This talk examines the intersection between titles, on the one hand, and the expectations of the wider political community, on the other. It does so by offering a focused examination of the title dux as it was attached to two tenth-century women: Judith of Bavaria and Beatrix of Upper Lotharingia. Scholars have often classified the ascription of this title to these women as a rare instance of the manifestation of “masculine” power by early medieval women. As such, historians tend to analyze the degree to which Judith’s or Beatrix’s power did or did not match the masculine norm and the extent to which they did or did not occupy a reified officium.
This talk queries these established readings, first by examining the lexical quality of the term dux and examining its metaphorical and historical usage in classical antiquity and the early Middle Ages. This close attention to the semantic history of this term will set the stage for the central examination of two case studies of the mixed usage applied to Beatrix of Upper Lotharingia and Judith of Bavaria. Instead of taking a biographical or prosopographical approach, the focus remains centered on the diplomas and letters that inscribe the term dux. These sources and their survival to the present day reveal, sometimes in spite of themselves, the instability of esteem and the political ramifications of the virtue in the Ottonian empire and beyond.