Important new research by ASNC Department members Prof. Simon Keynes and Dr Rosalind Love is highlighted in Cambridge University's Research Horizons newsletter this month. As Research Horizons puts it:
Recent headlines might give the impression that to strike Anglo-Saxon gold you need a metal detector but, as ASNC academics Professor Simon Keynes and Dr Rosalind Love discovered, there’s still plenty awaiting the historians and literary scholars who depend on texts.
When a 14th-century compilation of historical materials that had lain undiscovered in the library of the Earl of Devon for centuries went under the hammer at Sotheby’s, an eagle-eyed expert (and former ASNC graduate student) spotted that it contained a copy of a much older and incredibly rare text. It was the Encomium Emmae Reginae, a highly charged polemic written on behalf of Queen Emma, wife of King Æthelred the Unready and then of King Cnut, in 1041. But, unlike the only other surviving copy, it was preserved here in a version with a different ending, added after the accession of her son Edward the Confessor in 1042. Coincidentally, a related discovery was made in Oxford, where papers of a 16th-century antiquary were found to include a long-lost section from a biography of King Edward, written soon after his death in 1066.
Both ‘new’ texts have now been studied closely at ASNC, and interpreted in relation to each other. ‘The variant ending of the Encomium is rather explosive in its implications for our understanding of how Edward’s accession was perceived by contemporaries, spinning it as the longed-for restoration of the Anglo-Saxon royal line,’ explained Professor Keynes. ‘And it provides the perfect context for understanding a poem, now fully recovered, which describes a magnificent ship given to Edward at precisely that time,’ added Dr Love.Prof. Keynes and Dr Love are publishing their study of this important new material in the forthcoming volume of the journal Anglo-Saxon England and this can already be accessed online (or purchased by those who do not have institutional access to Cambridge journals).