efforts and accepted John as the next emperor (Comnena, 2009).
What I agree with is the society’s decision to honor the words of a dying emperor who gives the ring to John showing he was his chosen successor. I have to agree with this because he must have considered so many things before making that decision and by being his son, John, had the knowledge to lead the empire as his father would have. The argument of this for society would be that John being the son had more rights to rule. Anna could do so only through her husband, and thus a man had more claim to the throne than a woman.
On the other hand, I disagree with the way they shunned Anna and did not consider her as the rightful heir to the throne that she was willing to take over through her husband. The treatment of women in this medieval society is somewhat puzzling, because Anna was respected as the emperor’s daughter, and she was allowed the best upbringing, her works were published and read. Upon her death, she was praised in her eulogy but what was rightfully hers, the throne, was taken away from her and this is because she is a woman. The assumption is that if Anna was a man such an injustice would not have been left unpunished.
Love and Marriage
Ulrich von Liechtenstein, the author of this story, was a knight who sought the love of noble women. His love for a princess kicks off the love story where he goes to huge lengths to acquire the love of the princess. This love story is exaggerated to some extent but leaves a feeling of such is the power of love in the readers mind (Reilly, 2004).
Ulrich von Liechtenstein was a married man. He had children whom he was affectionate for, but he sought the love of a noble princess who at any chance could put him down. At that particular time in history, the honor and happiness of a knight was acquired only by a knight servicing a beautiful and noble lady. For this reason, he sought the love of the noble princess and faced so many frustrations and challenges that any other man would have given up. He changed his personal appearance by removing his mustache just because the princess said she did not like it, and it makes him ugly. Instead of getting angry over the words of the princess, he was happy that the princess had noticed; so, he had removed it for which he recuperated for six weeks.
Ulrich went to the extent of telling his friend cut off his finger, which he sent to the princess telling her that he had lost it in battle because of her. This was in fact a lie because he had just injured it in the battle and told a friend to cut it off so that he can send it to her. This impressed the princess. She wrote the first encouraging letter to Ulrich and told him that she would look at the finger every day (Von Liechtenstein, 2004).
Ulrich finally got an audience with the princess, but he got instructions to disguise himself as a leper, and he had to beg in the streets; when the princess came she ignored him. She left him in the rain upon she called for him later on, and gave him her love, however Ulrich does not know how he got her love. This had taken 15 years to happen, and he finally got the honor he sought, but he immediately started another quest for another noble lady. For these 15 years, Ulrich had gone to all those extremities, even going through mud just for a moment of love.
The society at this time argued that love of a noble lady to a knight added more to his honor during his knighthood. The point that Ulrich had a family of his own did not stop them from going after the love and, as Ulrich says, his wife would be to know of the kind of woman he sought after (Von Liechtenstein, 2004). The society saw it fit for all the knights to serve in the knight ship in service of the ladies. Society regarded noble women as important, and any demand they made of man who sought her love was supposed to be met no matter how outrageous it was. This was the only way a knight would prove his true devotion to the woman. The other thing the society allows and deems fit is that the knight could go after another conquest after he had accomplished one. Failure was not allowed and if he had failed in one conquest he was not allowed or seen fit to go after another.
It is in the opinion that love has been taken very seriously in this society, with which I totally agree. I believe that a man should go to great lengths to prove his love to the woman he seeks. True devotion can only be shown by true sacrifice, and a man willing to sacrifice his wellbeing to prove his love to a woman is the height of promise not to back on his. I don’t advocate for extremities such as amputating one’s finger to prove one’s love, but I can honestly say that a deed has to be done that will leave no doubt of the love he has for the person. The society also believes that a man must exercise patience in waiting for the woman to reciprocate the love bestowed upon her. For Ulrich, he waited 15 years for just a moment of love with the noble princess; a quest that is a tall order for most people now. Such patience will melt even the hardest of hearts to believe even an ounce of love for the person.
However, there are ideas that this society permits with which I completely disagree. The sanctity of marriage is not honored, especially if the woman is not of nobility. Looking at the instance of Ulrich seeking after the noble princess yet he has a wife and children back at home. He even says that his wife would be pleased showing the lack of honor for the sanctity of marriage. I believe that marriage is a union that has to be honored by the members therein and no influence should be used to make one have any other relationship outside this union.
The other thing I totally disagree with is the way that for 15 years Ulrich sought the love of the noble princess for his honor and once he had gotten his moment he starts another quest for another noble woman. This gives doubts on whether he loved the princess or his motive was purely for his male ego to be upheld. This shows that women in that society were disregarded irrespective of being of noble blood or not and were just instruments to be used to get to another level. Take the example of Ulrich’s wife who is used by the husband as a woman to end his children and manage his estates in his absence during his quest. This means that she was just a person who was in his life for that particular reason and not because he loved her. If he would really love his wife he would not have sought the love of the princess.
The other is the love he sought for the noble princess shows he did not really love her but had sought her love for the honor and not because his love was really genuine. All the sacrifices that he made were to attain his goal to gain the honor. Once he had gotten it, he advances on to another noble lady as his next quest. The title of the book is a mere mockery because the women were used and thus a suitable title should be “The Use of Women”.
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